Tuesday 26 June 2012

Shooting in the sun

First day of shooting. How do I feel? Good and satisfied. Cautiously excited.
It's now nearly six in the evening. Zed has just dropped me at my place after a whole day of shooting. I was almost dozing on the way back, and could barely do more than mumble back to Zed's conversation.
For a very first experience as a director, I am quite pleased. Zed has been the perfect partner and assistant for my first steps. He was attentive and responsive to my wishes. Because of my total lack of experience, I chose to focus on a couple of simple ideas and tried to explore them as far as I could. For Nothing comes to Light, I clearly saw images of Wei Wei slowly dancing and whirling against a white sky.
"I want long shots" I had told Zed. I also saw close ups of her face, with a spaced out expression, and a few indoors scenes.
We have most of the outdoor scenes in the can now. We will find a way to create the pace and rhythm of the video when we do the editing.
I was up early. We had planned two days for the video. I had hoped to do it earlier, but Wei Wei's schedule didn't allow her to be free before this date. I had had the time to think about what I wanted to shoot in the six months between the time I told her about it and today...
Zed was very excited.
"I went to bed at 5!" he said, almost proudly.
"Only three hours of sleep????"
"Yes, I usually get into that state the night before any shooting. I don't sleep more than a couple of hours. I think I over think, I prepare and get so over-excited that I can't find sleep before it's nearly time to wake up... But here I am!" His good-naturedness and happy disposition were communicative.

I had picked the TNUA in Guandu for the outdoor scenes. The location offered many possibilities - above all, this view on an open sky. Zed and I had spent some time listing all the ideas that I had for the video a few days prior to the shooting.  
We arrived to the spot. It was Dragon Boat Festival day, and still too early (but still very hot already) so the university was more or less deserted.
The shooting went smoothly. I found new ideas on the spot. I can't wait to work on the editing!

Many friends had been asking me whether I would appear in the video. My original intention was not to be in it, but I guess that it would be a smart move to show my face.
I will think about how to incorporate shots of me in the narrative.

My friend Meng is in Taipei. I saw him yesterday and took him to the Tsai Ming Lian's café in Ximen after our lunch. He loved the quiet atmosphere and the retro feel of it. The café had been opened in the former city hall that the Japanese built in the 1930's. Now the venue is used as a theatre and also offers great space to spend idle time, away from the activity on  the street.
I was actually supposed to go YiLan for that informal presentation of FangYi's two pieces.
I had made an appointment with Fred to take the bus to Yilan together. As we were taking a cup of coffee before taking the bus, I learned that Just would not be performed!
"They wanted to work with a digital artist, but he didn't have enough time - they only started working on it two days ago!!!" Fred explained.
"So I don't need to go there, do I? The other piece is on Max Richter's music. So my presence isn't necessary..." I found the whole situation annoying and amusing.
Fred smiled apologetically. "I guess you don't need to... They're behind schedule so they will only present one piece... sorry..."
My collaboration with FangYi follows a very shaky path!
I walked Fred to the bus gate then decided to head for the gym before meeting Meng. I wasn't sure I would be able to see him but this new situation left me plenty of time for it. He was in Taipei for a change of mind and to kick off a new start in life after a painful break up with a lover he had followed from Singapore to Xiamen.
"Would you like to go out tonight? To the club?" he asked me when we were about to leave the café.
I hadn't been out clubbing for so long. The idea appealed to me. Only if I don't change my mind at the last minute as often the case...
And as often the case, I changed my mind although I was all ready to go. I felt much too tired after the shooting to picture myself in the midst of other sweaty bodies.

Yew Meng at the Tsai Ming Lian's café

 Day Two

Storm in the early afternoon. Zed and Wei Wei arrived much later than planned. Indoor scenes today. I visualised an empty classroom then realised that the vacant room left after Chubby's departure would actually suit perfectly. It had the bare atmosphere I wanted for the scenes. I brought the table from the dining room and placed a metronome, an ink pen and a old Italian notebook. There wasn't enough time to shoot all the scenes I wanted because of the limited time of remaining sunlight, but what we shot was very satisfactory.

Working with Wei and Wei is so pleasant because of their professionalism and easy-goingness. The mood is always lively and light, even if what we were shooting was more melancholic and thoughtful.
I asked everybody to come back the next day to finish the shooting. Fortunately they both had time.

Day Three

We have everything in the can!!!! We shot all the scenes involving me. I didn't quite know how to appear in the video and include it in the narrative. My one idea was to create many layers in the frame, with me as an outsider telling the story. We did some tests with Zed and it worked. It's so difficult to stare at the camera for long minutes without blinking! To include myself also meant that I accepted to fully carry the project as my own. Up until now, I would always find excuses to divert the attention on peripheral elements, or simply work for other people. So there's no surprise if people would find it hard to connect to my work. To show my face is an enormous step forward. Old demons from childhood can take winding roads to trick you!
It's such a pleasure to work with people like Wei Wei or Zed. Not only are they total pros, but they're also extremely focused without being heavy weights, not the prey of some internal emotional battle when it comes to work.
We shall do the editing starting Friday. I can't wait. The video is becoming clearer in my mind now.
I just... can't wait!!!!

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