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Sat 29 July 06 - The team from movieXclusive.com(mX) had the opportunity to discuss S11 with the directors Gilbert Chan (G) and Joshua Chiang (J) over a cuppa. S11 is the latest local film to be released, and is screened exclusively at The Picturehouse from 3 Aug 06.

mX: Perhaps we can start with your sharing with us the motivation and inspiration for the story?
G: I started writing the first draft, before Joshua came on board and touched up and added scenes. It's a concept of strangers having an influence on one another. I liked Pulp Fiction's non-linear narrative, and here, an incident was created where three characters will meet and life changes for each one of them. I quite like Tarantino's films and S11 could be subconsciously similar in style.
J: I entered the picture after the first draft, and worked on parts which were quite loose, and not well-defined, as to what the characters wanted. So it's like going back to basics with the characters, starting off with the lowest point of their lives, and how the theme of Fate could affect people.

mX: Having won Best Screenplay in the 2001 Singapore Screenplay Awards, it was a long journey to finally have S11 released here. Any reasons for the hold up in the development from script to screen?
G: Primarily it was the search for investors, as we encountered a mixture of those who were interested, and those who were non-committal. In the end, this film was funded under the Singapore Film Commission's (SFC) Film Incubation Programme (FIP) with a budget of S$100K
J: We used only a few stock music, and we didn't have much budget for original compositions, so with free help offered we had to wait for the schedules of those helping to be available as well.

mX: Was the tune used in the 1st story repetitive intentionally?
G: It was to provide a sense of the mundane, which was the main feeling of that character. Actually if you noticed, each character has their own story, and with it, each segment had a different look and feel to it.

mX: Could you share with us some production details?
G: The film was shot in November 2003 in 17 days, and between production to its release, we had spent a lot of time in the post production work. We had to re-dub most of the actor's dialogue as there were lots of ambient noise captured.
J: This version released is the 3rd edit. We had a test screening of the 1st edit, and the response was that the movie was paced too slowly.

mX: Are you fans of Doraemon, the Japanese cartoon character?
J: Well, the first draft actually had the bank robber wearing that Doraemon mask, and since we decided to make the movie more quirky, we decided to include the references that you see in the film.
G: I liked the character since young, as it had something to do with fantasy, with Doraemon's pouch of tricks and gadgets.

mX: The character Michelle is wearing a red wig, and is getting money to help her boyfriend, isn't that shades of Run Lola Run?
G: Well, it's the art department's decision to give her red hair. She's hiding behind this facade and no one knows she's actually still a school girl. And it looks kind of nice too.

mX: Are any incidents in real life that are worked into the story?
J: I could identify with the Ben character, and rewriting his portions from the first draft was one of my favourite process. The incident with the mother is exaggerated of course, with her being the domineering figure who is holding him back, but one in which I experienced to a lesser degree. Other fantasies worked in to the story are private (laughs).

mX: Were the characters based on real people?
G: Ben and Terence are based loosely on friends.

mX: Are you fans of the Young and Dangerous series, since there were a number of references to it?
J: Originally, Ben's a Tarantino fan, but in the context of the character, we find it difficult that he would be an alternative film buff. So we decided to look at something nearer home. And it sets a contrast as well, between the two "Chen Hao Nan"s.

mX: Was there any hidden messages behind "Red Fur Dog" and the gambling scene where the person ejected from the premises is a Caucasian?
J: Well, it's for copyright reasons, as we initially wanted to stick to the original Guiness Stout label.
G: The other take is related to an incident which happened during the time that I frequent pubs. And there were a number of such similar incidents at that point, where I witnessed a group of drunk rowdy Caucasians disturbing 2 local girls, and a commotion created when their "ah beng" boyfriends came to the rescue.

mX: Were the leads casted through an audition?
G: Yes, we had a long audition, many rounds, and had many agencies like Fly sending their talents to try out the roles. Kevin and Timothy were found through agencies who responded to the audition call.
J: We chanced upon Cindy when we were watching a musical at NUS' Law Faculty, and felt that she had an X-Factor, so we got her involvement through a friend.
G: She wasn't playing the lead role in the musical, I believe it was just a main supporting role, but she stood out and had certain qualities we were looking for.
J: Actually she's a very different person from the Michelle character from the movie. She doesn't smoke, swear nor is she able to ride a motorcycle! It's the editing that made her look as if she can!
G: We actually intended to have Michelle do a U-Turn at the road junction, but she actually fell from the bike, so we had to change the scene to something easier...
J: Actually Gilbert was already standing by in costume to act as a stand in (laughs)

mX: And what about the gangsters?
J: The gangsters were real gangsters, or ex-gangsters. There was a part where Kevin had to push one of them in the scene, and that guy was really angry about it, that he had to be calmed down and be reminded that it's only a movie.

mX: S11 has two directors. How were the directing chores split?
G: I usually direct the actors, and Joshua directs the camera... but it's interchangeable, and we do have storyboards to rely on...
J: So that I can take 5, and when I wake up, the shots are already done! We have different styles - Gilbert's more into using rehearsals and having the actors be as natural as possible, while I use pacing and shots, and have editing duties as well.

mX: Were there any difficulties with censorship, especially with the Hokkien and the vulgarities?
J: The script was written in English, and the lines were changed on set during acting. For authenticity, you can't have gangsters who don't use swear words. Some of the more explicit lines were taken out before the 2nd edit was submitted to SFC.
G: But we were not forced to, nor coerced into remove those lines.The only concerns SFC had was that an M18 rating would restrict viewership, and hence, box office returns. The teaser trailer, for obvious reasons, is not shown in the theatres, but an edited non-vulgarity filled version of the trailer is currently screening at The Picturehouse.

mX: Before we end, do you have any upcoming projects to share?
G: I'm working on Charlie Company (mX Note: Another local feature film production in the works), as well as a psychological horror interactive web project.
J: I've gotten into animation after making S11, and am the head writer for a project called "Nanoboy". I'm a DC-Marvel comics buff, and am also working on a superhero related animated action comedy.

Sounds like the directors already have interesting projects all lined up! S11 opens at The Picturehouse from 3rd August 2006. Oh, and do watch out for director Joshua Chiang in the movie, as he has a cameo role!

You can read the review of the movie

Press Report & Interview: Stefan Shih & Richard Lim Jr | Photos: Lokman B S
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