So a quick recap: in my previous post about Raffles v Utama: Dawn of Singapore (my short film for the GV25 Film Shorts Competition), I wrote about how the first day left us in a little bit of a pickle. I don’t like pickles and I specifically ask for them to be removed from my Subway sandwiches, just to let you know how significant it is that I’m talking about pickles.
Before the second day, Lee Yan (video editor) put together the scenes we had shot on the first day, and told me that she needed additional shots so that the scenes could be edited without jump cuts or looking weird.
Most importantly, though, the reaction shots were missing – because comedy comes largely from reaction shots, like how the other characters respond to what is happening. Most of the time, they’ll give befuddled or irritated expressions, which is sometimes a cue and adds to the comedy of the situation.
But as a bonus, we were more prepared! We’d already gone through it once so everyone knew what to do and where to be and what to expect, plus we were doing some reshoots so those went faster.
Also I had done more pre-production and planning and visualisation of the shots, plus a more detailed shot list, so it was more reassuring mentally (and of course it probably also helped more).
Less equipment to collect
For the first day of shoot, it was pretty backbreaking to have to go and collect the equipment from so many different places. Also I’m, um, kind of manja.
We held on to the lights, monitor, and sound equipment (Aputure), lenses (Alan Photo) and camera (Blackmagic) for a week (so we didn’t have to return it in between the shoot dates). So we just collected it once!
Yes, we shot a week apart.
We had to pick up some miscellaneous other poles and sound equipment and such (to support the equipment), but it was not as much as the first day’s load.
I was damn thankful for this man, I couldn’t imagine having to go up and down and return and pick up everything. And I mean, they could have loaned it out to someone else during this period (since it was technically not being utilised) so it was pretty awesome of them. And they were quite flexible on returning the equipment (in that I didn’t have to return it on the very same day I stopped using it), so I could rest a bit more.
Also we had time to charge more batteries since there was a week’s break.
More familiar with the equipment
Also, after shooting for one whole night I had a better idea of what our equipment could or couldn’t do.
Or rather, the amount of time it would take to change our setup for different types of shots. I had the (very mistaken) impression that since everything was in one room, it wouldn’t take that long to change our setup if we swapped directions and shot sizes, so I didn’t plan that far ahead on the first day.
And honestly, it didn’t take that much time – but all those little nuggets of time added up. We mainly used (I think that’s what it’s called) a light dome for our shots, and some additional lights for the darker corners when necessary. The outdoor scenes were a completely different setup though.
Anyways, with better planning, we shot everything on one side and size first, so I think we took more shots in less time on the second day.
No longer strangers
Also, after going through one whole night of shoot together, the cast and crew were technically not strangers so I think that helped! After all, it’s always easier to work with people that you know.
Actually I think it was also more like me going internally “have I introduced Person A to Person B yet” and I didn’t have to do that on the second day. But I’m not that great at introducing people.
Lee Yan also told me specifically what shots she needed (and she came down) to complete the scenes we shot previously, so I literally had a list of what to shoot (and what I didn’t have to shoot). Basically, pickups.
I suspect she came down partially for a spot check, just to see that I was taking all the necessary shots also. Hm.
But she did suggest that I seek some help in planning my shots, so…
I sought out an old friend (I mean, she’s still a friend, just not very sure if I can mention my name) (when I say “old”, I’m referring to our years of friendship and not her age) (“old” is a very sensitive word) who’s a comedy director and has been in the industry for a lot longer than I have.
I could see her withholding some comments and tactfully framing her advice when I showed her what I had shot on the first day. But she spent one dark and stormy night going through the script with me and culling/adding shots to my shot list so I had a better idea of what to shoot.
Thanks! You know who you are.
Taking Transformers photos
If you check out my toy-focused Instagram account, you’ll see that by hook or by crook, I made everyone take a photo with a Transformer (and I have explanations for why I picked each Transformer for each person)
I actually thought that I wouldn’t be able to take a Transformers photo with Juliana (one of hair and makeup artists) until she pointed out that yes, I actually had one of her in a group shot.
So yes! Collection complete.
Hair and makeup artists staggered their schedule
In order to have a makeup artist on set at all times (so that we could do touchups, and also because we had some cast members coming at different timings), Hanjing and Chuanlin (my other two hair and makeup artists) came at different times to cover the whole shoot.
More importantly and painfully, Chuanlin came at some godforsaken hour so she could be on hand for the last part of the shoot, when we’d need… some special effects. Thanks C!
It was a longer shoot day/night
Even though it wasn’t as tiring as the first day, we technically worked longer hours on the second shoot day. We shot more scenes, had to do pickups, and had a rather rushed supper.
But we were more efficient!
Two outdoor scenes – argh
Also, we had two outdoor scenes. Meaning we weren’t shooting in aircon during those two scenes. I need aircon.
Those were pretty humid nights. Plus it was noisier in the middle of the night than in the wee hours of the morning, for some reason (so more NGs).
What’s up with Toa Payoh? Is it usually like that? Is this something I only noticed because I was shooting at night? What is this weird phenomenon, really?
Pickups – bleah
I remember how everyone would react in Mediacorp when someone announced that pickups were required.
Those faces. Those expressions. They could scar you for life. It was like announcing everyone would have to voluntarily stab themselves in the eye for work. There was no other thing you could say that would produce a blacker face (okay well there was, but that is best not said out loud).
So naturally, my aversion to pickups is a little bit stronger than you would otherwise think.
Only one chance at this
Um yes since this was our last day of shoot, this was also my last (and only) opportunity for some of the scenes.
No pressure right?
We had more guests on our second day! As you can see we had a soundboy on set, and my editor at The Popping Post came over too! I would name names but I’m not sure if everyone’s comfortable with being named here.
We had cake (that we forgot about) (so Adrian brought it home) (it was good cake some more, I was sad I didn’t get to eat it).
Whatever we did, it would all depend on my video editor now
I would really have to fix it all during post production if we lacked anything. Or rather, my video editor would.
Lesson #1: You can never be too prepared
So, here’s what I learnt. You can never be too prepared. I mean, I could have spent a year preparing for it and rehearsing and replaying and having notes and instructions down to every last detail, and it still wouldn’t be enough.
I’d still want to prepare more, mentally rehearse the shoot, and just specify and research every single detail of it.
Lesson #2: Small roads are terribly noisy at 2am
Did you expect this? I didn’t. It was a four lane road (two lanes going in each direction) and there virtually one vehicle passing by noisily every other minute.
What are all these cars doing in the middle of the night? Why would they be passing by this small road?
There was no nightlife in the area, so I couldn’t fathom why this would be the case. Are people just randomly driving down Toa Payoh in the middle of the night? Do we really have too many cars in Singapore?
Lesson #3: Having super preppy people helps a lot
At about 4am, when we were all dying, my cast suddenly burst to life and started doing weird things.
Weird but PG13 things.
That really helped to lift the mood, and in hindsight I was pretty grateful for this – especially since we had 4-5 more hours of shoot to go. 😀
Okay here’s some group shots! I don’t think I’ve posted these photos anywhere yet.
There is a Transformers version of these photos in existence, by the way. Heh.
Voting period: 9th to 15th October
There’s a voting component to the GV25 Film Shorts Competition, and there’ll be a week of online voting for the three short films that are in the competition.
Please vote for me when it’s out!
Production team behind Raffles v Utama: Dawn of Singapore (Part 3 of 3)
And here’s the final part of my crew introductions!
Graphics and Second Boom Operator: Desmond
There’s a significant animated portion in Raffles v Utama: Dawn of Singapore that I haven’t revealed because I would like it to be a surprise. Desmond animated it, as well as providing other graphics and my poster. He’d actively volunteer to help me out with any graphics requirements, which was a boon because now I have a poster. I mean, I have an actual movie poster for this!
He was my second boom operator too. He’s the only one who’s been on this short film during production and post-production.
I took two sets of sound because I was traumatised by an earlier, different project where our sound was lost. This proved to be a good idea (that I’ll elaborate on in a later post).
Video Editor: Lee Yan
Lee Yan edited Raffles v Utama: Dawn of Singapore, and she also handled all my exporting and technical output requirements. After the colouring and audio mixdown, she put everything together for my final submission (and she also constantly checked in on the progress of my editing). Technically, for post, I’m not very familiar with broadcast requirements, and she made sure that everything was right (even though I wasn’t always sure what she was talking about) (sorry to admit this only now!).
Very importantly, her editing patched/fixed/hid any errors in my shots. 😀
Sound Editor: Ron@BluePrintStudios.Org
Ron handled all my sound needs – cleaning it up, sourcing for effects and soundtracks, removing all the weird noises, and basically making my sound pretty amazing. I would ask him to remove something and I literally couldn’t hear it in the next cut. I honestly did not know that was possible (or maybe I haven’t caught up on sound tech yet).
My colourist was Zach and he did the colour grading for Raffles vs Utama: Dawn of Singapore to give it the cinematic look it has now. The original colours were great, but he gave the scenes more literal depth. I know I always call it “colour correction” but technically, it’s “colour grading”. I had no idea how specific colouring could be until I saw his work, and he would turn it around really quickly along with Ron.
Colouring is a lot more than “just applying filters”, and I’ll try to show some side-by-side shots of how much difference it makes.
Voting is next week! Excited.
Follow my GV25 Film Shorts Competition Journey!
And my hashtag is #RafflesVUtama if you want to check it out on Instagram!
I’m a Singapore television scriptwriter who’s written for Crimewatch, Police & Thief, Incredible Tales, and Point of Entry. I’m also a Transformers enthusiast and avid pop culture scholar. You can find me on social media as Optimarcus and on my site.
Send me an email if you want to get in touch!