A Fashion Film you say? Get some models, put some clothes on them, grab a camera, look for an exotic-looking location, and start rolling. Or at least that’s what I thought was supposed to happen when I was first approached to help work on the project – a short fashion film which will accompany the Asian Fashion Graduate Showcase as part of the 2013 LASALLE Show.
Turns out I wasn’t too far off the mark with my brief, insight-laden analysis; except it was quite a fair bit harder to pull off than I’d described. As it turns out, making a fashion film isn’t that different from making any film at all. Sure, the conceptualisation and execution is much less concerned about continuity (than usual), and your actresses are replaced with towering models. Other than that, the usual periods of agony and fleeting moments of satisfaction and triumph were par for the course.
From the initial perspective of a film student fresh from his first year of study, working on a film on such a scale, let alone taking up the role as a Line Producer, was overwhelming, to say the least. Situations that needed solving were constantly popping up all over the place; situations that I have never had the pleasure of dealing with when working on a more limited budget. In the hands of a more experienced producer/filmmaker, these fires that required putting out might never have occurred in the first place. But hey, that’s what’s supposed to happen when you get thrown into the deep end of the pool right?
There were several points in the process of making the film that stand out for me, simply because these were essential steps that caused the most problems, and allowed me to learn the most.
Ranked first would be the very essential skill of managing and balancing out of creative vision against practical application. Picture two midgets having a capoeira dance-off, standing on opposite ends of a see-saw. Have a man standing in the middle trying to keep them level. Make the man really weak-looking. That’s me at the start of pre-production. And that’s the job of the Producer: the art of balancing. His/her job is to ensure the production is as practical and effective/efficient as possible, without sacrificing creative vision. It’s a tough task, and one I hope to eventually get a grasp on (mastery can wait), preferably before I grow old and die.
Which brings me to my next point: collaboration with the good people from Fashion Design and Textiles. Remember the Capoeira-on-a-seesaw analogy? A toddler just clambered on that metaphorical seesaw. The stars were all aligned for a tragedy in my case. The filmmakers (probably just me actually), knew little enough about making a film, and absolutely NOTHING about Fashion and its complexities. Thankfully, lecturers Hideho Urata (Director of Photography), Goh Hiro Toshi (1st Camera Assistant), Gisli Snaer, Charles Maideen (Co-producers), were all generous with their advice and assistance to myself and Charlene (our co-Line Producer) throughout the making of the film. Lionel Roudaut (the Producer), Programme Leader) from the Fashion Design and Textiles course, was equally perplexed about filmmaking and its idiosyncrasies. This situation led to an arduous, gradual process of working out roles and responsiblities on the film.
Many people who have seen the Fashion Film have commented on how beautiful and atmospheric it looks, and a large part of that can simply be attributed to the choice of location. When choosing the Tanjong Pagar Railway Station, Boo Junfeng (Director and PSOF alumni) highlighted the architecture; the lines and angles; the possiblity for symmetry, as the main draws of the location. Everything else, the mood; the theme; the colours; they simply fed off that energy and possiblities of the old railway station. That being said, it still took lots of planning, technical nous, creative brilliance, and crucially, pure grit from the entire crew in order to pull it off.
All in all, working on the film in a role as key as a Line Producer, all the while being acutely aware of my status as a student, made me uniquely placed to learn, and just as importantly, be taught, the workings of a film. Mirage was successfully screened as part of the Fashion Graduate Showcase on the opening night of the LASALLE Show on 23 June at the SIA Theatre – a very proud moment for the production team!
Cheng Chai Hong has just completed his first year at The Puttnam School of Film. He is Vice Chairperson of the PSOF Editorial Committee. Chai Hong enjoys watching films and engaging in debates about the intricacies of life.