Production Talk with Jason Chan on 'Bang Bang Club'
Singapore short film, Bang Bang Club, created by BananaMana Films, recently won a prestigious REMI award in the short film category of the 49th Annual Worldfest-Houston International Film Festival 2016. One of the oldest and largest film competitions in the world, with more than 4,500 entries received from 37 countries in 2016, Worldfest-Houston International Film Festival is renown for having discovered Steven Spielberg, George Lucas, Ang Lee, the Coen Brothers, Oliver Stone, Ridley Scott and David Lynch by giving them their first honours. The short has recently also been nominated for Best Editing and Best Original Score at the Indie Series Awards 2016.
In this Production Talk, we had the opportunity to get the thoughts of Jason Chan who co-wrote, directed, produced, acted and individually composed all the original music !
Banks control the world beyond our imaginations. When one bank strips away the livelihood of two young men they take revenge by joining an elite assassins training group: The Bang Bang Club. Only problem is the club has links all the way to the highest financial powers of the world and has other plans for them: covert murders and their own demise. An affair that blossoms with one of the elite female assassins of the club may be the only thing that will ultimately save the two men BUT they’ve both fallen for the same girl. Framed for murder the two men are pitted against the law, an elite assassins group and eventually each other as they try to uncover deadly secrets at the highest level of the financial system in order to save their lives.
1. How did you get the idea for the film? What was the inspiration?
The inspiration for our story was the financial crisis of 2008 and the impending global financial crisis today. The fact that banks and the financial elite were and are often making massive profits whilst many “investors” or retirees lose their life savings was something we thought was worth exploring. We wanted to get into the darker world of the financial elite and the powers they held because they controlled great wealth. We wanted to explore not only the corruption of the system but also the people within who tried in vain to fight against it. Putting this together with an assassination group made it quite thrilling. We thought of it as the Bourne Identity meets Wall Street and thought an Action Thriller with intrigue from the financial world would be fun to make. Of course it was also very overwhelming and it took us awhile to find the courage to even start writing it let alone go into production.
2. What were the challenges you and your team faced when making Bang Bang Club?
Because it was an action thriller we had to pull off action scenes. At first the biggest challenge was guns - how to make them look realistic. We spent a lot of time painting and experimenting with toy plastic guns for the film. The next biggest challenge was the fighting. Both of us had some martial arts training but fight choreography for film is very different - it’s more about what looks good to camera than what works in a real fight. We worked with a Kali expert, Ben Boeglin from Kali Majapahit, who helped us to create a tight, efficient style that still looked very dynamic on camera. We studied the Bourne movies and each and every fight scene to understand the editing dynamics and camera angles. Then we just broke down the fight bit by bit and rehearsed like crazy. We were quite happy with the end result but it took up most of our time in pre-production - it was the most complex part to film and needed a lot of planning!
We shot it over one week, all at night from 11pm till sunrise. Night shoots are always problematic because of lighting issues but we used the Sony a7s for the first time and were blown away with how much available light we could use. We also designed and manufactured our own LED light. We needed something portable, focusable, with high color rendition and with barn doors to shape the light. We found there were not many on the market that was affordable so we made our own - it really changed the speed of our workflow - our entire lighting kit could now fit in half a backpack! The entire film was made with just 2 x Z96 leds and 4 of our special LED torches (BMFOCUS) which we will be putting on indiegogo soon.
3. How long did you take to make Bang Bang Club and was there a particular audience, or story that you wanted to tell?
We pre-produced and rehearsed for 3 weeks. We shot for 1 week and we did post production in just under 2 weeks. We specialize in Asian dramas in English - with the view to distribute globally. We truly believe there is a huge audience hungry for this type of content. We wanted to explore the darker sides of the financial world as well as integrate the romantic and action-thriller genres. We always like to challenge ourselves! The story we want to tell as a company is that you can use Singapore talent and locations and create narrative content that travels globally. Getting nominations at the Indie Series Awards in Los Angeles and winning a Remi in Houston confirms we are on the right track.
4. How would you like the audience to remember the film as they walk out the cinema?
5. How do you feel receiving award recognition for Bang Bang Club (coming off Perfect Girl’s nominations and wins)? And to be in the company of such greats as Steven Spielberg, George Lucas, Ang Lee, the Coen Brothers, Oliver Stone, Ridley Scott and David Lynch?
After pivoting our company to producing narrative dramas we started with a TV series which won an Outstanding Directing award in LA. On our second attempt, Perfect Girl, we had an amazing ride with 16 nominations and 7 wins (beating out US and Canadian series in the Best Drama category). So when coming off that ride we were nervous because people were pigeon-holing us as the “romance web-series guys”. We didn’t know what to expect going into an action-thriller short film so when we received the news of the REMI win, at Hong Kong Filmart, we were not only elated but got the immediate attention of buyers and agents. To be in the same company as those great filmmakers is an honour and validates our path towards making global, premium content from Singapore.
6. Was there a particular reason for the short form?
This short was actually planned as a pilot for a TV series of 8 x 30min episodes for an international platform. However, if you watch it you’ll see that we managed to pack a lot into the pilot.
7. Do you feel there is a Singaporean voice in film? Or if there is a need for a Singaporean voice?
In our opinion it’s not about a Singaporean voice or a non-Singaporean voice - it’s just about good story and execution. When you focus on a great story, your personal voice and where you’re from will always shine through.