Production Talk - 'Love Lost' by Leonard Lai

Leonard Lai's first of 3 trilogy of shorts about love touches on a relationship coming to an end between Wai, and his girlfriend, Faith, who is in Taiwan. Wai travels from Singapore to Taiwan to meet Faith for one last time. It is a last journey of past memories, as he finds shadows of their love and time spent together.

They finally meet for one last time and their love comes to an end. Left alone in Taiwan, Wai seeks solace in a physical pleasure to temporary forget the pain, but he still can’t bear to let go.
“失去愛” (LOVE LOST) is the 1st of a planned trilogy of short films exploring 3 different stages of love – losing love, finding love and maintaining love.

"I was disappointed with love and wanted to make a film just for her to see. It’s hard to let go. I went back and relived the moments, the ending. It was just as difficult as it was when it happened. I see her face, her scent and her body. I feel the memories, the places, the gestures and the conversations. I wish it had never ended.

Based partly on my own experiences. This film marks a change in direction for me. One of the things I found in my feature film “The High Cost of Living” is that the narrative structure is too rigid, the story moves from point A to B relentlessly. I wanted to start filming with a looser narrative, where the story is not what drives the film, but the “taste” or “feeling” of the film is what drives it." Leonard

Jeremy (J) : Is this film autobiographical? Are you acting in it?
Leonard (L) : The film is based on my experiences in Taiwan. It is partly autobiographical. Yeah, I am acting in it. haha, 1st time acting in my life.
J : Why did you decide to act in it? It must be difficult to act and direct.
L : Yeah, it was difficult. There are 3 reason why I wanted to act in it. the 1st is that I wanted to feel what actors have to go through, so that i can direct better. Sometimes we just forget that acting is actually quite cruel, you have to show yourself to other people and it is quite a violent act. I want to experience it so that I can direct better in the future.

The 2nd reason is that the story is quite a personal one, and who would know the feelings that the male lead go through better than i do. The last reason is because its a small film, so to keep everything simple, I acted in it.

J : It is a funny length, in between a feature and a short
L : Didn't mean to, it just happens. (pause) There is a 30mins version of the film, which i send to festivals which have a limit on the length of their short film submissions, but the version i like and would like to show is the 45mins version.
J : You mentioned in your synopsis that you went on to seek something 'physical'... that part intrigues me... (you dun hv to reveal what it is exactly) . Can you explain more about that?
L : Haha. Its an act we guys or even women do when they are alone. It is inspired by this tale of ghandi i heard, i don't know whether is this true, but I like the feeling the tale gives.
J : Does the film actually resolve in a certain way or does lead on a cliffhanger to lead to the sequel?
L : It don't know whether is it a resolution in anyway, but it doesn't lead to a cliffhanger or a sequel. Life goes on for the male lead, even after the film ends

J : I am drawn to the images of Taipei streets in your stills? There is a lot of texture and layers. How was the experience shooting there compared to Singapore?
L : I wanted to shoot in Taipei because the story happens there. Every city has it uniqueness, and taipei in winter is quite a depressing and melancholy place, with the consistent rains and grey skies. But that is exactly what i needed for this story and it was actually the same period where my real experiences happened. I had a tough time looking for a Line Producer/AD in Taiwan (pause) But a friend of Eng Yee Peng (Diminshing Memories 1&2) recommended a taiwan AD, Circle Huang, who out of all the small budget and difficulties, agreed to do the project. I am grateful to them. We had a lot of help from friends in Taipei so that was tremendous. All the actors are friends of mine or friends of Circle. The female lead is Faith Yang, a singer from Singapore who used to be with a group in Taiwan called "2 gals - 兩個女生". Some of my taiwan friends still remember her. She and my Director of Photography, Siew yaw Hoong, didn't ask for a fee, just air tickets and lodgings and transport when they are there, which i am eternally grateful.J : Did you meet these friends from previous productions?
L : Siew Yaw Hoong is my regular Director of Photography. He has filmed all my films so far, including my feature "The High Cost of Living". Circle, as mentioned was recommended. Faith was also recommended by the music scorer of the film, Don Bosco.
J : Curious, are there less red tape shooting in Taiwan?
L : We were able to film at outside Taipei Airport, on a bus, outside at the National Theatre without much problems. But everything was done very guerilla style, but we still know what imaged we want. (pause) So yeah, less red tape. I think they are used to people filming. Of course, if you go inside the National Theatre, you have to ask for permission. And there was a scene in a MRT Train, we had to wing that one and film secretly. So in certain aspects, it’s like Singapore.

J : What was the memorable thing about shooting in taipei? Any particular incident or experience?
L : Hmm...hard to pin point. Let me recall...I think the most memorable thing was being able to film the story. Everything was difficult but it fell into place with the generous help of friends. I think the most memorable thing for me, as both the director and actor, was doing the last scene in the film. It was a pretty long scene, and emotionally tiring, but at the end of the scene. I thanked all the crew, my DP and Faith (the female lead) for going through this journey with me.
J : How long is the scene and how long did you take to shoot this scene?
L : The whole scene in the film is about at least 5 mins, but it was very long takes. Also, it needs me to be emotionally in character, which is difficult. It was an overnite shoot and we shot it into the wee hours of the morning.
J : I understand this is part of trilogy, so is the sequel also going to be set in Taiwan?
L : No, will be shooting in Singapore. It is theme that connects these 3 films. It is about love
J : I see, so it may not be the same characters I guess?
L : Yeah. totally different.
J : Would you put them together to form a feature?
L : I thought of doing that, but in the end, decided against it. Because each one is quite different. hard to make a consistent feature. Also, I believe each has a life and length of its own. The 2nd one could be feature length.

J : Good luck for the other 2! I wish to end with a question my guest-blogger Lee Wong suggested. What are your 5 favourite films you wished you had made?
L : 'The Boys from Fengkui 'by Hou Hsiao Hsien; 'The Hole' by Tsai Ming Liang; 'Pickpocket' by Jia Zhang Ke; 'Perth' by Djinn Ong; 'La Notte' by Michelangelo Antonioni...and can i squeeze in a 6th?
J : Sure.
L : 'Before We Fall in Love Again' by James Lee

Leonard's 'Love Lost' will be screening under the SIFF's Singapore Panorama Shorts 1.
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