Production Talk - 'Blank Rounds' by Green Zeng

Tien, a young army recruit, finds it hard to cope with the demands of military training and the growing hostility of his platoon mates. He must find a way to hold onto his sanity before it is too late.

Green is a multi-disciplinary artist whose works encompass painting, installation, theatre and film. With his partner June Chua, he founded Mirtillo Films, and they have brought an approach to filmmaking that is intuitive, poetic and thought-provoking.

They have produced many short films such as the crowd favourite, Blackboard Whiteshoes, which was officially selected for the prestigious Cannes Film Festival in 2006. Their film, Passenger, won the Encouragement Prize at the Akira Kurosawa Memorial Short Film Festival Competition in Tokyo 2006.

Jeremy (J) : What inspired you to make this story?
Green (G) : This film is inspired by my observations on the different ways in which people react to and cope with being enlisted in the army. When I think about my BMT days, I recall images of order and recruits with very straight postures. When I was writing this script, I saw a young recruit who is totally opposite of that and I wondered how such a person is going to survive in a regimented environment.

J : Is this story based on a real incident? I assume due to the touchiness of the topic, you might have gotten into some trouble. Did you?
G : No, the film is not based on any real incident; it’s all my imagination. Such stories are not really that unusual anyway; I’m sure people in other countries with national service, also go through the same experience. I did not get into any trouble making the film even though some people had reservations.
I told myself that there must be a reasonable and intelligent way to make a film without compromising my vision. I don’t set out to make films with sensational or shocking topics. However, I try not to shy away from difficult topics if I encounter one and hopefully I can bring new insight to a difficult topic. By the way, the film received an NC-16 rating.
J : Is this a world premiere?
G : Yes, Blank Rounds is having its world premiere in SIFF this year.
J : What kind of short films do you like to make? i.e. themes, subject matter etc.
G : I am inspired by places mostly, for example an old school, an island or an army camp. I generally prefer the film to be set entirely in one main location. The main character in Blank Rounds is quite similar to the other protagonists of my other films. They are people with very strong beliefs and who are willing go to the extreme for their beliefs. For example, in Island, the film is about a Japanese soldier who continues to hold alone in his post on an island after his comrades are killed. He refuses to surrender no matter what.

J : What are the top 5 movies you wish you'd made?
G : As I’m more inspired by old Italian frescoes than films, I would like to change the question slightly to “The Top 5 frescoes I wished I had painted” instead. They remind me of film in some way as the story is told in a series of paintings/frames. I like how in one frame, the artist is able to capture and convey the message/intention of the scene in an imaginative way.

1. Giotto’s Life of St. Francis cycle in Assisi, Italy.
2. Masaccio’s Stories from the life of St. Peter cycle in Florence, Italy.
3. Piero della Francesca’s Story of the Cross cycle in Arezzo, Italy
4. Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel Vault in Rome, Italy.
5. Giotto’s Story of Virgin Mary and of Christ in Padua, Italy.

More on Green Zeng on . His film Blank Rounds will be screened in Singapore Panorama 2.
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