Production Talk - 'Garden Girls' by Ric Aw

"How do we forget or remember love? A troubled man crosses paths with a pair of star crossed teenage girls, each struggling to come to terms with the loss of love. After chancing upon them sunbathing intimately, he follows them with his camera and captures their last moments together in the garden. This unlikely journey of the characters may just save or break them but it’s hard to say if they will truly find the salvation that they’re looking for.

Garden girls is a reaction to our present attitude towards love and one another. I hope this story can point at something important. It is an observation of “love” in modern time. How do we forget or remember love? In the course of garden girls, maybe we will realize that what we know of love is not that true at all. Working to capture the common aches of the contemporary heart, I hope to share some span of reality with this observation. " Ric Aw
Jeremy ( J ) : Garden Girls… Silent Girls....I guess it’s pure concidence. Or is it?
Ric (R ) : I guess there is connection, besides the similarities between the titles and Magdalene Tan (actress) appears in both of the films. I think it is fine not to deny or safe to say that I was passionate and obsessed with stories about women. I’m not sure if there’ll be a trilogy. The third may be coincidental.
J : Reading the synopsis, the common ground I can draw with Silent Girls is : what girls might do when they are vulnerable (lol). Could you share your inspiration or motivation behind making Garden Girls?
R : I’ve always been and still am interested about the things people do to remember love or forget it. Sometimes, the solution satisfies for a moment but for that moment, it gratifies. We just need many more gratifications before we can move on. So I hope “Garden Girls” shares with us that fleeing moment when it does not hurt anymore.

Music inspires me. I was listening to “Flica” while I was writing. Eventually the music did become the music tracks in “Garden Girls” and they really added emotive elements to the story. I am thankful to “Flica” for that. Besides that, I have always like gardens. I can’t associate anything loathsome to gardens.
J : What are your influences in terms of coming up with stories? I am just making a casual observation that even in ‘Buy Me Love’ , it features a girl in a vulnerable position.
R : It would probably have to do a lot with my observation of the human predicament, the human condition and faith in love. I don’t think there are an awful lot of people who, as they say, worry about or think about people who are not like them. They like to talk and point their fingers at others but have they imagined who these people are and what they do.

I have always admired the strength in women. In many occasions, they are stronger than men. The only way I can show their strength is to place them in a position where they have to rise against the odds. Hence, the women in the short films always begin with them in a vulnerable position. Think “difficult” or “challenging” is more like it than “vulnerable”. In the end, they always find their own way out. There are no knights in shining armor to rescue them. The women are their own heroes.
This started that time ago (Buy Me Love) and I just never stopped. I will never stop. Women are ever so fascinating, amazing and relevant to me. I can’t seem to write a story without a female protagonist. Simply said, I’m inspired by women who rise to the occasion.

J : How would you describe the style or treatment of this film?
R : “Garden Girls” is really about going with the flow, rare instinct and working with temporal feelings during the shoot. I kinda gave up control over how things would turn out. I worked with an experienced crew, (DP: Pok Yue Weng) and committed casts (Magdalene Tan, Sunny Pang and Adele Wong) and somehow I knew I was in good hands. So I just watched the story unfold while everyone else breathes life to it. The weather further relinquished my control. The sun shone tirelessly and then the rain took over and poured ceaselessly. In the garden, the camera roams with the characters. At the swimming pool, the camera sits on the tripod.
J : What were your biggest challenges in making this film?
R : Prejudice. I was told “Garden Girls” is exploitive. Truth and all, it is really a small story about people trying to remember and forget love. The film is definitely not of any other persuasion. The characters were never in any comprising position rather, they make the choices that they want to. We all make difficult choices sometimes. Most of the time, our choices are not typically rational or believable but we do make them.

J : Any interesting anecdotes to share about the making of this film?
R : To begin with, I have envisioned lots and lots of natural light in this story. I wanted sun rays to splash across the characters and everything to be bright and cheery. Rain came. Yet, I’m grateful. The weather helped to shape the mood of the story. I did get some sunlight into the story, just enough. Yes, another thing, never get your DP to hand held a camera that is not set up for hand held. Get the proper gear! Once again, we went with the flow and it nearly caused my DP his back. No more human sacrifice in future.
J : What are you doing currently?
R : I’m working on a script for a short film and 2 other scripts for feature film. The main protagonists are all female.
J : Are you preparing for a feature? Possible to drop a hint of what’s it about?
R : For one of the scripts, here’s the premise: How far should a women go to become a mother?

J : What are the top 5 movies you wish you'd made? (This is just a fun question, please feel free to not take it TOO seriously or intensely. And note: it's top 5 movies you WISH YOU MADE, not top 5 fave movies!)
R : I’m working to make a movie like: (not in any particular order)
3 iron by Kim Ki-Duk
Amore Perros by Alejandro González Iñárritu
Sympathy for Mr Vengeance by Park Chan Yook
Throw Down by Johnny To
The Wrestler by Darren Aronofsky
Nobody Knows by Hirokazu Koreeda
Think I have 6 here. It’s a fun answer.
Ric's Garden Girls will be screened under Singapore Panorama 2 in this year's SIFF.
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