Production Talk - 'Traces' by Ong Zheng Kai

TRACES follows Ken, a printmaking teacher, who is suddenly faced with the difficult decision of choosing between his past and his future when an ex-student returns after a lengthy absence. Memories begin to emerge from the cracks of their fractured relationship, with shared histories reaching into present.

TRACES was produced as part of the LASALLE - The Puttnam School of Film, Degree Films. Conceived in late '09, TRACES was shot early in '10 over five days. Director Ong Zheng Kai has recently graduated from LASALLE College of the Arts, The Puttnam School of Film and TRACES is his second directorial effort.


Why printmaking?

An art patron of LASALLE who has always been contributing to the college, was looking to commission a film project about the fine art of printmaking. Although printmaking has been well established as an art form in many other countries, he felt that awareness of the art was still premature in Singapore and he wanted to do something about it. I was then recommended by the Head Lecturer of my school, to pitch him my idea. The commissioner was generous and open enough to let me use the form of a narrative short film as a vehicle for this purpose.

How long did you take to shoot this film?
5 days.

What was your main aim in creating this film?

The portrayal of an authoritative figure trapped in moral conflict fascinates me. Traversing boundaries such as status, position or influence, this persistent truth endures: no one is infallible, because everyone eventually misses the mark. Similarly, we find ourselves making decisions that result in regret, the consequences returning to haunt us. Inspired by genuine stories, TRACES is a film about memories, and the myriad ways they can move or torment us.

Any interesting anecdotes to share about the production?

I have come to learn that every event or hitch that happened to the production, worked together for my good and for the good of the production.

I was scheduled to shoot first among my peers in the final semester (January), which left me with very little pre-production time as the script was not completely developed even when in December. The actors were casted late in December and we had barely a month to rehearse. The script was revised repeatedly and a draft locked by my writer and I two weeks before the shoot. However, it was also interesting that the characters' development ran parallel, to some extent, with the crews' own lives. Fiction imitating reality, perhaps?

The shortened amount of time for pre-production was compensated by the lengthy post-production that I enjoyed, as compared to my peers' production schedules. This gave my editor and I time to edit the film in a less-stressed and restful manner. Eventually, things really worked out well for my team and I.

Any future plans after graduating from Lasalle's Puttam School of Film?

I hope to direct more short films whilst coping with work. I think it's imperative that I have to keep making films to hone my craft. Perhaps one short film a year? I'm currently looking to work within the media industry, but not limiting myself to only production positions.
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