Production Talk: 2359 by Gilbert Chan

In this segment of Production Talk, SINdie speaks to Gilbert Chan on his latest film, 2359. Set in an offshore training island, the film tells the chilling tale of a platoon of army boys and the ghastly, paranormal experiences of Tan, a new army recruit. Rumour has it that a mad woman who used to live on island died a long time ago at exactly 2359hrs, and is now back to haunt soldiers at exactly the same time.

S: Can you share with us the inspiration for this film? Was it drawn from any real life experiences?

G: The story was originally based on an actual incident that happened on Tekong island in 1983. But I've seen changed some details to make for better story-telling, better development of characters, more suspense and essentially more horror. The characters in the movie are based on many people I have met in the army and also during reservist.

S: I saw the trailer for the film and think that it's beautifully shot. Are there any larger intents behind the film apart from telling a good horror/thriller story?

G: Thanks for the compliment and I think the DOP and his team did a fantastic job to create the mood in the film. I've always stressed that it's easy to shock in horror but it's much more difficult to scare and to create suspense.

As with any good story, I felt it was important to create a strong emotional core in the story and make the story as realistic as possible. The ending is not that straight forward and I hope it gets the audience thinking as well.

S: Are your cast mainly professional or non-professional? How has that influenced the outcome and feel of the film?

G: It's a mixture of experience and first-timers. Working with this group of actors has been a tremendous blessing. They are professional, extremely talented and very fun to work with. They bring so much more to the roles they play and most importantly, they make the characters real, believable and likeable.

S: Could you share with us more about your challenges making this film? How was it like working with the government agencies and getting permission to shoot on location?

G: The shoot for 2359 has been one of the most challenging I have ever done. We shot many nights in the forest. It was pitch dark, raining for most of the nights, and we were attacked by mosquitoes and even leeches. We even had a wild boar in the forest shoot. On top of that, special effects make up, and rain scenes. And it was a miracle that we shot only 18 days! Simply unbelievable.

Even though it was a tough shoot, it was also one of the most enjoyable shoots I have ever done. The crew and cast and the production team worked so well together that it really didn't feel like work. I looked forward to going for shoot every day and it was so fun!

S: Did any paranormal stuff happen during or after production? What were some of the precautions you guys took to guard against these?

G: There was a particular toilet inside the camp that we shot in (at Dengkil in Malaysia) that several crew reported hearing strange sounds. One of the Malay crew who supposedly could see 'things' went in and dashed out in about five seconds. When we asked him what he saw, he kept quiet and just told us not to use the toilet anymore!

S: Any last words?

G: I think every movie that is made in Singapore is a miracle. From concept, to scripting, to getting funding, shooting, and post production. Every step is extremely challenging and even more so in a small country like Singapore. This story was first conceptualized ten years ago and it's like a dream come true to finally make this movie ten years later.
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