Production Talk: Ignore All Detour Signs

There are many reasons why people love watching film. Some watch films that provide a little escapism from real life. Some watch films to help them find inspiration for real life. Some watch film about real life to give them more insights about real life.

Some people make films as a form of cathartic storytelling. Some make films to weave make believe stories laden with morals and messages they want more people to be aware of. Some make films to record real life experiences for the ease of showing more people of real life struggles.

Here we have Razin and Helmi, who went behind the scenes to record the real struggles and experiences local post-rock band, I am David Sparkle has to go through to raise enough funds to get to the SXSW Music Festival in March of 2009.

Sindie has done reviews of the film before when it was first screened at Singapore International Film Festival 2011 last September. Fret not, for those who have not watched. The directors have revealed another date where you can catch this documentary again! Read on to find out more.

Sindie: How did you guys conceptualize this idea to make a documentary of I am David Sparkle?

Helmi - One afternoon before lunch, we had a discussion on what documentary we would do if we had $100,000 because we were bored with work. Now it's been 3 years since that conversation. We are none the richer but we have a feature length music documentary. I like Sparkle's music and it so happened that they were featured on Life! that day. Razin had read it and we put this and that together and decided let's go for it.

Razin - I think it was kind of fated. On the same day that we had that random conversation, I had read an article on Life! about the band holding a fundraising gig for their trip to Texas. We both felt that there was an interesting story there and it was definitely possible for us to finish it within a few months. In the end, it took us more than 2 years!

Sindie: Why did you name the documentary Ignore All Detour Signs.
H - It was previously Texas Is The Reason. But that was a name of a far more famous band. So Razin went home one night and dreamt it up along the lines of the band's initials, which we had failed to do while sitting together.

R -  I wanted the title to have the same initials as the band's name and I also wanted it to reflect the situation that the band was in. The band was already ignoring a lot of detour signs when we thinking of the new title.

Sindie: Did you guys ever watch the first indie music documentary made in Singapore back in 1996 called The Local Alternative? Did you glean of any inspiration from that documentary?

H - Never watched before but it would be nice to. We had previously searched for any previous documentaries but found only shorts, none were of feature length. We believe IADS is the first Singaporean feature length music documentary

(Sindie injection: For the curious, you can watch The Local Alternative here:

Sindie: Is this the first time you both made a documentary together?

H - Yup. But we worked together at the same production house on a lot of other shit.

R - We work on a lot of projects commissioned by other people. This is the first documentary that we have had 100% creative control. It's a wonderful feeling.

Sindie: This music documentary followed the band on how they managed to raise funds to go to SXSW. On your end, was it tough to find funding for your documentary?

H - Funding is always an issue. We could have gotten something from MDA but we didn't want to bother with the bureaucracy. Everything came out of our own pockets. Funds would have been useful for a more focused and elaborate marketing effort, but so far this film has gained much from positive reviews and word of mouth. It could do better better internationally though.

R - We decided that it was possible for us to do it D.I.Y. We were lucky enough to have worked in a place where we could borrow equipment for free and we also had good friends who were willing to help. Any other cost, came out of our own pockets.

Sindie: How was the experience filming the local band?

H - It was a riot. They are awesome and talented people. 
R - People always talk about how hard it is for local musicians, but to see it first hand was an eye opener. The passion and dedication by the band is something I hope that viewers can take from the film.

Sindie: Did you intend for the documentary to stretch out to a full feature length?

H -We knew while we were filming it would not suffice to be a short. We had more than 40 hours of footage following almost day to day over 2 months.

Sindie: How long did you take to make this documentary materialize?

H - 2 years. The filming itself was concentrated over 2-3 months. Pick up shots and later events, and a big chunk was spent in the edit room.

R - It took us an hour to decide that we were going to do it. We e- mailed the band but they actually ignored us at first. We don't really blame them though. Why would you allow 2 strangers to follow u around with a camera? We pestered them again and sent them a long and very detailed proposal the week after. I think they realized how serious we were after that  and they finally agreed.

Sindie: What were the greatest challenges in making Ignore All Detour Signs?

H - We didn't know what the story will be when we started. It was really on the fly. Formulating an understandable storyline to an audience that has never seen this band before is the next challenge. 

R - Not diluting the emotions of the band. it was important that viewers not only knew about the situations the band were in but the feelings they were going through at that time as well. 
Time was another factor. We both had day jobs and this was something we could only do at night.

Sindie: What are your favourite scenes in the film?

H -The low point when the band was in a meeting that ended with the drummer tearing. It was such a demoralizing situation and nobody knew how it was going to pan out. High points during live performances overseas are very memorable too.  

R - Filming wise, the trip to Manila was really fun.
But my favorite scene would be when Leslie, the band's manager, was describing the emotional status of the band at the band's lowest point of the journey. It was an honest and accurate statement that summed up the band's feeling at that particular moment. 

Sindie: As you both co-directed, how did you guys split the job up?

H - In our day jobs, I write, direct and produce. Razin edits. In this documentary, we filmed everything with notable help from some friends. Razin still does all the edits. We discuss and critique each other. Actually I don't really know how we did it, but we just did. And if we disagree, we reason it out until someone wins or we compromise. Maybe that's why we took 2 years. But all props go to Razin for the heavy lifting in the edit process.

R - During filming, both of us would just go with the flow. If we had any ideas or thoughts, we would just bring it up and decide there and then. I don't think there were any clearly defined roles and responsibilities. Even though I did all of the editing, a lot of time was spent in the editing room breaking down scenes and discussing how it should look like. Sometimes we would just spend the whole night debating and not editing at all. We have been friends for a long time and have worked on many projects together, it also helps that we don't have big egos. 

Sindie: Are there any ways you both were influenced in your craft to document this journey?

H - We were listening to a lot of the National, Mogwai and watching a lot of music documentaries we can find online about our favourite bands.

R - Vincent Moon was a big inspiration for me. We made sure that we didn't blatantly rip him off though. We kept it subtle.

Sindie: Moving forward, any other plans to screen the documentary anywhere else?

H - The next Singapore screening is on the 18th of April at Pigeonhole cafe for the next installment of SingaFilm.
(For those who are keen, more information about Singafilm can be found here:  

Sindie: Any other plans to do more feature films?

H - Not yet. We never say never. We are quite the factual/docu guys. Not really into doing fiction movies.  

R - If an inspiring subject crops up again, why not? Or maybe if we get bored of work again. 

On this note, we concluded the Production Talk with Razin and Helmi. To keep yourself updated on the directors, or on this documentary, follow their tumblr here: 

Here's to the kindness of the two directors, who have taken time off to answer the long questions. And we'd definitely be looking forward to your next work. And here's to the indie music scene in Singapore. Thrive on.

Thank you for reading.
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