Production Talk with Roy Ng on 'Sanzaru'

Witnessing the three men who killed his father went on to rape his mother, mummy's boy Junyang sets off to kill off these three men in a Sanzaru manner - a Japanese term for see no evil, hear no evil and speak no evil. 

We speak to Roy the Director and Winnie the Producer of the short film Sanzaru to understand more about killing and Sanzaru. Sanzaru was nominated for several categories in the 3rd Singapore Short Film Awards earlier this year.

SINdie(S): What inspired your story for Sanzaru?
Roy(R): The idea of wanting to do a thriller for our final year project gave birth to the start of Sanzaru. We were inspired by the concept behind Sanzaru - see no evil, hear no evil and speak no evil and wanted to weave it into a thriller.

S: Are you a fan of slasher flicks? Or more gangster flicks?
R: Ironically, I am not a fan of either. Sanzaru was first written as a police-mystery-thriller film. It undergoes a lot of rewrites and eventually become the current form of a drama-thriller film. The element of slasher and gangster happen to work out great for the film and thus were included. I like Sanzaru for its entirety rather than breaking it down into the slasher and gangster bits.
Winnie(W): Neither am I a fan of slasher flicks but I do like some gangster films. I'd say I like more of Korean thrillers and Hong Kong gangster films.

S: Violence has often been used to compel its audience, some people may say its a cheap tactic. What do you say to that?
R: I think violence, if used well, can do great to a film. It depends on how well it is integrated into the film's plot and characters' motives. If we are to remove such "cheap tactic" from Sanzaru, the entire film will just look cheaper. Without violence, some films just become unbelievable, and Sanzaru is one such film.
W: There may have been movies which employ violence as what you say, a "cheap tactic" but I believe there are filmmakers out there who know how to blend it well with the film's narrative. One rotten apple shouldn't spoil the rest!

S: How did you attempt to portray violence differently?
R: Perhaps to see how else I can weave it into the story's narrative, or portray the killings in other original ways that can bring a fresh perspective to audience. But many a time, we are actually restricted by the props and special effects we are able to perform and thus the end result is the best way we are able to pull off that scene. The good thing about the lack of resources pushes us to creatively solve the issue and bring it our in ways we otherwise will never think of.

S: How was the production process? Any interesting happenings?
R: This is definitely a very ambitious project. We were all new. Thus almost everything that could go wrong, gone wrong. We overran the shoot, weather is not on our favour, location permit not granted and the list goes on. The interesting bit of the shoot has to be we ended up shooting most of the scenes at my uncle's bus company's garage. Situated at Defu Lane [Bedok Transport Pte Ltd], the place is secluded, gritty and quiet - the perfect night location to shoot murder and smuggling scenes. Some scenes require us to dress up the set so we converted a worker's room into a storage warehouse [where Kiong's ear get cut off before hacked] and even the main repair bay is transformed into the sleazy nightclub which appeared in the flashback with Yam and Father gets entertained by a stripper.
W: Overall, we had around 5 locations shot in one place!

S: What were the biggest challenges in making this film?
W: First being the story development, there were sleepless nights trying to develop the story. And then came the action sequences which most of us were new to. We've never really done an action film before this - all the props such as the fake blood, scars and bruises had to be researched and we found a makeup artist to help. Choreographing the action sequences is one major challenge and we have veteran Sunny Pang to thank for what happened in the film. He gave lots of inputs and worked with us on choreographing the stunts and fight scenes. My team and I have to thank the him and the dedicated cast and crew which made this short film possible.

R: Putting that fight scene aside, I would also like to mention that finding a voice for the VOs of the protagonist is a real challenge. It lacks a unity in them and we all scrambled and research to find an element to add to the VOs to introduce a form of discipline to it. Confucianism was never intended to be in the script. It was a happy accident that we stumbled upon it, and it make such a huge impact to the film that it eventually becomes the Chinese title of our film "子曰" which directly translates to "Confucius says".

S: Is there anything you would have done differently about the film?
R: I will definitely want to work more on the story. Every scripts are basically rush into production and the development phase is compromised. After watching and re-watching this film during the edit and the screenings, I can't help but to feel there is so much more I want to tell about all the characters. I think the script has characters

Find out more about Sanzaru in this link.
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