Production Talk with Wu Lingfeng on 'Tightrope'

‘Tightrope' was nominated in 5 categories in the 5th Singapore Short Film Awards last month, including Best Editing, Best Performance, Best Director, Best Script, Best Fiction and won a special mention for the Best Script category.

A chinese smuggler came to Singapore for quick money. Meanwhile, he meets a Chinese hooker in a HDB.  They quickly became friends. After the smuggler helped the hooker save money from her landlord, she decided to pay him back by her body. However, the smuggler rejected her. The next morning, the police came to hooker's house because of landlord's report. The hooker has to make a decision. Two tightrope walkers, only one can survive.

How did you come up with the story? Are the stories in Tightrope based on real life/friends' accounts?
The character of the smuggler is originally from my high school classmates who studied psychology in China and came  Singapore working in McDonald's. The main story was inspired by my girlfriend. We argued online one night (and... of course she won), and I was so angry after the argument, so I had some bad thoughts about her as a hooker. So I write a character of a hooker, combined with my high school classmate's story. This is how i came up the story of Tightrope.

Tell us a bit about the casting process? How did you find your actors and why did you select them?
The actress Wang, had acted for me couple times before. She said ok after I told her there might be some sex scenes in my new film, so she was on. For the actor, Ren, I was watching a play in NAFA, he was the extra in that play. But I found him very talented, so I told my producer to get him in touch. Luckily, he was free and very suitable for this character.
I can't really explain why I selected them, because most of the time I don't have a choice. I knew them very well,  and i could imagine the way they acted.. How should I say, it's 70% instincts. I believe there is no bad actors, only a bad director who can't control and see.

How long did you take to shoot this film? (there were scenes in China as well!)
We shot about 5days in Singapore. One day in China. For the China part.... eh... I actually shot the China part 2 months ahead of the Singapore part during our Christmas break. By that time, i haven't even finished my script and nobody had an idea of what I was making except me. Luckily, my crew was totally believed in me. (Btw, the China part is a 3-men only crew - actor, DP, and me.  We limited our Chinese part budget to the lowest.

What was the most difficult part about making this film?
Location. The landlord was kicking us out after she saw our 20 men crew on the first shooting day. Therefore, we had to finish our 3  plan-days' shooting in 1 day. Then everything has to be change on set. All the shooting list and shooting schedule we did before became useless. I was on my own. I had to make all the shoot listing in my head, because I don't even have to time to tell my AD the new plan. and I don't have enough time to adjust the performance as well. I had to depends on actors, wishing they could do the same performance as we did in rehearsal. and they did.

I really appreciate my crew. After 3 days of overtime working, everybody was so supportive, nobody complained, nobody gave up. My AD got sick, my DP throwed up right after i called "it's wrap" , My actor broke up with his girlfriend on set because he missed her birthday and it we had to keep shooting.

Can you share any interesting anecdotes/experiences in the process of making this film?
Just the night before our first shooting day, my leading actress got into a car accident - she broke her nose and knees. Then after she confirmed she is OK to act, i had to change the script. that's why you could see her nose has a bond on it. and it turns out a very interesting background story of her. So... what am I saying is, just keep shooting, solving problem is the most fun part of making a film.

Who are your influences in filmmaking? Any favourite directors?
I decided to be a filmmaker because of Jia Zhangke and Edward Yang, then accidentally I became a huge fan of Woody Allen. 

What were the typical audience reactions to watching film? Particularly Singaporeans and mainland Chinese?
Singaporeans usually could feel the funny part of this film. but Chinese couldn't. it's a bit hard for non-singaporean to get the point. 

You can read more about LingFeng's film studio here:
He is now working on a documentary about an art student in China.

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