Production Talk with Tzang Merwyn Tong on 'Faeryville'

Filmmaker Tzang Merwyn Tong burst into the independent filmmaking scene with his signature fantasy short films, when many others stuck to the safer realist films. His films have travelled and won several awards. 'A Wicked Tale' premiered to a sold-out crowd at the 2005 Rotterdam International Film Festival. 'V1K1', a Sci Fi short film won the Gold Remi Award at the Houston WorldFest 2011. 

He is back with another 'faery-tale' called 'Faeryville'. To be more accurate, it is Dystopian Teen movie. 

'Faeryville' is a film 8-years-in-the-making, made on an Indie Budget. It is a coming of age film, set in a fictitious college, about a group of teenage misfits who were often bullied, and how they struggle to find themselves in an increasingly surreal world. A movie dedicated to the misfits and the dreamers, the rebels, the thinkers, and most importantly, the believers.

Check out this teaser of Faeryville.

We caught up with Tzang to find out more about the making of 'Faeryville'.

Tell us something about Faeryville (2015) we don’t already know. What is its true impetus? Or rather what is the ambition of the film?

I wrote Faeryville to address my own fears and concerns about what’s happening in the world today, with the youth of this generation, dealing with issues kids of the 60s-90s, never had to deal with. What’s it like growing up in the Post 9-11 world where nothing is right or wrong anymore? Has idealism become a dangerous thing? 

Now that Faeryville (2015) is awaiting its big reveal; tell us about the rollercoaster of a ride in script changes. How many drafts did you rummage through before nailing down the perfect screenplay prior to shoot? 

Approximately 14 draft rewrites. I didn’t want to make an omnibus of short- stories-type feature film, or based it of a structure of another film, and spice it with local flavour. I have a story in my head. My own story that I want to tell. So it was harder, trying to put an original tale in writing, my first original feature length screenplay.  

First two drafts were like 200 pages and 160 pages, themes were heavy and difficult to process. It said what I wanted to say, but I hated it. Third draft came out well, and I sent my fourth draft to a Hollywood Script Consultant. His feedback was that Faeryville has the potential to really rock the boat, and I must be careful with how I handle the material. 

So I spent about 2 more years, working and reworking the script. At the same time trying to keep a day job, so I can pay the bills. I got my later drafts reviewed again, and again, one in London and another one in New York by a veteran script consultant, and both feedbacks were spectacular, which made me want to make Faeryville on my own, so it doesn’t get watered down. 

The protagonists of Faeryville (2015) seem to take on ‘anti-hero’ personas. Do you believe the world is full of misunderstood “villians”? Are you a misunderstood “villain”? Tell us about the portrayal of these characters.

Not a villian, but a misfit. I’ve always found it difficult to fit in, and I consider myself an outcast, sometimes, a willing one. I’m comfortable that way. 

Faeryville takes you to this world too, but in our case, our heroes are losers, brave enough ‘not to try’, brave enough to be a Nobody. In a way, I hope to make a film that speaks to dreamers and misfits of the world, and tell them that it is alright to be different, to be awkward, to not fit in. 

Correct me if I am wrong? I feel that Faeryville(2015) is representative of a fable. They are simple, enchanting stories however it has dramatic depth. Is Faevryville(2015) more of a fable applied to a dystopian context or does its essence originate from a perceived existing reality?

It’s a fable I hope people can relate to. 

In the overlying arch; what does Faervyiile condemn and what does it render fashionable?

The tagline for the film says it all, be afraid of what you fight for. 

Personally, I do not believe in the ‘Genre-disation’ (coined by myself) of films but for the benefits of our readers and audiences- what genre would Faeryville(2015) fall under and why?

A dystopian teen movie. Dystopian, because it’s set in a fictious alternate establishment with issues not too different, yet not quite like ours, with its own rules and oppressive elements, that makes it fun for teenagers to rebel to.  

Teen movie, because that’s what it is. Teenage-hood is one of the best moments of our life, because everything is unreal. Everything is amplified. We fall in love for the first time. We read books, we listen to music, and we believe we can change the world. It’s a wonderful feeling. 

I wish I’ve watched the film so that I could ask more compelling questions but it seems I would have to fly over to Los Angeles to catch the premiere. With that said; who is the intended audience for Faeryville(2015)? Is this a film relatable to local (Singaporean) audiences or is it geared for an international crowd?  

Faeryville is made for youth of the world. You don’t have to be a film lover to relate to Faeryville. You just need to know what it’s like to be oppressed, to be put down, yet defiant enough to say, you are still gonna dress up, mess up, have your fun and kick shit up, regardless. It doesn’t matter if you’re from Singapore or Los Angeles, South Africa or Mexico, Faeryville is a film to be enjoyed by people who want to live and believe. 

With diverse distribution channels, why have you resorted to a box office premiere instead of something a little more progressive and accessible such as NetFlix, Sundance Channel or any other local Video on Demand (VOD) platforms? Do you feel a theatrical premiere would maintain that privilege and prestige? Or do you feel Video On Demand (VOD) model dilutes the spectacle of the premiere? 

There’s a part of me that’s still old-school, especially when it comes to presentation. I love the experience of being in a cinema, to be in the dark, and to be overwhelmed by sound, light and moving images, and have the emotions come off people in a public space. I want my audience to experience Faeryville with other people. Doesn’t have to be people you know. Just people. 

And have a film that travels from city to city, discovering new audiences, till it reaches your city. 

Let’s talk about the main actor, Lyon Sim. I have heard a lot of things about him especially about his ability to neutralize the cynical of minds.   Is he the future or rather the new breed of Singapore actors? What is this new breed? 

I can only speak about my own experience with Lyon. He plays POE, a tom-sawyer type sensitive new age punk. He really respects the material that’s given to him, and he doesn’t try to act. He performs by being there with you, and making you believe everything is real to him. 

He helps me to believe the problems are real, that Poe is real, and Faeryville exist. 

Lyon Sim is second from right

I’ve saved the best for last; is Faeryville(2015) a philosophical warning, conundrum or a potential reality? From a purist perspective, independent films unravel and explore social and political issues, in and around a socio-geographical structure. Does Faeryville(2015) debate such issues, rights, freedom and hypocrisy? 

That’s why society needs independent cinema. So alternative voices for alternative issues can be explored and heard, so we can be ‘there’ before the ‘industry’ is ready to go there; and yes, alternative cinema can explode to mainstream consciousness too.  

It’s never about being ‘indie’ so that we can be ‘obscure’. That’s bullshit. 

I have one more question for you. Will there be pyrotechnics?

Yes. There will be bombs. We want the danger to be real. It’s not CGI. The bombs we deal with are homemade, not michael bay stuff, and they explode for real.  

One more note, thank you for NOT asking me, how hard it is to make a film is Singapore. 

The film has not been screened in Singapore but will make it to our screens very soon. Meanwhile, 9th Nov is the worldwide premiere of its official trailer. Watch out for it!

Also find out more about the film in these following pages:

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