STOP10 May 2017: 'Fish out of Water' and other tales from the 48 Hour Film Project

Our favourite film of this year’s 48 Hour Film Project Singapore was disqualified. Sometimes, we are winners in our own right, outside the dictates of convention and rules. Fish out of Water was a kooky, oddball film that used toy-fishes as its actors, playing out an absurd version of Finding Nemo and most importantly, punctuating the film with spot on humour. It was disqualified  from competing for the main prizes because it was submitted late and was below the minimum film duration. However it won one of the two Audience's Choice Awards.

The 48 Hour Film Project Singapore is in its 10th year in Singapore this year and has grown a loyal following among filmmakers, wannabe-filmmakers and YouTubers in Singapore. It calls itself the ‘granddaddy’ of timed film competitions and is probably entitled to it, for being the oldest and largest timed-filmmaking challenge in the world. Every year, teams are given several elements which they must include in their films and every team has a different genre required of them. And boy, these genres are so wide, they range from the usual horror, comedy, thriller, drama to more demanding ones like Sci-fi, musical, detective, dark comedy and fish-out-of-water (like WTF is that!).

In this year’s Singapore challenge, filmmakers had to include a character called Chris or Chrissy, who is a social media influencer, a used tea bag as a prop, and the line ‘I’m not who you think I am.’ Evidently, this makes this filmmaking challenge harder than other filmmaking challenges but also more entertaining to watch.

Fish out of Water the film was in fact, given the genre of fish-out-of-water. Made by Chee Wei Teck, who formed his own one-man team One Man Show, the film is features two fishes, brought to life through intentionally-cheap-looking toy fish puppetry, having a very pedestrian conversation about their lives and survival. This film is funny on so many levels. Think of it as ‘Finding Nemo: in plastic’. Two (plastic) fishes, feeling like sore thumbs among the real fishes in the aquarium, start chatting like working class Singapore adults. They yak about fitting in with the other fishes, the food they are being fed and finding better opportunities outside these four walls. If the idea of fish surviving in a pond is both familiar and funny, you know the director is being quite clever. At the same time, he is not trying too hard, the Singlish-speaking fishes are just too much of a riot.

Watch Fish Out of Water here:

Wei Teck gave SINdie some scoops on the nerve-wrecking 48 hours that he used to make Fish out of Water and why he ended up being late for submission.

How was the idea for your film conceived?

The random genre I got during the "48 Hour Film Project" Kick-Off was "Fish Out Of Water OR Family Film". Since "Family Film" would require multiple characters actors, and i am alone with no team members, i figured i have to focus on Fish Out Of Water. I immediately message my neighbour to ask for access to their fish tank.

I am sure most working adults can relate to being a fish in a fish tank. Fish Out Of Water appears to be a comedy because of the use of toys, but it is actually a social commentary.

What were the other ideas you had?

I didn’t try to come up with other ideas because I can imagine weighing multiple story options would slow me down. Being a "One Man Show" Production, forced me to keep things simple and focus on delivering a single story. 48 Hours is not a lot of time to conceptualise, execute and finish edit a short film, alone.
Biggest challenges/hiccups you faced?

Made the mistake of editing everything in a single working file, hence my laptop keeps crashing.
I should have edited individual scenes then stitch them together.

Any funny stories to share in the making of this?

My "Actors" Len and Ben (Toy Fish Characters in the Short Film) got "kidnapped" by two of my neighbour's children. So it took some time for me to get my "Actors" back, to continue shooting.


Another film that stood out from the competition was BLITHE, a musical, which won the Best Music and Sound Design Award as well as the other one of the two Audience Choice Awards. Made by Team Middle Room Studios, led by Muhammad Shahrezal Abdul Rahman,
BLITHE is a musical about a lady who has the hots for a social media star, only to realise he is gay. This team gets an A-star for effort for composing some decent songs, planting a few visual surprises in the choreography department and some truly extraneous drone shots.

What inspired your idea for the film?

Initially, It was just a typical love story based on true account. The story had a major alteration after our actress can't make it to the set. I have only 1 female cast left and I had to make do with the extra male cast which eventually we decided to change the story to a "not so straight" love story. Glad that we won the Audience Award.

Any hiccups or funny incidents happened over the 48 Hours?

Besides our actress who can't make it to set, everything was going as planned. However, for this genre, the writing of songs and recording the vocals take quite a lot of our pre-production time. I prefer the cast to sing the song themselves. So, with no singing background, I've got to have a lot of patience with the cast.

Watch BLITHE here:

Team Paperbag Boys which made Evident, a detective film about a private detective pretending to a social media influencer in order to nab a drug peddler. Team Paperbag Boys took home the Best Film title, amidst a string of other awards including Best Editing, Best Use of ‘Line’ and Best use of character. ‘Evident’ certainly had an unconventional approach to telling a detective story (they designated genre), a style akin to ‘Blair Witch Project’ on steady-cam. Undoubtedly, the judges must have been impressed by the scene-to-editing room reverse transitions in which the scene zooms out to reveal that it is part of a video window on the editing programme and the same protagonist is sitting on the editing chair watching the footage of himself.

The Paperbag Boys had this to say about their win.

What inspired your idea for the film?

The intention of making this film is based on our hunger to discover new creative boundaries by taking the risk to try something different and creating a film that we've never done before. We also like to inject climax and the freedom for our audience to think deeper into the film after they've seen it. In the context of this film, it appears to be a simple vlog that slowly turns reveals the twist in the plot.

How do you feel about winning?

Before this, we have joined a couple of similar competitions in the past, but was never awarded Best Film. There is definitely a sense of achievement and it feels surreal. Winning was never the goal of participating in this competition, but it was the drive to challenge ourselves that keep us going. We didn't expect to take home any awards, let alone the best film. This has motivated us to continue to better ourselves and create better films in the future.

Survival tales?

We had prepared ourselves to face with some conflicts, sleepless nights and to experience the adrenaline of rushing to meet the tight deadline. Surprisingly this was one of our smoothest and easiest 48 hours film. Unlike other years, this round we had time to sleep, eat, go for birthday party and submit the film early without rushing. The only tricky part of our process was when we were trying to fine tune our concept. We only came to an agreement at 7am in the morning, which was 10 hours after the theme was released.

Watch the winning entry Evident here:

Some of the teams that have taken part in the 48 Hour Film Project will be uploading their competition entries on YouTube. Keep a look out for them!

Written by Jeremy Sing

For the full list of May 2017's 10 films under STOP10, click here.

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