Due to work commitments on other projects, I thought I would not be throwing my hat into the ring for the then-upcoming inaugural Tropfest SEA short film competition. It was tempting, obviously, amidst much social media fanfare and the promise of big prizes. However, I didn’t want to leap in without having a proper premise or script, plus the idea that I should really dedicate enough time and budget towards pre-production. But – like any other short film project I’ve done thus far – inspiration came late in the game (thankfully it wasn’t quite yet the eleventh hour, so some improvement in that department). It was however, a little too short a time period before the final submission deadline to prep the project as well as I would’ve like to.
The 15-page script was quickly fleshed out in about one or two days, and meeting up with Sandie, the fixer, was perhaps when the ball really started rolling. Immediately she calls Paul Hasham and over the phone, we’d confirmed his participation in the project as art director cum production designer. Once he was on board, the rest of the crew were brought together very quickly. Location followed.
I’ve been putting feelers out for talent before meeting up with Sandie, and from the five people who had responded to our casting call, four were given parts. I called in a favour from my friend Brian to cameo as a tough-talking gangster. And just a week before shoot, one of the cast members contracted dengue fever, and had to withdraw. That forced a major reshuffle. Michael, who was cast in the lead role had to fill for the supporting cast member who’d pulled out. That was very gracious of him given that he was the very first person whom I’ve approached and agreed to do it – even before I had a script written. Alfred, who was originally cast as a supporting lead, was now front and centre and I had to call upon another friend, Ish (director of Donna Must Die and My Name is François, and who has more recently dabbled into acting), to play a small part in Fix.
Sabahan filmmaker Nadira (The Silent Riot, Lastik) was a late addition to the team, offering her services as assistant director. Who was I to refuse. Any help we could get was more than welcome.
The shoot day had a pretty relaxed call time, at 11am. So I popped over to my local coffee hangout to buy a couple of lattes. I didn’t get to consume them (well, not orally – and if you don’t count fumes via nasal cavity) because they completely flooded the floor area of the front passenger seat. I had to leave the car like that and only deal with the mess much later, as it caused me to be late at the location. First fail of the day.
We managed about almost 40 set-ups and resets by the time we wrapped at 1:30am at our third location. I was happy in most part of what we had recorded, even though there were constraints shooting with an projection anamorphic lens attachment and without the help of diopters to achieve a more accommodating focal length. Also, I was a little disappointed not to get a certain prop because of a small creative disagreement I had with Paul. But apart from that overall, it was a satisfying experience to be back on set, directing. I’ve been doing so much writing and editing, I had almost forgotten how great a feeling being with the crew, getting that last shot on camera.
We made the deadline for Tropfest SEA with a few days to spare, and I thought nothing much more after that, having submitted our work as an entry. We even got ourselves a fee waiver, having been one of the first thirty entrants from our country. Typical behaviour by Malaysians – we love to leave things right to the last minute.
A few weeks later, I got the exciting news that we were considered for a place in the Final 12. However, rather unfortunately, over the course of the weeks that would follow, we found out that our short film had been banned by the Censorship Body and despite the great effort taken by the event organiser – namely, Joe Sidek (Festival Director of Tropfest SEA and Georgetown Festival) – to appeal against the ruling, asking for a review and reclassification of the film, it stuck and Fix had to be withdrawn from the competition. A shame. According to Joe he Censorship Body did not give an official reason as to why our film had been thrown out, but I suspect it had to do with their perception that Fix had perhaps portrayed law enforcement in a negative light.
Here are some screen grabs from the short film:
Below are pictures taken by Nadira with my camera, during the making of our film: