Production Talk - 'In the House of Straw' by Chris Yeo Siew Hua

Photobucket
Over the term break, Zhi Wen decides to move out of his parents’ house to live with two friends. After discovering that Ah Pin and Mark are professional bicycle thieves, Zhi Wen slowly finds himself entrapped in a strange world of vice and deception. A magical personality game they play will finally cause them to switch identities with one another. The film is the tale of the three little pigs set in the modern landscape of urbanized Singapore. Will the three little pigs live happily ever after?
*****

Grace: So Siew Hua, tell us. Why "in the house of straw"?
Yeo: The title refers to the popular children fable The Three Little Pigs. Since this film is structured like a fable and is itself a commentary about folklore and myth, the title pays tribute to one of the most well known moral tales of our time. But more importantly, the film is inspired by the adventures of the three little pigs after the demise of the big bad wolf. This is when the fable turns itself around to become the subject of the allegory.

Photobucket

Grace: Is this film set in singapore?
Yeo: The film is set in Singapore, Malaysia and Nepal. The bulk of it was shot in Singapore because, here, houses are blown down and rebuilt everyday, from straw to wood to stone.

Photobucket

Jeremy: How long did you take in all to shoot? I mean I remember it spanned several yrs right?
Yeo: It took me 2 years to complete this film from development to edit, largely due to budget constraints and problems with the schedules. A lot had happened in between. I remember feeling already like a different person while I was editing as compared to when I started developing the script.

Grace: what program did you use to edit?
Yeo: We were editing on Final Cut Pro.

Photobucket

Grace: Is budget the main challenge in producing this film?
Yeo: I think so. There were delays in the production because we ran out of money. Sometime in the later part of the production, I had to stop shoot and work a bit to get the film done. We had little to start off with. Zhi Wen in the film reflects the relationship I have with money.

Photobucket

Jeremy: reading the synopsis, the part about meeting these bizzare bicycle thieves sounds very interesting and mysterious. How did that come about?
Yeo: A bunch of friends had put together their savings to buy me a bicycle for my birthday. At that age, it meant a lot. I was devastated when it got stolen, and then I started imagining who the thieves were and how were they like. I figured there were three of them because it was a perfect number. It’s true that once you begin to understand the people you hate, you cease to hate them, except mine was a case of imaginative invention. After awhile, the story of the three thieves became a private meditation on archetypes and absurdity, mysticism and menstruation.

Photobucket

Jeremy: I understand you are studying philosophy and your course started after you started shooting. Is a lot of the film made in the editing stage?
Yeo: Straw explores in much detail the notion of existence and identity, which was something I was deeply concerned with while developing the script. When I began formal training in the philosophical discipline, it was nearing the end of production. The film does well to capture my state of mind before that, and since then my thoughts on the matter has differed a great deal. Some of the ideas I was exposed to in my studies might have influenced parts of the edit, so in a way, the film suffers from its own schizophrenia. But that is the nature of films, there are different people contributing at every stage of the production. A film then represents the input and conflict of ideas. Sometimes you go back to move forward. In the original script, we had planned for animated sequences, after principle photography, we went back to shoot real live footage which sounded like a crazy idea then. There is something moving yet unpredictable about the process of nurturing the film from script to screen, the word made flesh.

Photobucket

Photobucket

Jeremy: Can you tell us how did you go about achieving a palatable performance from the actors?
Yeo: Performance is not food. Why talk about the palate? It is an interpretative art. One viewer might understand it in a certain way, and another might see it differently. The examination of performance is integral to my construction of the modern fairy tale. This film is after all a tribute to the fables that make up my childhood. Fables present us with characters working with a system of signs. Having been experimenting with semiotics, I have constructed a visual language by which my actors are bound by, wherein lie the somewhat awkward and unconventional methods of portrayal. Characters in this sense become part of the fabric of symbols embedded within a landscape that is both mundane and defamiliarized. Additionally, the play of confusion is also an important element by which a certain tension within the scene can be made sensible. Often, I would explain a scene differently between the actors, most of the time they didn’t know what each other were thinking, because I believe, (like in real life) every individual exists in their own tangent. In reality, no group of people is working towards a single common agenda even if they seem so at first glance. Tension is also the tension of unknowing, and the confusion on the set is transposed on to screen. Performance is purely interpretation, not only on the part of the viewer, but also the actors and myself. What is presented at the end is as authentic as the interpretation, the manipulation, the censorship, and the alienation between viewer, performer and director. Performance is not food.

Grace: Anything else you’re working on?
Yeo: I’m currently developing a biopic about the ancient Chinese thinker Chuang Tze.

Photobucket
Learn more about the film here and updates at 13 Little Pictures

0 comments:

Post a Comment

Blog Archive