SIFF Production Talk- 'Que Sera Sera' by Ghazi Alqudcy

Our guest interviewer Lee Wong speaks to Ghazi Alqudcy on his short film, Que Sera Sera:


Film synopsis:
When I was just a little boy, I asked my teacher, what will I be? Will I be a doctor? Will I be a lawyer? Here’s what she said to me: Que sera sera, whatever will be, will be /The future’s not ours to see /Que sera sera /What will be, will be...

Director's bio:
Ghazi Alqudcy enjoys telling stories through digital film. His works vary in approach – from fictional narratives, to documentaries, to experimental projects. Thematically, Ghazi has touched on issues of sexuality, spirituality, and death.

Graduated from Republic Polytechnic, School of Technology for the Art under the Goh Chok Tong Youth Promise Award Scholarship, he continues making digital films and practicing his storytelling techniques. He is now a student at the School of Arts Design Media, Nanyang Technological University upon receiving the Singapore Technologies Endowment Fund Scholarship, under Temasek Holdings.

Ghazi continues to be active in Singapore’s local film scene, participating in numerous events such as the Take 5! Guerilla Filmmaking Challenge, Fly By Night Video Challenge and the MDA-Panasonic Digital Film Fiesta. In 2007, he held his first solo screening of three films - Lakshmi, Serah Diri, and Block 46 at The Substation’s Guinness Theatre. He took a break for a year in 2008 to learn curate films with his first film screening festival under Republic Polytechnic's Art’s Festival, ‘Play Now Film Fest’ with support from The Substation Moving Images. After that, he curates Purnama Film Screening 1 & 2, under the Singapore Malay Film Society. He was also selected to be part of the Singapore Young Contemporary Artist ‘2008. In 2009, he serves as a judge in the local Fly-By-Night Video Challenge.

He was not film-trained, but he believes that "anybody can be a filmmaker if he perseveres to." His films have been screened in Thailand, Indonesia, London, Australia and also galleries such as Valentine Willie Fine Arts Gallery. Ghazi continues honing his skills through commission works for Prime Minister’s Office, Mediacorp’s Suria, The Artist Village, Singapore Press Holdings, Ain Society and many other companies and organization. During his free time, he loves to indulge in a slumber party with his friends and that is how he usually gets inspired. Currently his motto is "Buy less T-shirts and do more films".

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Your statement about the film 'Que Sera Sera' says that it's a biographical piece. Were you an unhappy kid, growing up? Is your short film about empowerment?
I wouldn’t regard Que Sera Sera (QSS) as an unhappy film, neither would it be seen as an unhappy portrayal of me. QSS is more of an action-reaction between the past and present in my life. Being who I am allowed me to filter many things especially the choice of good friends, and this is vital. Friends come and go, but good friends will stay. This film dedicated to all the good friends in my life, those who believed in me.

As a filmmaker, is it difficult to be honest in telling a story about yourself?
Before writing the script, I talk to my good friends a lot. I will ask them questions that will allow me to understand them and myself better. It’s easy to write something about you, but whether that’s what people see is another issue. Along the way, small talks, discussion and getaways became a research to understand myself better and the idea to QSS. Writing comedy was easy then, just took my personal experience of those being laughed at, and then reflect upon it.

How did you go about casting (for someone to play yourself as well as the rest of the characters)?
I alerted friends of mine who are teachers and made it like a game. I asked them to find a student in their school that they think looked like me when I was 10. There was no time for rehearsal as I only met the main character 30mins before shoot. We spent time talking to each other, doing poster, writing on the board. You would see the poster he made in the film, which was used as the prop. The other characters were all my good friends. The film initially required a lot of cast, but I eliminate all of them and construct my scene to allow me to only work with 3 characters.

What are the biggest challenges in making this film?
As usual budget would always be the problem. But I told myself, the only thing I will spend would be for the comfort of my crew and cast. I called my good friends (with no film production background) to help me as crew. MOEW House is just a group of friends of various art backgrounds to do things together. My assistant director (Angela Chong) is an installation artist. My Director of photography (Sazeli Jalal) is a fashion photographer. My technical crews (Yue Han, Haidar and Naresh) are my close friends in school. All I want is a fun shoot, and IT WAS FUN. In the middle of the shoot, we changed it to next top model geared with film gears as prop.

How did you go about getting help, in terms of funding and crew support?
The film cost me 50 dollars, which went to vehicle petrol and drinks. I was blessed with friends who want to help. But it is a funny irony though. I asked all of them to help me to make a film dedicated to them. My DP would come half an hour before shoot and say, “Give me a crash course on how to use this camera in 15 minutes” When we were shooting in the parade square under the hot sun, my assistant director would dig umbrellas from everybody’s bag and shelter the crew from the heat even without being prompt. Once again, I would say I am blessed to be surrounded by friends who helped me a lot.

What kind of other help did you get? Say, from fellow filmmakers or classmates, etc?
QSS is part of a class project. Everybody has to make a short film from the given location (assigned by the professor). Grouped with 3 other classmates, we were to complete 4 short films within 2 weeks. Along the way, we learn from each other, making short films of different style and technique. QSS was too personal to me and I did not share anything with my classmate, lecturers, cast and even crew. I produced the film myself and the cast and crew only got to know about the story 30 minutes before the shoot. Everybody was clueless before that.

There is definitely a sense of spontaneity and fun from some of your earlier short films. Would you ever choose to make your film differently? Do you think your films would be different if you worked with professional crew instead of friends?
I have done commercial work with professional crew and I would have to say results are fantastic. And I would not conclude that I won't work with professional crew at all for my short films. But currently what I enjoy most about filmmaking is the process, and I want it to be fun and not stressful.

Any interesting anecdotes to share about the production?
Halfway through the shoot, the parents of my main character (Syahidi) came to set. And that was noon and we were doing the scene of him running around the parade square. My assistant director alerted me about Syahidi’s parents and asked me to finish the scene quickly. It doesn’t look good asking Syahidi to run around. I wouldn’t want the parents to be angry too. Syahidi’s father came to us and said, “Can you please ask him to run some more. It’s the only way to make him exercise.” We were stunned.

What are your views on the film industry here in Singapore?
The film community is growing. Anybody can make a film. We need more films. It's the best time to make a film, just pick a camera and do it!

Do you think local short films are too serious, too depressing?
I won't say all local short films are depressing, because I think there are some cute happy ones. Its quite refreshing to see a happy short film after watching depressing short films. Some of my works are depressing too !!! haha

What's next? Give us some insight to your upcoming works...
I will be spending the next half of the year doing a student exchange overseas. I'm going to Pusan National University and right in time to watch the Pusan International Film Fest. :) If i can't see my film in PIFF, to go there and see others also can lah.. might as well :) hahaha - pathetic me right???? Haha. I want to take this opportunity to do something, get inspired by other cultures, spaces and people. Most of the crew of QSS had an art show last January at Post-Museum Singapore. The same show ‘QUITE’ will be travelling to ANNEX Gallery, Kuala Lumpur Malaysia. I have a sound work installation, an interesting recorded phone conversation.

I notice in your credits there is music by Moby. Could you share with us any tip(s) about the use of music in your short film?
There are many musicians and artist (locally and internationally) who are willing to help budding filmmakers. It’s always worth it to at least try. I remember waiting for Dick Lee to appear from a play just to ask his permission to use his music. I had to wait everyday through out the entire week. We never met him but yes we got his music for the short film, 'We the real people of Singapore'. We managed to get through to Dick Lee through his private email and he gave us the permission to use the song that we've wanted. Again, there’s no harm trying.

Can you name top 5 films that you wish you had made?
Opera Jawa (Director: Garin Nugroho)
The Blossoming of Maximo Oliveros (Director: Auraeus Solito)
Taste of Cherry (Director: Abbas Kiarostami)
The Flower In The Pocket (Director: Liew Seng Tat)
Dogville (Director: Lars Von Trier)

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QUE SERA SERA is in competition at the Singapore International Film Festival 2010. It screened on April 17 and will be re-screened on 24 April, 11.30am at Sinema Old School. Get your tickets!

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