PAMPERS | a case study filming in Hong Kong
TRUTH BE TOLD, Hong Kong may be ‘Asia for beginners’, but it’s allergen hell for Gluten Free aficionados. Especially when the best Dim Sum is across the road from the hotel. Apart from that, filming there will be one of the best production experiences you’ll ever have.
Director Porteus Xandau and I have only been to Hong Kong once – working on a Bravo Zulu co-production with A New Life Film for Saatchi & Saatchi Shanghai. The project was Pampers ‘First Touch’ for China. We may not have visited the city many times, but hey, we’re opinionated, so here are some thoughts for other first-timers.
The pre-production in Hong Kong was seamless and methodical (we don’t think the production crew ever slept with around-the-clock emails). As with any international production, however, allow sufficient prep time to overcome professional, cultural, location-finding and other quirks that will slow you down no matter how great your team is. Fortunately, the crew on set was proficient, enthusiastic and super-friendly. Make yourself part of the team early on and you’ll find they’ll have your back (isn’t this true for anywhere you shoot anyway?) Make friends, make jokes, and have fun, because you’ll work your fucking ass off!
Language was not a problem at all. Although some crew cannot speak English, all the HODs and production team were fluent in English. A few details might, however, get lost along the way, so make sure to check on the important stuff regularly (photos speak louder than words – thank you WhatsApp). Communication, as with every production, remains key!
Depending on what locations you’re looking for, one thing worth mentioning is that big houses are not found in the inner city. Due to the density, most of these large spaces with exteriors are at least an hour’s drive outside of HK city – expect to add 2 hours travel time to your day (a worthwhile journey nevertheless).
Oh, and remember that homes are shoe-free, so make sure you pack badass socks or slippers – nobody will judge! Weather-wise, it’s usually very hot, humid, and potentially wet! It often rains all day!
For the first-time production team, Hong Kong will please you with great professionalism, a strong sense of team effort, and amazing people. If your experience is anything like ours, you’ll be sad to get back on the plane. We’re dying to go back!
– by Herman le Roux
ALWAYS | a case study in directing choreography
TRUTH BE TOLD, let’s get it straight: I’m not going to wax lyrical about the beauty of movement here, and nothing I say will magically turn an actor into Ninjinski. All I’m doing in this commentary is giving filmmakers some choreography “fuck-up-proof” advice.
When I sat down to start writing this segment, my intention was to do a detailed analysis of potential obstacles and variants one should consider when directing film choreography. The problem is, all these talking points just ended up spawning variables and each one of those variables spawned into another variable… And discussing these details just sounds like a big yawn-fest.
So, here’s my quick and easy “fuck-up-proof” advice.
1. Have an amazing musical track to do the choreography to. Spend time on music selection and get the opinion of your choreographer before pulling the trigger on it. Some tracks lend themselves to choreography better than others, so ask an expert.
2. Always, and I mean ALWAYS, cast professional dancers. Not just for their ability to move, but for their ability to learn the choreography quickly. Professional dancers can pick up the moves as quickly as a TV actor can memorise a script. Your shoot will be far more efficient in terms of time with pros onboard.
3. Give yourself enough time for rehearsals. I’m talking double or triple the amount you had in your schedule (cue producer gulp moment). Although a pro dancer will learn the choreography quickly, there’s no space for error when you’re capturing performances in high-definition, and often slow motion. Give them the time to get it right.
Almost 99% of film choreography problems will be solved by implementing these three simple things. Sounds pretty obvious, but so many people think they can do it differently. They have an average track, don’t get the best dancers, and don’t even give those dancers enough time to rehearse. And what happens? The choreography lets the whole film down. It’s the mismatched movement that creates problems which put the camera crew on the back foot. You’ll end up cutting the hell out of your takes to disguise the issues and ending up with something that looks more like a B-grade action movie where no one can actually fight VS Keisza’s Hideaway. Got it?
Great track, great talent, and plenty of time for rehearsals. Get that right and everyone will strut away from the production like a Rockstar.
– by Porteus Xandau.