By Richard Trombly
In Chinese, Meiwenti means “no problem” and it is an attitude that is essential for dealing with the hassles and problems inherent in independent film making in China. My friend and fellow film maker, Joe Fiorello, recently had an experience that put that to the test and proved what a flexible film maker and all-around good sport he is. It also demonstrated the strength of character necessary to persevere under the difficulties of film making.
An organizer in Beijing had announced in March that Beijing would have a local edition of the global 48 Hour film contest ttp://www.48hourfilm.com/ . Since Hong Kong had made no announcement for a contest by that time, Fiorello decided to join in the Beijing one. He contacted me and I hooked him up with a team of good folks who planned to enter the contest. In the true spirit of indie film making, Fiorello committed and booked a flight immediately. Meiwenti!
Unfortunately, there was a problem. The Beijing 48 Hour contest suffered delays and needed to be rescheduled, but Joe already had his tickets. Luckily, Shanghai’s Meiwenti Film Contest is running its 10th installment – This time on the theme “Femme Fatale”. http://www.sexandmodernwomen.com/contest/ Unfortunately, the rest of Joe’s prospective team (and his housing arrangements) were not on board with the change of plans, so he had to make a new team to make use of his trip to Beijing and find new arrangements for housing.
Meiwenti! I always have space for a fellow film maker in my flat, so I was more than happy for the opportunity to have a talent like Fiorello stay at my place and he offered to let me be a part of his team. Jude Jiang and Fiorello wrote the script based on an original story idea from Jiang, a script analyst with an international film producer. The result was a clever and delightfully simple little script.
In another blow, the intended cinematographer called the day of shooting and said he could not make it because the plumbing in his building burst and damaged his apartment. So I was moved up from grip to cinematographer with Joe as Director and lead actor. Hava Woo, a lovely actress and organizing staff member from the state run Beijing International Film Festival played the lead female role.
Luckily this short required only two actors and no especially tricky shots nor and difficult locations. When you are making a film on almost no budget and low on other resources, the cardinal rule is: Work with what you have got. You take inventory of what is available, limit yourself from adding elements that are not available and tailor the production to make the best use of what you have.
To make the shooting simple and quick, we mostly limited ourselves to my “pro-sumer level” HD camera – a Sony NEX-vg-10, its selection of prime lenses, a battery operated 120 LED variable color temperature lamp, and the onboard microphone.
It was delightful working with these 3 folk. Jiang stayed behind the scenes handling the lighting and props and wardrobe and just about every other detail. We wrapped the shoot late at night with barely enough time for Fiorello to pack and get to the airport for his early morning return flight and for the two young women to return to their respective homes and take a brief nap before facing the Monday morning grind in their offices.
I was pleasantly surprised by the spirit and cooperativeness of our team in the grueling task of cranking out a whole short film in just one day but I think the results will be well worth the effort. We are eager to edit the film and submit it to the Shanghai-based film contest.