DV filmmaking

Did an email interview for slashcam.de, the biggest German online-magazine on DV / techniques / independent film who is presenting a Berlin International Film festival special at www.netlounge-dv.de

1 How would you describe the aesthetics of your film?

I wanted to make an organic film, a film that grew out of the material so Invisible City is constructed in the edit. The shooting part of the production of it is merely a way to find out what I really want to say. The editing part fine tunes the message

So I shoot a lot by gut, shooting all kinds of things, everywhere. When I have amassed enough footage (How much is “enough”? Its enough when a deadline says I need to stop) I start editing with the editor Inez Ang to make sense of the footage . She is a daring woman to take on the morass. If a framework or a pattern emerges and I feel I need more of one kind rather than another kind of footage – I shoot some more of that kind. The shooting ratio is high, 60:1. DV is the only way I can afford to do this.

2 Why did you choose to shoot on a digital format (was it solely for financial reasons, or did aesthetics play a role)?

Cost is an important issue, but ease of use is another. The camera I use has to be light. Often in the shoot, its just me with with the camera and tripod because the budget cannot afford an assistant all the time. If I had to fiddle with a 16mm camera, loading it, unloading it, I am not sure if I will have the energy left to edit. The money we saved with having less manpower was spent on having more time to look for material, for research and more editing time. Our editing lasted 6 months, interspersed with more shooting.
DV enabled me to find a story.

I shoot in video also to show others that if they are so inclined, they can shoot a video for themselves because it is affordable. I want to eliminate the elitist tenor of filmmaking that is attached to the film format.

Also because of the affordilbility factor, I have a lot of independence to decide what to shoot. This is important to me at this stage in my career. I wanted to find out what themes were germane to me without the influence of commercial pressures. The themes are not as obvious as one would imagine. I could only find out through making these films. Invisible City, Singapore GaGa, 80kmh and Moving House are the result of this search.

That said, I wish I could shoot Invisible City in the film rather than DV format. For this documentary more than any other because Invisible City is about remembering and memories. There is no better archival format than film. The film format will last beyond my lifetime and this would match the themes of the docu. Goodness knows if my Digital Beta master tape can last the next 10 years!

3 Which format exactly did you choose (MiniDV, DVCAM, HDV, HD…), and why?

I shot Invisible City with a Sony PD150 DV Cam which I own and have used since 2001. I think it is time to retire it, to check out the new HD babes. But I am too attached to this workhorse and I am too sentimental.

4 What was special about shooting digital (e.g. compared to 35mm, was it your first time with (H)DV / HD or are you used to it ..)?

I miss the discipline of shooting in film. Shooting in DV is extremely chaotic, there are too many tapes, and too many badly framed shots and badly recorded sound. All this makes it a hell to log and transcribe. One needs to be more organised in a DV shoot than one imagines!

5 What was your shoot-edit ratio?

For Singapore GaGa, it was 40:1
For Invisible City it was 60:1

6 One good word about DV / HDV / HD (or two):

Fast, cheap

7 One bad word about DV / HDV / HD (or two):

Out of control

8 Which camera and editing software did you use?

FCP because editor Inez Ang has that in her suite

Pin Pin filming during a location scout foto credit ampulets 2.JPG

Picture by ampulets

Longest Q&A

I recently screened Invisible City at the NUS History Department’s historiography class made up of 4th years and masters students. Small screening, about 60 people. The Q&A turned out to be longer than the film, 90 min long, my longest. They kept coming at me, like raptors, and I had to fend for my life. me vs Them. Becareful those history students, they are merciless.

Citizen Historian “Experiencing Invisible City as a history student”

Documentary Pitch Competition

During JIFFEST, one of my duties was to judge a documentary pitch competition. The winner gets 5000 Euro to finish her project given out by the Jan Vrijman Fund. Seven very earnest directors presented their project to a committee of three. Each director had 20 minutes. In the end we chose 2 projects that we felt had the best chance of being finished: the director had passion, the research was deep, plus he had access to his subject matter. Two teams received 2500 Euros each. Its not much, but some. The pre pitch workshop was conducted by Leonard Helmrich. I hope those documentaries will be made

One of the teams showing us a short clip of their intended subject

Jakarta screening full house

Singapore GaGa screened with Invisible City at Blitzmegaplex in Jakarta. There was a queue which made my father who was there very pleased


Shortly before that, Invisible City screened at the Tangent’s Exhibition. It was advertised in Zaobao so quite a few people turned up. There was a long and interesting Q&A. Here, a picture of two who stayed on to chat. There are photographed with the exhibit, because they are the exhibit.

Before that, Invisible City screened at WOHA Architects (Singapore), in their new office gallery space. It was special showing the film to architects. They innately understood the (futile) attempts at immortality, after all what is a building but an attempt at permanence. The Q&A was vigorous, but this time it was lubricated by lots of wine. It was nice to see WOHA’s principles Richard and Mun Summ (top right in pic below) again, we were neighbours before I became an en-bloc victim. More pictures here

So the tour goes on, I think this is the fun part of filmmaking, the showing bit, and showing it to its different constituents, silenced ex-revolutionaries, arty architects.

Free book

So much of film culture in my generation (pre internet, pre Youtube) was cultivated by screenings and film gatherings at the Goethe Institute and Alliance Francaise, borrowing videos from the British Council. They were cultural oasis for many of us. And it was that way in Philippines too it seems. Someone wrote a book on the Goethe Institute “effect” on Philippine film culture, the book “Kino Sine Philippine-German Cinema Relations can be downloaded free from this site”. An easy and interesting read.

How to do a Q&A

After the screening of Perfumed Nightmare (1977) just as the audience was about to rush out, the room grew completely dark and the bongo drums started. The director Kidlat Tahimik came bounding into the light in a loin cloth dancing with his son round the stage. Great film, weird music, cute butt. A potent combination, all of us were too dumbstruck to leave, so riveted we were to our seats. Is he for real? He proceeded to taking a 30 minute Q&A in the same loin cloth. Almost naked. I should try the loin cloth/bongo drum for my Q&As one of these days. Talk about a memorable Q&A. Of course it would help if I made a memorable film too!