A journal of TMI

Film shot in Saigon


In the month of November my school, which is a large organization with as many as 8 or 9 locations in Ho Chi Minh City, announced a Christmas Party film contest on a poster on the bulletin board. I hadn’t finished editing my Solaris re-make yet, in fact the hard-drive for that was languishing in a basement in Philadelphia at the time. I hadn’t heard any other discussion of the film contest either, as far as I knew, my colleagues were oblivious to it. Had there been more time allotted (the deadline was in less than 4 weeks I think) the proper thing to do would have been to call a meeting and design some kind of collective input and team to carry this out. The bare facts of the case, that we had to continue working and teaching unless we applied for unpaid leave (which I in fact ended up doing), and that film projects are notoriously difficult and require intense organisation and or autocratic decision making necessitated that I grab a hold of the project and carry it out, incorporating anyone who might come forward with a similar understanding. Just as the Solaris film nearly killed me, this effort became grueling in the end, so my hats off to the other contestants for whatever way they handled the project. There were other creative types who peeped after it became known that I was handling our center’s contribution, but I was unable to incorporate their skills, being that the film was already conceived and in mid -execution. Call me a prima-donna, but a longer dead-line would have changed everything, and allowed greater collaboration.
It didn’t help in the competition that I had run out of time for sub-titles and inter-titles, an absolute necessity for the showcase inside the festive ballroom where the competition took place. The film is presented now with these features, in a post-deadline edit I recently completed. Although I used them with more of a Godard New-Wave approach then a readable, helpful way, I think it is an improvement over the original cut.
I also subverted the ‘fairy-tale’ theme that was the rule for the films by ‘using my imagination’ as the rules also suggested. I chose robots and time-travel over the revolting prince charmings and princesses others dutifully based their stories around. Such monarchical pretensions make me want to vomit. What is so ‘magical’ about a family clinging to political power?
My film starred the kids in my classes with others such as myself and the staff at the school providing minor supporting roles. The ‘magic’ was provided by cheesy computer effects and more importantly, the power these children have to get up to antics and adventures at the drop of a hat.
I love the film, but I didn’t even place in the competition, as voted by the brass of ILA. I did feel bitter for a stretch, but to be fair, there was a lot of great effort put into the other films, with greater teamwork, inter-titles, and adherence to the stated themes. The film that I thought best by far within this realm of criteria, which most fully, yet comically portrayed the language world we are working within with some truly crowd-pleasing scenes such as a rap-off and a sing-along to Feliz Navidad, did not win! I was flabbergasted but so it goes at office parties everywhere no doubt.
That film had a Prince Charming as the main character though so I hope to never see it again (kidding). I have to watch my film over and over again as I am editing and I have to say, these kids still crack me up. I should probably show some of the ‘behind-the-scenes’ shots as the kids off-camera are laughing so hard during the reaction scenes that it was, well, hyperbolic…
So, check it out…

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