Friday, 30 May 2008

Elephant and the Sea Production Stills and Fun Facts

Hi guys,

Here are some cool never before seen production stills (courtesy of James Lee, who was our unofficial still photographer), plus some interesting things about the shoot that may or may not interest you.

Fun Facts

#1 - The final film tells two intersecting stories, but in actuality, we shot THREE stories. The other one concerned an elephant trainer, Balak, who loses his elephant and must either find it back or pay back its owner, who is a local mobster. The third story starred Azman Hassan and Juliana Ibrahim. During editing, i decided that the story didn't really fit with the other two. So I cut it out. It pained me to do it, especially after capturing all that cool footage of Azman and the elephant in the jungle! (we shot at an elephant sanctuary). Some of the footage actually turned up in a tvmovie I did last year (cinta tiga segi).

#2 - Another story arch we cut in the film is a 20 minute side story of Ah Kau (the fisherman) getting kidnapped by pirates, and brought to a jungle location where he meets 2 japanese girls (also kidnapped) experiencing Stockholm syndrome with the kidnappers/pirates. The sequence ends with a homemade bazooka (I'm not joking - we actually had one made) being fired. And yes there was an explosion. And no, you won't see it in the final version of the film. And yes I clearly did not know what I was doing.

#3 - Tan Chui Mui, director of "Love Conquers All", plays TWO roles in the film; one as an eager fish store sales person, the other as a prostitute. James Lee has a blink-and-you'll-miss cameo as a thug in one of the brothel scenes.

#4 - We took 20 days to shoot the film; production was divided into two parts. After a rough cut was made, I decided to do re-shoots (with additional funding from Hubert Bals). By this time, we'd lost Berg Lee's main shirt, and his hair was longer. Our leading actress, Meng Hui, had recently cut her hair VERY short (for a tv role). If you look closely enough, you'll be able to tell.

#5 - Berg Lee, who plays Yun Ding, the young hustler, had a boil on my nose that was oozing pus before and during the production. He was worried that it might make him "unpretty", so I wrote his "ailment" into the story. However, the mark on his nose is only visible in closeups... and there are barely any closeups in the entire film!

#6 - The camera we used for the production (my own) broke down on the FIRST day of shoot. A near mental breakdown later, my very hardworking production manager GAN HUI YEE drove back to KL and acquired another camera for the shoot.

#7 - For the opening "lots of fish on the beach" scene, we used 50kgs of fish bought from a local wholesaler and scattered them on the muddy beach. Later, we offered the fish to some of the foreign workers there for free- which they declined, on account of the fish being "kotor" (dirty).

#8 - Animals used in the film: fish, monitor lizard, elephant, chicken, child. The "auspices" flower horn fish used in the film is mine (I brought him from Ipoh a few months before the shoot) and he is still alive today. He certainly is a lucky charm!

#9 - In Kuala Selangor during the mornings, there is a stall that sells shark meat rice, a chinese styled nasi lemak like dish which substitutes rendang or currry chicken with minced shark meat. my verdict: gawdawful!

#10 - In the afternoons, a REAL nasi lemak stall opens near the market, and the kerang and sotong nasi lemak is to die for.

#11 - The most important lesson I learned making this film: It's only a film, stupid.

Thursday, 29 May 2008

We've Come A Long Way

It's been more than two years since the idea of making "The Elephant and the Sea" came to me.

We shot the film from September - Nov of 2006 (about 20 days in total), but before that, pre-prodcution, writing, and planning started from 2005, when the film was granted funding from the Hubert Bals Fund (from the Rotterdam Film Festival).

The film has had many many title changes. Here are some examples:

1. The Monkey Sea
2. The Ocean Circus
3. The History of Pink Elephants

In fact, I felt so confident about the third title, I made 1500 postcards to promote the movie a good 8 months before I started shooting! (the poster design was from the talented Belinda Teoh, a former colleague of mine).

Here's a word of advice to new indie filmmakers. Unless you want a BIG STACK of unused cardboard laying around your house, DO NOT print the postcards before you've finished the film.

True enough, As soon as I wrapped production, I knew the existing title did not fit the film. I finally settled on the simpler, more poetic "Elephant and the Sea". People asked me if it's a metaphor for the two main characters in the film; one is the elephant, the other the sea. To that question I say.... yes. But honestly, I just liked the way it sounded, the way it rolled off your tongue when you said it, and the way it reminded you of something melancholic and from a place you heard of but never been to.

Anyway, the film is finally coming to theaters in MALAYSIA, at the CATHAY CINEPLEXES in August! My one goal for making the film, apart from watching it every night before I sleep (Joke), is to have the film play in a theater, doesn't matter how big or for how long! If we had to buy the tickets and give it to the people so that they will see it, we will do it! (but we won't- not unless you're hot)

But yes, this is a dream come true. My first movie, "Monday Morning Glory", never got a release, and did not even get through the TV censors (MMG is about a terrorist attack). It's a shame, but I believe 4 or 5 people bought the DVD of that film, which I am told is available in some Rock Corner stores and on (my royalties so far: $0.00).

Back to "Elephant and the Sea". The film has traveled the globe, been invited to more than 20 festivals, won 3 awards, and is still playing in some festival somewhere. I believe this month it plays in Spain, and then New Zealand, and then India.

But the most important venue of all is that it's going to be right here in Malaysia! So if you're at all curious, stay tuned, and I'll be updating this blog as often as I can!

PS: I shall be posting videos of the 2 censored SEX SCENES that did not make the cut here on this blog. You don't want to miss it.

Also, i'll also be posting interviews, never-before-seen pictures, and a lot more cool stuff!


Wednesday, 28 May 2008


Welcome to The Elephant and the Sea blog!

We've created this blog to raise awareness for the film and to HYPE the upcoming EXCLUSIVE release of the film at the CATHAY CINELEISURE MALL from AUGUST 21, 2008!

This is a limited engagement, and we really hope all cinema fans will come and watch this really cool film.

In the coming days, I'll be posting more stuff on the blog, plus we're giving out discounted tickets to students and filmmakers, so please come back and check us out!

I'll also be posting some reviews, pictures, juicy stories, and other stuff!

Ming Jin
The Director