Less than 36 hours before the production of Chink, we thought about pulling the plug or postponing it. Marlene, Koji, Stanley and I were on the call past midnight. In spite of our reservations, Stanley was keen on moving forward. He talked to a production designer who was the DP’s friend and willing to step in. If we had pushed the dates, we would also have lost some of our cast.
Onward, said the director. On such a low budget production, it has to be director driven. Being a director myself, I can’t but support the director’s vision. If Stanley thought we could do it, then Chink had to be made.
We slept for a few hours and headed back to the preproduction office at Marlene’s. Around the dining table, Kevin Huie, our AD, was working with Woody Somvichai, our second AD, to prep for Day 1. Production Designer Mark Macauley stepped in and started prepping the protagonist serial killer’s apartment where we had to shoot the next day. It was a surprisingly miraculous and quiet day. Everything fell into place and we were ready to go home at six and start production the next day exactly 12 hours later.
Locations are always the toughest on indie film shoots. We didn’t have a locations manager so I had to step in to find the outstanding locations. I knocked on so many doors and most of them were shut right in my face. We secured half of our locations through friends we knew well.
Chink was made on a lot of favors from locations to equipment to crew. Most importantly, we were able to assemble a team of hardworking production assistants to fill in on every department from costume to grip. With recommendations from good friends, Koji recruited the young and hardworking PAs, all APIs, who became the backbone of our production. These PAs were tireless and quick learners who really made this production happen.
Stanley had a lot of faith in people, including our costume designer Sarah Le Feber who is probably one of the few disabled women working in the industry. Despite being in a wheelchair, Sarah was able to pull all the costumes together right on budget. I thought it was a pretty amazing feat.
We worked and worked, shot and shot. All the cast was incredibly accommodating despite the limited resources we had. Halfway through the shoot, we were pulled over by cops while shooting a driving scene because someone forgot to wear a safety belt.
“Aren’t you the guy in Better Luck Tomorrow?” The cop recognized our lead actor Jason Tobin.
“Yeah,” said Jason.
“Okay, be safe you guys,” said the cop who let us go. At that moment, I realized that the production was blessed.
A filmmaker friend once told me that great films were sometimes made even though shooting was tough and haphazard. It was one of those moments in time where people and things just came together despite the lack of resources and preparation.
I was beginning to be convinced of that hypothesis. Or was it just a lack of sleep?
The production wrapped in the wee hours of the 12th day. I was in the production office falling asleep and talking nonsense while a splinter crew was finishing up the last few shots.
“Do you realize that none of you is making any sense? Listen to your conversations!” exclaimed Koji. “You are not even answering each other’s questions.”
“It’s a wrap,” announced the voice of the first AD through the walkie-talkie of the second AD who was lying face down on a table.
As Stan came back with the splinter unit, Mark the production designer busted out champagne glasses and bottles of champagne.
How could we afford champagne on the set?
“That’s the guy you need on a set,” said a crew member. “Someone who’ll bring champagne to the wrap!”
And it’s a wrap!
(Read Part 1 here)