As part of our new YOMYOMF Network series, The Short List, where we present short films we love every Friday at Noon EST, we’ve reached out to the filmmakers with 5 Questions to see what’s up since the production of their short film. It’s a way for them to revisit their film and get an update on their next projects. You can view all The Short List films here.
We asked 5 questions to Tanuj Chopra, the director of this week’s short film, CLAP CLAP.
1. How did you come up with the concept for this short?
The idea emerged from an opportunity presented by Karin Chien and several late night conversations with film-crackhead friends.
Karin was curating the MOCA museum Chinatown film project – a series of short films commissioned to present a unique vision of “Chinatown” anywhere in the world. She invited me to contribute to the effort and provided resources to shoot the film on 35mm. I was coming off Punching at the Sun and wanted to do something a little more genre driven and fun. There were several actors I met over the year that I really wanted to work with like Sung Kang and Manu Narayan. I also wanted to work with Tilotama Shome again after our first film together Butterfly. Much of Clap Clap was about getting these special actors together and rolling.
On the content side, my co-writer Hart Eddy and I were geeking out on neo-noirs quite a bit and my great friend and DP Jeff Kim wanted to do something that took advantage of the abundant ambient light available on NYC Chinatown streets at night. I was personally interested in creating something experimental, elliptical and sensual – a space where actors could physically connect. We added a gun smuggling storyline to the stew and emerged with Clap Clap.
2. Any challenges or setbacks during the production?
We shot the interior section of the film in my friends Shruti and Riddhika’s very very small Chinatown apartment on a very very high floor. We had a full 35mm Panavision camera package and a ton of lights. Getting everything up to location was a humorous undertaking in itslef but shooting the room was even iller. Anytime we shot a character we had to stage a large mountain of equipment behind the camera – it took up the remaining space int the apartment. When we turned the camera around to shoot the reverse shot, every case, box, lens, light etc had to be shifted to the other side of the room behind the new camera position. It was torture on the crew. It’s not the ideal way to shoot a location.
3. Any funny stories from the making of this film?
Many. One in particular was the weapons training session Tilotama and I had. The movie needed her to operate a handgun and I wanted it to look realistic. Too many films are filled with actors playing cops who hold guns like bananas. Tilly and I spent a couple hours in this random basement of the weapon rental house learning how to load and cock the gun with the right technique. It’s a bit awkward so she struggled at first but by the end of the session, she was loading the weapon like a trained military specialist. I was scared gun people were gonna bring out a dude in restraints and a leather mask at any moment. Thats just my own shit though.
Another funny moment came from working with Sung – one of my favorite actors. The dude was totally exhausted coming off shooting Ninja Assassin in Europe. He was generous enough to stop in NY and do our project on his way to shoot Justin’s next movie in Mexico and LA. His timezones were off and his schedule was hectic so we were fortunate he even took the time to contribute. Unfortunately, a couple night shoots are probably the hardest thing to roll into coming from his situation. On the first night, he had a scene that required him to fall asleep in a bed and lets just say he took a method approach to his performance.
4. Where has your film played? Festivals or other places around the world?
Clap Clap played at a bunch of places including Urbanworld in NYC, SFIAAFF, the Indian Film Festival of Los Angeles, VC and SDAFF. I’m forgetting where else at the moment.
5. What’s been going on with you, filmmaking wise since the completion of this short? What are you working on next?
I’m chillin’ Anderson – just working to leave some movies behind on this planet in my time here. I did an ITVS Futurestates film titled PIA starring Tilly, Ajay Naidu and Pia Shah that’s available online. Christine Kwon and I finished season 1 of our internet TV series titled Nice Girls Crew starring Lynn Chen, Sheetal Sheth and Michelle Krusiec – that should be out soon. Im also working on my feature project for the recent VC development grant – you know about that. Punching should be out on Netflix this fall and I’m looking forward to sharing that film with a larger audience. I got a couple other movies and videos I’m finishing up plus a collab with Chee Malabar. I did a piece for Shattered, the new Asian American comic book anthology that’s gonna drop soon – It’s titled Weightless and I’m excited about the artwork Alice Meichi Li brought to it. She’s a talented lady. Otherwise, I’m trying to be cool to my fellow man and respect all god’s creatures while staying buster free.