Going Nuts About Shopping – An interview with Wee Li Lin
Sinema speaks with Wee Li Lin, director of the upcoming feature film Gone Shopping about the ups and downs, the lure of our favourite pastime and the people who make going shopping worth its while. Interview by Randy Ang.
Randy (R): A darkly comical character study, an imposing starting description of the things to come in ‘GONE SHOPPING’. Imposing because you are getting a general release. Do you think our audience in Singapore will be ready for this?
Li Lin (L): I think the Singaporean audiences are ready for anything and everything, we have become such matured and sophisticated cinema goers. In any case, the film is really not that “cheem”(profound in Hokkien) – though I wished I were cleverer! There is a lot of lightness to it as well.
R: I was so intrigued when I first saw your trailers. They seem so far apart, in reference to Aaron Ho’s swinging the sword. How is the story told (if it is not a spoiler) with 3 different plot lines? I am guessing here that they are individual tales.
L: In “Gone Shopping” (GS) there are three stories, three different characters with three different plot lines and the characters connect in more of a thematic and emotional way than a physical way…they connect based on the fact that they are living the drama of their lives in the space of the shopping centre.
Additionally, the shopping centre and its trappings serve as the life force for these characters. In “GS” the character of Clara, the tragic tai tai (wealthy lady of leisure – played by Kym Ng) is the primary lead, so her story is the dominant one and her voiceovers start and end the film, so in a way she speaks for all the characters and helps hold all three narratives together.
R: We often start writing in our mind the actors/people whom we feel suit the characters in the film. More often, due to schedules and timings, we donâ€™t get the cast we want. How do you overcome it, if you canâ€™t get the actors you want?
L: Yea! In that respect I am the worst of any other writer I know because I almost canâ€™t write properly without casting the actor/actress in my head first! In some cases, if that actor or actress doesnâ€™t exist I create a hybrid of two or three people I know and pray that such a person exists out there. I donâ€™t think itâ€™s a good habit, but Iâ€™ve been doing this for years.
In the case of “GS” when I lost my first choice actress and met with Kym, I changed the script considerably to suit her as she brought in a different energy and physicality to the role. The script became lighter and funnier and Kym is an actress who wears her heart on her sleeve and as such the role and the script got lighter and funnier. So, alls well that ends well, Kym was made for Clara â€¦ no one else could have played her with such empathy and dreaminess. Kym blew us all away, I knew she was a reliable actress, as one can see in “First Mums” and “Durian King”, but she gives an amazingly nuanced and quietly heartfelt performance in “Gone Shopping” worthy of any major acting award.
R: Adrian Pang is one of my favourite actors around too. And this is not the first time you guys are working together, how was it this time?
L: As any director (theatre, film or television) will probably tell you, when it comes to working with Adrian Pang – once is not enough. He is the best actor (in my opinion) in Singapore and one of the finest Asian actors in the region. Like Kym, Adrian also wears his charisma and heart on his sleeve as an actor and he brings so much humanity and charm to his roles that even a simple character on paper will immediately be more dimensional and likeable on screen. Adrian is also terribly smart and wickedly funny, so he always works towards improving his character and often improvises during rehearsals…heâ€™s constantly value adding to his role. Adrian and I worked together on my short film “Holiday” in 2001 and it was great then and it was great now 5 years later on â€œGSâ€, though now he’s much busier and seems a bit worn from all the gigs that his contract holds him to.
R: Just reading what you have sent me, you seem to have assembled a very strong team of not only acting talents but the people behind the scenes. A lot of times, the actors and directors are in the limelight. Would you like to give some special mention to the ‘real’ people who put the film together?
L: You bet! I stood on the shoulders of my Assistant Directors, Shawn and Ler, to make my film. Shawn and Ler are also clever and talented young filmmakers in their own right and they gave me great advice and support on everything from the script to casting to what’s hot and what’s not (haha!)
My Producer Fuzzy and our Assistant Producer Yingru also have to do a lot of the ‘dirty’ but crucial work of taking care of the business and legal aspects of the film along with helping to manage the actual production as well. Itâ€™s not a fun job and Iâ€™m very grateful to them for holding up the fort here.
We also had wonderful Location Managers, Melvin and Felicia who managed to secure impossible locations for us. Our art department was also very dedicated, going for countless location recces and doing whatever they could to source for the correct props and materials needed for the film.
Jackie my Director of Photography was also a major pillar in the film, his experience really benefited me as a director.
On the postproduction end, I feel very honored to work with some real pros – Frameworks for the edit of the film, Joe Ng for music and Yellowbox for sound design. So Iâ€™m very excited to see how everything comes together.
R: The tabloid question: Which then is your favourite shopping mall? Sorry, had to ask.
Far East Plaza for all the funky shops there. I also love Marina Square now having spent so much time there for the movie, its a very beautiful and well thought out mall… aside from well selected shops it has a great food court with a killer view, Golden Village cinemas and best of all – A BOWLING ALLEY.
R: So when do we finally get to see this labour of love?
L: The movie will be released on the 26th of July!
Visit www.goneshoppingthemovie.com for trailers and more information.
sinema.sg and ObjectifsFilms will be presenting a special Wee Li Lin short film showcase at the next sinema@timbre in the 2nd week of July. Check back for details.