Sinema interviews Singaporean duo on drama feature
“I Have Loved”, directed by Elizabeth Wijaya and Lai Weijie, has wrapped up filming and is currently in post-production.
Sinema interviews the duo on the dynamics of their working relationship and issues faced in Singapore and Cambodia while making this feature film.
Marie has had a whirlwind romance with Harold, the older gentleman who has swept her off her feet. Now married, they are on honeymoon in Cambodia. But things do not go as planned. Over the years, Marie returns alone to come to terms with what happened.
1) What inspired you guys to do this film?
Elizabeth and I had always wanted to visit Cambodia, and finally did 2 years ago. We travelled through the country for a period of about 3 weeks. While there, we came up with the skeleton of “I Have Loved”. The idea obviously changed significantly from its initial form, but we’d like to think the essence of it remained.
2) What made you guys decide to collaborate on this project?
Well, we’ve always worked with one another on film projects, and complement each other quite well, we’d like to think!
3) Do you and Elizabeth have very different or similar directing styles and preferences? (If it’s different, how did you guys work together?)
I think we both have varying directing styles, but they feed off of each other quite well. As we’ve continued to work with each other, our preferences and styles have merged, and in some instances, switched! We haven’t gotten into any intense battles on set yet, so it seems to work out well!
4) What was the pre-production process like?
Pre-production was a pretty long process. Given that we shot in Cambodia, numerous trips had to be made prior to shoot, to location scout, meet with authorities to obtain clearances, and of course to actually physically be there, experiencing Cambodia. The country changes rapidly. I think everytime we went, things were different. New buildings were erected, roads were cleared, something that was there a month ago, wasnt’t there anymore when we were ready to shoot, The Cambodia Film Commission was very helpful in guiding us through the process of obtaining permission to film there. We were lucky to have gotten in touch with Jason, the Singaporean owner of ei8htrooms guesthouse, who, along with his amazing staff, was extremely generous in helping us in all aspects of the production.
5) I read that you guys filmed in Cambodia. Why did you guys choose to film in Cambodia, and what were some of the challenges faced?
More than anything I think, we wanted to capture fragments of what we experienced there while travelling. To an extent, not living there made things difficult at times in terms of preparation. Perhaps if we had stayed there for a couple of months before filming, it would’ve shaped the film a certain way, and certain logistical things could have been sorted out faster, but overall, we think things went pretty smoothly.
6) As an independent filmmaker, what were some of the problems faced while producing this film?
One key difficulty was finding financing. For an overseas shoot, our budget was very tight. Both Elizabeth and I were doing our Masters at that time so we didn’t have much money. Not getting the MDA film grant was definitely a low point but we decided its now or never– we just had to figure out a way. For one, we scrutinized the budget over and over to see how we could make it work. We were very lucky to have people who believed in us. We scrapped out savings together and received private support. Our amazing cast and crew worked for low/no pay. We also received alot of kind sponsorships and reduced rates for many items along the way. We are really grateful that through this film we came to know and work with so many inspiring people. We hope we don’t let them down.
7) How did you come about deciding the cast?
We took our chances and were very fortunate with the casting. We found Marie through a casting call and Amarin was a recommendation from a good friend of Weijie. The casting of Harold was also truly a stroke of good luck. Weijie was in Hong Kong for the Hong Kong International Film Festival and was introduced to Glen Goei at a party. We had wanted to get in touch with him in Singapore and it took flying to Hong Kong to meet him! Weijie asked him and to our surprise, he said he’d love to act in the film. We were absolutely over the moon. Glen was wonderful to work with and so patient, generous and kind to us all the way through.
8 ) What kind of impact do you wish to leave on the audience?
We hope that the film will be memorable.