SQUATTERTOWN production log – #4

The following are thoughts, memories and background information on the shooting period of SQUATTERTOWN. I try to structure them by using each shooting day as one blog entry, but the stories might deviate a little. So when you think the text makes no sense please feel free to comment/contact me. This production log is another piece to our large SQUATTERTOWN universe and I hope you like it. But be aware, the text holds several spoilers!

Day 5

The second day of principal photography started early again. There was only sufficient daylight from 8:30am to 5pm and we had 3 different locations to cover that day. First up, an industrial building roof in To Kwa Wan. I was told one of the INFERNAL AFFAIRS films had been shot on that roof too, so it seems quite prominent. The building is actually not very high, compared to the other locations but got a stunning view on the old Kai Tak Airport area as well as the skyline of East Kowloon. However, as great as this setting looks in the camera it created particular light changes difficulties for the cameramen. We had to balance everything from a sunrise to a foggy morning. Hence, I was trying to shoot all scenes as chronological as possible. This roof also got another stunning visual aspect, a huge advertising billboard standing right in the middle. Somehow the setting evoked memories of the legendary billboard fight showdown in HIGHLANDER.

Since we were shooting the showdown scene of webisode #4 a great deal of practical blood effects as well as a jumping/running stunts had to be managed in time. Ken Law, the actor of the BAD is a professional martial artist and stunt man. He created a complex stunt scene of the jump on the spot as what I had in mind turn out looking boring on camera. The scene was the first confrontation of the GOOD and the BAD. The GOOD was supposed to advance with his knife, trying to stab the BAD. The BAD dodges and jumps over his knife. Now this sounds simple and I thought it would be, but it was not. We ended up shooting Ken jumping from a 2m high position of the giant billboard onto the hard concrete floor with a roll. I had loads of concerns at that moment, fearing Ken would injure himself. This whole situation felt so Hong Kong film like: tough stunts by the actor himself, no safety, no double, no special effect. Eventually Ken jumped four times and the footage looked very good. It actually reminded me of the flying swordsman jumps in the old Shaw Brother films.

Next scene before lunch was the back alley setting, which was about one block from our morning location. Here, the script also demanded for a short fighting scene. A scene that again sounded simple but required specific choreography. Once more, Ken came up with a quick solution that would give good physical action as well as suitable angles for the cameras to capture it. However, this back alley location was on street level and we were not shooting in secret on some roof anymore. After all we were about to shoot a scene were two guys try to stab, kick and hit each other. So that draws certain attention and I knew that there were a couple of policemen patrolling the street leading to this alley. Hence, we set up a lookout post with one from the team who would signal us whenever someone comes along.

Everything turned out well without any disturbance, only we overran our schedule, for the first time. The alley scenes turned out more time consuming than I expected. After a quick lunch in one of the nearby restaurants we drove to the last location of the day, the 3 housing blocks in Shek Kip Mei we went before on Day 1 back in December 2010. This day was an extremely windy one, giving us a hard time with ever changing light situations. We had times of full bright sun light as well as dark cloudy spots. This situation is most apparent during the GARDENER scene in webisode #4. Due to logistic and personal schedules of the actors we could not shoot chronological in Shek Kip Mei. Hence you will clearly see a big difference from shot to shot within this scene.

As we started setting up the GARDENER scene that involved the longest dialog scene within all four webisodes the two owners of the roof garden we wanted to shoot at showed up. First we feared they shoo us away and we needed to improvise but it turned out they were extremely friendly and excited about our project. While we went on shooting they even brought up from their apartment a plate with fruits and nuts, just for us. It was amazing. As we wrapped this shooting day it was close to 5pm. Another resident came up on the roof and brought his Husky dog out to play. Some crew member fell in love with it 😉

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