Friday, June 20, 2008

Choosing colours for a film.



This is how we handle colours for our shoots. It is partly inspired by some film literature we read years ago. One particular book described the way the Coen brothers dealt with colours for their 1984 film, "Blood Simple".

Firstly, we constantly remind ourselves that the two most important aspects of a film are 1) the story, and 2) the characters. It sounds almost too simple, but believe me, it isn't.

Remember, every scene tells a story, and every character has a story behind him/her.

We also choose locations carefully because they too tell a story. They each have a history, sometimes dating back before we were even born. And how closely or loosely we frame the scene depends on the feeling we want to impart.

For example, in Sepet, we wanted Orked's family home always to look spacious and airy. This was not a random decision, but a reflection of her family's personality.

The staircase behind Maggie's bedroom, on the other hand, was dank, sleazy and hidden. So that when the half-dressed Jason descended that staircase, there was a feeling that they had just commited something forbidden.

The flat we chose for our Singapore commercial was extremely small. This was important, to show that the father was by no means wealthy.

However, at the same time, we needed to show that there was plenty of love in that flat.

To fulfill these conflicting requirements, we picked a flat that was small, but had happy motifs on its walls. We also removed most of the furniture, keeping it relatively bare and breezy.

As it so happened, the motifs on the walls were largely green. Green, if suitably light, is a very calming colour that can give the illusion of space.

We knew that the girl in the story had to appear a little feisty, temperamental, and spoilt. That's when we decided to attach red things to her, starting with her school bag, followed by the shoes she chose, and the bra she wanted.

As we were shooting the commercial, we saw in the playback monitor that the angry little spot of red was often enveloped by green surroundings. This pleased us because it gave a feeling that something small and fiery was enveloped by something vast, calm, and benevolent.

In other words, it was precisely the way Kenny Mah noted in his comment. (Very insightful of you, Kenny.)

Towards the end of our pre-production, just a few days before the shoot, my costume artist approached me and asked, "Would you like the teenage girl's school uniform to be blue or green?"

I smiled.