There are rare moments in your life where you get to re-live memories of yesteryears you probably have forgotten. The Gala premiere of 7 Letters was that rare moment for us.
It was sentimental being back at the newly re-opened Capitol Theatre for the screening. Even more significant, it was the first film screened since Capitol Theatre closed its doors in 1998.
The 7 stories captured in the film represent the personal connections each director has with our home, Singapore. These stories also celebrate all our collective shared memories and experiences.
In the months leading up to the premier, we had the privilege of collaborating with Eric Khoo and Boo Junfeng on two of the stories in post production. As we worked on the scenes, we watched these stories with a technical perspective - from refining the cuts, colour grade to the eventual finishing. But watching the stories on the silver screen was different, it was an emotional experience. We were very moved, and also pleased with the final turnout for both films.
For both stories, we worked with the production team, looking at test shots from different cameras for different scenes, test colour grades, so as to determine suitability of the camera and a seamless post production workflow. When it came to telling the stories through the edit, both films had its own unique style of how the stories unfold.
7 Letters started with Eric’s story “Cinema” which brought us back in time, in an era where we watched black and white films, the likes of P. Ramlee’s movies. In preparation for post production, we spent time looking into his films, to get a sense of the style of filmmaking back then. We felt that it was crucial to affect a certain monochromatic look to enhance the mood of the narrative through grading.
We liked the contrast of life in "Cinema" seen from the character’s point of view. It was like sharing a journey with the character reliving his glorious past and feeling his present day emptiness. Cutting the story together was really fun, like going back to the basics of storytelling, using simple but clever techniques of camera movements to drive the story along. Something we take for granted today, but back in the day was a breakthrough in film making technique.
Junfeng’s story "Parting" brings on the nostalgia of returning home or searching for what we hold dear to our hearts. Many of us remember the long train journeys we used to go on the KTM trains from Singapore to Malaysia or vice versa, going through the busy Tanjong Pagar Railway Station, which is now a thing of the past.
Storytelling for "Parting" took on the approach of an observer’s point of view. Crafting the story based on what we saw and interpreted, while marrying the director’s vision was an engaging process. The story was told with minimal dialogue, as we followed the character in his search, sharing his emotions yet having the space to have our own interpretation of his journey.
What was particularly memorable in post production was working on the scenes where the main character enters Tanjong Pagar Railway Station - where the present juxtaposes with the past, in a scene that’s being filmed. Junfeng wanted this interplay of the character’s memory and the shoot scene to stand out. The scenes were specially enhanced with the colour grade to reflect the tone of emotion – that could seen through either the perspective of the audience or character.
Those of us who grew up here or lived here long enough to make Singapore home can totally relate to sweet kampong stories like Jack Neo's “That Girl” or Royston Tan's “Bunga Sayang” about the love and care between neighbours. We love how the scenes like the kids brushing teeth at school, or how the boy communicated with the Makcik in a smattering of broken English and Malay were nice touches in bringing back memorable situations we have experienced.
Poignant was K. Rajagopal’s "The Flame", reflecting on what it means to belong and make a country your home, Tan Pin Pin’s "Pineapple Town", a commentary on our roots and identity, and Kelvin Tong’s “Grandma Positioning System” depicting family relationships, that will warm your hearts.
These stories were authentic and truly touched us. We are indeed heartened to have been part of the creative collaboration in shaping of two of these stories as we reflect back on our memories that connect us all to what we call home.