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Desktop Cinema: an interview with digital feature director Stephen Kang

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Celebrating the "unsung heroes of our film industry", the Desktop Cinema Season is on at the Film Archive in Wellington every Wednesday night until 26 September. In part two of a six-part series…

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Celebrating the "unsung heroes of our film industry", the Desktop Cinema Season is on at the Film Archive in Wellington every Wednesday night until 26 September.

In part two of a six-part series of interviews with digital filmmakers, Desktop Cinema curator Diane McAllen talks to NZ director Stephen Kang about his award-winning film, dream preserved.Celebrating the "unsung heroes of our film industry", the Desktop Cinema Season is on at the Film Archive in Wellington every Wednesday night until 26 September.

In part two of a six-part series of interviews with digital filmmakers, Desktop Cinema curator Diane McAllen talks to NZ director Stephen Kang about his award-winning film, dream preserved.Tell me about the process of making the film. How was the script developed, how many people were involved and how long did shooting take?
The script was developed from scribbles that I'd wrote down ages ago. Once I'd finished the script I showed it to my friends because I didn't know where I should start. From there I started looking for funding. It took around a year to apply and get back the news that all of them turned it down, which was good for the script that I constantly re-write at those time.

All of the cast and crew were non-professionals - most of them are my friends. Working with non-actors and friends adds more organic process during filming, since the script was later altered to fit the person we found. Through this collaboration with a non-actor, I think the character became more rounded and realistic.

We were trying to keep less than five people working on a shoot day. Thus, the main two characters became crew as well. We decided this since it was no-budget and working with non-actors means we don't need to create big production vibe around us. But the biggest reasons to keep it to a minimal crew was so we could get in one car and move location to location quickly...and of course reduce the money spent on food as well.

The entire shoot was 32 days spread over three months. The shooting took place either after 7pm or on weekends, due to the fact that the cast and crew were students or working full-time.

How much did it cost? Did you apply for or receive any funding/support?
The entire production cost around $3,000, however it was used mostly for feeding cast and crew. The most expensive thing in the production was renting a motel room for a night. Many people suspect that the biggest cost must be the fridge but we dug that out from a pile of junk on the street.

We did apply for funding, including Headstrong and Creative New Zealand, however both of them turned down our project.

What attracts you to the digital video format?
It was natural choice, since we didn't get any type of funding and it was the only equipment that we were familiar with. It was also a suitable medium at that time because most of the people who will act for me were my friends. Shooting digital video allowed us to shoot very long takes and let them play out. This created an environment that allowed the actors to relax into the characters and situations.

Have you had your film accepted for any festivals?
dream preserved won 2006 Air New Zealand Screen Award in the best digital feature category and the Overseas Koreans' Independent Film Competition 2006. And as a prize the film was shown at Pusan International Film Festival Market. The film also selected as runner up at 2006 DigiSPAA - Screen Producers Association of Australia. But no, no film festivals at all.

Have you had formal training/experience in television or film previously?
No. I studied at Elam Art School at Auckland University majoring in Intermedia. When I was there, I made a series of short films and as a result I've been working as a production assistant at a TV commercial production company called Curious.

What new projects are you working on?
I am working with a new script with Headstrong who are making digital features in association with the New Zealand Film Commission.

Where do you see the future of digital filmmaking going?
It's great tool that someone with a cheap camera and couple of friends over a weekend can make a thing that tells a story. Now it seems everyone who's armed with digital equipment is making something in their backyard and uploading to the YouTube, Myspace and Google video. Now, all we need is someone with a story that they want to tell.

dream preserved
(2005, M - contains offensive language, 83 minutes)
Director: Stephen Kang
Screening: 29 August 2007, 6.30pm
Where: Film Archive, 84 Taranaki Street, Taranaki Street, Wellington
Tickets: $8 ($6 concession)

29/8/07

Image: A still from dream preserved.

Written by

The Big Idea Editor

29 Aug 2007

The Big Idea Editor

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