Sharing: Self-Producing—On Literature Adaptation and Low-Budget Production

Talks on Creative Journeys

Date: 7th August, 2022

Venue: Jao Tsung-I Academy Resource Centre

@Camp 2022

Mentor: Fruit Chan (Director)

Moderator: Rex Ren (Director)

“From the director’s perspective, adaptation means changing what the original author has into one’s own or playing it to the fullest.”

In the last sharing of the 2nd year’s Eye Catcher Creative Camp, Dir. Fruit Chan and his disciple Dir. Rex Ren visited the camp to share Chan’s unique experience of independent filmmaking. His early work Chao Zhou Xiang, the genre film Dumplings, and also Tales from the Dark Part 1: Jing Zhe were all adapted from Lilian Lee Pik-Wah’s novels. Chan and Lee were both serious about their respective works. How did they start to collaborate?

Following the ornamental quote, Chan said the collaboration is based on detailed discussions of characters, plotlines, and so on between the director and the author. Adaptation does not mean overthrowing the original work. The key point is to preserve and understand its cultural significance. Literature inspired imaginations built on language. The script is the like a manual and needs to be succinct and clear, with the delicate descriptions removed. The next step would be the script’s first draft, sometimes written by the director, other times by the original author. They went back and forth to revise it until it was finalized.

Dir. Rex Ren pointed out that Dumplings is a faithful adaptation of the original literary work, although it does not include some side stories. What Chan added to the story, however, strengthened the context of the narrative.

“This is what adaptation does with considerations of the scenes before and after, the positioning of shooting, and how to shoot better scenes. There can’t be too many characters. There’re brief descriptions of some details. It can’t be too long. It can’t tell too much.” More important is to think about how to intensify the genre film’s thrilling atmosphere and enrich the background and context of the characters through the scenes.

As for the low-budget production in the second half, they used Made in Hong Kong as an example. This movie only costed five hundred thousand, but it was an enormous success and was praised as “a miracle of independent cinema.”  In the closing scene, a shot is taken from a high position of a broken kite on a wilted branch, with the sound of a northbound train nearby. There are no actors in this scene, but the crane shot was the most expensive in the entire film.

Ren thus concluded one of the key points of low-budget productions, “with a limited budget and time, preproduction research becomes absolutely necessary, and the director also needs to be well aware of where the budget should be allocated.”

The broken kite represents the three lost young lives, the northbound train symbolise the 1997 Handover. Accompanying with the voice out (VO) “This world is yours and it is ours. But at the end of the day, it is yours.” The ending scene basically points out the main theme of the film, where it is still saddening even when we revisit the scene now.

In the end, Chan admitted that although the local market is small, it may be critical for creativity to take off in the era of vacuum; adversity means that it is all the more worthy of being overcome, absorbing references into one’s own merits, and keeping being flexible and rebellious for an eventual way out.




@創作營 2022








下半部分的低成本製作,兩人就以《香港製造》為例,進一步講解。 這部電影當年的成本只有五十萬,後來獲得的成功被稱為「獨立電影的奇蹟」。結尾部份有一顆鏡頭,只從高處拍攝著掛在枯枝上的斷線風箏,不遠處傳來北上火車的聲音。這個鏡頭沒有任何演員,卻是整部電影最昂貴的一顆鏡頭——利用了升降鏡頭(Crane Shot)拍攝。更甚者,因為當時租借的起重機本來是用作整電燈的,拍出來的感覺很粗糙,那種raw的動感貫穿一整段,頭尾部份甚至搖晃得太厲害而不得不剪走。