Alan Mak Siu Fai (top), Felix Chong Man Keung
courtesy of singtao.com
On screen wearing headphones for surveillance are Lau Ching Wan, Louis Koo Tin Lok and Daniel Wu (Ng Yin Ch); off screen, as wearing headphones for playbacks are two directors -- Alan Mak Siu Fai and Felix Chong Man Keung
Text: Ben, Interview: Gum Sing, Ringo & Ben, Photo: Alan
(J: JET, C: Chong Man Keung / M: Mak Siu Fai)
Right Is Right, Wrong Is Wrong
J: What does OVERHEARD (SIT TING FUNG WON) want to express the most?
C: At first we only want to shoot a story about several cops who get into a lot of trouble due to a moment of greed. Later we discover, we want to say the most that for something we think is right initially, as soon as many people have opinions about it, we gradually believe it is wrong. The opposite is the same. The frightening part is we are already used to it, self evaluation is the best example.
M: The film mainly talks about greed and crime. Everyone may notice, every few robberies take place. Instead commercial crimes, like fixing the market and reporting false earning, are more and more common. They involve astronomical numbers. Even when found guilty, the punishment would not be too severe. Yet before their crimes are discovered, these people are still successful people in the society. In the end what is a crime? Which crime should be considered severe?
J: How do you determine right and wrong? In today's world, is there absolute right and wrong?
C: Absolute right and wrong are ideals, they may not be practical and people can only try their best. For example you should not cross the road on a red light, but when you are in a hurry you cross anyway. On many occasions we know something is wrong, but if we do not affect others we would lower our standards and do it.
M: This type of standard would change with the times. Particularly in the past ten years or five years it has become stranger and stranger.
C: When we studied the story, if we are the three protagonists in the film, would we break the law too? I definitely would! After making OVERHEARD, I have an understanding of what is moral. All along, we would only use moral on others or as a tool of judgment. Now I understand, real moral is used on myself.
J: Why would you choose an insider trading case as the story background?
M: We created this story in 07, when the Hang Seng Index headed for 35,000 and everyone was speculating stock. At the time a certain Kowloon Tong kindergarten was distributing enrollment forms and reporters interviews parents. One of the parents wished that after their children got into that kindergarten they could become an investment banker when they grew up, it was very frightening. Incredibly, now some people already treated stock speculation as achievement.
C: We came up with the story at the Koo Tai Place downstairs coffee shop. People who went to work there should be all telecommunication and advertising company people. I seriously eavesdropped. They never talked about work or gossip. Every table actually was talking about stock and investment strategy! That moment was quite stimulating. Greed is forever. When you see how much others make everyday, you are somewhat tempted and start to invest. Gradually you forget about your real job and start to pursue without end.
People are Working, People Are Listening
J: In your research, which are the most popular eavesdropping devices now?
C: I did the research before the shoot. The top technology at the time after the shoot ended could all be purchased on Ap Liu Street. Online there are many sites about eavesdropping and video surveillance. Adultery catching is popular in Taiwan so (the technology) was the most advanced. They even state that it is the seventh generation of the model that caught Chu Mei-Fang, it's very outrageous!
I have a few research sources. Every time I talk with him we have to go to places with people, like the park. Right away he removes the mobile phone sim card and battery, then he starts talking. Actually the currently eavesdropping technology sometimes doesn't need a machine. All you need to aim the receiver from the building across the street to the glass window. Glass curtain wall is the best. When people speak inside the building, they caused turbulence in the air that when transmitted to the glass they can be heard.
M: Eavesdropping is too easy. The more everyday an item is the better. The most common are microphone hiding light switches and electrical sockets. We asked a current police officer. The devices that he uses are so high tech that no one would believe it if they are used in a movie. He says that a needle sized device that has to be stuck on the wall only requires a receiver to be able to what everyone says next door.
J: Among the three lead actors, Lau Ching Wan's abilities are publicly recognized. When he performs does he elevate others' performance?
C: Smart actors understand very much that actors need mutual assistance. They know hot to let other people act. Ching Wan and (Tony) Leung Chiu Wai are this type of actors. Every drop of Ching Wan's acting method starts from the character, which may be the dumbest way since it takes a lot more work. In the past he mostly played heroes who are always very brave. This time I want him to play a cowardly figure. By the last scene he still is daft.
M: We of course know he is a great actor, but we didn't expect him to be so great. He would analyze the character's background, and motivation in extreme details, which is quite amazing! He knows how to, without influencing us, discuss with us, slowly study and even be willing to change character motivation, to accommodate what we asked of the performance.
J: This time Koo Tin Lok had to gain weight and dye his hair white. Why such an image?
C: At the first press conference, he grew a face full of beard and asked whether we could use it, haha. He is an actor who services the story, very willing to change his look. Only that we never thought of a suitable image until that morning when work began when I was able to find a reference. When I showed him that photo, he was surprised because that was (Benny) Chan Muk Sing, haha! Benny is a homebody who would cook in the office. He is the most capable of representing the character.
M: Koo Tin Lok's impression of cool is too strong. His bronze tan, thick hair are hard to break through. Before the shoot we were worried. After seriously talking and working together, he is the complete opposite of how I imagined him. He may be the one with pleasantly surprised me the most.
J: Ng Yin Cho is the most righteous, in the film what kind of person is he?
C: He represents the new generation that mocks the poor instead of the whore. In their world, all value system can break down into money and numbers. They are absolutely connected to material, their moral value can be relaxed at any time. I am not tailoring the story for Daniel, but since his addition he has such an effect. His image is the most handsome and innocent, but the worst words would come from his mouth.
Directors' Third Party
J: This time you are working for third time as directors. When two directors work together, what is the most obvious advantage?
M: One director has too many problems to resolve. Every decision may affect the film's quality. With another person around, it is more comfortable. The best part is the ability to mutually stimulate. Sometimes through discussion we would get a better understanding into the entire matter.
C: This is the reason that Hong Kong film professionals cannot successfully break into Hollywood. Most local film professionals are used to relying on natural talent and are reluctant to discuss. They often forget that several smart brains can serve the one plus one equals three effect.
J: (Derek) Yee Tung Sing is the producer. Did he participate in the production process and the shoot? What did he help with the most?
C: Yee Tung Sing did the job that we wanted to do the least, like looking for bosses and actors. He understood the script very well. During post production he provided a lot of great suggestions so the film maintained its original dramatic flavor.
M: Due to the sensitive subject, ultimately a story about police breaking the law, we couldn't find investors. Yee Tung Sing was familiar with the Mainland inspection so I asked him to take a look at the script. He even took the initiative and suggested helping us with the financing search. Creatively, he provided a lot of ideas, but also respected our creative freedom a lot.
J: After hits like INFERNAL AFFAIRS (MO GAN DOH) and INITIAL D (TAU MAN JI D), you still have a hard time with investors. Do you feel common ground is hard to find?
C: The world is very fair. Success this time, no matter how talented you are, does not represent the same success this time. When I finish a script, I feel very satisfied. By the time the film performs, it is already too far off. This is film's most interesting part.
M: I am more or less upset, but it has more advantage than disadvantage. At least it gives us a chance for examination and give the script a second thought. Otherwise every time is (Andy) Lau Tak Wa and Leung Chiu Wai, then ask the boss for 50 million. How much fun would that be?