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Interview Patrick Tam: the exiled filmmaker
On After This Our Exile, Fu Zi 4/5 - Page 5
Author(s) : Gina Marchetti
David Vivier
Thomas Podvin
Date : 28/6/2007
Type(s) : Interview
 Intext Links  
Movies :
After This, Our Exile
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HKCinemagic : Do you feel your films are driven more by your interest in the characters or your conception of the film’s visual design?
Patrick Tam : This is my eighth film. The first seven films were done seventeen years ago, and I’ve expressed my reservations about my past works because I didn’t deal too deeply with characters or emotions. Now I see my past works as exercises, as learning about cinema. I try to experiment with cinematic language in my films. I’m not particularly interested in the subject matter of my past films maybe other than NOMAD (1982). At that time, I didn’t spend too much time on the script because of the conditions of production. I was always in a hurry, and I didn’t have sufficient time to prepare well before shooting. AFTER THIS OUR EXILE

is different. The first version of the script was fully completed before shooting --ten years before, in fact. In this film, I try to focus mainly on the characters, because I see a lack of understanding or study of characters in my past films. I was distracted by the visuals and the cinematic language, which is not enough for a good work, so I tried to rebalance it in this film. Since I have spent a lot of time on the script and I understand thoroughly what’s happening, I concentrate more on dealing with the characters. Of course, there is still my style. It is not that I am concentrating on the characters and ignoring the visuals. I see it as more of a balance --like flesh and blood-- the balancing of form and content, which can be wholly integrated emotionally. That is why I had such a happy experience working on this film.

The most inspiring book for me on cinema is Robert Bresson’s Notes on Cinematography. His second paragraph, his master position, is my motto --you have to be precise in every detail. Because when you are creating a work, it is about structuring and about the positioning of all creative elements --music, lighting, acting, everything. You have to place all these elements -- integrated, structured, positioned-- in the only right places for them in the entire structure. It’s like a machine, if this screw is not in the right place here, the machine does not work. So, I am very meticulous. It is a blessing and good timing that I can be 90% in control --I leave 10% to accidents-- in this latest work. I plan everything. I edit the whole film in my mind before shooting. I’m quite happy with the outcome. There may still be some defects or some scenes that can be done better, but I’m not going to tell you about them. There are one or two scenes in which the emotional impact is not what I had intended. It could be stronger and more precise, but still it is close to what I had started to do.

It only took me one and a half months to finish editing the entire film. Because I had planned all the shots beforehand, the mise-en-scene is very important for me. It is the soul of the cinematic work. I spent a lot of time looking for locations. I didn’t leave it to the producer to recommend locations. I went myself and took the crew to look at these places. I had been staying in Malaysia since 1995, so I had this feeling for every location. I really love the locations. If I weren’t working on the film, I would still want to stay there. You don’t just casually use a space for your film; you have to have a feeling for each location. I studied each location for a long time, studying different angles, with the staging of the scene in mind, how I’m going to move the camera, from what angle I plan to shoot the architecture. It is well prepared. I don’t use a storyboard. I don’t need it. I just jot down points and a shot list in my script. It is very precise actually. When it comes to editing, I just assemble everything together. I don’t do a rough cut. I go immediately into the fine cut for each scene.

Patrick Tam on the set of After This Our Exile
HKCinemagic : It’s a lot to keep in your head.
Patrick Tam : Actually, I was quite at ease. I didn’t feel any mental burden or pressure working on this film. With my editing assistant, when we did the editing, she didn’t have to expand with juxtaposing this shot with that one. She just had to assemble the shots according to what I shot. It’s just a process of trimming down one frame more or one frame less. We spent most of the time experimenting with single frames. With video editing, it’s very easy to cut one frame here or add one frame there. We just experimented with this to be as precise as possible.
HKCinemagic : Could you talk about how your film style has changed over the years?
Patrick Tam : Actually, I don’t see much difference in terms of the use of cinematic language or the grasping of position. My working method is the same. I choose my own space, all the locations, I work on the mise-en-scene, I prepare the shot list, I edit the film --it’s all the same process. This time the script is more detailed. This is the one big difference between this film and the other ones. In terms of formal presentation, you can detect the same kind of style over the years.
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