Behind-the-scene review of the cine65 season 5 (2019) commissioned film, SAMA-SAMA.
I remember during NS I did get along with everyone, yet you just can’t be on everyone’s good books all the time. Everyone who had been through NS can relate to this. We live and learn. Moments like these I wished I had been a better mate. While contemplating what I want to do with my life, I developed a keen sense of observation to what’s going on around me. I observed my fellow buddies and events A LOT, ie how they act and react and how things should have been or escalated into something that shouldn’t have been.
Some may consider this as being passive but they say many thinkers are known to appear as such. (I have expressed these to much of my batch buddies. We exchanged, ‘kissed and made up’ over the years so it’s all good lah, although these things don’t go away easily whenever we meet for kopi but it’s all good fun stirring s* with one other).
Anyways, what went on in my head back then was how I wished I was able to translate what I’ve observed to something more tangible, perhaps in the form of literature or moving visual. Fast forward almost 30 years later, here I am - watching the monitor and recreating scenes from memories that I hold so dearly for the film, SAMA-SAMA. However, the opportunity comes with great responsibility because as a filmmaker, I have made it a choice to tell my stories to be as authentic as possible.
Sitting there, deep down I felt sorry for my juniors to have made them repeat what’s needed to be done to get the perfect shot. Thank you brothers, for being such a sport! Pre-empting the physicality of the shoot I’ve promised to do it as productive as possible during the pre-shoot briefing. “Do it once and do it well”, was the mantra (among others) that we shared throughout our training in the Commandos. We connected on that.
And we always want perfection, regardless the circumstances (FYI, that explains the 15th Best Unit the commandos receive in 2018, but I digress). Real sweat and exhaustion are the only way to display authenticity. I hope they had good takeaways from this experience. On a side note, SAMA-SAMA was my second opportunity to do something military-based. The second was quite a while ago when I literally “commanded” a battalion for a erm, food (!) show. Maybe more of that interesting story at a later day.
The weather was above 30 deg Celcius. It was almost mid-day (check the shadows casted on the ground). We were filming the crucial opening sequences for the film, SAMA-SAMA, where the boys had to drag 20kg++ rubber tires upslope respectively. Crucial sequences such as these need perfect synchronization with regards to camera shot/framing vs the action in front of the camera.
The life of a Commando extends beyond the red beret. I felt the boys needed some motivation and I’m not one to lepak behind the monitor. The only way to do this was to Be with them - to do it together under the mid day sun while they run upslope weighted by rubber tires. We could not use the loudhailer which was prohibited due to the restricted space. There was no way to fake these sequences. Sweat and exhaustion is real. To achieve sweat and exhaustion one needs to go through them for authenticity onscreen. And they had to run xxx times up the slope.
Furthermore, let’s just say that it’s important to be fit even when you’re not a Grip and I’m glad I still can run. This is also what acting is all about, where good actors emote and react. The boys knew it - we all knew it. “Do it once, and do it well” was my last briefing to them. For non-actors, they did very well. My juniors learnt and reacted fast - just like how we were conditioned during training. I’m pleased we still have that connection.
You may watch the film, SAMA-SAMA here.