Director Andrew Lang’s Chinese New Year film for Hong Kong Tourism Board and Grey Hong Kong has just launched. It marks our first work for Greater China since officially opening Sweetshop’s new office in Shanghai. Hong Kong-born Andrew takes us through the making of the commercial.
What first struck you about the script when you read it?
“I get to go back to Hong Kong!” was my first thought… I was born there so it has a special place in my heart. A part from that, I loved that Grey had written a tourism film with a narrative. Normally this genre of filmmaking is done through montage. It seemed original to do it through character.
So, how much did you lean on your own personal experience of growing up in Hong Kong in your treatment of the script?
I was the age of these kids when I lived in Hong Kong. It was great to reconnect with the city by making a experiences Hong Kong through their eyes, as it felt close to my own experiences. I wouldn’t say my biography influenced the making of the film technically, but it certainly did emotionally!
What was the casting process like? How did you find the little boy and girl?
Casting such young kids is always going to involve an element of luck! Four-year-old Renee (who plays the little girl) really stood out in the callback because of her ability to follow direction, as well as her adorable personality. After that, it was just a gamble as to whether these qualities would sustain through a two-day shoot!
It’s said you should never work with kids (and animals). Did you use any particular techniques to get the results you wanted?
My main tip is to work with a first AD that the kids love! Lap Lee did an incredible job in keeping such young children going through a two-day shoot. Every single shot required a build up of getting the kids in the zone and in the right mood. I don’t know how we’d have done it without him.
And where did you shoot in Hong Kong? Are there any particular challenges with the city-location?
Hong Kong is a dream to shoot in. It’s of the most photogenic cities on earth. My only regret was that our story took place in daytime and we couldn’t shoot Hong Kong at night! On this trip, I really came to appreciate why Wong Kar Wai’s movies – with all their glorious neon – look the way they do: It isn’t because he art directs them to a certain vision. It’s because when the sun sets and electric street signs come on, Hong Kong really looks that way!
What about the music for the films, how did you come up with this, did you work with a composer?
I find that scoring to picture is always one of the hardest things to get right and one of the most satisfying when you do! Together with our composer Wai Wong, we experimented in directions before we found the musical route the images needed. I think he did a great job and really went the extra mile by recording his composition with a live string quartet and clarinet.