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The 3 in 1 interview for "3 Doors of Horrors"

Writer: Erny Suzira


The directors and producer of "3 Doors of Horrors", (L-R) Leroy Low, Black Cat, James Lee and Sidney Chan.

After last year's global success on YouTube, "3 Doors of Horrors" return once again this year with three brand new horror shorts!

Produced by renowned director and producer, James Lee under the production brand DogHouse73Pictures, this year's "3 Doors of Horrors" gathered three young and talented directors; Leroy Low, returning director from the first "3 Doors of Horrors" and two newcomers, Sidney Chan and Black Cat.

With a noble objective and vision, filmmaker Lee uses YouTube as a platform to showcase and promote new filmmakers' creativity and talent to the local and international audiences.

Just like last year, the omnibus for this year consists of three horror shorts; "Turnover" by Leroy Low, "Delete" by Sidney Chan and "The Strange Mechanic" by Black Cat.


The full cast and crew of "3 Doors of Horrors".

The first short, "Turnover" features famous YouTube personality, Joseph Germani as a young man who plays basketball alone at a basketball court after finding out that his friends had cancelled on him at the very last minute. However, he then discovers that someone or something else is with him on the court.

The second short, "Delete" stars young Malaysian actress Koe Yeet as the main lead. The story follows four college girls who are required to work on an assignment on urban legends. The four of them then choose an abandoned female toilet which had girls mysteriously disappeared from.

The last short, "The Mysterious Mechanic" focuses on a young mechanic who has the ability to see spirits that are unable to move on from our world. He then uses his ability to send the spirits back to where they belong. The film stars young theater and TV actor, Jonathan Lee and Cheng Jen.

"Turnover" by Leroy Low

The director of "Turnover", Leroy Low.

Before you became a film director, what did you previously do?

Previously, I directed and produced infomercial, commercial and music videos.

Then, how and why did you get into "3 Doors of Horrors"?

I met James in 2006 when he was doing his own films and he asked me if I was interested to participate in his project. Since I've never done this before, I feel that I have to try it, so I did the first "3 Doors of Horrors" for last year. My segment is "I Miss You Two" and our movie became a hit.

This year, James asked me whether I would want to try another shot and do something different from my first film as a challenge for myself. Because this platform is free, there are no limitations on creativity and we can do things beyond our boundaries unlike those I usually do in my commercial jobs where I have to follow by the rule book. That is why I am so thankful that I have been given this opportunity.

What can you tell about your short, "Turnover" for this year?

As a returning director, I wished to do something a little bit different from last year. For "Turnover", if you compare it with my film from last year, the style is completely different. My team and I tried to build up the horror elements instead of the back story and all of the complicated storylines, which is why this film has less than ten dialogues.

We tried to do an unpredictable flow to shock people. It is the first for me to direct a film that has little dialogue and with no guidelines whatsoever. So it had to really go well, since it has no dialogue, if not people will just be bored by it.

Where did you get the inspiration for this film?

James said as long as you have a ghost, then that's enough for me. But we tried not to show the ghost too much, and instead build the suspense and let the audience imagine. I rarely see people make a horror film in a basketball court setting. It is an idea from a friend of mine. When we were brainstorming for some ideas, he suggested this. Last time we used to play basketball all the time and a lot of times my friends did not show up for practice, just like the ones in the film. So I decided to use this as our plot.

Why did you decide to pick Joseph Germani as the main lead?

We know each other for quite some time noq. So I kind of informally invited him to act in my movie and he then agreed to do it. However, it is the first time that I really worked with a YouTuber. Previously, I had worked with a lot of mainstream artistes, TV artistes, singers as well as models, but never a YouTuber. I think it is a great that I get to work with him because he is self-taught, smart, young, energetic and we have a really great chemistry.

Also, I purposely didn't want to let Joseph talk so much because I want others to see the other sides of him. Because he is a multitasker and also a great artiste; he is a good talker, he can rap, sing, and so on, he can do almost anything to entertain the audience. So, this time I wanted to let the audience see that he can act as well.

How do you feel about the result of your film?

Since we have a very constraint budget and limited resources, we tried to do the best we can. I think all of us including the production team did a very good job.

How long was the production time of this short?

It took us two days to shoot the film and both days were shot from around 2am to 3am.

Do you have any future project currently in work?

I have a short film for Chinese New Year. It's a commercial short film and it is still in post-production.

Will I be seeing you in "3 Doors of Horrors" again for 2015?

I don't think I will be returning for next year's "3 Doors of Horrors". I am already a senior, I'm already in the first and second batch, I don't want to be in the third batch as well.

Why did you decide to be in this year's batch?

Because this year, it was quite last minute when we decided to do the films, it was already late and everyone is busy.

So when James approached me and asked me whether I have any new ideas for horror films I said, "Yeah, I do have a few in mind." So, I got back and brainstormed the ideas with my team. Actually the idea for this film is one from last year's, but it didn't have a main structure. So I chose "I Miss You Two" as a kick start for the first "3 Doors of Horrors".

Did anything spooky happen during the shooting?

There is this scene where we needed to use our own manual lights. So, we screwed off the fluorescent light completely and then just left it there. But when we started shooting, suddenly it turned back on, no one touched the light but it mysteriously got screwed back in.

Is there anything else you would like to add?

I had actually put in something in the movie that a lot of the viewers did not notice. If you watched my short at the 3.44 mark, you will see 'something' there. It is kind of an experiment to see if anyone would notice it and there are actually a few who have already seen it.


Watch "Turnover" from "3 Doors of Horrors".

 

"Delete" by Sidney Chan

The director and main cast of "Delete", Sidney Chan and Koe Yeet.

How did you get into this line of work?

Sidney:
I graduated in 2012 from HELP University. I studied degree in Psychology and half of the cast from this film are actually from HELP's Psychology course. When I graduated I worked with Durian FM, which is an online radio station where they put videos for Tindak Malaysia during the election period. After that, I worked with Joseph Germani as a personal photographer and occasionally directed some videos.

How long have you been in this industry?

Sidney:
Actually I started filming even while I was in college, it was part of my hobby. I started it with a group of friends. We started with a small group production called Wayang Tree productions. Basically it is like a club where we gathered people.

Why did you decide to do horror?

Sidney:
Horror is the genre that I have always wanted to do. It is actually because of "Ju-On: The Grudge", I watched that film when I was young and I really got scared and fascinated by it. I am also a fan of horror video games like "Fatal Frame", so I really wanted to do something similar to this. Also, it was the time when "Pontianak Harum Sundal Malam" came out. I was looking for something that Malaysians can also do to match Thai and Japanese horror.

So when I went to college I joined one of the mass communication classes, "Introduction to Film" and my first ever short film was "Pink Obscura", which is actually the first version of "Delete". We actually tried to do a lot of homages to old school Asian horror. During that time I was watching the web-series "Tales of Terror" from Tokyo on YouTube.

When I did the first version of the film back in college, we actually shot it at an actual haunted toilet, that toilet has a lot of history.

Why did you cast Koe Yeet as the main lead?

Sidney:
I got to know Koe Yeet in the middle of last year.

Koe Yeet: I was doing James Lee's previous shot and Sidney was working with Joseph and he helped us take a lot of behind the scene photos. Then he told me that he is working on a short film and asked whether I am interested to be in it, so I was like "Yeah, sure."

But after that we didn't really keep in touch, I went to the U.K. and I came back, then James called me and told me that "Hey, Sidney wants to work with you and he is going to be the director." then I was like "Yeah, he makes me look pretty all the time, why not?" He takes really good pictures, the angle, the way he crops, the lighting, he makes you look thin and pretty!

So, Sidney I understand that you're a banana. Why did you decide to do the film in Mandarin?

Sidney:
I like to watch Asian films and a lot of them are not in English language. Especially horror Japanese films, they speak 100% in the Japanese language and I love the language. Then, I started watching Wong Fu Productions which has Hong Kong one-day series and is in Cantonese. Then, I began to watch a lot of these very hardcore indie and Asian films and I realised that compare to English, Asian languages have a stronger emotional impact because some messages can only brought out using these languages.

It is true that I don't really understand them but when I try imagining them speaking in English, it just doesn't feel right. But when I imagined it in a more Asian context, I can feel a certain resonance with the way they speak.

How did you handle the script since the film is in Mandarin?

Sidney:
I wrote the script in English then I handed it over to Kenny G and TK, one of the producers and assistant director, they translated it. Actually the precision of the translation doesn't really matter because it is the way you delivered the lines that are important. I trusted my crew and cast, because they speak Mandarin, so they'll know if it makes sense or not. When I started editing the subtitles part, I noticed some meanings have changed a little bit from the original script, but luckily it is still okay. It was actually well done, some line were actually better than the original ones.

Doesn't your film seem very classic and traditional?

Sidney:
They are homages to the kind of horror films that I would have love to see Malaysians do. They are the kind of scenes that you people love to watch but sadly I haven't seen much of that recently. So I put everything that is very traditional and mash it into one film.

Koe Yeet, how long have you been acting?

Koe Yeet:
I started acting when I was 7. I have been working in Singapore movies. My first movie was when I was 15 with Jack Neo in Singapore, then I kept on acting up till now.

How do you feel working with Sidney?

Koe Yeet:
I like the way he gave us a space for creativity. He'll let you do the first scene and then he'll come back to you and say "I think this is not really right maybe you should change." But it is really different from the typical Chinese drama where it is all scripted, you have to follow exactly as instructed and you cannot change your lines.

This very different from mainstream acting where we have youngsters working and acting together. It is something very natural, it is more like an art house acting then the usual mainstream acting. It gives you the freedom to express yourself.

Also, it is much more relaxing because he gives you a storyline and then you finish the storyline. It is something a director and an actor should do before a scene. It is really good for a new director to be like that. He phrased out the front part of the story and let you finish it.

Sidney: I actually was afraid that I didn't give enough direction. It is very difficult for me to think of an entire scene all by myself. Because the actors that I have, they are not robots, they have their own styles. If I were to 100% direct and let them act out the scene script by script, it would take away their own uniqueness to the whole story.

How is the production process? Everything went well? Any spooky things happened?

Koe Yeet:
Well, there is this scene where we left the toilet and the camera was behind us. I thought everyone was with the camera crew, they were supposed to be behind us as we were walking. The hallway was really dark because they switched off all the lights except for lights below the ground so that they can see us, the two girls were in front of us and Kylie was next to me. So as we were walking down the hallway, I saw a person next to Kylie, I freaked out and screamed during the shot, I fell on the ground and I couldn't stand up. Turns out that guy was supposed to put the lights there and then hide, but I guess he couldn't hide on time when the director said "action". It was really scary and plus we were shooting a horror film and the corridor was quite long. When I screamed, everyone was shocked as well.

Another thing, for this short we didn't pray. All horror films that I shot previously, we had to pray. But for this one we didn't. That's why we have two accidents; Kylie had a minor car accident and the camera lens broke during our shooting which is unusual because camera lenses don't usually break.

Is there any latest project you are involved in?

Sidney:
One of the latest film that I was involved in is The Grim Film's "The Painter" which we already submitted to BMW but we didn't get into Top 10 but it's on our channel now.

What about you Koe Yeet? What other projects do you have?

Koe Yeet:
I just came back from London one week ago, I came back here for three weeks and I'm going back to London again soon because I am doing my degree now. I am heading back this January, I have to finish my final year.


Watch "Delete" from "3 Doors of Horrors"

 

"The Strange Mechanic" by Black Cat


The director and cast from "The Strange Mechanic", Jonathan Lee, Black Cat and Cheng Jen.
Is this the first time both of you have acted in a horror film and with Black Cat?

Cheng Jen:
Yes it's my first horror film. But this is not my first time working with Black Cat.

Jonathan: We've been working with him for a couple of times now, one of them was "The Strange Detective". Our next film will be a cross-over with "The Strange Detective".

Where did you get the idea for this film?

Black Cat:
When we make horror films, we want it to be related with our lives. So the ghost or spirits have to be somewhere around us in the same space where we can see them or something that we can come into contact with everyday, which is why I decided to link the ghosts to cars because it is something that Malaysians can relate to since our transportation is not very convenient here. Thus I decided to use a car, but then I don't want make it like those common horror films where you see ghost at the back seat of your car from your rear mirror view, those kinds of scenes are too common. So I thought about the Chinese saying where they called those who died due to car accident as Che Xia Wang Hun (车下亡魂) which literally means spirits under the car. But there is never a proper explanation of how this saying came to be, so I tried to explain this term through my movie so that people can understand it better.

Another saying is Jie Di Qi (接地气). When a person dies, they need to rely on the grim reaper to take away their souls back to the earth. I think that is too much of a hassle. So I was thinking, what if everyone of us has something like an umbilical cord stuck to our souls, similar to a baby and the mother. So, when we die, we will automatically return back to the ground which is why I use the saying Jie Di Qi (接地气), meaning Qi connected to the ground as we have our Qi (气) which is life force connected to the ground. So, when we lose the umbilical cord which is the Qi that connects us to the ground, we will turn into lost souls as we are unable to return back to the ground. I think it makes a lot more sense if you see it like this.

That is why, I decided to use these two sayings in my short film.

Is this a real concept?

Black Cat:
The explanation on Jie Di Qi (接地气) is something that I came up with myself because if you search it on Google, you will never find the explanation. There is also no proper explanation on this saying. Some people say that the meaning is similar to the English saying, "When in Rome do as the Romans do" and another explanation of the saying is that, when you go too far up and you feel dizzy, that means you don't have enough energy flow as you are too far from the ground, in other words your Qi is not connected to the ground. But that is also not the perfect explanation for the saying, there is no one who really tries to search or understand the meaning of this saying. So I think it is kind of unique.

How long have you been in this industry?

Black Cat:
I've been in this industry for more than 10 years. I started out very young as a production assistant, handyman, prop-person, and others, then moved to director. Basically I have done almost every post.

Why is your film the least scary among the three?

Black Cat:
It is not that I don't want to shoot scary horror films, it is just that I am lacking of resources to shoot a really scary film. Since this is my first time shooting this kind of film, I am still unable to get used to this kind of genre. My strong field is story-based plots and comedies, so when James Lee asked me to take part in this, I asked him whether if it is okay if my film is not so scary, the he said that as long as there is a ghost, I'm okay with it.

Since he said so, then I decided to do it my own style because I feel that shooting a horror film and a scary one at that, is very difficult. It takes longer time; you need to set the right atmosphere, the setting, the lighting and all. Plus, this is a small budget project, we only shot it for two days, there's not enough time. So, I think I still don't have the qualification and ability to shoot a real scary horror film and the one that I did for this "3 Doors of Horrors" is the best I can do.

It feels that your film is targeted more towards the Chinese audience.

Jonathan:
It might create some curiosities among the non-Chinese. It will open up the ideas to them that there are these superstitious beliefs going on and they can learn something from it.

Even I didn't get it myself either at first. When I first looked at the script I was like 'is there even such a thing?'He explained it to me so many times and only then I got it. I think it is very creative.

Your story is really unique compared to others. What makes you decide to do something so different?

Black Cat:
Because I believe when you shoot a film, it is important if we let the viewers see something new and fresh, something they have never seen before. If you shot something similar to other people's work, then the viewers might as well watch the original work rather than yours. So I try to use a different angle to deliver my story.

Jonathan: Black Cat told me that he know the other two films are the scary kind of films. So he tried to do something different than those two.

So Jonathan you said that you have another project with Black Cat?

Jonathan:
Yes, we are doing another film which is sort of like the continuation of "The Strange Mechanic" and there will probably be cross-over from "The Strange Detective".

How do you like your character? Is it hard?

Cheng Jen:
I think the role that Black Cat wanted me to play is quite difficult. So I am someone normal, a typical office lady who just bought her second hand car which is always breaking down. Because of this she is always angry. But Black Cat doesn't want me to play my character as someone who is too grumpy, he wants me to pull back a little even though but be angry at the same time.

Black Cat: Because there are certain films when we see the character, especially the females gotten angry and it is a little bit too over the top which can sometimes make the audience feel uncomfortable.

Cheng Jen: For me, to be angry naturally and not overdoing it, is a bit difficult. When I exaggerate my character a bit, he asked me to pull back a little.

So, Jonathan, what about your character?

Jonathan:
I feel that my character is very cool and Leng Chai (handsome). But there is a lot of difficult moments such as the one of the scene where I need to drive and I need to act and keep my cool at the same time. There are a few times when I have to drive and to talk to Cheng Jen at the same time, and when I look back in front, I almost crashed into the divider. Also, we don't have a lot of resources so we have to do everything ourselves.

Is there any difficult scene?

Jonathan:
The scene when Cheng Jen had to drive. We did at late at night around 3 to 4 am. It is easier because the there are no cars. During that scene she drove around 120km/h. it was very dangerous and very difficult. We have no stuntmen whatsoever. We are really scared but we still have to keep the shooting going. It is really difficult because we have to do everything ourselves, there was only the three of us at that time. We said 'cut' and 'action' ourselves. We did it a couple of times, we drove and u-turn it back until we got the perfect shot. And then we will let the director pick the scene he likes the most.

How do you like the result of your film?

Black Cat:
I feel that this film only reach 70% of my expectation. There a few parts such as the CG effect, the screen-shot, the colour that can use a little more tweaking. It is also due to the time and budget constraint. But there is nothing perfect in this world, we will never fully satisfy with our results.

Jonathan: This is one of my most enjoyable films throughout my acting career. It is very different and rare in Malaysia, I don't think I will get the chance to act in this kind of film again. I really thank Black Cat for giving me this opportunity.

Black Cat: This film also intended to deliver a message to the audience which is the driving attitude. There are too much road accidents in Malaysia. The film serves as a moral lesson to the Malaysians. Because when you hit a person, it didn't just cost one life, it will also affect the family members.


Watch "The Strange Mechanic" from "3 Doors of Horrors"

 

A few words from the producer...

The producer of "3 Doors of Horrors", James Lee.

Why did you decide to focus on horror shorts?

I feel that horror is easier to market especially to the people online. It is a genre that many prefer. Horrors usually do better than dramas. Even if the horror films are terrible, people would still buy and watch. I took horror because I found that it is very popular in a lot of countries and also in cinemas.

Do you have any plan to expand it to genres other than horror?

Yes, I am planning on expanding the genre but it won't be under this brand. It will be under a different brand. The next thing I may want to focus on is crime/noir. It will also be an omnibus like "3 Doors of Horrors".

Why release it online instead of in cinemas?

The reason why I want to focus on online is because I think there is not much market left in Malaysian cinemas. The box office has been performing very badly which is kind of scary. I think it is risky to put even half a million into a movie. It's not that I don't have confidence in the filmmakers and the project, but the problem now is that our competition is Hollywood and that is a fact, it is a reality. Everybody love watching Hollywood films more than the locals, even though the films cut through races and religions or even if the films are bad films, the people are still willing to pay and watch.

The reason why not many support the local films is because they assumed that the films would look inferior or trashy. Many are not even interested in local films, especially the younger generations. So as you can see the landscape has change, people just want to watch big films like those from Hollywood. This is a fact that we can't deny, it doesn't matter if it is a good film or a bad film, as long as it is from Hollywood, people are willing to pay for it.

Even if there is one really good local film, it doesn't have the same attraction as a Hollywood film. A lot of Hollywood films have one year or sometimes even more than a year of promotion, for example they already released the teaser of "Avengers" but the movie is coming out next year. This is because they have the money to build the anticipation. And this is how movie business has come to be, it is all about advertising and promotion. For local films, they usually advertise it for less than two months. Like if I want to release a Chinese New Year film next year, my publicity has to start now because we don't have the money to have a long campaign which sometime cost more than the film itself.

Hollywood has crushed down all the smaller films. Even the independent films in America have avoided releasing in theater. They released in DVDs or online. Because they know that if they only released it in cinemas it is not going to go anywhere. That is why I don't want to take that risk, putting lots of money into street film and in the end nobody would even watch it.

For your information, the producers are usually the last person who will get back the profit. It is not a really favorable business these days. Last time it was different, people would be lining up to watch the movies. But nowadays, there are too much of movies, they became undervalue because you can just download it online.

So I think the safest way now is short films. True, it is not as big film, it is cheap but at least you can see the ideas from the directors. I think this is a good idea for investors as they can choose the director they like the most and invest in his or her film.

Previously, "3 Doors of Horrors" was one full video on YouTube, but for this year I noticed you split it into three videos. Why?

It was a risk that I took to see how it would behave, that is the beauty of the Internet, you get to experiment with it. The reason why I split it up to three is because I am trying to increase the number of searches via Google. Last time if you typed "3 Doors of Horrors" in Google you can only find two; the trailer and the original movie, now there will be five. So what I'm trying to do now is to push all these Malaysian films so that one day when you search for Asian horror films, it will lead them to "3 Doors of Horrors".

I noticed that your shorts mainly focus on the Chinese language, why?

The reason why I focus on Chinese language is because I don't have enough resource to expand to another language like Malay. I would love to do it but I need a different group of filmmakers. Also, another reason is that at YouTube, my second largest audience is from Taiwan. It was actually the Taiwan audience that kept me doing all of this online thing, it became viral in Taiwan.

But eventually I will branch out to other languages because I believe if a film is good even people from U.S. would watch it, plus we got subtitles. So I think language is not a problem, it is the story.

Do you have any directors in mind for next year's "3 Doors of Horrors"?

I have one director in mind for "3 Doors of Horrors" 2015, still searching for the other two. I might also want the shorts to be in other language maybe in Malay. So I might include somebody from another race and language.

Cinema Online, 04 January 2015


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