Wednesday, October 17, 2007

A Beautiful Journey: Part 2 - Photoshoot Day 1

The night prior to production, everything was set. My heart was beating quite fast. We had the make up artists - 2 of them, eM.K. photographer and one assistant, plus myself. Yes, a relatively small team, for a seemingly huge task ahead!

We left KL with the load full of clothes in the car, simply enough space for us to sit. When arrived, we quickly arranged the designs according to the designer and had to had them ironed - well at least the first 2 sets for the next day... and that would total to about 40 or more.

The first day, the models woke up about 530am to get their make up. We first went to the Cheng Hoon Teng temple - our first destination, with Eric's Chinese inspired motifs by 645. The day started off fast, and we managed to get some shots on time. We were lucky, as there was not much time for good photography as the clouds were coming up pretty fast. Interestingly, the people surrounding the set were very friendly and even stopped traffic for our shoot.. I have a feeling the driver didn't mind this whole photoshoot scene appearing right in front of him.

While on our way back, I saw this thrishaw - in its full authenticity, and asked the thrishaw puller to come back later for we wanted to use his thrishaw for the shoot. Alas, it was not to be, as it rained.. However, after the rain, we headed to the famous Malacca Stadhuys - and low and behold.. a thrishaw puller came by with this authentic thrishaw. Why I had wanted a no frills thrishaw - those simple ones, without those decorative gold-silver or flowery glitters is because it will be too much a distraction from the batiks. I had decided if there's no simple thrishaw, then we'll just go ahead with no thrishaw.. but how lucky we were! However, look closely enough on those pictures taken at the Stadhuys and you'll see a small lil teddy bear on it! haha... some of our customers actually noticed it!

I can't fully remember, but either before this shot, or after, we took the street scene - the small alley which was like mini Chinatown. I took that street firstly because it was narrow, hence giving it atmosphere & 'feel'. Secondly, that road was closed to vehicles, except bicycles, giving us much more space & time. But even that drew the crowd who wanted to see what was going on. I remember it was very very hot, and we were all dressed in those clothes that were meant for air conditioned places. It was a lil hard to keep that smile and laughther! There was also a shot of me in the car. Actually, this shot was unique, as we first tried & tested so many shots in the car...! But as I was exiting the car, eM.K asked me to re-enter & re-exit to shoot that magic moment. This shot of me exiting from the car is one of the most liked by our customers :)

Next, the colonial building where we did 2 shots - of Amyn's semi formal & Eric's weddings clothes. The first shot with Carol & Christine was difficult as we took this shot with lighting behind them. Professional eM.K, with assistance from Richard Se, a photographer-designer in KL managed this shot well.

The wedding shots next. All dressed in white - batik style. We were worn out, though the models did take some nap in between. The only issue we had here was basically not to get those white dresses filled with our make - ups.

As evening approached and the sky darkened, our very last shot was back to Amyn's. We first had Carol & Christine take shot together. This was difficult as either one of their ear-rings kept wavering and the camera couldn't capture it. Hence, I split them up to take individual shots. This is a rare, as I aimed that most photographs have to be taken with 2 or more models, to add to the atmosphere of the pictures. When we did this, the models were good, and the photos well taken.

Our final photo was Carol in the red semi liked cheongsam, and by this time, we had to use lighting as the day was fully dark. This photo is unique as Carol doesn't face the camera, but instead she looks up into the window, giving the spotlight directly to her dress!

Photoshoot of day 1 ended with all models exhausted... but the day hasn't ended yet. We first went back to the hotel, had a Chinese dinner... and it was then time to do the fitting for the models for the next day! And the clothes ironed. What a day!

Read Also: A Beautiful Journey: Part 1

Next: Photoshoot Day 2

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

A Beautiful Journey: Part 1

Over the course of publishing up to promoting this book, I've learnt a lot of things. To a very large extend, it can really be a turn off, as everything is new and with such a steep learning curve.

However, although there were tough times, but, there were more good to it. From pre-production to actual production and up to the marketings aspects have given such a good insight to a few industries - not only batik, but also fashion, modeling, publishing, and promotions.

Here, in this 4 part series, I would like to share the first part of pre-production.

I remember driving around Malacca to find the suitable location for the shoot. As I wanted to give this book a wholesome view on Malaysia, I thought Malacca with its multi racial & rich history would be the perfect place. So, I drove around the outskirts of the town, looking for 'perfect' homes - especially the kampung house (Malay traditional house). This was the hardest to find; while the others like the colonial building and the Peranakan homes were relatively easier - partly because they are less, hence I only need to walk along the streets of both Hereen & Jonker Street. The search include seeing a few owners of the houses/ restaurants with thematic backgrounds for the shoot.

Then came the discussions with the designers. That was rather interesting - as here came an 'unknown' in the industry having to table a meeting with the big names of the industry! Although there were butterflies in the stomach, but I'm glad to have chaired that meeting. Actually, I'm quite glad to see that some of them believed and trusted me from the first start, through my faxes, and willing to come for the meetings. For those who couldn't make it for the meeting, I went to meet them personally in their high - end boutiques. That was the start for me to the world of high - end fashion.

Looking back, I sometimes wonder how did the designers find/see me during the first meeting with them - me sharing my vision of the book and giving them a timeline for their designs :) And in a way, to do that was like doing the impossible. Up to now, being able to get the designers is still strongly holds my 'Impossible Is Noting' philosophy :)

The first problem arose when one of the designers pulled out last minute, by not sending me the clothes the day of collection - which was 1 day before the shoot. In fact, this designer who because of his limit number of designs even asked the rest to reduce their designs for submission. Too bad that designer is now not in the book... when I bumped into him after the book was out, what a shock he had on how the book came out to be, which was way beyond his expectations!

In the midst of securing the designers, the search continues for the models. As I wanted this book to represent Malaysia, hence I wanted models with truly Asian/ Malaysian features. I remembered meeting a few models in an event prior, and called them up. There were also 1 model whom I looked up using the internet. At last I managed to find 4 girl models, just enough to have the variations to the designs & for the book.

However, again, there was a horror part when one of the models pulled out just the day before the shoot. Imagine, I had 1 designer pulling out and now the model... and I was busy collecting the rest of the designs, my hands were full... and my mind blurred! Luckily, the model had her friend later to replace her to the very last minute. It's really too bad this model couldn't be part of this book too, though I must say her replacement was better than her - in personality and looks :)

I also had to assemble the team - make-up artistes; lighting and most importantly the photographer. Asking around and getting contacts, I managed to find 2 make-up artistes who usually do for drama productions.

As for the photographer, I've spoken to eM.K. to showcase his works and be part of the team. I'm glad he did, and we actually went through lots of books & magazines to sort out the kind of pictures (& feel) to the ones we are going to take. I remember he mentioning that this was going to be a big task on his part too, and he wasn't sure if he could meet the mark. But I've seen his pictures before and had full confidence that his pictures will turn out fine.

The collection of the clothes by the designers the day before the shoot was another big hassle - as there were like hundreds of clothes to fit into the car. And each set (eg. dress, earings, necklace, skirt) was worth up to thousands of ringgits! And I was in charge of any damage or loss. Luckily nothing happened throughout, as we had a tight control... and we managed to bring all the clothes down to Malacca with the whole car boot full, including the back seats!

The pre-production may seem like quite a big hassle (it was!), but it was very fun and truly an amazing journey for me. I've always mentioned that it was like co-ordinating a mini movie... and learning all the ropes in such a short period of time :) This gave me confidence in my next step and of course my other works.

Next: A Beautiful Journey: Photoshoot Day 1