Strength - a shortfilm by Michael Chen (2013)
Updated: Mar 2, 2020
The following is an old post from my old blog about the last shortfilm I made, featuring real fight footage from my first amateur MMA fight tournament.
I realised something when I got into post for this shortfilm, “This is gonna be my most personal short film ever” And it certainly did turn out to be quite personal.
It’s basically centred around my experience joining my first fight tournament in 2013, MIMMA. While it chronicles a little bit of what I experienced. At the same time, it is an examination into why I did it. While shooting the mock-interviews for this, I inadvertently learned a lot more about why I did it. More than I think I knew myself while I was actually in the thick of training and doing the tournament.
This wasn’t what I set out to do. To be honest, if it wasn’t for Susan Lankester who told me 2 or 3 days before my first round ladder match to make sure I get some guys to shoot the fight, this short film would never have happened. So, I owe her a big thanks.
That being said, I had no idea what to do with all the footage. I did make a short little video of how I won the ladder match round but that was it.
I still had to prep for my 2nd round fight which was also happening a day or two before #kakiSENIfest 2013. When I lost my Quarter finals match after a hard fought 3 rounds, I was quite despondent. I didn’t want to think about it at all.
As time progressed, I did find myself thinking about what to do with the footage. I talked to a lot of people about it, such as Khai and Gavin. Fast forward a few months later, when the #BMWshorties competition was officially announced and the theme coined this year was announced as ‘Inspiration’. Things started to click together.
That’s where I met James Toh, told him about what I had in mind and he loved the idea. I truly believe his enthusiasm and positive energy to make this short was one of the biggest driving forces behind it. For that I cannot thank him enough.
The process of this short coming together was so easy after that. It was ridiculous. The casting of Anrie as my girlfriend (she’s now my wife) was a no-brainer. Nick as my younger brother was also easy since everyone keeps saying we look alike. In fact, some people who watched the short thought it was me! Marina playing my Grandma was simple since we had already developed that relationship somewhat during, “Postcards for Rosa”. Tapai and Gavin totally rocked socks as my 'friend/Producer’ and 'Manager’ respectively. I was all game to go!
The one thing that troubled me most was that I didn’t want this short to be a wanky and indulgent story about me. My very first move was to tell James to be the Director and I’ll just produce. Still, the fine line of when the film became too indulgent was always on my mind. The last thing I wanted was for viewers watching it to think I take myself way too seriously. Which was rather difficult because I had something serious I wanted to say.
This short was being made at a very critical point of my life that year. I was considering leaving the world of production. To totally give up on my earliest ambitions of wanting to be a producer. I was preparing to propose to Anrie whom I had been with for seven amazing years. I was in the midst of purchasing my very first property. Changing jobs. There was so much going on, at times I truly felt like I was going to explode.
I would call this short film a mockumentary if I were forced to put it into a genre. It’s just a representation of my thoughts and more importantly, my feelings of what I was going through. In this sense, I am very, very proud of this little piece of work and I would not change anything about it.
I didn’t make it to the top 10 finalists of that year’s BMW Shorties. I have to say, that does disappoint me. I heard a little reasoning as to why it didn’t make it. Mainly because the panel of Judges felt that it would have worked better if I went all the way as a mockumentary or a full on documentary. They felt that my treatment of slightly real and totally unreal moments became too distracting. Ironic that what I loved most about the short became it’s major downfall for the Judges. Maybe I’m too close to see it that way.
Regardless, I still wouldn’t change a thing about it.