Executive Producer: Jemimah Wei
Director: Martin Hong
Producer: Liu Long Hao
Director of Photography: K Hanshen Sudderiddin
Production Studio: Savour.Love
So this post is way overdue. In May this year I begun pre-production for the film that would finally end up to be Laneige’s My BB Love, and we filmed the entire thing (29 shots) over the course of a very long day in end-July. The conceptualisation of the entire campaign started a year before, and we only truly wrapped press for the film in mid-September. It’s been a long journey, is what I am saying.
I knew I wanted to document the process over on my blog, but I was severely burnt out in September and October (I was finishing up my Masters thesis at the same time, and starting work on another film project that’s coming out end Nov), and it felt like I had so much I wanted to say, so many things to be grateful for, that to even begin on the post for My BB Love seemed such a mammoth task. Excuses aside, that’s kind of why I hadn’t spoken about the film extensively till now. But thanksgiving 2017 seems a good place to start. 🙂
I dont think I’ve ever wanted anything as badly as for this film to work. I certainly haven’t embarked on anything as large scale in my life, and I think I lived in a constant state of paranoia for months because I was afraid I would screw things up or people would take the film the wrong way. The film is, make no mistake, a passion project from start to finish. It was not a campaign that came with a brief, or anything remotely like that. There was a certain story I knew I wanted to tell, but for a long time it was just festering at the back of my head, waiting for the right moment to mature. When I met Trishna last year, everything kind of clicked into place. Thus began almost a year of writing, rewriting, focus groups, proposals, pitching, and about five zillion reality checks.
Laneige accepted the pitch in the first week of June, and that is where my first point of thanks comes in. I’ve been working with Laneige as their social media ambassador for the last two years (coincidentally, my first project with them was a video project for the BB Cushion as well), and they have always trusted me to bring my own creative concept to the table instead of policing the content I create for them with an iron fist. Often, this just means collaborating on individual instagram postings, in which case the amount of variation I can bring is probably pretty limited. Still, our relationship has always been mutually trusting, which I appreciate greatly, and which is what makes them one of my favourite long term clients.
But even then, I had all my fingers crossed when I went to them with my pitch and asked them to let me take over their entire marketing campaign efforts for mid-2017. Even in retrospect I think it was incredibly brave for them to have put their faith in someone who is not from the brand, and for that I really have to thank the team – Sherin, Yifang, Shiying, and Tina, with mega special thanks to Sherin who was heavily pregnant at the time but still put in an INCREDIBLE amount of effort into making this project a reality.
I am so, so, so grateful to them for trusting me with this. Trish and I are not from Laneige, meaning we are neither employees of the brand itself nor their PR agency, and it is extremely unprecedented for brands to allow independent content creators to take over their brand-owned content. It’s more flexible if the content is put on the content creator’s own channels, but for brand-owned channels it’s normally quite strictly controlled, which is why this was such a huge thing for us. As much as this was a passion project for Trish and I, the content ultimately would sit on Laneige’s channels and have Laneige’s name behind it, and so I was mad grateful that Sherin and team were willing to take a bet on us 🙂 I know what a huge leap of faith it was and I am so, so, so thankful. I could not have asked for a better team :’)
Speaking of jumping into things. Trish – honestly, I sometimes think of our meeting as one of those love stories where you meet someone and elope immediately. I met her last year at an event, started talking to her, and then she moved away to London to study fashion. On and off we chatted (mostly about school stuff), and then one faithful day I sent her a Facebook message. Hey girl, I said, I have something to ask.. And the rest, as they say, is history.
The campaign we conceptualised was separate from the film itself, although they were correlated and often conflated, but the truth is, the roadmap of how the entire thing unfolded was so much huger than just the production. The overarching campaign was conceptualised based on Trish’s experiences, and I later translated it to film. Trish and I had long discussions where she told me basically her entire life story, we strained out key experiences, and weaved it into the motivation for a narrative. Obviously, you all know that Trish also ended up being the star of the film, and she was so good. The final film is so light hearted and fun that I dont think anyone would have guessed that this was the fourth iteration of the narrative – the first was actually science fiction, can you believe it! How far the story has come.
PS. I actually watched SO many korean drama clips to try and understand the humour and romance that K-culture emulates, and this was both very silly and very fun because Trish and I are both not typically kdrama fans. I did study scriptwriting in school for a semester as part of my Creative Writing minor, which helped a bit, but there was still a lot of researching the process of how scripts are structured for web. Definitely a learning process – I think from the entire campaign I learnt that I do enjoy scriptwriting and might have potentially considered it a career option in a different life, but unfortunately from what I understand there’s no market for scriptwriters in Singapore 🙁 Oh well.
Anyway. Down to the film itself:
In terms of technical expertise I have nearly nothing – I am not trained in film; my training is in storytelling and writing, and so I had no idea what I was getting myself into when I started. I am so, so grateful for the kindness and guidance I was shown by my friends who do know film. A lot of hand holding took place over the course of this production. Martin, my dear friend and incredibly talented director, without whom this would not have been possible. Long, our producer, who taught me so much about the intricacies of film making. Before this film I had no idea what the difference between a shot and a take was. Now I can tell you about lighting and match-cuts. This is entirely to the team’s credit – they were incredibly patient with me, and they taught me so much.
So much of film is visual, and so I greatly credit the amazing hair, make up, and wardrobe team for the gorgeous looks you saw on the film. My personal hair sponsor Hairloom immediately came on board to support this project when I told them about it – so thank you, my hairloom fam – Mervyn, Ben, and Calvin. Mervyn was our on set hairstylist, and he was amazing.
Makeup for the shoot was obviously done by the wonderful Tina from Laneige – their in house make up professional and someone who felt passionately about the project from the start. Both for the gorgeous looks and for the support, thank you.
My dear (and very stylish) friend Amanda volunteered to come on board as wardrobe stylist, thank goodness because honestly I happily committed to doing everything before realising that i had bitten off a bit too much, and anyway, Amanda has amazing style. Our entire wardrobe for the shoot was sourced from Zara, via Charmaine from Access Communications, so thanksgivings are in order there too. Everything looked absolutely incredible.
PS. How AMAZING does Trish look?? I swear, she can pull off anything
All our friends who took a whole day off their busy schedules to play high school students. My sister also took a day off from her internship to help out on set and occasionally double as a student on set! Knowing how precious time is, I could not be more grateful:
We honestly got so, so lucky with Tae gu, our male lead. Special thanks to Han Dong Gyun, a director from South Korea, who recommended Tae Gu to us. We video-casted Tae Gu over Skype, and he was so brilliant that we just knew.
And how great that decision turned out to be too. Tae Gu was such a joy to work with – everyone who met him immediately loved him. Our shoot day was insane – budget constraints and what not meant that we had only one day for the entire shoot, and that was essentially a 21 hour day for me (including set up and tear down). Despite how long the day was he was a trooper nonstop, and never once gave any inkling of an indication that he was tired or bored or whatever. I mean ya la it’s my first film so I guess i wouldnt know if this is standard behaviour, but from my knowledge any kind of talent can be very diva ok! So I’m thankful that he wasn’t, and even more thankful that he was such a wonder.
We went for drinks the day after the shoot, and we were explaining to him the concept behind the campaign, and he immediately went from being our actor to being our advocate. We did a couple of interviews together after the film debuted, and I think it was so clear to everyone involved that as a younger-gen South Korean, he felt it was high time for a people back home to start opening themselves up to empathising with cultures other than their own. He actually went back to Korea and gave a talk at a school there where he screened the film and discussed it to great success. He texted Trish and I later to say that it was very well received :’)
And our crew – many of whom I met for the first time on set. They were incredible!! I think I really got so, so lucky with crew, and for that I have to thank Long our producer. For those of you who are unfamiliar with film, a producer is someone who gets all the internal workings of production together so the film can happen, and part of that is sourcing crew. I met Hans, our director of photography, on set and worked with him again the following month on a different film project, and it was so fascinating to me to watch how he and Dion (his camera assistant) worked the camera movement. Each shot was motivated by tracking the internal process of a character’s mental state, which makes a lot of sense when you watch the final product because all these subtle things add up, and when an audience watches the final thing, he/she feels strongly for a scene but cannot quite put a finger on where the magic is… yeah. No. After working on this and subsequent film projects I can tell you exactly where the magic is, and it’s a combination of hard work from the crew and many, many minute details.
Our Assistant Director, Sham, kept things running so smoothly and on time, which is a HUGE deal, way bigger than it sounds. Our schedule was insane and unrealistic from the start, and we were all praying that we could finish our shoot on time because if it overran we would be in a lot of trouble and our budget would be totally shot. The industry standard is normally 25 shots a day (a shot being a particular angle ish, and then within shots, you have different takes), and we (well, I) wrote 29 shots in which Martin nearly strangled me over. WHAT? It was necessary for the story!! But anyway we all went in with our fingers crossed because there was a high chance we wouldnt be able to finish shooting if something went wrong on set, and a MILLION things could go wrong – scenes overrunning, location problems, RAIN.. And thank goodness Sham was there to keep everyone in check and to keep us all on schedule. There were a few snap decisions that had to be made because we were battling the sunlight movement, and she made them, and I cannot even begin to explain how reassuring it is for someone to be steady enough to do that under pressure.
Our Art director, Karen, a total sweetheart and crazy talented, also did Art for the Crazy Rich Asians movie coming out soon, which I think is so insane because how on earth did we get her?! Art Direction for film sets are really a whole world of their own – everything you see we had to build on the existing location, and it’s the reason why the film looked the way it did. The dorm room, in particular, was a thing of beauty. It’s such a pity we could only show part of it!!!
Am also extremely grateful to my alumnus, NTU. We filmed the entire thing on campus – in order of appearance in the film: outside NIE, the new NTU Sports Complex, outside the School of Humanities and Social Sciences, NTU HSS Sem Room 9, and NTU Hall 3. Special thanks to Christina from HSS and Angela from NTU Housing who were so kind and helpful when we were trying to secure locations! After the film came out it occured to me that the film could easily be an ad for NTU being a beautiful campus – and I think they had the same idea because NTU Corporate Communications reached out to me afterwards to request permission to screen My BB Love onscreens across the school!
And after all that..
The film debuted on the 24th of August on Laneige’s Facebook page, and immediately went viral, with over 100k organic views over the weekend. It went on to hit over 300k views and 1k shares, not counting the illegally ripped versions floating around FB where other pages ripped the video and reposted it (thus accumulating views on separate pages that don’t link back to us).
Trish and I also handled PR for the film after the release, and that included pitching the news story and giving interviews, but the way the story was picked up so quickly and across so many channels blew us away. We had commentary pieces (read Rice Media’s think piece here), beauty centric articles (Read: Buro 247 and Cleo, articles measuring the online community’s response to the film (Read: Asia One, Mothership) and even write ups from internal advertising industry magazines (Read: WARC’s coverage here)
Looking back at the whole thing, it really seems so surreal that I cant believe it happened less than six months ago. Trish had to return to London for studies quite shortly after we finished filming, so we never had the chance to properly celebrate the launch together, though she’s coming back this Dec so I think we’ll probably have our very delayed wrap party then 🙂 But seriously, we had so many great moments of hysterics over the net – for nearly a month we were waking up in Singapore and London respectively to messages from each other going OMG OMG OMG DID YOU SEE WE MADE IT ON MOTHERSHIP/CLEO/ETC ETC ETC because of the time zone difference.
This whole campaign was such a ride. Honestly, I don’t think I had ever been so stressed in my life before. On the day of the shoot, I actually broke out into hives on my face because of stress, and this has NEVER happened before, so you know shit is serious. Trish and I had SO MANY panic attacks before the shoot itself, we debated every single line in the film with Martin (a godsend, a born talent) to make sure nothing was superfluous, and in between the shoot and the actual film launch, we panicked over how it would be received (poor Trish was all the way in London so she was panicking like, alone) and then when it launched, we were NEUROTICALLY monitoring the online response and refreshing it every few seconds.. Actually, I think everyone involved on a creative level was extremely stressed haha, including Sherin from Laneige who I mentioned was heavily pregnant yet still running rounds to make sure everything was ok. And that fear that came with both doing something completely new to us and new in general was overwhelming and all-consuming, I think no one ever tells you that, and nothing can ever prepare you for it.
I think it is also in my personality to work myself up and start shit with myself, so every little fear got mega blown up in my head as we were leading up to the shoot date, and many times I think Trish and I felt paralysed by fear almost. But it came to a point where we had to ask ourselves: yes we are afraid, but does that mean we won’t do it? The answer was a clear no – there was no option for either of us to drop the idea at all. And from there, things became a lot clearer. What was left was to just get to it, and do the thing we said we would do.
And we did.