Conveniently, with both of us being in Hong Kong at the same time, I managed to sit down for an hour in the board of the Renaissance Hong Kong Harbour View Hotel, and delve into this inventive filmmaker’s work.
JWR: So many questions. We won't get to them all. I'll try, but maybe we can start with openings.
JWR: I find your openings of the four that I've seen very stimulating, quite different, happily. There's no cookie cutter type of opening. So the writer in me wants to talk to the writer in you. Where do you find your openings? Do you start from the opening? Or does it come...How do you find your openings.
Scud: I usually have my opening first in my theme. When I was...listening contemplating about my next book so to speak. Now usually it's the beginning and the end that came to my mind first. And then I would develop those in the middle much later.
JWR: How do you get from there to there?
Scud: I think you always need some sudden inspiration when you really would come up with a concrete idea of doing something. It just happens. So it could be the opening, it could be the end, it could be one of the most critical scenes in the film. I mean, surrounding that, you get at the whole idea. That's what I think.
JWR: We have to get there somehow, right? It's the journey, right?
Scud: Yeah, it's the journey. Okay, I'll give you an example. Now I'm working on a film about death, which is actually one of my signature themes. But this one is really about death. I'll probably call it Platonian Death. It will start with a chat about how--so Grecians, how Plato perceive death. Yeah, there's one version of the saying that, "Our present life is actually a death of our previous life." You know, when you die you are supposed to be in hell, to suffer, to be judged all the time, and forget about our previous life. So it is highly probable that that is where we are. We are in a hell of our previous life. We don't remember that anymore, and et cetera, right? You're always judged. You have sometimes to work with very cheap and very difficult people. That's my life a couple times.
JWR: We share that.
Scud: So obviously Plato concluded that when you die, obviously he is saying we will return for a higher form of life. And we will remember where we were originally from, maybe something of this life, maybe not many of them. Just like after dream, you remember some, sometimes you don't remember at all. But then I say so Plato concluded that, and one of my recent--at least he is one of my colleagues. A very young guy said, "We will fall further, another... [laughter] "We are very, all of us proceed to laughters." And then I thought, "OK why not make this the opening of my next film?" Yeah.
JWR: See how low we can go.
Scud: Actually I want to make a film to bring some comfort, especially to those older people, those who think they are approaching death, which is inevitable and close to them anyway. I test this to my uncles and aunties just a couple of weeks ago--just after Chinese New Year.
Scud: And you know my mother is already 80 years old, so...
JWR: She sees the end somewhere...
Scud: Some of them already losing their loved one and blah, blah, blah. And I find that they are talking about that too, you know Chinese do not talk about death. It seems nowadays they kind of become more liberal...
JWR: They're allowed to.
Scud: So I filled out this idea of Plato's version of death, and then they were listening and then they were thinking and one of them, one of the uncles said "Hey, we haven't heard about that before. If you make it into a film you will be a greater director."
JWR: Well now! No pressure!
Scud: But, just an example. Yeah actually I'm not... this is still in a very early stage.
Scud: My next nation is likely to be Naked Nation anyway.
Scud: Yeah, but that one because I'm working with the Hong Kong Film Fund.
Scud: This is for the very first time because previously all my films were made independently.
JWR: Yeah, that's such a nuisance that money stuff.
Scud: Yeah, but until...
JWR: Talk about hell on earth!
Scud: I wrote this film, I think four or five years ago. And it's been sitting on my desk forever since.
JWR: That's The Naked Nation?
Scud: The Naked Nation. Yeah because it's about China, it's an epic film based on the true story from my family, my ancestors. So it's going to be big, and there's no way for me to save money.
JWR: So you need the fund for sure.
Scud: Yeah, and there's no way for me to avoid China, because you know shooting in China could be like hell. I did try to--
JWR: What do they think of you there do you think? Official China, not...
Scud: I don't know how known I am to the authority. I hope I'm known to them...
JWR: Unknown, sure.
Scud: I hope, but the people there kind of have been in touch with my work for many years already because as you know they always find their way to get it.
JWR: There's always a way.
Scud: There's always a way, so whenever I'm in China, and I always meet some of my audiences who haven't, but I've never had any income from that country because there's no official release.
JWR: Yeah so you aren't really there, like so many things.
Scud: Yeah so I think they know about my films, they talk with me about Love Actually Sucks and everything is really funny. And sometimes even if some of my film, somehow they download couldn't work they will ask me, "How do I make it work?" I say, "I'm not telling you, you should know that. I thought you were not buying from me and you ask me how to make it work."
JWR: They want it both ways Scud!
Scud: Yeah I know, it's interesting. So Naked Nation is my next one, I mean the idea came until a few months ago actually...the chairman.
JWR: Of the fund?
Scud: Of the fund, we were in a dinner and then he happened... I think he intentionally sat next to me.
JWR: Oh good.
Scud: And began chatting with me about my films, so I was impressed because he is very...
JWR: So he knew what your work was?
Scud: Yeah he knew what I had been doing. And then he said "but then Scud, why for so many years I've been sitting on a board I've never seen your script?" I said, "Okay, so I..."
JWR: It's a submission.
Scud: Yeah, so I stumbled a bit, made some explanation, and I thought this already passed. And then you know what a few weeks later I receive a call from him and he was telling me that "Oh I have some health status and now I am in hospital." I said "Oh, okay take care and should I come to see you?" "No, no, no. I'm still thinking of what we talk about." I said "Okay I'll do something about it." There must be something--yeah he's serious!
JWR: There's a message there!
Scud: Yeah and he's calling me from the hospital... Oh, I--I couldn't...yeah. Anyway, so now we are actually working on, since I'm going to be...
JWR: The details.
Scud: Very detailed already, because they have to go into every detail, the shooting schedule, the scenes, the locations, blah, blah, blah. And I think I have to do anyway, even if I'm going to do it on my own so...
JWR: Well can you...you're shooting some of it in China?
Scud: 90% in China, 10% in USA. This work has been hindering me from going on holiday.
JWR: And where in the USA, Arkansas?
Scud: I think... [laughter] Well, I have to say it's not my favorite place, but I have to say New York City.
JWR: Yes, I love to visit but I'm always glad to come home. I live right near Niagara Falls in Canada. Toronto is the...
Scud: Right, Buffalo.
JWR: Have you been to the Toronto Film Festival? Have you had your work at the Toronto Film Festival?
JWR: Well, we'll have to give them nudge. Trust me, I'll do my best for you.
Scud: Thank you.
JWR: No, and this, around that topic of when you're actually shooting your films. Do you make changes as you go, or do you pretty much shoot from the script?
Scud: Only my own improvisation. My actors have to follow every single line of my, what I wrote. And usually there wouldn't be much change, and usually there wouldn't be much addition or touching because I have to make it quite precise.
JWR: Of course, yeah.
Scud: For cost consideration too, because I'm not the sort of director who have unlimited money. Funding it however I want, I cannot.
JWR: Yeah, not Hollywood.
Scud: I cannot afford to do it, so basically, I mean, when I wrote the script, the shooting copy. It's already edited--I already edited it in a way. So, yeah--to make the job very concise and very precise.
JWR: Yeah, okay good. And then if we could just focus for a moment on Utopians and Voyage.
JWR: It felt to me, and this is my own opinion, that Utopians is kind of a soul cleansing after Voyage.
JWR: Does that make any sense to you?
Scud: It does. Actually Voyage was so strenuous, I mean it's so difficult to make that--it kind of drained all the life out of me. See you know why, it's just about depression and it actually threw me to the third depression in my life.
Scud: Not quite as severe as the previous two, but I think there was enough to at least end my career.
Scud: Yeah, so I began to talk to my very close collaborators that, "probably, Voyage was it." I mean, you have to prepare for and...
JWR: We say in music V-I.
Scud: Yeah, it's ending. And obviously that's disappointing thing to cry...some people, especially myself... So, I don't know... Suddenly a boy, a 19-years-old boy came to me with the story of his--that he met a 32-years-old policeman while he was jogging very early in the morning. You know in Hong Kong if you go out in an unusual time you get checked, your ID and why you're here, that sort of thing. There's no such a thing as prints anymore.
Scud: So he was checked by a policeman, the policeman very handsome obviously and had two girlfriends that was after him. Then he was also with a girlfriend at that time.
JWR: Sounds familiar.
Scud: So okay he told me about his story, and I said, "OK, why don't you just write it" because I could sense the he's quite good, I mean, very quality, so just write it. So he wrote a 120 pages of script, which I find that unable to be shot.
Scud: Unable. But it's not a shootable story because I couldn't tell what was true and what was imaginary, and I didn't think I could get the answer from him.
JWR: No, he's too close to it, of course.
Scud: So we closed the matter and he might have to invent quite something, which is not acceptable to me if it's my film--if it's my film I try to be as true to the truth as possible. So I was so impressed with his mention of Mishima, the great Japanese writer who killed himself. So I was surprised a 19-years-old boy is so indulged with Mishima, I mean that is sensational. And I recall my teen time then I was reading Mishima and how I was inspired. So I went back to his book again and I am still very confused and very impressed.
JWR: It's a sign of a good writer.
Scud: Yeah I don't think anyone can understand him. But you have to be impressed. So that gave me the idea of doing a film to pay tribute to this great artist and philosophers who had inspired the life. That's how this film came, Utopian. So I invite the boy--he is one of the boys on the boat-ship actually.
JWR: Oh okay, well that's good.
Scud: Yeah so he's there, and that always he knew it's no longer his story, it's a little bit inspired so I also gave him credits in the first so...
Scud: So you will never expect things to happen like this, so suddenly I make a film which is very swiftly. I did it in only 19 shooting days or something. It's probably the briefest film I've ever make. And it's such a, as you said, such a yes stark contrast to Voyage. Voyage took me three years.
JWR: Oh my...
Scud: So shoot from here and there and... And so suddenly I had Utopian, a totally different film. Especially in the sense that Voyage is probably my saddest film ever while Utopian is the happiest.
JWR: Yeah, no, you're really in the flow right? And it's so obvious.
Scud: Yes, you can never tell. And then suddenly I came up with the idea of 30 Years of Adonis, which is about Tibetan Buddhism's vision of life and death and I...yeah. And then I have...
JWR: I'll look forward to that one.
Scud: That one, I'm bringing that one to Philadelphia this time to a show the Big Boys...
JWR: Oh Breaking Glass [Pictures], that's their...
Scud: Yeah Breaking Glass and the festival persons, they added me. They put a 16-seat small theatre for it.
JWR: Oh nice.
Scud: Yeah because they obviously, when they heard about it they had been asking for a name or something and I said, "But this is not the film I want people to watch from a small screen and without my explanation." So that's another thing that I'm going to do in Philadelphia.
JWR: So I'm looking forward to that, for sure. I'm gonna have, let's see, a little fun with you. I think you will know this quote.
Scud: What is it?
JWR: "In the arts, there is no such thing as an absolutely perfect eye." And that's Murakami, right? You drove me crazy when we had Kafka on the Shore, in the film, right? I went out and bought it.
JWR: And there's a funny story, that's in Chiang Mai, and there are not a lot of English bookshops. So I was also looking for my English newspaper and a certain restaurant. So I go to the first bookstore and they looked at me: "No we do have Murakami but we don't have...
Scud: This one.
JWR: "Where should I go?" So I just walked down the street, in Old Town of course and then I saw "Used Books," and it was in English. So I figured, "Well there's a chance here." So I go in and there's a clerk who is like a revolutionary: "Down with the government, anarchy." So I said, "Okay but do you have this book?" [laughter] And they did! So I started reading it and I can see a lot of myself in it. This is why I'm happy/sad with you, because it forced me to think a lot about me in different ways. Like the Schubert Sonata, my background is I used to conduct symphony orchestras. And so I understand the music part of life a little better than maybe some of my colleagues. But to the quote: Can we make anything perfect? Or do we even try to be perfect?
Scud: You always try, but I think you have to try because you can't. I mean if you obtain something, then it might become meaningless immediately. So it's better to not getting it but still you have the drive to go for it. That's what I think. And may I say a little bit about that book too?
JWR: Yes please, oh please! Yes, I was just trying to draw you out.
Scud: You know the book, in the film is a very beautiful collection version of the book. It's not what you get from...
JWR: Yes, it's not my paperback.
Scud: Yes, it's not what you get from any of the bookstore, I went into a bookstore in Hong Kong who used to sell my photo albums. It's in the city centre, across from Causeway Bay actually. So I went there and asked for Kafka on the Shore, and then the lady, the owner said, "Oh that one is sold out for a long time. But you are lucky! I have my own personal collection and I am gifting this to you."
JWR: Oh my goodness.
Scud: I couldn't believe it! Sometimes you do have that kind of luck! I mean that is what makes filmmaking more interesting than anything else in the world, and that's why...
JWR: And does she know it's in the film?
JWR: Does she know that it's in the film?
Scud: I told her after, yeah I gave her a film, a DVD afterwards of course. So yeah you do come across...yeah that you never expect. Quite a lot of scenes and lot of the props, the materials and even the persons in my films just came to me while I was in my pre-production. It happens all the time.
JWR: Oh nice, but I noticed your boat is in it.
Scud: Yeah, that is a common import. That is something I don't even have to borrow.
JWR: No. I've seen it in at least two of your films, is it in all of the films or?
Scud: Well okay, you've seen...obviously you've seen Voyage a lot.
Scud: And it's also in Utopians...
JWR: Did I see it in Amphetamine?
Scud: I didn't...
JWR: Or Love Sucks?
Scud: Love Actually Sucks? Let me see... No. Actually Love Actually Sucks, in my photo album like this. It's the last photo of that photo album, which is kind of saying that I'm going to make a film about someone on a boat. So it must be only from Voyage, and 30 Years of Adonis... Did I do anything on it? [laughter] I don't really remember, maybe not. So yeah, only that two films so far.
JWR: Okay, I thought it was fun.
Scud: Yeah it's fun, but the shooting is very interesting. May I tell you a little bit about the ending of Voyage?
Scud: Two boys walking into the water. I scout that location with the help of my captain, okay? It is actually in Hong Kong, but really remote. Everyone thought that's Indonesia, I pretend it's Indonesia.
JWR: Oh, okay yeah.
Scud: It's Hong Kong, and so there are only certain times you can do it because there are two islands connected by a sandy path which will be covered by water.
JWR: The tide, yeah.
Scud: And most of the time, so you only have that time of the day.
JWR: Oh of course!
Scud: That you can walk...
JWR: They can walk on the water.
Scud: And more importantly I want sunset for this scene, so interestingly I was filming that scene in March. And the March is not like this March, the whole March was raining. And we check the weather reports very closely, we only found one day says there may be occasionally clearance, so we went for it. Because we couldn't wait another month because my lead was from Amsterdam, I couldn't keep him forever. So...
JWR: Yes, of course.
Scud: That is the difficult... So that day we went ahead and in the early morning, 4 o'clock, 5 o'clock it is thunderstorm.
JWR: Oh dear!
Scud: I said, "Let's go ahead, let's go ahead, let's go." And at lunchtime, we went on the island, we got kicked out! The marine police went after us!
JWR: Oh no!
Scud: We had everything onshore ready and then they came, [knock, knock] "Do you have licence to shoot here? I don't think you have because this is prohibited area, okay?" We said, "Yeah we did try to apply but we haven't got the approval yet--we wouldn't get it." Then we learned that in that very seemingly, I mean...
JWR: Remote I bet.
Scud: Yeah, seemingly very innocent island it has some thing that would control the electricity of the whole island and peninsula.
JWR: Oh my gosh.
Scud: So if someone bombed that once, Hong Kong would be out of power at least 75%. So it's impossible for us to gain--for anyone to have access with that. I said, "Okay, let's go." So we went back to the boat, and then we drift away a little bit and then try to, well we shoot something on the boat. And then, I also asked my, also assigned one or two of my crew to be the posts to watch...
JWR: See what's going on, yeah.
Scud: And initially they say, "Oh they are watching us from a distance." I say, "Fuck," OK, and then they say, "Oh they seem to be disappear but sometimes they come back." And then you know what happened? Something really, really happened, I was becoming very sick. You know I have been a very healthy person, but I'm sick when I couldn't do my job. Then my perfectionist hits me, I was really, really sick. But suddenly I was in the cabin, suddenly there was a ray of light just, I was watching the monitor and then there's a little bit of sun rays touching my hand. Then I jump up and I went on the deck, the day's cream, and then I say, "Listen there's an outsider I don't care." Let's go to the other side because if they go the same spot we might still catch, I said "Let's go to the other side of the island." We tried, reason we could go by the...
Scud: Rowing boat. "Let's do it," and I actually shouted that if the god is not stopping me then no one can stop me. So we went there and then we rushed to the shore and then we just shoot the scenes, and yeah full credit to my actors. I mean especially the fall.
Scud: He really fell.
Scud: He just had the faith in his collaborator in the fact that he wouldn't really hurt himself but falling on the sand. He really fell and I was so grateful for that. Yeah so, and then they stay in the water for long enough until I signal them. And then they stood up and walked to the sun, everything in one shot and I commit with one shot because of the sun is setting fast.
JWR: Oh good, yeah and it doesn't come back! Now I said this at the end of my review, miss the credits at your peril.
JWR: Because it's quite a shock right? The gunshots and then, "Oh Jesus!" [both laugh] And then as I often see in your films, we have the resurrection.
Scud: I think it happens only now, right? Actually Voyage is a film that I did have to make some change, but the change is not really from me. You know while making the films because it spends such a long time, in the middle of it the film began to talk to me. The film came up to its life talking to me, so some of the lines was actually added and some of the scenes was actually changed from our original script, which rarely happens. But maybe it's because it's a very long production, and because when the film is about something so spiritual it becomes spiritual. That is another sensation that I felt while making Voyage. My most difficult film and certainly it was awarded, and then another thing that really make me believe that everything was worth was the Samaritans. Samaritans is the British organization for prevention of suicide.
JWR: Oh right.
Scud: Yeah, it is everywhere. It is very big in Hong Kong. Ever since I was very small they are at, it is anywhere that...before you have a last conclusion call a number. So I believe Samaritans did prevent a lot of suicides. And you know what? They got to see my films, maybe they heard about the topic and then the whole board of directors came to my studio saying...
JWR: Oh cool.
Scud: Yeah I actually had post photos on my Facebook, at least I think I did, and then say thank you and then borrow my film and use to there...
JWR: Clients, if you will. Oh nice, that's a whole different reason for making art.
Scud: Yeah, they made a lot of...I knew my film could resonate for people who had been in depression, and especially those who have their loved ones in depression. That was very obvious when I showed the film in Sao Paulo a few years ago. And then the Q and A, you know the film was 100 minutes and the Q and A was also 100 minutes. There was just no end to it.
JWR: Yeah, you really hit something.
Scud: Yeah, you know people...everybody just talking to me about suicide, about depression after watching the film. And you know the festival was a very professional one, they actually have interpreter next to me.
JWR: Oh good!
Scud: But you know for those who also speak English, they wouldn't wait for the simultaneous translation they just yell at me and I just talk back to them.
JWR: Oh wow.
Scud: It was 100 minutes of very intensive, it's like a special session for that topic. So when I was making it, I kept questioning myself. I usually do not. I keep asking myself, "Why was I doing it? Who would I show it to? People would understand?" And it's not supposed to be understood, otherwise it's not called depression right? I was trying to describe something that is not supposed to be understood, so why was I doing that and throwing in all of my money, my time, and basically everything? So you never know, after that...
JWR: It really drained you.
Scud: Yeah, I don't remember the time before and after. Maybe that was the one, the single event that maybe more than Sao Paulo would want, the simple event that motivated me to move from into something more.
JWR: I remember the opening, one of the early scenes after they teach the poor boy how to be a farmer and then how to fight. And then the he finally decks the guy, I mean that was such fun. But then you really turn it on its head when the man offers himself in the snow, and then the next thing you know he's gone because he was not accepted. That has to ring with a lot of guys, the danger of saying what I feel or even showing, right? I thought was very powerful, without saying a word.
JWR: Without saying anything.
Scud: Yeah, for 22 minutes there was only one line.
JWR: Yes, and I've noticed a lot in your films that you use silence very well, it's so much more powerful than dialogue. Or you'll, I'm thinking of the opening of Love Actually. Black-and-white, I like that. And we see them getting married but we don't hear anything of the marriage until the whole movie is...[laughing]. And so I'm, I know nothing is a coincidence in your work but when do you decide to step back from the ambient sound and let the viewer supply it himself? How do you decide when it's time to do that?
Scud: Okay, I... Right, actually mixing is probably the most enjoyable stage doing filmmaking of mine. I am very, very sensitive to music.
JWR: I know.
Scud: I always thought I would become a singer or something when I was small.
JWR: Oh cool.
Scud: Anyway, I did have a chance and I gave it a pause and that reminded me to decide not to miss anything like that again. Now okay, so back to the music. So I do the mixing myself.
Scud: I am very heavily involved with the composer, you know I realized that I can't compose the composer does not know how to really make the best use of their great work in my film. Maybe probably because after all the film is mine, it's not his.
Scud: So they come up with good materials for me to cook it.
Scud: Yeah, so I do every single moment of the music in my film. And one of the very happy moment to me was when I was in Palm Springs Festival, showing Utopians, and at the end of it, after the Q and A, I usually I always say I mix with--to greet with the audiences in the thing. And then there was one gentleman coming to me, they are big guy like you, and shook my hand and say, "You know what? Scud this is the best score I've ever seen." I say, “Oh thank you” and then he said, "I am a composer"...
JWR: Where is this going?
Scud: What an honour. I keep reminding people that silence sometimes can be the strongest music.
JWR: Yes, as will a Haydn.
Scud: Yeah, it's so... It push you to think.
Scud: To feel.
JWR: And I do appreciate that, I notice a lot of strings and I wanted to... A friend of mine and I were watching part of one of your films and we noticed that sometimes it's synthetic strings and sometimes it's real strings.
Scud: Yeah, yeah, yeah.
JWR: Now is that budget or is that on purpose to go with the actual scene?
Scud: I think it's mainly my arbitration. Yeah, there's no time to think about money when you're doing something like that.
JWR: Oh, sure. You're talking to a music guy.
Scud: Yeah. When I think I need it, I'll get it.
JWR: So it's on purpose.
JWR: Okay. And I was struck by your use of "The Moldau," and we had a little argument over it. Because my little bit of background, one of my mentors Rafael Kubelik, Czech conductor probably has delivered the best Smetana, Má Vlast anytime. I'm not so fond of the Karajan to be honest, but I thought you chose it because it was about homeland and sort of finding self. Was that on purpose or how did you come to choose "The Moldau"? [singing the theme]
Scud: I think it just occurred to me, and I found it most suitable. Yeah, that's it.
JWR: Sure. And can you speak to cats?
Scud: You mean the real cats?
JWR: Oh I love that book, it's just driving me crazy! Yeah, and I've had the pleasure of conducting that piece a few times.
Scud: Oh wow.
JWR: It's one of life's great joys.
Scud: It's one of my favorite anyway, my lifetime favourites anyway.
JWR: Yeah, yeah. I once even got to play the bass drum part and that's very satisfying. Bam!!! Oftentimes across you films the notion of height, flight, bungee jumping, long climbs, it all seems to be part of the life struggle in a sense. What do your actors think about doing bungee jumping scenes off a bridge?
Scud: Okay, they happen to be very brave kids and I was really happy about that. Like in Amphetamine, the two guys jumping, the shorter guy was even more aggressive. Okay, that is striking mind because it's not a place designed for jumping like that.
JWR: No, it's a bridge!
Scud: It's a bridge in the middle of buildings, and where they jump into is not the sea it's the land. Although we know it doesn't make any difference if there's a...
JWR: If it doesn't, yeah.
Scud: Yeah it's 77-metres high. So where they jump, I decided that for two to jump. Why I did that, but I decided that two to jump is easier for one. Because they are very proud boys they wouldn't do something because of their weakness to affect the effort of the others, so I know they would jump. But still, and both of them had experience of bungee jumping before.
JWR: Oh good, thank goodness!
Scud: So that's good. But after the first jump, okay it took a long time to have everything done and get them up and it shot because it's very complicated jump.
JWR: And the shoot, the cameras. Oh goodness.
Scud: And then come up and then Thomas, the taller one was still breathing and looking at me. And I said--and he said, "Only one more." He knew I needed one more, okay so they jump the second time. And after that, okay because I promised Thomas only one more, so I let him rest. And Byron, the...
Scud: Was watching the pavement to get everything we need, and then he said, "Mister director I think I can do better than that." I said, "Really?" Okay, so another jump. Him and the coach. Okay, but Thomas was...
Scud: Yeah. So he jumped three times, I mean sensational. You don't come across actors like that very often. And for Love Actually Sucks, the climbing the rock climbing, because it's a real story of a rock climber's last days of his life he said... Okay, all of the six stories, the action story, so Osman the guy, he had to learn for six months before the shooting.
Scud: So he was actually quite fluent already, because I insist on doing the scene at exactly where it happened, I know audiences will not care...
JWR: But you will.
Scud: But I do, so...
JWR: I know the feeling!
Scud: Yeah so that's my problem. It's really my problem, so actually I could do my job much simpler if I don't have that sort of strange insistence. People do tell me that the audiences wouldn't care, they wouldn't know. True, but the problem is I know.
JWR: Well maybe, maybe not. But there is also a je ne sais quoi, the feeling of truth, right?
Scud: I was actually standing in that hole that the poor boy spent the last 18 or 19 days of his life, I was there and I had a feeling that I felt that he was still around.
JWR: Oh cool.
Scud: That he wanted his story to be told. I was actually a little bit of trembling when I was there, so I said, "Let's do it. We will shoot here."
JWR: And then his ghost was on film.
Scud: Could be...
JWR: That would be spooky.
Scud: I believe in that.
JWR: That one ghost scene! When the boy comes back, the one that the mother abused, oh that was a nice surprise! Boom, there he is again. So there's lots of naked men in your movies, which is fine. But they're beautiful...
Scud: Yes, they have to be.
JWR: How do you find them?
Scud: Okay. It has to go back to my first film obviously. Which is City Without Baseball, maybe you've seen that.
JWR: Yes, I haven't seen that yet.
Scud: You haven't seen that, that is my maiden film and obviously the worst I've ever made.
JWR: Well you gotta start...
Scud: I don't...
Scud: I don't dare to watch that sometimes because it was so experimental and so stupid. But, what happened was I was shooting... OK, in that film I didn't really mean to do something very spectacular. It was my first film, and I was invited by a friend of mine who happened to be in marketing at the promotional department of the Hong Kong Baseball Delegation. The national team you can say. Okay so he wanted me to make a documentary out of it.
JWR: Oh okay.
Scud: So I return from Sydney, Australia. I was living in Australia then, so I came back and I went to do all the research and at first I interviewed the softball team, the ladies team. And then they were telling me that, the girls were telling me that, "Hey you should go to the mens' team, they're all very tall and handsome." I said, "Really?" So, initially I was starting with the ladies, so I went to the mens. Oh my god! All 6 feet and so handsome, so beautiful. I couldn't believe it actually, and then they begin to tell us about their story, their love for the sport and what happened, blah, blah, blah. And obviously they're love story when we were having some beer. And then I told my friend that, "You know what I've decided to fold in some more money, because even if I was doing the documentary they would give me the money.
Scud: But I'm going to make a drama out of it, so really that's how it started. Then because one of the boy, in the team, he's actually a pitcher and he... Okay how do I say that? He is not gay, but he was sometimes, he would like to have his makeup looking quite feminine. But he's a strong and tall boy. And everybody was actually kind of laughing at him, but I knew he was a very artistic boy. Now he is still working for me in Berlin.
JWR: Oh good, that's a good...
Scud: Yeah after acting for me, he actually graduate... Okay, he is the one in Voyage, the boy who went all the way to the air squat to kill himself. Who collected the dead birds.
JWR: Oh right.
Scud: The lover of Rio, of the psych issues. Okay, that's him. So then I ask him about his fantasies, so I met all of his girlfriends. He is quite straight otherwise, but he is very adaptable to other idea so to speak. And sometimes he would say that "I don't think that I'm gay, but I might be a lesbian." I love that! One day I will put that line into one of the roles in my film.
Scud: So I add a little bit of the intimacy between the pitcher and the lead pitcher of the team, actually in reality they are very good friends and they share the same birthday.
JWR: Oh cool!
Scud: Yeah, but they are not really in love just...
JWR: No, just friends.
Scud: Yeah just friends, but very close friends. But even in my film they are not really in love, very close friends but one moment after a celebration the boy kissed another boy, okay? So I was really surprised... Okay, so that is one part of it. Another thing was in the shower room they are all naked.
Scud: I mean to me that is, was supposed to be...
JWR: Nothing unusual, I'm sure.
Scud: But I didn't realize, at that time in Asian cinemas there's no naked men for over two decades. I actually find out after the controversy coming from, so I was so criticized for mattering with naked men for whatever dirty purpose...blah, blah, blah. I was criticized for a shower scene? Could you believe it! So I said, okay now I realize how Hong Kong has deteriorating to, we used to be very liberal.
JWR: Yes. Scud:
You know in Hong Kong was one of the top film production powerhouse in the world. You produce all sort of films, okay? And then after, especially after 1997 and then after return to China there's...
JWR: Very conservative.
Scud: Because you don't see this of a girl, you only see up to here.
Scud: Not here, even for a girl. And for a boy, nothing beneath. So no wonder it caused such a storm...
JWR: Oh good for you.
Scud: I don't know, I was actually quite fed up because everything people talking about everything was the naked men.
JWR: Yes, that's unfortunate, let's talk about the movie!
Scud: Yeah not about the movie. So I was defiant, I was very defiant. So I made my second film, which is called Permanent Residence. In that film the two boys were almost unclothed throughout the film, okay? One of them being Osman, who was actually the climber in Love Actually Sucks. And he was the, he still is the vocalist of the top dancing Google phone call. So he is a teen idol, and I strip him bare all throughout the film. So interestingly, nobody criticizes anymore. People begin to talk about the film instead, not the nudity. So that's how it all started, and then I realized that I was probably the only one doing it. I decided I will keep doing it. But tell you what, you know that if you watch the Asian films nowadays from Thailand, from Taiwan, from Korea you can certainly feel my...
JWR: Your influence.
Scud: The influence there.
Scud: Yeah, now it becomes very normal. It becomes almost commercially viable.
JWR: Yeah, but I noticed...
Scud: That happens only in this time since I start making films.
JWR: But I notice once in a while you push the envelope even more, where they have actual erections and sometimes they cum. How do you balance? And it still seems totally natural to me.
Scud: Some people ask me, "Why don't you make porn?" I say, "Yes, I keep asking why don't I make porn?"
JWR: You'd make a fortune!
Scud: If I make porn I'm gonna crush it, I mean it's so cheap. It's so easy to make and I don't have to be so demanding to my actors. I mean everybody can do that basically. I don't know, I think real sex doesn't mean it's pornographic.
JWR: Of course not.
Scud: We do real sex in our life, so it has nothing to do with being pornographic or not. I think being pornographic, I think it's the intention. If the intention is just to make money by showing some sex scene, that's pornographic. If you have other message to deliver, then that's art. And I did explain to people why artists prefer nude, OK? I said two reasons: 1, if you go to Europe, to the rest of the world anywhere you see the statues. They're all naked men or women, is it because they want to make them all sensual? Maybe not. I said, I think maybe it's because the artists are simply not interested in the clothes, they want to show the person so why would they show the clothes? What's the use of it. So that's one thing, another thing is, I think all artists are defiant. When the world says something it's not wrong. If it has to be prohibited, they will go for it. I think we do so many nude scenes because they are not allowed. Even if they are allowed, they are not encouraged. The thing is it's a shame if you have so much of it, and they are commercially counterproductive. If I don't do gay films, if I don't have so many nudity in my films I'm sure that my films would sell much better, at least in Asia.
JWR: Yeah, and you can't play them in Hong Kong at all right?
JWR: It's such an ironic, that...
Scud: Yeah, but the Hong Kong is becoming less and less important to me now, as a market. At least...
JWR: Of course.
Scud: At least Thailand is gearing up to be maybe my most important one.
JWR: Oh good!
Scud: My new film, 30 Years of Adonis, will be screened in Thailand from the Day of Songkran, which is their New Year’s Day. So that is probably the most important days of the year, also for entertainment. So I had the honour to be given 30 cinemas.
Scud: From Songkran...
JWR: And when is that holiday? Pardon my ignorance.
Scud: April 12th.
JWR: April 12th.
Scud: Yes. So my film will be screened in...
JWR: 30 cinemas!
Scud: 30 cinemas across the nation, 25 in Bangkok and also in other capital cities. That is the biggest release of my film ever in Asia, so I am very encouraged. So that's why after the U.S. trip I will go to Thailand immediately to give the final push to the campaign.
JWR: Although I must say I was struck too, that's the wrong choice of words you'll find. When the young boy saves the woman from being raped and then he is beaten and gets the rod and stuff, that's the most violence I think I've seen out of you.
Scud: That was so violent that it was actually banned in Hong Kong. So I had to put in the famous dot screen, but I left the music and the voice on.
JWR: Oh really?
Scud: So that was how it was screened in Hong Kong.
JWR: But again the irony of the situation, it was miserable to watch and...
Scud: It is was so bad that while it was shooting that last scene in the tunnel he was invaded, I couldn't stand it myself. I walked out for a long time, keep telling myself that I'm not going to do this sort of thing again. Because it's such a torture to make, it's such a torture to the actors, and it did bring out a very bad style from memories of mine. And you know what happen? When that day close, after all it's a very tough job okay? So we are relieved, and I say, "Let's a have a dinner, let's have feast." But then we were missing Kafka, we were missing Byron. He just disappeared, nobody saw how he went. So that whole night was very difficult for me because no news from him whatsoever.
Scud: Until the lunchtime of the second day about 1 o'clock or so, I hear his voice. I receive his call, and he start crying on the phone. And I said, "Where are you?" "Yeah, I have to see you." So the whole night he was in the mountain, he was just wandering in the mountain thinking about his life. The miseries that happens in his life, and the ultimate question of what do we live for? Why are we living on? So that really brought out a very depressive memories of his, and I think he was in depression for at least several month still after the making of the Amphetamine.
JWR: I bet he can't watch it.
Scud: Yeah, and I think he was annoyed at me too. We actually haven't talked for almost half year, until we were selected by Berlin. So I call him that, "Hey we have to go to Berlin" so then he kind of, we emerged from this...
JWR: Yeah, cool. Wow.
Scud: Yeah, I think Kafka in Amphetamine is so far the best acting in my films.
JWR: Yeah, so far.
Scud: Still and surpass.
JWR: There's some wonderful moments.
Scud: That's right, I'm going with him to Philly this time too.
JWR: Oh good!
Scud: Yeah, for Voyage.
JWR: So where do you find solitude?
Scud: I have always been a lonesome person. I love to be alone. My only pet is a rabbit, because she is always very silent. Sometimes people keep asking me, would you be bossing-- No! I am constantly in an urge to do something realizing that life is so short, okay? Sometimes I'm actually quite restless.
Scud: So I had to drink before, because drinking--actually a little bit of excessive drinking would slow me down. Because I always a problem of my mind goes too fast, but I'm otherwise a very slow person. I'm this lucky, I still have my hands, and my foots. So I cannot do things as fast as I want, I've been thinking so I had a lot of alcohol. Almost became a problem to me. Nowadays the only comfort I can find in my life is the prospect or the desire to shoot something new, and that gives me peace. And that kind of deprives me of the other troubles like, something so absent in my life.
JWR: To shoot something new, that keeps you...
JWR: New is key right? We don't want to make...
Scud: And also I will stay away from the trouble of my... Never fulfilled, never satisfied desire for love and sex. Nobody believe me when talk about sex, they thought--quite so many of them thought I must be raised as sex-active person, given my job. I have sex to so many beautiful people et cetera.
JWR: Yeah, you must be screwing them all, right? Some people would think that.
Scud: I could be put into the Guinness Book of Records in the least sex-experienced person on the planet. I've never met anybody even close to mine.
JWR: Well I'm sorry to hear that in a way.
Scud: I'm so sorry about myself sometimes! It's not that...
JWR: Well this is your hell!
Scud: It's not that I'm impotent, so I have to do the masturbation myself almost every day. But then I never had a chance for a, not say a good one, not even a proper encounter...
JWR: You haven't found your other half.
Scud: I just don't know why, I just don't know what happened to me. So sometimes I comfort myself that maybe, the fact that I'm so insatiable on this part that makes my film sexy. Could be.
JWR: Yeah, you live it out there. You have others do it for you!
Scud: And you know people sometimes say, they are not criticizing those things but your films are not sexy at all. The sex scenes in your films are usually sad. I said yes, "It's not laughable" I think that's because of my own experience. I never experienced any happy sex in my life, I don't know how to make it!
Scud: I don't know how to make a scene.
JWR: Well I won't say a word.
JWR: I've just been to Thailand so…
Scud: I actually live in Thailand too.
JWR: Oh where
JWR: In Bangkok.
Scud: I just bought a place in Pattaya.
JWR: Okay, yeah...
Scud: And at least at the moment my intention is to, if one day I have to retire I'll retire in Pattaya.
JWR: Oh nice. This time I only saw Chiang Mai
Scud: Chiang Mai is beautiful!
JWR: Yes. A little smoggy now.
Scud: It used to be very...
JWR: I know!
Scud: Almost like a paradise, like a heaven. It's a heaven-like place. And I know a friend who had a biggest antique shop in Chicago, it is called Douglas One-- He has a very big one--resort in Chiang Mai. He keep asking me to be there to see, yeah I think maybe the next time I'll do that. Oh Thailand is fascinating.
JWR: Yes, I'll go back for sure.
Scud: The people there are, you know Bangkok is called City of Angels. They are angels, they always smile.
JWR: The Land of Smiles, right?
Scud: They always smile. For very little things they will be very amused and very happy, I mean I don't find any place really comparable to that in...
JWR: Well, Scud you've been very generous with your time. So I'll leave the last word to you, what have I not asked you that you would like to tell other people about your films?
Scud: Too much.
Scud: But there's one thing that, a very frequent question too was what do you want to tell your audience from this film? I keep on saying that the audience owns the film, not me. Once they watch it the film is yours, so to me it doesn't matter at all what message I want to convey. Actually if you look at my films I think I've been story-tell only. I tell stories, I tell the stories that's compelling to me. That I think people would be, would have an impact by it. That is important, that's it. And what they get from it, obviously I don't judge and I don't want to influence peoples' judgment. Some push me up to the left or flight that I was the straight man of gay society et cetera. You know Hong Kong got the gay Olympic, in 2020 I think, and I was asked to be the ambassador for that campaign. I said, "No, I don't deserve it." They said, "Oh you have done so many good things by making those films," I said, "I have only been telling some stories." I never had that noble objective or intention to increase awareness or increase authority in the world. No, I have to say no. I just tell a story I like, that's why I've been making films. Nothing more, nothing less.
JWR: Well I'm looking forward to more of your stories, my friend.
Scud: Thank you!
JWR: It's very kind of you to be with me today, I appreciate it.
Scud: I'm so glad to see you! JWR