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Hey kids, I had the honour of an exclusive chat with one of Hong Kong’s most acclaimed screenwriters.  Ivy Ho, the writer of such films as Comrades: Almost a Love Story, July Rhapsody and Jade Goddess of Mercy graced the Asian American International Film Festival to support her directorial debut Claustrophobia, starring Karena Lam and Ekin Cheng

 Dig it.


Ivy Ho


The Lady Miz Diva:  I understand your choice to become a director originated with your passion for the story you wrote that became Claustrophobia.

Ivy Ho:  Yes, you see it’s very complicated. Director means power.  So, a lot of people become a director because that’s the logical thing to do.  If you started as a continuity person, you’d naturally want to move on to become a director because just like if you started as a clerk, you’d want to move on to all sorts of promotions from officers, to managers, to a CEOs.  But a director has no bearing on creativity, there’s nothing like that.  I mean only those who know how to create stories can do it, but to me, we have too many directors who are technically proficient, who start off as production assistants and then they move on to become directors, but they don’t have the stories to tell, or they don’t know how to tell their story.


LMD:  So this is something you’ve added to the mix of Hong Kong directors?

IH:  I feel Hong Kong should have more writer-based directors, and also becoming a director shouldn’t be the ultimate target.  You see a lot of writers; they first become writers because they know it’s the means to become a director.  As soon as they get their hands on the helm they would move on and they would hire someone to write the scripts for them.


LMD:  I’ve heard you say you would never direct someone else’s script.

IH:  Because power contaminates anything.  A lot of people, if you flaunt the status as a director, you would get girlfriends, a lot of girls would go to bed with you and that sort of thing, and you would get respect and your parents would be proud of you.


LMD:  Did you get a lot of support from any of the well-known directors and stars you’ve worked with when you decided to become a director?

IH:  I haven't checked their opinions and I wouldn’t care. I don’t think they are too keen.  Now that Claustrophobia is out, I don’t think they are very jealous of me, “Yeah, never mind about her, she’s making these sorts of boring movies, who cares?”  I mean, I shouldn’t be caring about how other people feel.  I feel that this is a worthwhile story. I would fight for any chance to have a good story executed.


LMD:  One of the intriguing things about Claustrophobia is you’re known for the wonderful dialog of your screenplays, yet this film doesn’t have a lot of dialog and depends a lot on very subtle facial expressions and gestures.

IH:  That’s why I think Karena {Lam} is excellent in her role. I think all the drama rests with her.


LMD:  There’s the wonderful scene when she’s in the boss’ car and she looks back at where his daughter would be sitting, how do you get that from an actor?

IH:  She’s is perfect.  She is a very inspired, talented actress.  I mean, she is like a dream come true.  You figure in your mind, and than here comes Karena doing exactly what you had in mind, or what you haven't had in mind.


LMD:  So you did allow your actors the freedom to interpret their roles as they saw fit?

IH:  Yes, sometimes, for instance, Karena gave the film a little of her interpretation, because I wanted to leave it open; who started this game?  Who had this feeling?  Who initiated this thing?  Actually, I’m vague, I didn’t want to pinpoint, but Karena in a way she said, “I feel I have something for her, that’s why I want to seduce him,”  That’s why in the second to last scene when they’ve come to a meeting in mainland China, Karena speaks in such a very sexy voice.  It wasn’t in the script, but it’s okay, it’s possible for her to interpret it that way.  But to me, if it were me I would leave it more neutral, but its okay.


LMD:  When you presented the script to your leads, did you say to Ekin Cheng, “Okay, he seduced her,” or “She seduced him,” to Karena?  Was it that ambiguous to them?

IH:  No, as the director, as a writer, I would go on saying that there is a lot in the stories that I don’t know, that I would never know because I’m not God, and I doubt there is a God.  A writer’s role is not to tell people that you know everything, you just tell them how to do things, but you don’t have all the answers.


LMD:  I wondered about that flood scene…

IH:  Which is fake!


LMD:  I wondered if you waited and watched the weather for a typhoon?

IH:  We shot the whole thing in January. January in Hong Kong is not the typhoon season.  It was very cold; Karena was very professional, she wore thin clothes to fake summer. It was below 10 Celsius.


LMD:  You mentioned you had a limitation of 16 days to shoot the film.  What would you have changed or added if you had more time and money?

IH:  I think we didn’t have enough shots, particularly for the storm scene.  After Karena has gotten into the taxi and the taxi broke down, during that section there should have been more shots from different angles, and also there should be POV shots from the passengers of the cars.  Now what you’re seeing is those people in the car talking among themselves, but there should also be cutaway shots where when the passengers are not talking, they look at the street, they look at the pedestrians.  Originally, I had the last day shooting that part and maybe shooting some more aerial shots, of them passing into the tunnel or coming out of the tunnel.  Those are spectacular shots to have but may be unaffordable.


LMD:  Are you facing those same budget challenges with your next film, Crossing Hennessy?

IH:  The budget is even lower because with Claustrophobia, we only had 8 scenes and a lot happens in a car.  A car doesn’t cost you a lot, but with Crossing Hennessy, there are more than 50 scenes.


LMD:  What does Crossing Hennessy mean?

IH:  Hennessy is the name of a road.  It has nothing to with whiskey - that would be Drinking Hennessy.  Hennessy was the name of a British governor.  Our streets are always named after the colonial governors and Hennessy is a thoroughfare in Wan Chai.


LMD:  What do you want to tell audiences about Claustrophobia?

IH:  This is not the typical romantic love story you have in mind, so be careful.




~ The Lady Miz Diva

July 25th, 2009







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Exclusive Photos by LMD

Film stills courtesy of Irresistible Films







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