When I was younger, I used to visit my grandmother every weekend. As I grew older, it was one of those routines I gradually slipped out of. Even before the pandemic began, I had not visited my grandmother in months. Combined with the circuit breaker of 2020, it had been well over a year since I last saw her or her house.
When the time came to create a film for FLM362 Smartphone Filmmaking for Meaningful Storytelling, I hopped from idea to idea. I wanted to make something cool. I wanted to make something impressive.
But in the end, it became an excuse to spend time with my grandmother.
We were taught to plan the film with storyboards. With the planning and drafting, the film’s story began to naturally take shape, becoming humbler than anything I had initially imagined. I sketched out my grandmother’s apartment in the storyboard, praying that my memory of it was accurate.
When it was time to film, I shot the scenes with my mother in my house, and then went to my grandmother’s apartment to shoot her scenes. One challenge was that my grandmother speaks mostly in Hokkien while I am only fluent in Mandarin. So I asked my mother to come along to help us communicate. In Mandarin, I would tell my grandmother what to do and mime it for her; Grandma would reply in Hokkien and my mother would clarify what she was saying.
When I squeezed into my grandmother’s tiny kitchen to film, I found that some furniture had changed. But the important parts remained the same: my grandmother’s cluttered kitchen surfaces, her tall, large altar with its statues, plaques and lights; and the smell of her cooking.
It turned out to be a relaxed filming experience. On a technical level, I learned how crucial it is to storyboard. Having planned the visuals I wanted really streamlined the entire process, and I was able to get all the scenes and audio I needed with ease.
The film is a simple look at two different homes, separated yet connected, capturing all the things we share in common. Many memories close to my heart, as well as my own feelings of longing, went into the making of this film. It was gratifying and cathartic to craft such a personal story and externalize it all. The satisfaction of completing a heartfelt story of my own—of taking what was previously intangible and being able to express it and actually share it—was truly something special.