“I guess my final dinner would be a good steak,” says Gavin Yap, when I ask for his last supper request.
Obviously, making a film about assassins set in a steak house hasn’t put him off. Take Me To Dinner, Yap’s debut feature film, stars Patrick Teoh as a hit man who decides to get out of the game. But first, he has to both endure and enjoy a final dinner with his associates. The dinner scenes are shot at KL’s Coliseum Café, which dates back to the 1920’s and provides a suitable atmosphere of both wistful nostalgia and lingering smoke: if you’ve ever been to The Coliseum, you’ll know that the steaks here really sizzle.
The “no budget” indie film was shot in an incredibly compressed schedule of 12 days. Yap reveals that everyone “went a bit nuts”, as the location only allowed them to shoot in the early hours of the morning. Whether despite or because of this insanity, the final film is an exciting and suspenseful cinematic experience. While a little rough in places, the sharp script (also written by Yap) shines through and the chemistry between Teoh and Susan Lankester (his love interest) is particularly strong.
The obvious comparisons for a hit man film would be auteurs like Scorsese and Tarantino. Yet Yap avoided directly referencing their movies, or thinking about the genre too much. “I think it’s death to compare yourselves to those films. The only directorial reference I really had in mind was David Lynch. Because he brings that surreal element to everyday life, and I wanted that heightened surrealism.”
Yap decided to make a film before deciding on the film he’d make. So the casting and schedule was locked down before the script was written, and he relied on favours from his filmmaking friends to pull through. He also cast actors he already knew. I ask him if this was a personal preference or just endemic to the way that the KL indie film scene works, where people often work among friends.
“Yes, it’s a KL thing,” Yap says. “Actually I love working with new talent. But with people you know, you know what they can do, you can tell them with short cuts – do this. With new talent, you have to explain and you need time.” As it turned out, he’d worked with most of this particular cast before, when he directed a theatre production of Harold Pinter’s The Homecoming.
How different was the experience of directing theatre and film? “Not so different. The constraints are the same, but film is more collaborative,” Yap says. When it came to the score, written by David Knight, he was happy to give the composer a fairly free reign – after being clear on what he didn’t want. The result is a very evocative soundtrack that enhances key scenes.
So, what was the one thing Yap took away from his first experience directing a feature length film? “You can always have more money and you can always have more time.”
Interview by Ling Low
Gavin Yap’s Top 5 Food Scenes at the Movies
1. The dinner scene from Dead Alive (or Braindead)
This was one of Peter Jackson’s early splatter films. Long before he made Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit, Jackson made awesome gory splatter horror flicks. If you haven’t seen Dead Alive or Meet The Feebles or Bad Taste, I highly recommend them (providing you don’t mind a lot of gore). I just love how disgusting this is. I’m a huge fan of the line “What?? No pudding??” And I love custard!
2. Harold and Kumar finally get their White Castle burgers
As someone who suffers from occasional munchies, this scene really hits home.
3. Goodfellas dinner in prison scene
Great scene. Just love the style of the whole thing. This film, more than any other, made being a gangster look so damn cool. I love the way Paulie slices the garlic. And the whole thing with too many onions cracks me up.
4. Temple of Doom dinner at the palace
This scene freaked me out as a kid and I never forgot it. It tapped into all my fears about food.
5. Final Eat Drink Man Woman scene
I actually don’t remember the scene all that well. More the emotional resonance. That feeling you get when you finally prepare a meal that your father likes. Haha. It just really touched me as a teenager. I’ve never seen it since but that last scene has always stuck in my head whenever I’ve had to feed my family. Not that my dad was anything like the dad in that film. But I like to dramatise things so that scene helps.
Take Me To Dinner is released in selected GSC cinemas on 13 March 2014.