Close up… Bernard Chauly

Updated: 22 Oct 2009
Close up… Bernard Chauly

By Brian Kwan

Local film director Bernard Chauly, known for his work in ‘Gol & Gincu’, is back with a new flick, ‘Pisau Cukur’ (malay term for gold digger). Brian Kwan gets the lowdown

Bernard ChaulySo have you encountered or been involved with a gold digger?
Encountered, of course. But they usually deny being one, which isn’t surprising. Involved with a gold digger? Not rich enough to entice any!

A fan of Kanye West’s ‘Gold Digger’ tune, perhaps?
I’m not really a fan of Kanye West generally but his ‘Gold Digger’ tune is catchy raunchy. I hope our theme song will catch on – ‘ERT’ sung by Farah Asyikin, written and produced by Audi Mok with lyrics by Rafidah Abdullah.
What made you decide to make a film about gold diggers? On a ship, no less.
Rafidah, the writer, had an idea of creating a love story set on ship. And a separate idea about three gold-digging girls. Somewhere along the way Lina Tan, the producer, pitched both ideas as one and ‘Pisau Cukur’ came about! Lina, Rafidah and I work well together and we enjoy telling stories about strong female protagonists. The idea of setting it on a ship so that we could film and cruise was of course, wishful thinking!

But why not use a proper ship, rather than a swimming pool and hotel lobbies?
Halfway through the scripting process, when the option of shooting on ships belonging to the main cruise liner company in the region fell through, I saw it as a blessing because by that point, the script had inspired me head for a slightly stylised tone. I wanted to steer clear from drab reality, wanting nuanced ‘punched-up’ reality instead, conjuring the ‘idea’ of being on a fantasy cruise where rich sugar daddies abound, where people dress fancily and wear big hats. A pool deck that could look like a David Hockney painting rather than a Star Cruise ship.  Our ‘ship’, Putri Duyung (Mermaid Princess) became a composite of all this, the name created from characters the two main stars, Maya Karin and Nur Fazura have played in past films.  

Any plans to continue this film as a TV series?

The option is definitely there but it’s dependant on the reception of the film. It’s also a producers’ call. I think ‘Gol & Gincu’ became a mini-phenomenon when it developed into ‘g&G The Series’. We’ll have to see with this one.

How’s the filming process been for you in this particular production?

Fun, fun, fun! Which is why I love directing. The actors in this project in particular, Faz, Maya, Aaron Aziz, Eizlan Yusuf, Redza Minhat, Rahim Razali, Khatijah Tan, Umie Aida, Sharifah Sofia and many others, made the process truly enjoyable, not just because the script called for many hilarious scenes to be acted and directed in a fun, sharp and translucently sexy sort of way. 

Any crazy (or supernatural) incidents on set?
Shooting long hours, sometimes into the night, everyone has their own way of keeping their energy up, usually just by being gila! 28 days of filming is remembered by small incidents like Faz and Liyana Jasmay making silly music videos using their phones, forcing my first AD to cross-dress as an extra with a huge afro, a friendly shaving foam ‘fight’ between the stars on the last day of shoot. . .  

What about accidents?
I think a lot of people were expecting sparks, diva tantrums between the two stars working together for the first time. Disappointing for tongue waggers but thankfully for us, they honestly got along well and worked together as a dynamic duo. I hope it comes across on screen for the audience. No big accidents on set. 

Bernard ChaulyEvery film you’ve directed has won an award. Has that changed anything for you?
Not really every film lah! When I was starting out, winning awards for my short work opened doors, helped get me a scholarship to further my craft and etc. With feature films, I’ve not won any major awards I had my eyes set on but to be honest, I think the bigger challenge for emerging Malaysian filmmakers is to win the hearts of our sceptical, fragmented local film audience rather than convincing juries, local or abroad. That continues to be my main mission in making Malaysian films.  

If you were given total creative control, what sort of film would you make?
Hopefully my next film, which is a story about an old lady who dreams of setting up an ostrich farm. Everyone thinks she’s crazy, except for an 11-year-old orphan. Set in Kelantan, it’s a story I’ve been developing for quite a few years now. Maybe 2010 will be the year it’ll get made?!

‘Pisau Cukur’ opens on Nov 5. Click on for movie trivia, downloads and treats.