Mr. Wang’s Kitchen

Documentary, New Zealand, 2007. 3’20 min.
Team:
Samuel Baker, Luoni Ma, Adam Rameka, He Wang.

Summary

The movie is about the discovery by a tourist of an amateur DVD instructional series on how to cook authentic Chinese meals. On one of the chapters there is a little segment about a dish, which contains dog as the main ingredients. True to rumours, the show includes the live killing of the dog, which in these Asian countries is done to maintain the freshness of the meat. Apparently, the more painful the death is for the dog, the tastier the meat. Many videos have surfaced on the Internet of the black market of dog trading and brutal killings in Asian countries, but never has the brutality shown to dogs been used in a made-for-DVD cooking show. The person who discovered this DVD series has set up a petition to influence such barbaric acts as dog eating in an effort to stop this practice.

Team

The team included several members from outside our 322 design group. The members of the original group from design are Samuel Baker, in charge of camera operation, Luoni Ma, actress, script writer, and editor of film and sound, Adam Rameka, camera operator, script writer, and editor of film and sound, and He Wang, actor and film and sound editor. The chef, played by Yao Yao, and film student “Bao Li” also deserve a mention for helping us with aspects of the film, as does design student Simon Hellyer, for providing us with the location to film.

Behind the scenes

Our original idea was to have the film seem as if it was from a cooking show on television in China. The problem with this was the editing and the camera shots, and finding a suitable location to film. It was impossible to find a kitchen set as is found on television shows. Therefore we changed the idea to be a made-for-DVD type of production.

Another aspect that affected the media on which we felt the film would come from was the Dog. The original script included the on-screen killing of the dog, in such a way that it was a mundane and everyday occurrence for such things to be shown on television in China. Unfortunately, once we had found a place to film, we were not able to have the dog in the kitchen, obviously for health reasons. After trying to find places that may let us have a dog in the environment we wanted, we realized that this was going to be impossible. We therefore decided to film without the dog, and planned on editing the dog in later.

This was where the next problem arose. We found it just as hard to get a dog as we did to find a place to film. We had secured multiple dogs, but found that they were not always available. After filming the main video, we had the idea of going to a pet shop and filming a bunch of dogs in such a way that it looked as if our actors were in a market in China, picking the dog to be cooked. We could therefore play this scene in the introduction of the cooking show to show. The problem with this is that animals are very hard to work with. On arriving at the pet shop, the dogs would only sleep in their kennel. After trying to coax them on to look frightened, as if they were about to be eaten, they would not move. We then realized we were running out of time, and decided to forget about using real animals. We did incorporate a toy dog which is chopped instead, with sound effects. Of course, we would have loved to use a real dog.

Production

When we started to produce ideas for the film, we decided that the television-show format would require multiple cameras for our filming, so we could switch between angles in a similar fashion to television shows. As such, we ended up with four different cameras, all recording the same thing from various angles. This meant we had a lot of footage to sort through, deciding which camera had the best angle on filming. We also recorded the sound through a microphone on a boom, as we felt the echo from the kitchen wouldn’t provide us with adequate sound. Unfortunately, when transferring the data from the cameras to the computers, the quality of the footage decreased, and more importantly we lost the sound entirely. Therefore, we decided we would voice-over the actors speech and sound effects. For sound effects, the dog was a simple recording we had made, and the frying of the meat was a plastic bag being rubbed together. The lighting in the kitchen was adequate for our filming although we did have spotlights with us as a backup. The subtitles, and introduction graphics and animation were all done in Adobe After-Effects, as none of the team were too skilled in any applications on the Macs. The main editing between the four cameras was done on the Macs though.

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