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3rd September 2012
Title sequence spin
Title of film: Once, When We Were Young
Director: Rob Chiu
Rob Chiu's filmic narrative for OFFF opener

How did the film come about?

This is the third title sequence that I have done for OFFF and was my fifth conference for them speaking in Barcelona twice, New York, Lisbon, and now Mexico City. I have become friends with the director of the festival over the years; Hector Ayuso Ros and while I was filming his wedding anniversary party last year in Mexico he invited me to come back the next year and talk at the first OFFF conference in Mexico City. I mentioned that I would really like to have another shot at the titles again. The two that I did previously were for New York in 2007 and Lisbon in 2008 but were co-directed as part of a collaborative effort.

How did you evolve the original idea?

I wrote the story. I always try to have the original idea for my films otherwise I would find it hard to direct with as much passion. I already knew I would film it in Mexico City before I had even written the story so with this as a big part of the inspiration and process I went about coming up with an idea using various story elements that I have always wanted to explore; ie. kids, science fiction and coming of age.

The original idea started with the end of the world (as it’s 2012) and so many predictions have been made. This then developed into a coming of age story that is occurring while we think the world is ending. This plot then progressed into a multiple time line story which I have been introducing into my work for the past three projects exploring what if we thought the world was ending over an extended period of time?

I wanted to make the title sequence more than just a regular title sequence, by evolving the established format into something that had a narrative substance and would engage people and take them on a journey. It sounds kind of cliche saying that but I really wanted to try telling a story in a really short amount of time but without losing the big feeling that I always strive for within my personal work.

What was behind your decision to use a voice over and not dialogue or a music track?

The kids in the film weren’t actors so would not have been able to carry the film on their shoulders as much as a trained actor would so I made the decision very early on to have a powerful voice over to carry the viewer through the film. Also it’s easier to take the film in over a short period of time with a guiding voice taking you through the film. I had a lot of story to fit into 5 minutes! With regards to the music, I had a few sessions with Ben ( in his Berlin Neukölln studio until we decided upon trying something a little different from the other title sequences hence the piece isn’t specifically music driven as many of the other OFFF titles are including my previous efforts.

Did you shoot on location in Mexico and why was this?

I shot in Mexico City in a number of locations one of which I later found out was a pretty hardcore place to shoot in! Iztapalapa de Cuitláhuac, Peñón de los Baños, Colonia del Valle and Santa Maria de la Ribera. I really wanted to shoot in Mexico because of the aesthetic of it. I wanted to really capture the feeling of Mexico City (especially for the conference which was taking place there). I wanted to kind of replicate the feeling of the OFFF NYC titles as far as capturing the essence of a city without seeing all the typical landmarks etc. I’m also secretly heavily inspired by Tony Scott’s Man On Fire 😉

What were the main challenges of the production and how did you overcome them?

The main challenge was there was no production! We had no experienced producer, a group of six kids who were all friends but had never acted before and whom I met the day before the shoot and virtually no budget to make all this happen. Manuel Alcalá who pulled everything together alongside Astridd Campos Morales (who works regularly with the OFFF conference) ended up creating a small miracle together.

I have to say a massive thanks to Paul O’Callaghan my regular collaborating director of photography who believed enough in the project to come all the way to Mexico with me for a week for free. The final production hurdle to overcome was the amount of post-production the story required. Originally the idea was to work with a friend on the project but the amount of shots began to really mount up and then there was all the typographic animations for the actual speakers names of the conference so I turned to Night Shift in Paris who do 90 percent of all my commercial work. They were also really into the project and worked pro-bono to get the job done. I owe a lot to these guys!

Director, writer and editor: Rob Chiu. Producers: Astridd Campos Morales, Manuel Alcalá & Rob Chiu. Executive Producers: Cocolab, Centro & Hector Ayuso Ros. Director of Photography: Paul O'Callaghan. Music composed by Ben Lukas Boysen. Voice Over: Luis de Velasco. Post production by Night Shift Paris - Julien Desplanques, Mathieu Hue, Nolwenn Hajo. Post-producer: Florent Quint. Colorist: Mathieu Caplanne. Compositing artists: Olivier Stéphant, Julien Bonnet, Jeff Descoubes. Intern/rotoscope: Florian Lamy. Sound recordists: Manuel Becerril, Francisco Quiles, Ignacio Osorio Santiago. Camera assistant: Gilberto Corona. Sound Engineer: Uriel Esquenazi. Cast: Emiliano Cortés, Alejandro Caballero, Paula Morales, Víctor Corral, Braian Salazar, Ximena Alvarado, Eduardo Leyva. Drivers: Alejandro Garcia & Victor Rodriguez. Thank you Frank Beltrán, Jochen Hirschfeld, Tigre Pictures, Miguel Angel Iglesias for the vans & the production office, MCO, Hector Ayuso Ros & Aimée Campos.