Recently, news on Liew Seng Tat's 'The Girl With No Head' surfaced on Facebook. The curiously-titled venture managed to secure support from the Taipei Golden Horse Film Promotion Project, an endeavour which aims to "promote collaboration between Chinese filmmakers and international industry professionals".
The Girl With No Head tells the story of its titular protagonist who passes away but returns from the dead.
“This girl comes back,” Seng Tat explains, “she’s dead, but she physically comes back to settle an unfinished business — this thing that makes her so eager, so strong. She just has this very strong will to live and even though she’s dead, she comes back for this thing.”
The film is a comedy-drama, and is Seng Tat’s attempt at combining “melancholy, sadness and comedy”. It’s being written with young author Zedeck Siew, whose past credits include being editor for Kakiseni and Poskod.my.
“It’s my first time collaborating with a co-writer,” Seng Tat explains.
“I’ve always wanted to at least experience co-writing with someone as writing has been a very personal process for me — just me, myself, sitting there, writing — and I hope something interesting will happen now that we have two brains thinking about the same thing.”
According to Seng Tat, there’s a limit to a person’s “brain cell capacity” and he is glad to have someone else’s perspective in writing the story. He also believes that having a co-writer expedites the story creation process.
“I tend to spend a long time if I were to do it myself,” Seng Tat confesses.
“With a co-writer, you’re not talking to the wall anymore. You’re talking to a real person now, bouncing ideas back and forth. It’s an entirely different process.”
He recollects his experience writing 'Lelaki Harapan Dunia', a big winner at the 27th Malaysian Film Festival which has now gone on to become Malaysia's third Academy Awards submission.
“I went through a stage where I sat on things too long and almost gave up on the story. You can feel numb — like there’s no point telling this story anymore — but that’s only because you’re fighting the battle alone.”
Both him and Zedeck are still working on the first draft, but they’ve finally put down the outline of the story and all its characters on paper.
The Chinese-language film also serves as an avenue for Seng Tat to experiment, something he hopes to continue doing with each film. He informs us that The Girl With No Head will contain elements not in his previous films, and people can expect it to be quite distinct from Lelaki Harapan Dunia in terms of process and writing, just like how that film set itself apart from 'Flower In The Pocket'.
“It’s just a habit of mine to want to try and experience. I wasn’t trained in filmmaking, so every time I try to start a new project it’s like film school to me,” he tells us.
“So co-writing with Zedeck is a new venture to me, and this new movie will have some minor CGI, special effects, and make-up involved. How do we see this headless body? Like, how do we see this headless body around town, how do we see the head still talking without the body?”
Seng Tat describes progress as “so far so good” and hopes things continue smoothly. There’s no release date just yet as the project is still in very early stages, but expect to hear more about it within the next year.
“The Girl With No Head might have something different to offer,” he concludes, “if it’s bad, blame it on Zedeck.”