Friday February 22, 2013
HBO Asia reaches milestone with Dead Mine
By SHEELA CHANDRAN
HBO Asia reels in its first original movie, Dead Mine.
AFTER over two decades of being in the entertainment business, HBO Asia has reached a milestone with the release of its first feature film – an action-horror – in Asia.
Dead Mine, the title of the English language movie, is jointly produced with Singapore-based creative services company Infinite Studios. It is directed by Steven Sheil, who gained widespread recognition for his work in a grisly yet comedic horror, Mum And Dad (2008).
The film tells the story of an amateur treasure hunter, who assembles an expert group of hunters to investigate a possible location for the legendary Yamashita’s Gold – lost treasure looted from across Asia by Japanese forces during World War II.
Venturing deep into the jungles of a remote Indonesian island, the group finds itself under attack and forced into an apparently abandoned mine, only to become trapped underground in a Japanese Imperial Army bunker. The team soon realises that it is not alone, and is forced to decide between escaping and fighting to survive.
The film features an international amalgam of actors, creative and technical talents. Britons Sam Hazeldine and Les Loveday take on the roles of former soldier Stanley and the pampered lead character, Pryce, respectively.
Malaysian actress Carmen Soo plays Su Ling, Pryce’s girlfriend. Also in the cast are Japanese action star Miki Mizuno, Singapore-based Japanese actor Jimmy T and Indonesian actors Ario Bayu, Bang Tigor, Joe Taslim and Mike Lewis.
For Sheil, it has been an immeasurable experience working with cast members who were committed and highly professional.
“I was initially apprehensive of having an international cast from different countries and cultures coming together. But thankfully, the cast members have been phenomenal. They have worked really hard and trained themselves to slip into their respective roles. They have been fantastic and I could not have wished for a better cast,” said the British director in a phone interview from Batam, Indonesia,
For Soo, it was an irresistible offer due to the movie’s interesting script, a talented cast and the chance to play a mean-spirited character.
“It’s always more fun to play a character who’s cold, driven, ambitious and unlikeable (laughs). In the movie, I play Pryce’s snobbish girlfriend who is determined to unearth the hidden treasures in the mine. The exposure was really great and it enabled me to further explore my talents,” said the award-winning actress who shot to fame after starring in homegrown movies like The Hunter, Baik Punya Cilok and the Filipino film Tenement 2.
The petite beauty added it was a blessing to work with Sheil who was extremely patient and encouraging.
“Steven constantly motivated us to add different dimensions to our character. Besides regular rehearsals, he took extra efforts to discuss various ways to understand our character and give our fullest potential,” said Soo, who also stars in upcoming movies The Borneo Incident, Ghost Child and Double.
Shot entirely in Batam, Indonesia at Infinite Studios’ brand new studio facilities, comprising two sound stages (30,000 sq ft and 15,000 sq ft) and a one-hectare back lot facility, as well as supporting offices and workshops, the strong production team worked together to create a realistic backdrop which contributed to the realistic context of the film.
All the interior scenes were shot in the bigger sound stage, while the external scenes feature the picturesque sights of Batam.
HBO Asia decided to narrow in on the horror genre as it is rated highly among Asian viewers, said HBO’s vice president of programming Erika North.
“Action horror touches the right buttons with our viewers. The fact that the movie has an international cast and elements of Asian mythology seemed like the perfect fit for our first feature film,” explained North.
North hopes the film would serve as the start of more original content from Asia.
“The experience of working with Infinite Studios on this production has been a first step and wonderful experiment. HBO United States, HBO Central Europe and HBO Latin America have been successful in creating productions and the time has come for HBO Asia to follow suit.
“The Asian film industry is in a healthy state and there are a lot of talents from Asia. To produce our own content is therefore a natural progression for us. Dead Mine is a first step and we are keen to produce more in future,” North added.
Dead Mine also boasts good production values from the involvement of key creative talents such as in-house production designer Ian Bailie, who served as supervising art director on the films Atonement and Pride And Prejudice. Furthermore, award-winning Australian cinematographer John Radel has worked on feature films like Gillian Armstrong’s docu-drama Unfolding Florence and The Philosophers.