AN INSPIRING EVENT

The story for “Somewhere Like This” was actually inspired by something I experienced. Last year, my cousin (who lives about an hour away) asked if I could pick up some snowboard equipment for him. He bought online from someone that lives fairly close to me, so of course, it wasn’t a problem. While driving to the seller, I thought how this would be such a great setup to meet someone. Safe, not too creepy, and totally relatable. Unfortunately/fortunately the person selling was not my ex-girlfriend haha. I had a good setup, but to add more drama I thought it’d be interesting to make the seller someone from a past relationship. On top of that, I wanted to force the two people to revisit a past memory– to throw them back into what they last remembered of each other. That’s where the telescope came in.

 

 

THE TELESCOPE

As many of you have noticed, I like to put a certain emphasis on objects in the shorts I write. Whether it’s a shell, umbrella, pinwheel, or telescope, I enjoy showing objects as characters themselves rather than mere props that the actors interact with. These objects carry their own story and memories just like a supporting character in the narrative.

I chose a telescope to represent the optimism and hope of Scott and Irenes’ relationship in “Somewhere Like This.” A telescope’s most basic function is to help see things that are far away. On the surface, Scott gives Irene the telescope as a gift before she leaves for college because she once told him she wanted to go stargazing. But on a deeper level, the telescope and it’s ability to bring distant things closer to us, represents the notion of not losing sight of their relationship even when they will soon be separated.

“I know you’re gonna be busy with classes but if you can, it works best if you somewhere far from the city lights. That’s where the skies are the clearest and the stars are the brightest.”

The characteristics of how the telescope works are also reflected in the couple’s relationship. If you live in a metropolitan area, with a lot of ambient city light, stars are difficult to see. It’s not that the stars aren’t there, but the night sky is already lit from buildings, cars, etc. so the stars are less distinct. Scott’s advice to go somewhere away from the city reflects his hope that Irene will not let her new life at college shake their relationship. She is about to start an exciting and different life with new people and experiences that could potentially distract her from Scott. Just like the telescope, their relationship will work best if she doesn’t let the new elements of her life consume her entirely. In essence, Scott knows there will be new factors and obstacles to consider once she leaves, and he hopes she will take the time and effort to remember what’s important.

“Scott you really don’t have to. I mean, I don’t even remember when it stopped working”

“Let me take a look at it. I want to try. I don’t think it’s totally hopeless”

Whether the characters realize it or not, the entire conversation on the driveway as Scott leaves can be seen as reference to their past relationship. Irene has let it go and moved on while Scott wants to take the opportunity to fix it and see if it can work again. When writing, I feel like everything that’s shown, should have a purpose. Why it’s shown, how it’s shown, and when it’s shown. While the telescope as a symbol may not be obviously apparent, I like making connections between different elements in the story to further the themes that are being explored.

 

SCOTT AND IRENE

While the histories of Scott and Irene are not entirely revealed in the short, I did develop their backstories in my mind. Scott and Irene met in high school and began their relationship during that time. In their last year, Irene got accepted to Northwestern University for journalism while Scott stayed home in California to work at his family’s auto shop. Sometime shortly after going to college, the distance and the new experiences took their toll on Scott and Irene’s relationship. Sadly, they parted ways. After finishing at Northwestern, Irene got an internship back in California and that’s approximately when we meet the couple in the story.

Julie Zhan and Robert Ryu were a pleasure to work with. They nailed the performances and I couldn’t be happier. The script itself is relatively short. There’s not much dialogue between the characters so it was their subtleties that really shined through. As for the dialogue, It’s nothing extremely poetic or dramatic. I was aiming for a very “everyday” exchange. When Scott and Irene bump into each other again, I wanted it to play out as realistic as possible. Sure, there could have been more exposition to reveal more, but I felt like a situation like that would actually be pretty concise and more interspersed with uneasy silences.

 

VISUALS

While shooting these original pieces, I always hope every scene is visually interesting. A personal, but unsaid goal is for any moment of the short to look like a photograph. In other words, I’d like for the viewer to be able to pause anytime and that shot should be able to stand alone. Stylistically, I think it’s noticeable that I have certain tendencies while shooting. If you look at the shots in all the shorts I’ve written it’s easy to spot the patterns. I’m drawn to extreme wides where the subjects occupy a small portion of the frame. And more often than not, I like the look of bokeh and very shallow depth of field. I like how natural light hits the lens and creates flares. I like looking at things that might not normally be seen as beautiful. The best example of this is the dust on the floor of the house. When we went to check out that location for the first time, I noticed dust particles floating and trailing in the sunlight as we walked around the house. At that moment, I knew I had to capture that shot for the short. Because of time constraints, we actually had to go back to the house on a separate day to specifically get that shot. It was totally worth it.

While writing the short, I pictured many of the scenes taking place during golden hour– that period of time the sun hangs just above the horizon before setting entirely. Specifically in the house, I wanted to keep most of the interaction within tight shots with blurred objects in the foreground and puddles of sunlight in the background. I found myself squeezing between doorways chairs and tables to make that all happen. Natural light cannot be beat. Especially when working with time constraints, you learn to take advantage of what light is given to you. Sometimes it’s direct and contrasty, sometimes it shines through trees, and other times it bounces off walls with the perfect softness. No matter how the sunlight shows itself, I think there’s always a way to make it beautiful.

Many of the shots (and themes) in “Somewhere Like this” are repeated from previous shorts like

“At Musing’s End”

 

and “Two After Noon”

 

MUSIC

I remember constantly listening to Kina’s “In Your Arms” while writing the script. The song itself is upbeat but has a sense of melancholy to it. I chose to place the song near the end of the short to help convey the bittersweet feeling. Without the song, I think the ending would have been more somber and sad than intended. Visually, the scene of Scott driving away after he realizes Irene has moved on, portrays disappointment and defeat but with the song’s help, we are brought up to a more optimistic and reassuring end feeling. In addition, Kenson’s amazing score blended seamlessly with every scene. We worked together to make sure it could be integrated at all the right places and in the right way. It helps that he is just as meticulous as I am. I’m also very pleased that he incorporated the “In Your Arms” melody in the score. You can listen and download the score here: http://youtu.be/qB7gaxX1nEs

 

 

THE NOTE

“Across clear skies. Among glowing stars. That’s where I’ll find us.”

The confidence in their relationship is forever captured in the note that Irene gives to Scott. It’s something Scott never let go of, even after they separated. When he bumps into Irene again, Scott feels like there’s an opportunity to maybe remind her of what she was once so sure of. But as he soon learns, some things are out of our control. At the end of the short, he leaves the telescope but keeps the note. The fact that he has fixed the telescope does not mean it will ever be used again. This can be directly correlated with their relationship. There are countless elements that need to come together for two people to emotionally find each other again. In this case, time has run its course and it’s unlikely their paths will cross the same way again. Scott keeps the note because it is a reminder of how good something can be and ultimately, it’s what he hopes to find again.

 

FACTS

I bought the telescope from an someone online (coincidentally haha). It was slightly damaged and I still don’t totally know how to operate it. To be honest, I think I just need to go somewhere away from the city lights. harharhar. I painted the three white stars to add some more character the object.

I made two versions of the folded note before settling on the final. The earlier versions used white paper with watercolor. The final version of the note was cut out of a brown paper grocery bag.

We used Christine’s parents home for Irene’s house. Her house was also featured in our WFW where we cooked ramen and the One Millionth Subscriber sketch.

There were some visual elements that were added in post production. The plane flying away was added, one of the murals in the house was removed and replaced with a Mark Rothko painting. One of the shots at the park was meticulously enhanced to add camera movement. Kenson did a great job of enriching the short with subtle visual additions.

The amount dust and haze in the house was exaggerated with household flour.

For certain closeup shots when we didn’t have the actors, Kenson and I doubled as hand models (see if you can spot us!) Christine doubled for Julie feet for one of walking shots in the house.

Scott’s room was actually shot in our office. I rearranged furniture and used different things to cover up the windows. The “bed” is actually one of our couches with an old curtain covering it like a bedsheet :P

We found ourselves chasing the sun (as usual). For the park shots, we were literally running to stay in the sunlight.

 

[Behind the Scenes video coming soon!]

 

 

 

  • Alison

    so pleased this commentary is on the site now! have really enjoyed gaining an extra insight into this beautiful short. love from London!

  • Jingerbread

    Thank you for your commitment to perfection, Wes. It definitely makes a difference.

  • ffarz

    amazing job Wes!

  • Aries

    Nice metaphoric explanation of the telescope. I wish there were a few more shots of Irenes after Scott left her apartment though.

  • kodocha20

    Wow.I never thought with one thing you can get an idea

  • Saajida

    Loved the short was brilliantly executed. The commentary was a great read to gain an insight into all the hard work and effort that you put into your short :) allows us to really appreciate the videos that extra mile! I’m always waiting for the next Wong Fu upload! :D

  • Chris Lee

    it was a very nice short and kudos to this commentary! awesome imagination and creativity wes! loved the story and how it developed!

  • http://twitter.com/fanee Fanny Ly

    Love the notes, so many little details and so well explained! Thanks!

  • http://twitter.com/GighaRebic Gigha Rebic

    I’m really glad you guys do directors’ notes. It shows as every detail we might not have picked up. This was one of my favorite shorts.

  • http://www.facebook.com/Alex.Allie.Huang Alexandra Huang

    This commentary made the video so much more meaningful. It’s such a pleasure to have a peek at the thoughts that goes behind a beautiful piece of art!

  • Rubis

    This was definitely well thought out. Stunning piece of work. Your attention to detail was outstanding.

    All three of you have amazing talent! I think we as the audience are honoured to be able to see the end results.

  • Anonymously in Love

    Wes, you are such a cute romantic! ^^

  • chuckthegirl

    As another detailed person, I really appreciate your details to your shorts Wes. They are subtle but yet pop out giving the piece immense character. With multiple views more can be discovered and become more meaningful. Thank you for sharing your talent and creative juices with us!

  • Henry

    Inspiring

  • http://twitter.com/suejan3 Sue-Jane

    Nice one Wes!

  • Lauren

    wes, the amount of thought you put into each of your videos is really inspiring. loving the NU reference too! :D

  • TY

    thank you for the notes! gives a whole new meaning :)

  • Rachel

    ohhh wes, why are you so creative and profound?? i always love your videos, they say so much and represent so much with such a simple picture. love all the extra details you put into it! awesome, awesome job. :)

  • Bi Tran

    Every time I watch this I notice something new and reading the commentary makes me want to pay more attention to all the detail that goes into this video!~ Nice job WongFu!<3

  • http://www.facebook.com/briana.sipes1 Briana Sipes

    Wow, Wes, you really have the most beautiful mind. Thank you for giving us a glimpse into it. Phenomenal short.

  • AZ

    It’s noticable that both the characters wore fairly neutral, matching colors. I know you like gray and blue :P but was there any symbolism in the clothing?

  • http://karenling.net/ Karen

    Just watched this video. Love it! Such a cute story and really beautiful videography.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=577756822 Joyce Tai

    Wes… this is probably one of my absolute fave videos. Between Somewhere Like This and Strangers, Again… Wongfu is just so incredibly perfect. The shooting, the acting, the ideas, the directing, EVERYTHING. This is why you guys are my absolute favorite youtubers, if not inspiration and respected. I feel so lucky knowing that you guys can continue to do this and share it with the world :)

  • xshagua

    great great great work :)
    I love reading the commentary ^^

  • http://twitter.com/wvubelle Belle@wvu

    It explains a lot!!!! Really really beautiful short!! And you did it Wes, every time I pause, it’s a beautiful photograph there!!! Every new short came out, I thought it was the best, like “Two After Noon”, then the new one is even better!! Keep doing what you are doing….. *no pressure*………. Love from HK~~

  • Sydney

    nice work wes! im a sucker when it comes to bokeh shots. :)

  • Hilary

    Impressive job, Wes! Your stories always have some personal tag there, the visuals & the perspectives. A little bit like my impression of you: quiet and deep in your personal feelings of the surrounding world. In addition to this short, I really like at mazing’s end. Keep up your great work, wes & wongfu!

  • Tri

    Is it weird for me to say that the first thing that came to my mind after reading this commentary was “It must have been hell cleaning up after spreading flour all over the place”. Good thing there’s vacuum cleaner. hehe..
    Great job guys!!

  • JJ

    I watched this twice before reading the commentary and twice after to fully appreciate the beauty in the subtle things that make up this piece. I even noticed that Irene’s shoes managed to stay clean and fresh and still looking like new even after their relationship ended haha. Nice Blue Tom’s though!

  • Vivian Kwan

    Thank you SO much for such a meticulously detailed commentary!

  • giselavish

    BTS and commentary are always the best part! Thank youuuu Wes! :)

  • http://twitter.com/graceblpro Grace Barrato

    I love reading your commentaries! I always learn new things.. Thank you.

  • http://www.facebook.com/donghaezel Hazel Lapitan

    I love golden hour! And I agree with the natural light, it always brings a different life to pictures and videos. Thanks so much for sharing a lot of your insights on this. I feel like you let us into your whole creative process :) Hope you can continue to come up with new ideas and share more with us :D

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Kevin-Chan/15716660 Kevin Chan

    Love it !

  • Frédérique

    It’s interesting to read what goes on before and during the process of making the short. I appreciate observing all the little details that make it so special. Well done to everyone that worked in front of the camera and behind the camera as well!

  • http://twitter.com/fishcakemonster alyson

    i really love this commentary. Thank you, Wes, for making such an amazing video. I usually don’t feel touched that easily watching movies or dramas, but your commentary made me want to cry ;________; i’ve never read something and felt like crying. not until now.

  • Kathy Chiang

    wes is too talented… i am astonished at the meaning of each and every single detail :) i loved it. i needed it too. thank you wes :)

  • Han

    I really like the short. I kinda have a different interpretation for the note “across clear skies, among glowing stars, that’s where I’ll find us.” When Irene and Scott were still in a relationship, it represented their hope and commitment that distance would not change their feelings. But when they are no longer together, it is a “what could have been”, like somewhere in a parallel universe, we may actually be together :)

  • WF4L

    Like I said, one of the best shorts EVER, hands down!!!!

  • WP

    I was wondering whether you made the telescope yourself too! It’s sad to hear that it doesn’t work though…

  • http://www.facebook.com/ethan.deguzman Ethan De Guzman

    How did you fold the note
    It looks really cool

  • German fan

    wow it´s so amazing to see how much passion and love is in your work! thx wes & Wong Fu Productions :) I love your videos guys,i hope there will come more soon :) no matter how long it will take, i know i will love it :D and i hope my friends here in Germany will love it too <3

  • Paulie

    i love love love this commentary, the depth, the thought put into it, awesome work wes!

  • angel

    thank you. thank you for pouring a lot of yourself in your work and for sharing this with us.

  • R

    I wished it were a series! Nonetheless, I loved how the symbolisms played with the story. Wes’ short films’ will never fail to touch my heart.

  • Tiffany J.

    hey wongfu! thanks for…

    all of the happy moments that you have given all of us out here…

    the love expressed in the videos that makes all of us feel all warm inside…

    the meaningful symbols…

    and so many more things…

    wes, the shell that opens the door to fantasy, the broken cup that had been broken hearted, the telescope and the stars out there in the galaxy are all waiting for you out there. keep going! :)

  • Jem

    amazing commentary Wes!!

  • Doris

    I enjoy this short a lot. The ending is very realistic and doesn’t give out false hopes for people who haven’t or choose not to move on from the past.

    Even Irene has already started a new relationship with someone else, when she saw Scott, her heart ached because Scott and their memories always are in the deepest of her but Irene knows it’s morally wrong to even imagine what if Scott and she still are together.
    Thank you WPF for executing this touching story nicely into motion.
    Thank you Wes for the good observation of little things happened between people.

  • Joy

    Thank you for writing up a commentary! Always love reading the director’s note! I still remember some of the notes in ‘at musing’s end’ :) Using “in your arm” is spot on – melancholy indeed! I couldn’t help tearing towards the end when the music’s volume goes up gradually! so sweet but bitter. Amazing job again congraz guys! :) x from Melbourne AUS

  • http://www.facebook.com/Ace.OJJ Ace Ong

    Such a deep and meaningful video. It’s great how it’s so relevant to our lives! The commentary helped us to connect some dots that we were unsure of as well. Keep up the good work! =)

  • cindy

    A brilliant short! enjoyed in shoooo much! :) Thank you Wes! Could clearly see how you aimed for perfection in every video that you made!

  • Robin

    What kind of shoes and pants did Robert have on in the first scene?

  • http://twitter.com/Ru_Joong Haruka Ishimoto

    Simply perfect :) I love how you put in SOO much work for one short…I really admire and love that about you!! Seriously, you are so inspirational! Please don’t every stop what you’re doing! You, Wongfu, and the videos are what make my day :) again thank you! Will always be supporting you!!

  • http://www.facebook.com/eescorpius Elaine Jiang

    I am glad there’s a Director’s Notes because it helps me understand the story so much more. Honestly, I normally don’t really like sad or open endings, but the ending to this short is extremely fitting, because that’s how most relationships normally end…

  • Carolina

    Have to admit I love reading your commentary Wes, there’s just so much more insight and dept then what meets the eye! It has inspired me to work harder on a story i’m currently writing! Although just a dream, it would be nice to one day collaborate on a script with you, like I said it’s just a dream. Keep on writing and directing these amazing short films :)

  • Janine Alyssa

    The background/backstory of what inspired this video made me love the video even more.

  • Grace

    I really enjoyed reading your commentary. You gave a more insight and depth to the short. Thank you.

  • Jayden Embry

    Wow this is such a nice documentary video I really the production and the concept behind it. Great job!

  • http://www.facebook.com/itsjennessa Jenny Wong

    I love how you wrote this! Sounds like you are telling me a story as if you were sitting across the table from me. Thank you.

  • Justin

    Could I ask what kind of telephoto lens you guys use? This was so beautifully shot!

  • Grace

    I’m crying.

  • Ben

    To be honest I thought this was an experience but it is still a great short that I look back to most of the time thanks for another great short Wes

  • catling

    看完导演手记后,又看了一次影片,又有新发现和新体会!

  • Jo

    Beautiful, an absolute pleasure to read and experience this short, Wes.

  • Kenny

    Really amazing! I learned a lot of from you guys..Wong Fu 4 Lyfe!

  • MH

    Wes, WF never fail and for this, I’ve been watching the short by times and still quite stunning by how good Mr. Telescope looks and match the set. Possibly he got a name? I’m trying to find one but barely did somehow…

  • who

    one word! PERFECT! this my favorite shorts you’ve ever done so far! keep it up and Godbless!