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First local 3D film is for real, director assures skeptics

Director of photography Joel Spezesky and the million-dollar-camera being used to shoot Vietnam's first ever 3D film with the latest technology made famous by Cameron's "Avatar"

It screams "improbable." In capital letters. Better yet, in 3D capital letters.

But director Le Bao Trung is anything but diffident about his assertion that work has begun on the nation's first 3D film using the latest technology deployed by James Cameron's blockbluster "Avatar" for... a million dollars.

Trung says he has already taken his first shots of Hon ma sieu quay (Mischievous ghosts). He learnt the 3D technology from a course conducted by Chuck Comisky, James Cameron's visual effects supervisor for "Avatar" said to be a revolution in the history of filmmaking.

"But of course, please do not compare (my work) with a masterpiece like "˜Avatar' and I am not James Cameron either.

"But I can confirm this is a real 3D film shot with authentic 3D technology that Cameron used in "Avatar." I think we must be proud of this project, because finally, Vietnamese are able to make a 3D film, not to mention the first in Southeast Asia and listed in the top ten debut 3D films in Asia."

After attending the ten-day course on 3D filmmaking taught by Comisky in Hong Kong to Asian directors, he was determined to make a Vietnamese 3D film, says Trung. He was admitted to the Asian 3D filmmakers association after finishing his course.

With the screenplay for Hon ma sieu quay, Trung has prevailed upon Galaxy Studio to back his venture with an investment of more than US$1 million. In July, Trung also struck a deal with Hong Kong's Digital Magic, Comisky's Asian partner, for bringing the cameras (costing tens of millions of dollars) and providing the technical expertise to make the first-ever Vietnamese 3D film.

The film's producers, Galaxy Studio and LBT Entertainment (owned by Trung), have confirmed that the film will be a 3D original like "Avatar", not converted from 2D, like many other movies that followed Cameron's masterpiece.

Trung claims he is driven by pride, and feels no pressure about the ambitious project with which some people fear he has bitten off more than he can chew.

"Many people have looked dubiously at this film, but I have enough faith in what I am doing. There are some who have even expressed hostility towards the film. But I want to say: "˜Calm down!' What I want to show in this film is, firstly, its modern technology. We hope people will have a new experience in enjoying a local 3D movie."

The film will be shot over two months and have its post-production work done in Hong Kong. It will also have a 2D version, with the producers saying that they cannot earn enough profits with the 3D alone, because the latter can be screened only in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City.

Hon ma sieu quay is scheduled to hit the screens for the coming Tet (Lunar New Year) festival season (early 2011). The producers had earlier said the film was going to wow audiences this Christmas.

The change in plans added to earlier doubts expressed about the 3D film, but Trung says things are on track, although shooting is not likely to be an easy experience for the cast.

"3D filmmaking requires the cast to pay heed at all times to the twin-lens focus of the camera, contrary to traditional shooting, when the camera follows the actors. The time to set up a scene is longer than normal and the shooting time is five times longer than 2D films. The post-production is much more complex, too. There are lots of surprises in store for the audience."

The film's protagonist is a writer named Nam Linh who specializes in violent e-novels. He gets into trouble with a bunch of ghosts of teenagers who committed suicide because of negative social influences and a lack of parental care. Through the ghosts, Linh gets a chance to understand his teenage son better and amend their somewhat tenuous relationship.

Trung does not want to say anything more about the film or its plot.

"I cannot foretell anything or comment more until the film is screened. But I can assure you it is real, not fake."

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