JANUARY 28, 2022
AUS | 10 minutes | 2021
Drama short film directed by Tung Bach
Starring Tung Bach, Trang Nguyen, Quan Nguyen, Otis Jean-Louis
Ring Me When You’re Ready
As a young Vietnamese filmmaker in Australia pens a script about a missed opportunity, he is reminded of an opportunity he, too, has missed. Meanwhile, back in his home country, a fated meeting breaks the heart of a girl he knows. The 7711km between Melbourne and Hanoi is stretched further by a phone call that never happened.
CineAsian Films (CAF): What inspired you to make Ring Me When You’re Ready?
Tung Bach: When I first moved from Hanoi to Melbourne, the excitement of getting to experience life in a different country soon turned into countless thoughts about how much I had taken the 17 years back in my home country for granted. It took me a while to realize that all these missed opportunities, all these “what-ifs” have been unknowingly welded into who I am; and as personal as this feeling of yearning is, I know for a fact that it is not uncommon. Thus, by extension, the mission of representing the Vietnamese cultural identity came to my mind. With the encouragements from my friends and teacher, I launched into making what came to be ‘Ring Me When You’re Ready’ – a story that is both a brick on a 7711km long bridge that connects Melbourne to Hanoi and a plane ticket to fly me home (metaphorically of course). And what better plane to fly back home on than one carried by the wings of love? “I’m young” I thought, “That’s what young people do, right? We love. We make mistakes. We lose things. We may regret it, or not. Whatever. Blame it on youth.” My longing to reconnect with somebody from a lost time, blended into my yearning to tread the streets of Hanoi that I hold so dear – all the teenage angst, all the love and the losses, all came together to create ‘Ring Me When You’re Ready’.
CAF: What were some of the challenges you faced while making this film?
Tung Bach: Looking back at it now, memories of the challenges my crew and I faced during the production of the film are just a blur. I remember spending a lot of time honing the screenplay to a standard I deemed adequate. The film ended up going through 2 different plot changes and 9 rewrites. ‘Ring Me When You’re Ready’ is actually my high school graduation short so I had to abide by a number guidelines including a 10-minute limit to the runtime which I still begrudge. There were also time windows for production dictated by the Assessment Authority and it was not possible for me to work outside of these periods, which was complicated by, of course, the global pandemic that affected when it was available for us to shoot the film outdoors. To make matters worse, ‘Ring Me When You’re Ready’, being as ambitious as a high school short film can be, was shot in two different countries. This meant different social distancing restrictions during the COVID pandemic on top of the already difficult task of me being an off-shore director. Thanks to my crew’s impeccable support in scheduling the shooting days, as well as careful preparation on both ends on the production, we made it work. We rehearsed the Hanoi segment many times leading up to the shooting day after I had already secured a highly descriptive shot list and a detailed storyboard (hand-drawn by my amazing artist). The shoot in Hanoi was longer than expected due to some internet issues that interfered with me directing via Discord but the results were not disappointing (minus all the continuity errors that had to be corrected in post- production). On the Melbourne side, my co-star and I went through multiple live table reads to build up chemistry and make alterations to the lines where necessary before the shoot and the efforts also paid off. There were, without a doubt, many more challenges that my crew and I overcame to create ‘Ring Me When You’re Ready’, but the very completion of the film has brought us enough happiness to just unknowingly forget all the hardship undergone.
CAF: What do you hope people can take away from watching this film?
Tung Bach: Obviously, I want people to have a good time viewing it. I want the audience to appreciate in the style inspired by multiple artists such as Trần Anh Hùng and Wong Kar-Wai. I want the audience to take in the cultural representation of Vietnam as not simply a small part of the Australian multiculturalism, but part of a harmonious convergence between two distinct cultures equally featured in a short film. I want the audience to learn about and fall in love with the antique beauty of Hanoi, the city I was born in, and I want them to take a walk with me through Melbourne’s bustling streets. And finally, ‘Ring Me When You’re Ready’ is essentially a story about reconnection and missed chances, so I want the audience to take it as they may and try to reconnect with the home and the people that they loved or to find peace in the melancholy of missed opportunities. Look back at where you have come from and all who have walked with you! Live life adventurously and without regret!
CAF: Are you working on anything new?
Tung Bach: I just recently received an offer from the University of Melbourne to enroll in the Bachelor of Film and Television course, which I will accept. I think that it is an honor to study at the oldest film school of Australia and to continue to improve my abilities to tell good stories here. I, of course, am still set on continuing to represent the Vietnamese culture in audio-visual media. Total freedom still scares me and I am still trying to navigate through it to find myself a project I am as passionate about as ‘Ring Me When You’re Ready’. It is still only in the research state, but perhaps it is not too early for me to start work on my first feature so it can one day hit the theatres. Maybe, hopefully, it will not be an opportunity that I miss. Maybe, hopefully, I will be ready.
Ring Me When You’re Ready is one of the many great projects shared with CineAsian Films through our submissions process. If you’d like to join them, submit your film.
Director, Writer, Producer, Editor: Tung Bach
Cinematographers: Tung Bach, Krish Miglani, Thanh Khau
Original Song: Nguyen Vu Anh Quan