Director, Rich Ho, shares his thoughts
behind the making of HEAVENS: THE BOY AND HIS ROBOT movie.
If I could tell any story in the world, one that my wife and children could enjoy together with me, what would it be?
The inspiration for HEAVENS: THE BOY AND HIS ROBOT was born from the desire to make a movie that would bring to many families an enjoyable experience of laughing, crying, and sharing together.
This story I wanted to tell has action, adventure and drama, peppered with comedic moments and irony. It brings imagination to life: from the rumble of fighter-robots to epic inter-galactic battle scenes. Though the movie contains a lot of cool stuff, futuristic elements and big battle scenes, I decided to shoot it in a handheld documentary style so that the audience can enter this fantastical world by following the lead characters of the story through a closer personal journey.
I also wanted to make a movie that would express different languages and cultures as naturally and genuinely as possible. Technology today allows us to communicate and work with people around the globe seamlessly. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve entered the homes and offices, either physically or over video meetings, of people whom I now know as friends, and who live across different seas and time zones from me. This new world to me will one day be the norm for my children. The world is becoming increasingly cross-culturally connected and integrated for us and our children, and our stories and movies need to reflect that.
This movie is a first in many ways. For my country, Singapore, I believe it is the first of its kind. Many people had told me how this movie would be impossible to make because of the magnitude of resources it would require. But with the events of the 2013 VFX green protests still fresh in my mind, I was motivated to look for a way to harness the power of technology to create a workflow that would be beneficial for the industry. I knew it had to be profitable, so that the art and business of the industry could continually grow, be cultivated and be self-sustaining. Through much research and development from 2013-2016, together with various R&D partners, I finally found a breakthrough in a technology which had the potential to save time and costs in a significant way. I found that we could use Graphics Processing Units (GPUs) and real-time rendering technology in practical ways that could be integrated into the film creation workflow. Effectively shortening the time for an artist between idea and final creation. This has led to the creation of what, I believe, is one of the world’s first movies created entirely with GPUs and innovative real-time technology.
This movie is also a first in terms of the breadth of collaboration with many others who were willing to take a chance on this dream: to make a first ever high concept movie, which pushes the boundaries of technological application in the movie-making process, thus creating a host of new possibilities across the industry.
This was made possible through technology, which has helped us to connect with and grant us access to talents around the world. This multi-national remote working set up, which started in 2012,would prove crucial in laying the foundation for continuing the work through the Covid-19 pandemic.
Nevertheless, no matter how exciting technology has advanced or fluid life has become in these times, what remains at the heart of making a film are the personal journeys of each individual person involved and the stories that emerge from them.
HEAVENS: THE BOY AND HIS ROBOT is a story to be enjoyed together with friends and family. Just as Kai, the film’s lead character, grows as he steps up to want to make a difference to his world, the making of this movie is very much ten years of my own personal story, one I’ve made together with people whom I now consider my friends and family.