"Land of Light Bulbs" - Behind the Scenes

Captivating, entertaining, unforgettable and thought-provoking. Qualities which earned Directors Think Tank Grand Prix and Gold in the Entertainment Category at Spikes Asia in early March this year for their stunning ‘Land of Light Bulbs’; a trilogy inspired by the sharing of energy and the spirit of ingenuity. All of us at AOI Pro., a partner company, were delighted when SE Asia’s oft-acclaimed Director Rajay Singh gave us this behind-the-scenes lowdown on how the masterpiece emerged.

Many congratulations on your award! Could you give us your brief take on how this series came together?

 —    The series was created for launch at PETRONAS’s annual summit held in India. Although PETRONAS, Malaysia’s best-known brand, has been striving for over two decades now to roll out sustainable energy solutions, its brand awareness there remains low. So in response, we wanted to premiere the series to business leaders, including the host government and its policymakers and stakeholders from the energy sector during the India summit, and make an impression by telling the story of the sharing of energy. It was then aired publicly via YouTube and Facebook from November 2019 to January 2020, to nurture awareness across India of PETRONAS’ role.

What inspired the film?

 —    Well, although fictional, it centers on the sharing of energy, clean air and sustainable energy solutions. We also decided to incorporate the topic of organ donation, normally taboo in India. We found it a good fit, especially when you consider that passing on your organs when you die is also about sharing “energy”. At the core, Petronas is all about clean and renewable energy, which remains on tap. It’s one of the key pillars of the company.

How did you get the idea of “The Well”? Is the whole concept modeled on an actual place or fair?

 —    The Well actually exists and the fair is one of the elements keeping the town running. They were the biggest, loudest, and most colorful thing to have happened, both in and around the town. Many locals in the area also travelled in to see it, until a major construction saw visitors dry up. Even so, this ‘Well of Death’ keeps entertaining the small towns in India.

The car action scene in the Well is stunning. How did you shoot it?

 —    We worked with real stuntmen who do it for a living. We placed ourselves in the middle of the Well, then rigged cameras to the car driving around us. Plus we used drones. All of us trusting each other was key to making the whole thing possible.

What was it like collaborating with Co-Director Rajesh Mapuskar?

 —    I already knew what a great and talented director my friend Rajesh was, but I learnt a lot from him on scripts, talent direction and dialogue. We ran a tight ship - I had characters in mind, which he then brought them to life. Then he would sometimes write scripts, while I was out shooting. We complemented each other very well. His feature film background and the fact that he’d just finished a huge new TV series made him a shoo-in for the role and bringing out the emotions and personality of the cast in particular.

How long did it take to complete the entire trilogy?

 —    We shot each chapter, one at a time and all in all, the shoot took a total of 14 days non-stop! ‘Land of Light Bulbs’ was a real team effort, right down to those who kept us fed and watered. The best thing was how much fun we had - there was certainly more laughter than stress on the shoot.

Do you often create works this long? How did the production differ from regular commercials?

 —     I have been doing extra-long branded content for some time now. But while I enjoy such longer work, the challenge of regular commercials also appeals to me, because you only have a short time to build characters. For both genres, you need a concept and characters to flesh out, it’s just the timing that differs. If interesting projects come along, I would be up for more longer works in future.

Lastly, any comments on winning the award?

 —    I’m stoked to get this recognition from an international panel of judges. We won a pair of major awards and made our mark for Malaysia on the world stage!