Singafest 2011: Interview with “Savasana” director Gerry Curtis

Oct. 8, 2016 editor’s note: “Savasana” is now available to watch for free on

This year’s inaugural Singafest Asian Film Festival in Los Angeles features a packed, two-part “New Faces/New Frontiers” short film program on Oct. 1 at 11 a.m., screening at the Bigfoot Crest Theater in Westwood.  One of the 12 shorts scheduled to screen is the 18-minute “Savasana,” which has already racked up numerous film festival appearances from Singapore to Texas to Cape Cod, Mass.  “Savasana” is a gorgeously shot work that relies on imagery and expression more than words, masking the fact that it actually is a horror film beneath the surface.  Lead actress and former Miss Malaysia Tourism Pageant winner Lyndel Soon masterfully plays the lead role of Faye, a hauntingly beautiful eccentric who has holds some deeply rooted psychological issues that reveal themselves in the film.

“Savasana” was directed and written by Gerry Curtis, who left a successful career in sales and marketing behind in 2002 to pursue full-time filmmaking.   Prior to his first short film, he attended film school and worked on short documentaries for various organizations.  In the following interview with Meniscus, he talks about the making and casting of “Savasana,” and his future plans.

The film was shot in San Francisco but Southeast Asia makes quite an appearance as far as the cast is concerned.  In my opinion, this works to great effect because I couldn’t tell that the film was shot in the Bay Area.

I’m glad you couldn’t tell where the film was shot; I wanted the audience to be unsure where the story takes place, it could be Asia or in the U.S.  Faye wakes up in the beginning of the film unsure of where she is, and I wanted that feeling to carry over to the audience.

How did you come across Lyndel for the part of Faye?

I cast Lyndel Soon while casting another film called “Pachinko.” Looking back I was extremely lucky to find Lyndel considering I had limited my casting search to San Francisco and that I was looking for an actress from Singapore or Malaysia.  I think she gave an incredible performance, and a lot of audience members are really surprised when I tell them it is her first film.  “Pachinko” was a short film at the time, and as I got into pre-production I realized there were a lot of good ideas in the script but the film was problematic as a short and would make a much better feature film. So I wrote “Savasana” because I wanted to have the experience of producing and directing a short film before taking on a feature.

It is obvious from the first frame that much attention was placed on the visuals, particularly the wardrobe and traditional cheongsam that seemed to evoke another time period.  Why was the wardrobe a particular emphasis?

I wanted to create a film that had almost no exposition, so the audience could interpret the story however they liked so it was important that the wardrobe help provide the audience some visual cues about the characters and settings.  The cheongsam in the opening scene, along with the music and minimal props helps set the time period in 1930’s.  I knew we were going to have a warm look to that scene so I wanted a cool color for the cheongsam.  We found the print in Britex, an amazing fabric store in downtown San Francisco.  The cheongsam was beautifully made by a tailor in San Francisco, Stephy Guo, and there’s a short documentary on our website,, showing her make it.

The second time we see cheongsam, during the mahjong scene, they were used to show that an important event was taking place.  Linda, the young assistant is not yet initiated into their group and her Western clothing is a visual clue that she isn’t on the same social level as the other women. The character Auntie we see in the bathroom scene is wearing a more modern type of cheongsam.  She is retiring as Faye’s assistant, and her more modern dress is visual clue that she has a different role than the other women at the table.  The audience doesn’t need to know exactly what the character’s relationships are to each other but these cues help them use their own imagination to fill the gaps in.

Why did you turn to Asia as the inspiration for this short film?

I’m very inspired by Asian film and I became very interested in  Singaporean culture after shooting and producing a short documentary in Singapore about a group of NYC educators who were studying the Singapore school system.   Wong Kar Wai is one of my favorite directors, there are some visual references to “In the Mood For Love” in the film and the tunnel scene was inspired by the great scene at the end of “Fallen Angels.”  Of course they aren’t nearly on his level of filmmaking!

I came to the conclusion before this interview was even conducted that “Savasana” was influenced by “In the Mood for Love” – you are being too modest here!  The word “savasana” in Sanskrit is a yoga term that is referred to as the “corpse pose.”  How did this come to be the focus of your film?

Well, I don’t want to give the ending away, but we first see the yoga instructor in savasana and Faye in a kind of variation of the pose.  There were some dialogue references to the pose in the original cut of the film but they didn’t make it into the final version. When I used to do yoga I found Savasana to be a really dreamy state, and I felt that also fit the mood of the film.  An Indian producer recently told me it also meant “strong/vigorous” in Sanskrit, which I’d never heard before.

I understand that “Savasana” will eventually be made into a feature film.  Was the intention from the beginning?  Without giving too much away, what can the viewer expect from an expanded version?

I’ve been working on a feature length script for “Savasana” but my main focus right now is working on the script for “Pachinko.” The expanded version of “Savasana” would show the relationships between the chararacters and how they developed, and is two stories running in parallel, kind of like “The Godfather: Part II,” with young Faye as a girl in Malaysia around World War II, and the modern Faye in San Francisco and we learn about the family that has been taking care of her for 60 years.

Meniscus Magazine is proud to be a sponsor of the inaugural Singafest Asian Film Festival. To purchase tickets to the “New Faces/New Frontiers” program or other Singafest screenings, go to The festival runs from Sept. 29-Oct. 2.