Unsung Voices 2 – “Murphy 101” by Simu Liu

Open Gym
dir. Simu Liu
Part of Shorts Presentation: Unsung Voices 2 screening at Reel Asian on Wed Nov 6






“Unlike the laws of physics or thermodynamics, I was never asked to memorize Murphy’s Law in high school. The old adage sounds more like a Confucian proverb than a law of the universe; in fact, Wikipedia posits that it is an adage, or epigram, rather than an observable fact. I would respectfully disagree.

In the two full days (and half-day rehearsal) it took to shoot Open Gym, my six-and-a-half minute film, Murphy himself would marvel at the amount of shit that went wrong. The boxing gym we had locked down for shooting refused to close down, meaning we had to shoot the location as if it were empty when there were easily twenty people training at all times. In case you didn’t know, punching bags are loud. We were behind schedule pretty much from the get-go. It was too nice of a day outside (#firstworldproblems), and it created massive lighting issues. I got kicked out of the ring a bunch of times by people who “needed to use it”. I was punched in the face three times accidentally by my co-star.  I imagined Murphy’s spirit patting me on the back on many occasions, consoling me. “That’s why they call it a Law, sonny.” There was a solid few hours during our shoot that I was totally convinced my film was going to be a piece of crap, and I was never going to direct anything ever again.

Did I help the situation at all by casting myself to play two different roles in the film on top of directing it? Or by including multiple scenes where my character gets the living snot beaten out of him? Probably not. But in my own script are the words that I needed to pick myself back up: “Are you gonna lie down and die, or are you gonna fight?”

I fought. My initial interpretation of my friend’s law was that the better prepared you were, the better off you’d be. But as many of you in film know, it is just not feasible or even possible to prepare for everything that goes wrong on set. On set, you prepare for what you can and then you wing the rest. I shot coverage from multiple angles to account for people stepping into my frame. I didn’t take a master. I used downtime to choreograph more of the fight. We were guerilla filmmaking in our own gym, and I started to love it. On top of that, and I don’t care if this is cliché to say, I had the best team in the world to help me through it. As of 24 hours ago, Open Gym has been picture-locked, and I am literally shoving it into people’s faces before it is even finished.

Anything that can go wrong, will go wrong. That’s more than an adage, that’s fact. But then you know what? Life goes on.”