Hong Kong Tattoo Documentary

Jessica sent me the following email, asking for feedback on her high school media studies project.

I’m a 17 year old piercing apprentice studying in Hong Kong, and I intend to pursue a career in film and television. I combined my two passions together and for my final film project, I created a documentary about tattoos and piercings in Hong Kong.

As part of the project, I’m looking for feedback both from people involved and interesting in the subculture. I was wondering whether it would be possible for you to tell me what you think of it, or even help me post this somewhere so I can gain some criticism that isn’t the youtube “lol datz good”?

Happy to help! Here it is; let her know what you think.


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About Shannon Larratt

Shannon Larratt is the founder of BME (1994) and its former editor and publisher. After a four year hiatus between 2008 and 2012, Shannon is back adding his commentary to ModBlog. It should be noted that any comments in these entries are the opinion of Shannon Larratt and may or may not be shared by BMEzine.com LLC or the other staff or members of BME. Entry text Copyright © Shannon Larratt. Reproduced under license by BMEzine.com LLC. Pictures may be copyright to their respective owners. You can also find Shannon at Zentastic or on Facebook.

35 thoughts on “Hong Kong Tattoo Documentary

  1. Good variety of information. It’s always an interesting perspective hearing from the people doing the work.
    The narrator talked too fast in a couple of parts, and the shaky camera was a little frustrating. Other then those small things, I think the video was well done!
    Kudos Jessica and thanks for sharing!

  2. The narrators voice is somewhat hard to hear in some parts, but overall it was really interesting and cool to watch. :) Sorry if my comment doesn’t really.. contribute much. Haha. But nice work.

  3. Nicely done Jessica! You must have worked on it for a long time. You obviously put in some decent research to make a really informative story. Especially with all the the hystorical references. Also I liked the part about the new shop being created.

    There is one part in the beginning where there is no voice-over which i didn’t like too much. I have the feeling it doesnt add much.

  4. i thought it was well informed and interesting, the sound of the voice over was a little muffled, and more time should be given to the client and their reasons for the artwork, but on the whole a good piece.

  5. Sorry to say that, but I dont really like it. Its correct, but I think its a bit “on the surface” and “cliche”…

  6. emmmh I didnt want to be rude…
    Its pleasant to see and relatively weel done.
    Its just that the chosen subjects seems too easy for me to be impressive, remarquable or “out of the box”.
    I think its quite boring to see again and again the metal band/tattoos-piercing association.

  7. The cinematic and sound aspects seemed solid to me–especially for a 17 year old (not that I would do any better). Some people have noted the “quietness” of the narrator already. I think the historical aspect, while interesting, were not always relevant. I don’t think you should necessarily take them out, but maybe a history lesson and then the contemporary? I say this mostly because the connection between historical piercing and tattooing seemed to be irrelevant to the people interviewed.

    While no one in the film impressed me with their thoughtfulness in regards to…anything, there is gripes I have. Not with the film makers, but rather the interviewee. In particular, the Pilates instructor seemed about as thoughtful as a brick of salt. A question I would have liked the film to pose is: how is getting your tongue pierced an act of self expression or individuality? This lady seemed to think having her tongue pierced made her unique and artistic, but, to me at least, she simply looked moronic. And, even after the lengthy explanation that stretching an existing hole is not a piercing, she says, “It was the easiest piercing I’ve ever gotten.” Don’t take this a criticism of the film makers, as I think they’ve exposed, quite succinctly, one of the lesser points of the community.

    So good job! But now I have another question: is everyone in Hong Kong who is involved with piercing and tattooing a westerner? I imagine not. Is there a reason you’ve focused on mainly western artists? I think this ought to be addressed in the film as well, otherwise we get the impression of a bizarre, colonialist experience, where the foreigner comes, settles in, and then peddles his or her “wares” on the unsuspecting indigenous population. This is, of course, an exaggeration, but I think a brief statement of why there is such a strong focus of westerners instead of native artists.

  8. I quite enjoyed it, as has been said it’s not terribly innovative, but I actually don’t really think that that was the point of the piece. Maybe I’m wrong? Anyway, for someone who doesn’t spend their time on Modblog and isn’t tattooed or pierced it would be an informative and interesting watch I think so well done!

  9. yeah, it was good
    the whole heavy metal band bit ruined it for i think…
    coz it was all everyone has them all hairdresser n that its not just gangs triads and stereotypes and then…
    yeah :| not for me

  10. I liked it. I liked it a lot. I do agree regarding the history blurbs that maybe they could be arranged into one section possibly before the start of the contemporary part of the video. That way they could be a bit more detailed and made relevant to each other.
    I liked how you presented each person being interviewed; I’ve never been one for sticking in deep and profound thinking where it’s not needed so I liked the woman getting her tounge redone and the guy getting his first tattoo. It shows the fun side of it, and that not every modification being done HAS to include some level of profound seriousness. It can (and usually is) be done for fun.
    I liked what the man stated regarding tattooing being a part of mainstream fashion, because it is, and not enough people want to admit it. There’s more than one side to everything.
    Long story quick, this is a very good project :) I hope it’s received well!

  11. First modblog comment :D been reading for two years now.

    For a 17 year old student film, you mangaged to give this a decent production value, congrats! to take this to the next level, constider invensting in a decent mic you can put on a boom arm. Sound is sooo important. Also storyboarding and planning out your shots (pan, short, long) to give your different takes visual appeal.

    Another way to up the production value is to white balance. Everyone in your video is kind of orange. Getting a 17 % grey card, or using the preset white balance settings then fine tuning in your post production video editor of choice will make a big differense. Just dont turn them blue or white! I like warm skin tones.

    take a lesson from this video http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4UOa7tkByrw wicked useful to me.

    I think your introduction being 1 min and 30 seconds is too long. I started to feel like that was the movie itself, rather than a
    ‘hook’. The bit about not seeing tattos, under suits that follows the title, that would make a great hook. Its around 1.30 secs in that i get interested. Perhaps grabbing a clip or two of the two lovly people talking about the evolving social perceptions around tattoos around 2 mins would complement and round out the hook.

    also 6.18 when the man is saying ‘its fashion’ Thats a powerful line and could make a good hook.

    I like how you pan around the studeio a bit while we still hear your interviewees talking.

    I would like some sort of name or salutation to pop up when we meet a new person. Be creative! Rather than narrated over the interviewrs voice like with the man who got a monkey pirate tattoo (which is wiked sweet!)

    the person you interviewed at 11:40 has harsh shadows across herface. Use a reflector http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reflector_%28photography%29 (specificly ‘board reflector’ to give a more pleasing illumination to her face.

    Awsome video overall! I can tell you put a lot of work into it. I think you have a knack to documentary’s. Please share more if you make them.


  12. Overall I did enjoy wathcing it, but I have to agreee with Tom for Real 14#. The link between body modification and heavy metal is too stereotypical. Myabe try to reeduce the amount of heavy metal within the piece, or try to incorporate other aspects from mainstream culture.

    But over all well done.

  13. some of your voiceovers (the translations) are hard to hear or stumble with words.

  14. Nice work, but as it was said before the historical part should be at the beginning, use it as an introduction and you could go forward in time mentioning the Triad members getting tattooed before getting to what it’s like now, it would complement the commentary by the guy who says it’s now mainstream and people don’t associate tattoos with organized crime anymore. Maybe it’s the guy studying history in me who speaks, but I think this part could be a bit more organized ;)

    I have to agree with what Tom for Real said, stating that it’s now mainstream and that everyone gets tattooed and then showing the metal band is just a way to make people think that you contradict yourself by associating tattoos with metal… You could mention the fact that they get tattooed to celebrate their second tour, but I wouldn’t show a lot of footage from the show…

  15. I enjoyed this and found it interesting. I agree with comment #20 that the content could have been organised better – in particular, more thematically – but I thought the quality of the narrative was generally good. Well done!

  16. I would try to make your intro a little shorter. I started losing my focus after a short time. As stated previously, I would maybe reconsider my music in the soundtrack, maybe something more contemporary. Audio balance is off a little bit. I would bring up the narrative part or lower the music. A tripod is a must, or at least a shoulder stabilizer. Work on the transition into the conclusion and make it slightly longer. The thought process seems to just drop off. Otherwise, you did a great job and clearly worked on this for some time.

  17. I liked the content, and while the technical aspects could do with a little polishing, it was really well done considering the (assumed) lack of precision equipment and experience.
    I hope you keep at it :)

  18. this is good, i definitely respect the production value. the intro is a little long. watch out for audio discrepancies – your voice over sounded very different and very ‘weird’ opposed to the interview audio, almost as if it were shot with the camera mic in a small room. i would say re-do the VO’s altogether, but keep the writing, it fit very well. the first guy getting tattooed could have been interview somewhere other than the couch – it’s the second time we see the couch for an interview, it makes the viewer uneasy. the lighting on the tongue piercing interviewee makes her look pretty awful (there’s an episode of seinfeld where a woman only looks good in some light and terrible in others – she looks terrible because of the straight over head light that casts long shadows over the face – just like this interview). i would make the ending a little more dramatic. all in all, this was a pleasure to watch, most definitely. great job.

  19. hey everyone,

    thank you so much for all your feedback, it’s brilliant! there was a significant amount of complication during the process of creating this documentary and all the things that i personally saw as ‘problems’ were all pointed out here, so i fully appreciate your honesty andfor spending your time to watch and comment on it. =)

    i’m taking a gap year between graduating highschool and university and i’m definitely considering remaking this, i’m really not satisfied with what i’ve created, but with all this feedback i can definitely try and make it much much better. thank you all so much!

  20. i havent read the other posts, but i actually really enjoyed it. i thought the band performance seemed slightly out of place, probably just because the sound was so horrible on it… but aside from that i liked it. also loved the afi ‘all hollows’ ep on the wall in the background of the one studio. :)

  21. It’s definitely a solid documentary. There’s a lot of good B roll footage that she cuts away to during interviews that works well.

    I’ve read some of the other comments about the narrator’s voice being a bit jarring and I would agree with that but the other thing I would suggest would be that next time she record an audio wild track (shooting nothing) for the length of the film so that when it comes to editing the film it’s easier to make the sound flow between cuts/

  22. I liked the part when the guy talks about getting new blood into the trade and really gets into how it takes pretty much your heart and soul to do the job and that if you don’t have it, don’t bother.

    I just wish some people would realise that.

  23. I agree, it was really great but the sound quality wasn’t so great on the narrator’s bits :) x

  24. i heard some deadstar assembly inn the back round! =)

    It was a really good video. It kept my attention… and it was informative for those that wouldn’t know a lot about tattoos and piercings.

  25. First Impressions:

    The song between the 1st and 2nd narratives was really distracting. It was really frustrating to see video of people talking but just hearing grumbly music over top. I would explore using snippets of interviews as the segue way instead of a song. The sound levels in the first half of the film could use some evening out. I though it was really interesting that two people mentioned tattoos and there relations to gangs in Japan. I would love to see that explored more in depth along with more about the differences in design and style of tattoos in Hong Kong vs. other parts of the world. I would have rather learned about that as opposed to seeing the pilates instructor get some new jewelry put in her tongue. The bit about the invention of the tattoo needle felt kind of tacked on in an odd place, perhaps moving it to earlier in the film would make more sense. As for the correlation with heavy metal music – the narrator specifically mentions the tattoo and local HARDCORE scene being linked. I think it’s great to show 2 underground scenes supporting each other. Like it or not, music and tattoos are inextricably linked. It does seem like there are an awful lot of elements to this documentary. Considering the length, it may be prudent to focus on 2 or 3 and devote more time to those. I personally would like to see a focus on the 2 shops and their clients along with a deeper exploration of preconceived notions regarding tattoos that are specific to Hong Kong, Japan, or the current generation.

    Overall, very ambitious. Definitely something to be proud of and very brave of you to open yourself up to the modblog throng. Thank you and I hope if you decide to remake it you’ll share that version with us also.

  26. I’m sorry that I can’t really give you any criticism, however, I would like to thank you immensely. While you were featuring the pilates instructor as she was getting her tongue re-pierced, I decided to, after a month of it being out, put my lower right labret back in.

    I’m very excited to have it back. Thank you. ♥

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