A fishing net entangles a fisherman, a businessman and an actress into a love triangle in the South China Sea.

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"I wanted to explore a scenario where people from different economic classes are trapped in a certain location and are forced to deal with each other’s problems. Three characters, three personalities, each with their own separate objective. The difficulty in writing such a story is that it could go in any direction – I had to prepare a number of different versions of endings and chose the one that worked best for this particular adventure." -     Writer-Director, Maxim Bessmertny


"The real challenge in this film was the production. We were shooting for six days in the ocean and the weather was changing every hour. I managed to get enough material to finish the story but not enough to give me options for the ending. Furthermore, we were shooting on Kodak film, which means that the entire shooting style and planning is much more strict and precise. I decided to use longer takes, more master shots and let the scenes breathe. Lighting and exposures kept changing due to the changes in sunlight and so my cinematographer Jordan Quellman and the lighting team had to adapt to these circumstances between every take. If I ever had the option, I would only shoot on film from now on – it makes the production experience more challenging but the result is also substantially different from digital." -    Writer-Director, Maxim Bessmertny


Sampan was shot on Kodak 7203 Super 16mm film with anamorphic lenses. 


On the motor yacht "Red Pepper", somewhere in the middle of the ocean, off the coast of Sai Kung, Hong Kong.

Balancing the frame. One of the captains ended up falling in the water...thankfully, he had a license to swim.

Lighting an HMI on an abandoned beach to get full exposure on Super 16mm film. Our ships in the background.

The shoot was tough and costly. A pirate story in itself.

There was a total of 4 boats on this film. Two filmed boats, and two production boats.

There was a total of 4 boats on this film. Two filmed boats, and two production boats. 15 crew members (including fishermen and ship captains) and 3 cast. We had a 5th boat that was a 1970s fishing vessel which appears in the beginning of the film.

Looking back, the making of the film was a visceral, emotional experience. Something right out of Heart of Darkness.


"A man is struggling to make ends meet as a tricycle cabbie in Macau, living in poverty and on the verge of getting his family evicted. Then, one night, a rejected customer steals his tricycle and the internal conflict of baser characteristics that are found in desperate men starts to bubble up. Maxim Bessmertnyi directs this mini odyssey set in the illuminated and rainy streets of a Macau night, and what struck my fancy the most with Tricycle Thief is the cinematography from Jordan Lavi Quellman (no doubt channeling some Wong Kar-Wai and Ming-liang Tsai imagery,) complimenting Bessmertnyi’s controlled pace so well. It makes for an absorbing watch, and the way that finale plays out with the wife, the sarcastic chuckle, and that music; it’s a positive sign that Maxim Bessmertnyi has a bright future ahead of him in the arthouse field of cinema if he keeps this up."  - Way Too Indie

"Bessmertny isn’t interested in happily ever after or just deserts, though. He instead wishes to simultaneously show humanity’s flaws and grace when one’s back is against the wall. To him the contents of the case are inconsequential. It’s what Ah Leong is willing to do that matters as victims turn to thieves, thieves to victims, and unexplained actions remain mysteries." - Jared Mobarak

Getting into character

Leung Kin Ping gets into character

First time actor Aeson Lei and director Maxim Bessmertny

Location set, Tricycle Thief, January 2014

Running away from traffic while shooting crucial shots.

Jib shot at Hotel Lisboa


For a short film of 18 min, there was at least 12 locations, and a 6 day shoot.