"Acting is the ability to live truthfully under imaginary circumstances." -- Sanford Meisner

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At the 4th Hanoi International Film Festival, 1-5 Nov 2016 - official screening of "Certified Dead". More later...

"Certified Dead", winner of Best International Film at the 14th Royal Bali International Film Festival 2016.

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Saturday, November 19, 2016

More Than Words That Touches

Pulau Ubin is Singapore's last offshore island that is still left alone in its natural state. There are no large scale commercial development plans for the island. I hope they leave this idyllic island the way it is, with the local inhabitants continuing life the way it has been for a long time.

There used to be more people living in Ubin, when the granite quarry was still operating and hiring people. Now those quarries are dormant and clear torquois waters have filled up the open cast sites. Thereafter, the inhabitants started leaving for the mainland to get jobs. Then there were not enough kids to fill the local primary school, so it closed, then some years later, the community centre closed. They were even contemplating closing the police post, but this idea was dropped after two foreigners were caught sneaking in across the Johore Straits, purportedly carrying explosives destined for terrorist acts on the mainland.

But other than that incident, the island is virtually crime free. Not much happens here. Some are fishermen, some run businesses that are supported by tourists, like bicycle shops and restaurants. Life is unhurried. The locals are friendly, mostly only the older ones remain behind. Even the dogs and cats are laid back, and they seem to be indifferent to human presence, as if taking us as 'stupid tourists' disturbing their peace. :)

This short film is about how a daughter's return to Pulau Ubin to tell her father that she is getting married. This after leaving him to continue her education and life in the mainland.

I am proud to be part of this film, as many similar stories must have happened to quite a lot of the islanders over the years as they moved to the mainland. It can be considered a documentary re-enactment.

This is the village square, with a permanent stage used during a time when Teochew operas and religious festivals reigned. Operas were major events and entertainment in their village calenders those days.

Now, the islanders rely mostly on the tourist industry. So come and visit and support the legacy of Pulau Ubin, the last kampong island of Singapore.

There are taxis in the village to get around, but the best way to see the island is to rent one of these bicycles.

This gentleman chooses to remain. He is in his 80s and still healthy and strong. He goes about his life growing herbs on his land and selling soft drinks and coconut water. I met him 8 years ago. For more about Ubin, click here.

For other similar stories about father and son/daughter, click here.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Film Making Collaboratives (Singapore)

With the advent of digital cameras, smart phones, social networks and the Internet, film making collaboratives are flourishing.

I know of six of them in Singapore. I may have missed out some, but these are the ones I have attended their events of, or read about. The description of them below are mostly summarised from their online pages.

Running a collaborative needs leadership, funds and tenacity, This is especially hard considering that most of the people in the collaboratives are hobbyists with full-time paying job during the weekdays. That is why only two of the six are still active.

They are all slightly different from one another, so take your pick.

1. Lens Rebel, Founded in 2012

We believe that there is still an audience for intelligent and alternative cinematography that veers of the beaten track championed by mainstream media.

Lens Rebels were originally founded by Dagomir Kaszlikowski and Karol Jalochowski under the name Gutter Twins. After a short stint with Suhas Bhat, a screen writer and producer, Lens Rebels are now an alliance between Jerry Koedding and Dagomir Kaszlikowski.

Lens Rebels has produced several short films and a feature-length film, called "Kopi-O".

2. Reel Frenz, founded 19 Nov 2012, 546 members, 139 past meetups


"A group with a passion”. It is the place where actors, directors, scriptwriters, lights, camera, sound, music writers / directors and arts students can call home. A place to discuss, pitch ideas and come together for film and video projects. See your ideas turn into reality. You can be a pro, an amateur, someone with creative passion or a movie goer with ideas. If you have an actor, singer, scriptwriter, producer, director, cinematographer, musician, animator, editor, makeup artist, special effects creator, special skills, critic or film industry specialist hidden somewhere in you, do come and join us.

Reel Frenz has produced 15 short films and a feature film, called "Certified Dead".

3. Red Dot Film Makers, 28 May 2015, 343 members, 16 past meetups

This is a group for anybody seriously interested in producing quality films. It's all about creating a team of filmmakers who want to develop, work, experiment and to find new ways to tell stories / move the audience. 

Task is simple and clear: Create emotional high end footage / scenes and impressive results that both crew and cast will want to include in their showreels.

This group is in a hiatus at the moment.

4. Cast and Crew 4SG, founded 3 Feb 2015, 318 members, 23 past meetups

All Singapore residents are welcome - with or without film experience.

If you are crew - lights, sound, camera, editing - and have equipment, that will be cool. If you don't have any equipment - that's okay too.

We also welcome actors, make up artists, costumers, scriptwriters, designers - anyone who has the passion to contribute behind and in front of the camera.

After three short films, this group seems to have stopped meeting since early 2016.

5. Singapore Film Makers Group 25 Feb 2012, 340 members, 22 past meetups

This group is for people who have some knowledge/training in filmmaking and would love to make short films regularly with like minded people!

This group seems to have stopped producing films.

6. Singapore Film Making Lovers, found 18 June 2016, 74 members, 1 past meetup

Meetup and network with filmmaker lovers,who are local in singapore or expats travel/locate in singapore. Brainstorm, pitch ideas to make videos/film on youtube/others social media platform.

This group is very new. As indicated in their meetup page, they have only two meetups so far.


For more articles about how technology is influencing the future of the arts, click here.

Monday, November 7, 2016

Disruption, Culture, People & Leadership, Reed Hastings, CEO Netflix

Organised by National Trade Union Congress (NTUC) U-Creative.

Reed relates how travel and living outside the US has changed him. He said that our school system is structured and success within a very structured system may not translate to success outside.

In the world of business, most entrepreneurs fail, but when  a few among the many succeed, they get to be invited to speak in panels like this.

He related that when he was in Pure, a software company he founded, he was promoted beyond as a programmer into a manager responsible for more and more people and also doing sales. Both of which he didn't particularly enjoy as the company was growing bigger and people were following rules more than they were being creative. He felt that he wasn't doing well and wanted to quit as he couldn't forgive himself for doing badly. Eventually he did quit, though the management was reluctant to let him go.

The sales in Pure doubled every year, but was bought over by their largest competitor. It was not fun any more. The creative people got less interested. Business became rigid. This is quite common among many companies. And then they have little ability to adapt and were just following the rules. Design companies should be  more flexible to changes.

In Netflix, there are no policies for somethings, but at the same time they are careful not to let things go crazy. So we need high performance individuals. The company should Inspire people instead of merely managing them.

In the industrial manufacturing economy, it thrives by reducing the variables. Too many businesses are influenced by this aspect of the industrial economy.

Employees want to help companies by not making mistakes. This stifles. Instead, we think of the team more like a sports team. We endeavour to hire the best person in every role. It is about performance and effectiveness, not just longevity or just adequate performance

Netflix does not use the bell curve on staff, nor has a policy to cut x number of people every year. It all depends on the market. If there are high performance individuals to be won over, you either pay and have the player in the team, or lose the player.

However, this practice does not cut across the whole company. For instance, customer support workers are structured and are based on different considerations from creative professionals. The former are measured by their reliability.

Question: It appears that the OTT space is now dominated by the giants. If you were to invest in a startup in this space, which one would they be?

At anyone time it would appear that the giants dominate. Look at the IT industry. At one time Microsoft dominated everything.

What are the biggest challengers?
88 million subscribers may seem very big in Netflix, but it is very small compared to the other players like Youtube or Facebook, that have subscribers running into billions.

We advertised on Youtube (a competitor).

Data analytics was something affordable only to the big companies previously, but now, it is accessible to small companies as well. How will Netflix adjust to this levelling of the playing field?

Data Analytics enables mass customisation, such that shows that are not interesting to you don't get promoted to you.  So virtually, we look consistently good to the customer.  Netflix is working towards making all content available to everybody.

How do you decide what gets made?
We use data analytics where we should. Picking content, however, is a creative leap.

Consumption data. How different globally?
A broad mix of taste in every culture. They are not culture dependent.

For more articles about how technology is influencing the future of the arts, click here.

Friday, October 28, 2016

Exploring the Arts & Culture Industry

26th October 2016 - organised by National Trade Union Congress (NTUC) U-Creative, at One Marina Boulevard, Singapore.

Speakers: Mr Jeremiah Choy, trained lawyer turned creative director, producer and curator; Mr Mathialagan, Asian TV Awards winner; Mr Juan Foo, a veteran film producer; and Ms Som Binte Mohamed Said, a dancer, diplomat and designer

Some of the things I learn from the talk:

  • Appreciation of Art: That we should teach the young to appreciate art, so that they will not grow up like a robot.
  • Volume to Value: In the commercial world of acting, we first work on volume (of work), then value. When we start out, we take any gig thrown at us. It is a learning period and a time to establish ourselves in the market. But we can't just continue on 'volume'. At some point, we have to decide what value we bring to the project - a value that clients are willing to pay more for. It is harder to jump straight into 'value', skipping the 'volume' stage as clients look for the three 'X'es - Experience, Expertise and X-Factor. Newcomers rarely have all three, if at all, though some may have an X-Factor so big it compensates the lack of Experience
  • A Discerning and Educated Audience: At the moment, we do not have a discerning audience in Singapore. We need an audience that can engage in constructive criticism, not just saying whether they like a piece of work, or not, but being able to say why. We have lost this ability, because we started emphasising less on literature in school, and soon the students lose their ability to think. (I think the autocratic political system has something to do to stifle this, in my opinion.)
  • Acting in India: What is natural acting, or not, has changed over the years. What was natural acting 15 years ago, is now considered over-the-top (exaggerated) acting. Mathialagan also related to us his experience working in India, where he had to start from the bottom, as nobody knew him there. Whilst in Singapore, he had already 15 years of experience and won awards when he went to India. But nobody cares about that in a new place. That was a humbling experience. It was nothing to do with the acting craft, as the craft is universal.
  • Let art be the reason and not the excuse: That means an artist create and when asked to explain, he must be able to articulate what his art is about. If he cannot, and use art as an excuse, then it doesn't work. Eg. "It is too difficult to explain, this is art."
Personally, I am convinced that it is easier to get into art today, than 30 years ago, as the smart phone and the Internet are great vehicles to organise, access information, network and learn. However, I was astonished to meet a group of university students who feel that it is harder today, giving themselves reasons, such as that the obstacles they face today are different from 30 years ago. 

Being born with the Internet and mobile telephony technologies,they have taken everything for granted. I told them that if they were to switch off the Internet and mobile phones, they will learn very quickly how handicapped they would be, and then will realised that they have not leveraged on them enough to gain access to the market.

Those days, we need a committee to organise a simple event. When we call someone, we call them at home and if they are out of the house, we had to wait 12 to 24 hours to be able to contact them. We had to pay to learn almost everything, and even then, less effectively. Now, one can learn almost everything through Youtube and connect with like-minded people online. Finding out audition and shoot locations is a breeze with Google Maps, We can record our rehearsals at home or anywhere using our phones. We can cast people on the streets without going on the streets... we can look for new gigs from the phone.... , buses were packed to the brim and had no aircon, during the rain, they usually leak,..., streets were not as safe,..., the market was also smaller than it is now,... the list is endless. Come on young people, wake up to the reality that you are not hungry enough and not trying hard enough. 

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Rough Mix - The Movie

This was made three years ago. I played the supporting role of Inspector Wu, kind of an Asian Inspector Colombo, with long convoluted lines and ever inquisitive over the tiniest of details. I love the character.

This was the second time I acted with Rebecca, the first which was in Mediacorp TV series, "The Pupil".
Monochrome Films presents:
Sex, Greed, Murder, Betrayal. 
A Singapore Love Story.

Starring: Daniela Junko, Alexis Petitprez, Lim Kay Tong, Rebecca Lim
Original Score by: Bill Cunliffe
Edited by: Adam Lobel
Director of Photography: Eric Lim
Written by: Stephen Gerard
Produced & Directed by: Ying J. Tan

. . . .

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

The Apprentice

Go watch "The Apprentice", written and directed by Boo Jun Feng, when it comes to a theatre near you. The movie premieres in Singapore on the 30th June 2016. Get your family and friends to watch it too.

"The Apprentice" is Jun Feng's second feature film after "Sandcastles" (2010) which was screened at Cannes Film Festival's International Critics Week. "The Apprentice" too made it to the Cannes Film Festival, and was screened at the Uncertain Regard section.

This film took five years from conception to release. I watched it at the Singapore Film Society's screening on the 25th July 2016 and was fully captivated by the smooth and detailed depiction of the apprentice Aiman's (played by Firdaus Rahman) journey to learn the ropes of the trade (pun intended) from the Master Executioner Rahim(played by Wan Hanafi Su). Mastura Ahmad plays the role of Suhaila, Aiman's sister. All three actors in the main cast acted very convincingly - very necessary for a film like this, ultimately leading the audience to feel that they are watching a documentary more than a fiction,

Death penalty and execution are morbid topics and the film represents that through dark and grey visuals, long and lonely corridors and the menacing crisp clear clanging of the jail gates. I won't spoil your fun further watching the film. This film is unique. It tells the story through the psyche of the executioner through ultra realistic visuals and emotions.

Go watch it. Support Singapore Films.

Here is the trailer...

Here are the interviews with the director himself.

For other film reviews, like:

  • The Bodyguard, 
  • Filial Piety, 
  • Firestorm, 
  • American Dreams in China,  
  • The Great Gatsby, and 
  • The Campaign,  

click here.

Monday, May 23, 2016

Palace of Love

"Palace of Love" is a story of Linh, a Vietnamese mail order bride who marries Hock, a Singaporean Chinese, amid conflicting loyalty between her family in Vietnam and her marriage.

A Lasalle Production.
Producer: Engku Muhammad Iqbal 
Writer: Ho Say Peng
Director: Tang Wan Xin 

It is hard enough starting life in a new country and culture, let alone one where she does not even understand the language spoken in the home. Hock lives with his elderly mother and they speak Hokkien (a Chinese dialect), which is  totally alien to Linh (acted by Hani Binh Pham).

There must be many cases of 'Hock-and-Linh' marriages in Singapore. 

In the year 2002, Singaporean males marrying foreign brides account for 3,988  marriages, or  17.2% of all marriages

By the year 2012, the number of foreign brides had gone up to  5,599 marriages or 20% of all marriages. 

Wonder why?

Here is the trailer:

This was a difficult production for me, as I was still in the midst of an excruciating chronic pain. At times, I had to be helped to put on a  new shirt. Just stretching my arms out itself was unbearably painful. 

[I am well now. To read "How I Overcame My Chronic Pain", click here.]

The very energetic team. Besides lugging the equipment to and fro, they also dressed up an empty apartment to one that blends seamlessly to Hock's working class tastes and lifestyle. That is quite a tall order, loading up cupboards, tables, chairs, sofas...etc.