Thursday, June 09, 2011

[ScreenSingapore In Conversation Series] Kelvin Tong: Creating Singapore Cinema

LtoR: Moderator Serene Chen, Director Kelvin Tong

LIVE BLOGGING - Keep refreshing this page from 1400hrs for the latest piece of nugget from the proceedings. You can also follow on Twitter: @stefanshl or #ScreenSingapore

Here's the synopsis:
Kelvin started out in the film business as a film critic at The Straits Times from 1995 to 1999. In 1996 he co-directed the short film Moveable Feast with Sandi Tan and Jasmine Ng. He went on to make his first feature film Eating Air with Jasmine Ng in 1999 which screened In Competition at the Rotterdam International Film Festival. Since then, he has directed six other feature film including the box-office success, The Maid (2005), Rule #1 (2008) and most recently, It’s A Great Great World (2011). His films straddle both the commercial box office and film festivals successfully with The Maid also winning the European Fantastic Film Festivals Federation Asian Film Award at the 10th Puchon International Fantastic Film Festival. and Rule #1 receiving Best Actor awards at the 12th Pucheon International Fantastic Film Festival.

We look back at Singapore filmmaker Kelvin Tong’s illustrious career with the filmmaker sharing his experiences from being a film critic to making films for both the Singapore and international audience.

1541 Session ends

1539 Team crucial to make a film. Start with your own network.

1538 Big horror buff, made The Maid and two other horror related films in 1942 and Rule #1, stuck to the genre because of the appeal of not needing a lot of dialogue. Horror is the only genre in Singapore at least where audiences don't mind lower art direction and lack of stars

1532 "1942" Trailer will be played - background from Kelvin Tong: experiment after shooting The Maid which had a lengthy post production process. Decided to go to Malaysia and shoot a horror film for fun. See if he can work in a different language. Went to a hill owned by Orang Asli, shot in 11 days.

1530 Most start from shorts to feature, Kelvin Tong more comfortable with longer form given background in theatre.

1528 Question on transition from short to feature

1525 "1942" an experimental, deconstructed horror film

1521 I'm not sure why there was a question posed if Kelvin Tong had seen a Tamil film recently

1517 Benjamin Heng was discovered in Zouk

1513 Eating Air funding to writing - 1 year. Shot in 27 days, post was 3 months. Entire process about 1.5 years

1510 Crazy story behind financing Eating Air. Knocking doors on a lot of SMEs at Peninsular Plaza.

1508 Question on raising funds for 1st short and feature. Moveable Feast cost $1700. Real cost was for film stock and printing, got help from television crew for two day shoot

1507 Two places you can't go in Singapore film - race and religion. Will a more mature audience eventually lead to loosening up of controls

1506 Depriving Singapore Cinema of its spoken identity - the controlled use of dialects in film

1504 Yes we're very sensitive toward sex, but not violence. If you're following my blog, then yes I agree wholeheartedly with that too

1504 Classification - we're a lot laxer compared to neighbours.

1503 Tip on engaging the more seasoned filmmakers - come on board a project, and help another filmmaker. Not an issue about hoping for a favour back, but interacting on a film set builds trust and networking. Agreed

1501 A censorship question finally came up

1500 "Nature finds its own way" - if you're hungry enough, you'll get your film made

1457 Commercial release or festivals - you don't set out to make films thinking about it. Films made with subject matter filmmakers in love with, then decide which route to take to find an audience.

1456 Cost of making films round the world has risen. As a producer, for the younger and the more inexperienced filmmakers, might be better to provide more resources and assistance. Nice philosophy.

1455 Question on budgets, whether first time filmmakers should be realistic / reality check

1449 Writes in English, and translators take it to Mandarin. Lately being able to do it on his own. Side benefit in writing to language that is not youes - forces one to focus more on structure, scene design and characters, versus having access to tools of dialogue

1448 Qn on language and writing process. Also should we write for the local market or for a more international market?

1445 Kidnapper trailer played

1443 Kidnapper: experiment whether an SG film can be made in neutral manner.

1441 Priority 1: Idea to Film, Priority 2: Ensure investors get something back. Do try to make films that have at least a good shot of breaking even

1440 Recounting his time as a film critic. Still on a journey and exploring different genres in movies.

1439 Question: Finding own voice important in the film, or box office success?

1437 Kelvin: So long as in some way the film is made by a Singaporean - especially now with co-productions, etc. Starting point should be the film is for the Singapore market

1436 Million dollar question posed by Moderator - formula for Singapore Cinema, what makes SG cinema quinessentially SG cinema?

1434 Personal thought: could our non-homogeneity make it challenging for our films to appeal to all sectors of society?

1433 Eating Air was stubbornly art house.

1430 Panel opened to the floor for brief Q&A

1429 Greed was in Singapore Cinema for a short while, recounting the number of those who had jumped on and off the bandwagon with copycat movies

1426 Thought that the closest he could get to film was to write about it. Epiphany cmae from Money No Enough that a Singapore film that looked and sounded like a Singapore film went to break the box office.

1425 Moveable Feast began his journey on film. In 1995 Kelvin was still in law school, not until 1999 that he made his first film Eating Air.

1424 First time he came into contact with film, made it with 2 friends Sandi Tan and Jasmine Ng whom he went on to make Eating Air.

1411 Moveable Feast now screened. Made in 1995. Nostalgia. I first watched this short back in 2005's Screen Singapore festival (yes there was a one-off festival with the same name then)

1409 Session begins. Serene Chen introduces Kelvin Tong and his filmography. Attendees may have a chance to watch his short Moveable Feast

1407 Moderator Serene Chen is in the house

1404 In Conversation with Kelvin Tong, starting soon #ScreenSingapore Just had a quick word with Kelvin himself

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