Aspiring Independent filmmakers share their thoughts about the 13 Little Pictures 'Boot Camp'



During the recent Singapore International Film Festival, a diverse group of people came together to explore and immerse themselves in the spirit of independent filmmaking. They were part of The 13 Little Pictures Film Lab (19-25 Sep). The Lab aims to be a platform for fellow filmmakers to collaborate, experiment and create new works. It hosts a diverse group of 15 aspiring directors, producers, cinematographers, scriptwriters, art directors, editors and sound engineers from Singapore and our neighbouring countries like Thailand, Philippines and China. Wait a minute, there was also one from Poland!

Over the course of about 2 days, they formed 3 teams that each made a short 5 minute video and screened their final works at Sinema Old School on 25 Sep. The 'boot-campers' consisted of the following:

Ashish Ravinran (Singapore)
Colin Tan (Singapore)
Echo He Yingshu (China)
Faraz Hussain (India)
Gary Yong (Malaysia)
Joenathann Alandy (Philippines)
Juan Manuel Alcazaren (Philippines)
Kuba Morawski (Poland)
Maenam Chagasik (Thailand)
Ng Yiqin (Singapore)
Shyan Tan (Singapore)
Sorayos Prapapan (Thailand)
Tan Jingliang (Singapore)
Tay Hong Cheng (Singapore)
Vivien Koh (Singapore)

We interview each of the teams to understand how they lived the 'indie' spirit in their 2-day journey and also to study the osmosis effect of the very special fimmaking 'cult' named 13 Little Pictures.



Tan Jing Liang, Singapore


Have you heard of 13 Little Pictures before this?
Yes - I first heard about 13 Little Pictures when I attended a screening for White Days by Lei Yuan Bin, one of the filmmakers from the collective.


What did you see in the direction of 13 Little Pictures that encouraged you to join the lab?
13 Little Pictures was to me a very unique collective of independent filmmakers that consistently adopted, for lack of a better term, an anti-classical creative process in filmmaking. I was very keen to meet the filmmakers and understand their creative philosophies behind this.


What were your expectations of the Lab?
I hoped to take away from the Lab meaningful exchanges with people interested in the same things I do.


I know some participants flew in from other countries to participate in this. What drove this?
Some were here to attend the 24th Singapore International Film Festival and the Lab was a way for them to do this in a more participatory manner; some were keen to work in Singapore and the Lab was a platform to meet like-minded people and make friends in the local film circle.


I understand you were all split into teams to make a 5 minute clip. How different is this from the usual 48-hr/2-day film challenges that are already existing?
I think the biggest difference lies in the fact that everyone in the teams had never met each other before, with some of our friends from the region not even having been to Singapore before this, so we had to get to know each other and figure out one another’s working styles within a very short timeframe before we could even delve into any creative conceptualization. The existing ‘marathon’ film competitions are usually joined by local participants who form teams of their own with members who already know each other or have worked together on film productions before.


Who were your mentors for your group?
Liao Jiekai (director of Red Dragonflies) and Lai Weijie (director of I Have Loved). Perhaps “mentors” might not quite be the right word to use. From the very beginning of the Lab, the filmmakers of 13 Little Pictures made it clear that they did not posit themselves as mentors with a teacher-student relationship with the participants, but rather as fellow peers in the collaborative art of filmmaking who are there to share their experience and opinions, just as the participants would share their own. This was something I really appreciated. I enjoyed that we all spoke on the same level and were able to engage with each other a lot more personally this way.


Have you watched their film/s? What was initial impression of yr mentor/s?
Unfortunately I have not seen Red Dragonflies nor I Have Loved...
The first thing I noticed about both Jiekai and Weijie was that neither of them had any airs about them despite their accolades as directors. They were ready and happy to share their creative processes in filmmaking and were very humble about their work. It was really pleasant that they spoke with me with the intention to share rather than to teach despite having a lot more experience than I did.


What was the most valuable thing you gained under your mentor/s?
That spontaneity is a trait very much worth embracing in filmmaking.


Has this project influenced the way you think about making your films in anyway?
It certainly has. During the Lab we talked a lot about paring the content of the films we make down to the bare essentials - to strip it down to its very core, even if it means having to make some creative compromises. I suppose we all to some extent have the tendency to be quite attached to the original whole that we set out to complete, but I’ve seen that some very meaningful things can result when one is more ruthless with such a stripping-down.




Daniel Hui and a lecture on skincare? 


Test Test, 10, 11, 12, 13


Tay Hong Cheng, Singapore (and team)

Have you heard of 13 Little Pictures before this?
Bee Thiam is a part Time professor at NTU ADM who has taught me Asian Film History, and he would mention of 13 Little Pictures. I had eventually found the 13 Little Pictures blog and also found out that my senior (Wesley) is also a member of the collaborative.

What did you see in the direction of 13 Little Pictures that encouraged you to join the lab?
My interest in local films have grown after my exposure to Asian Film History and see 13 Little Pictures as a collection of festival filmmakers and want to find out more about their processes and opinions as independent filmmaking in Singapore, and gain exposure from the experience of 13 Little Pictures Filmmakers.

What were your expectations of the Lab?
I thought that the lab will be a platform for filmmakers to exchange and bounce off ideas  and also sink deep into discussion of its language and how it means to one another, both by the participants and the 13 Little Pictures Filmmakers. Although i never did expect the film lab to be a place that taught the know hows of making a film and go for workshop exercises.

I know some participants flew in from other countries to participate in this. What drove this?
The teams and composition of filmmakers were very diverse, but in such a short amount of time, it did prove some problems. Somehow there seemed to be less time for exploration but more time for exercises about how films can be made.

I understand you were all split into teams to make a 5 minute clip. How different is this from the usual 48-hr/2-day film challenges that are already existing?
I have personally participated in several of 48 Hour Film Project, and one Fly By Night competition and feel that the 13 Little Film Lab allows for more exploration because of how diverse the team as opposed to the teams I have been exposed to in 48 Hour Film Projects which have been composed of friends whom I have known and worked with for a long time. Although in the 13 Little Pictures Film Lab, due to the diversity of the people and schedules, we experienced almost no time in preparation for the film. But due to the nature of our film (experimental), that posed only a small problem. There are some lines you'd know you can't cross as opposed to my experiences in 48 Hour Film Project, that I am accustomed to their rules and small little tricks. 

Who were your mentors for your group?
Daniel Hui and Yeo Siew Hua.

Have you watched their film/s? What was initial impression of yr mentor/s?
Havent seen any of their films. Daniel was a very experimental in all forms and it was refreshing, coming down from classes of directing in school and to the film lab when he told us about his approach on the the direction of a story, which is totally different from what ive learnt so far. Siew Hua seemed very accommodating, but we didnt see him much in the film lab because he could only stay for half of the total duration.

What was the most valuable thing you gained under your mentor/s?
One thing that was rather memorable for me was when Daniel was talking about the close up, and how the human face alone could tell a story that a montage of other shots could do, without changing the shot size. The close up was also the landscape, all its little movements and gestures are equally powerful as they are subtle in wider shots. 

Has this project influenced the way you think about making your films in anyway?
Although i do not notice any major change, i am sure that i have been influenced sub-conciously,
pushing the level of experimenting with new techniques of filmmaking, ontop of my occasional concious effort to try different methods.



'Should there music at this point?'


Now you can see their pores


No camera? I've got an iphone.

Ashish Ravinran, Singapore 

Have you heard of 13 Little Pictures before this?
I'd heard about this mysteriously-named film collective and roughly what they were interested in but not much more than that.

What did you see in the direction of 13 Little Pictures that encouraged you to join the lab?
This idea of a group of filmmakers who were primarily motivated by their love for movies, rather than 'external' considerations, sounded like a very encouraging environment for an aspiring filmmaker like myself. I also really liked their emphasis on respecting filmmakers' individuality and enjoying the diversity of opinions and approaches which that brought.

What were your expectations of the Lab?
I was looking forward to exchanging ideas with other participants who were similarly passionate about movies. But I didn't realise that there would also be so many practicing filmmakers from 13 Little Pictures, who mentored us for the week and who often seemed like participants themselves. I was also pleasantly surprised to find that half the participants were based in Singapore and the other half came from the Philippines, Malaysia and Thailand.

I know some participants flew in from other countries to participate in this. What drove this?
I can't speak for them but it seemed like they too were attracted by this idea of collaboration that is crucial to the ethos of 13 Little Pictures. I say this because many of them had already been working in the film industry for a while. Either that or maybe 13 Little Pictures did a great job of advertising the Film Lab overseas.

I understand you were all split into teams to make a 5 minute clip. How different is this from the usual 48-hr/2-day film challenges that are already existing?
I haven't taken part in any of those film challenges yet but I did help organise a 3 hour film challenge as part of the Oxford Film Festival 2011 in the UK, where I'm currently studying. And the Film Lab was completely different from that because we had a couple of days to get to know our teammates from scratch, do practice exercises, and then embark on our 5 minute movie. Altogether we had three days to shoot and edit. We also had a critique session the day before the final screening, where I think almost all the feedback was constructive. So maybe the spirit of 13 Little Pictures rubbed off.

Who were the mentors for your group?
We had the highly acclaimed cinematographer and filmmaker, Looi Wan Ping, and the very talented filmmaker, Wesley Leon Aroozoo, who is currently studying at NYU TischAsia.

Have you watched their film/s? What was initial impression of your mentors?
To be honest, I hadn't watched any of their films although over the course of the Film Lab I managed to see Daniel Hui's Eclipses, which premiered at the SIFF during the Film Lab, and had a great influence on me. As for initial impressions, I was struck by how interested the mentors were in talking to, and potentially learning from, the participants. There was no one really dictating how we should do things. Even Tan Bee Thiam, who was running the show, had an intentionally laissez-faire approach. In that sense, it really was like a 'lab' where we could experiment with different methods/styles etc. to see what worked best.

What was the most valuable thing you gained under your mentor/s?
At times, they were keen to let us fend for ourselves like when we were 'secretly' filming outside Parliament House. But they both also had a lot of solid practical advice when we were shooting and editing. However, the Film Lab was organised loosely enough for us to interact with the other groups' mentors, which meant that I was able to learn from them too. Since then I've also become friends (I think) with some of the mentors, who I've talked to about movie ideas, film school applications, their own projects, and so on. So I think it's this love for movies that relates to a real enjoyment of the process of filmmaking itself, which I now appreciate more.

Has this project influenced the way you think about making your films in anyway?
It's allowed me to think more clearly about how I want to make movies. I mean this not only in terms of content and style, but also about what kind of process I want to adopt in terms of writing, directing and editing, and how these choices are more closely entwined with my politics and fundamental beliefs than I had earlier assumed. And most of all, it's spurred me to make my next short movie, which I'm currently shooting. And I guess that's the best inspiration I could've asked for.


The leaders of the three teams, Hong Cheng, Jing Liang and Ashish take their bows for the finished products


Graduates from the School of 'Fuck the Budget, Just Shoot'

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