The Rifyal Report: A Guide to Stop Aspiring and Just Be


Being a first-time filmmaker trying to make that first short film is really hard. The birth of one’s filmmaking journey, making a short film is the first time one begins to learn the processes from having an idea or a premise, to actually making a film. It is also when one has least experience, at one’s most vulnerable, and in need of substantially more than a little help.

Fundamentally, ideas are easy, but execution is a whole different ballpark. Everyone has ideas. But to execute them? That, is truly hard. This is what separates an aspiring filmmaker from a filmmaker—the incredible feat of just doing it.

One of the first, not to mention the biggest, stumbling blocks that any aspiring filmmaker would face is funding. I think, one natural reaction would be to look for a short film grant, which our recently remodeled governmental benefactor, the Infocomm Media Development Authority (iMDA) provides. In fact, they recently announced a call-for-proposal for short films grant assistance.

Great! Well, maybe not so.  Once you read the terms and conditions, you start to notice something troubling about it. To be eligible for this grant, you need to have had directed at least one short film that has screened at a reputable international film festival (including Singapore International Film Festival), or locally at Singapore Short Cuts, or to have competed at the National Youth Film Awards.

Essentially, if you have never directed a short film before, you are not eligible. Even if you have been directing other works such as TVCs, a web series or vlogs or you are an experienced Director of Photography, Assistant Director, or Editor who wants their own chance at directing a short film, you are not eligible.

If you think that is somewhat unfair, you are right. Not everyone can find an opportunity to direct, not even in film school and many others, especially younger people, may opt to learn the ropes of production in other roles before taking the responsibility of a director.

Couple the fact that this is really the only grant that it affords to filmmakers for short films as well as the competitiveness of being accepted into film festivals, its exclusiveness leaves out a ton of talented people. We do not have such a myriad of other organizations that gives you grants the way the government does and this highlights what a huge problem that is too.

That being said, I have to be relatively fair and honest. I do think that from the perspective of the iMDA, it helps them close the door on some risks and ensures a more consistent level of quality of filmmaking that they want to encourage. Not every promising idea leads to a successful film.

But the fact of the matter is if we are not inclusive in helping aspiring filmmakers achieve their goals, we will inevitably lose them, either from discouraging them to the harsh practicalities of living in Singapore, or by losing them to other countries with better potential for support. Ultimately, we stem our society’s potential for artistic and cultural sophistication and growth, whilst others accelerate ahead.

Overall then, it seems like a very discouraging issue for aspiring filmmakers right from the start. However, my advice is if you want to direct,

If you are unable to get funding from iMDA, whether you are eligible or not, and you give up, I am sorry to say this is the wrong job for you.  The beginning years and decades for many filmmakers is living with constant rejection. You need a great deal of determination, audacity and even blissful ignorance when mounting a project as complex as filmmaking.  But it is in the application, attitude and the desire to create something unique, all the while preserving an insatiable appetite for improvement that can be seen in great filmmakers.

Furthermore, we are living in an unprecedented age whereby the democratization of technology has liberated many people to be able to make films on their own terms. You have advanced audio-video recording devices on your phone. You might not be able to do certain things that well funded projects can, but then that is also when you apply creativity and innovation, which is what being in the creative industry is all about.

You will never find the right assistance falling from the sky that will be perfect just for you that is consequence free. Nothing in life is going to be handed to you in a straight easy line. But don’t stagnate. Do something. Do anything. Keep moving and you will get where you want to be.


All you have to do is commit your entire life to something, which will result in one of two outcomes. Either you will succeed, or you will keep trying, which is in and of itself its own form of success. So whilst there needs to be an improvement in helping first time filmmakers in terms of assistance, young filmmakers still can take the opportunity to help themselves.

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