Production Talk - 'Good Morning 60' by Samantha Wee

Samantha Wee's first Singapore-made short film follows the 2 days after an ageing Chinese man, Peter Pang, turns 60. Birthday woes get turned around after a surprise encounter with Bhangra (a form of Indian dance) injects Peter with a newfound zest for life. Through the magic of this dance, Peter attempts to regain the sparks that had somehow gotten lost between him and his wife.

Jeremy (J) : How was the idea for your film conceived? What inspired you?
Samantha (S): I actually got the idea for my film in 2007 when I was still in New Zealand studying. I had been dancing Bhangra for 4 years already and thought it'd be fun to put it into a film. That's pretty much what inspired me - I wanted to do a Bhangra film, and then had to think of a story around it. It started out at first with a much younger main character, someone around my age, but I was getting nowhere with it. Then one day the old man idea suddenly popped into my head and it all came together from there.

J : Is this your first short film? Are you still in school? Or have you been in the media industry?
S : I suppose you could consider this my first short film as the previous ones that I had made were all done at University. I used to crew on lots of short films made by my friends, and I'd also made 2 films of my own. This film however was the first time I made something in Singapore, the first time I worked with a proper budget, hired crew, had professional actors and had so much gear, so to me, I consider this to be my first proper short film.

I'm actually working in the local film and TV industry now. I graduated in 2007 from the University of Auckland with a degree in film studies, and returned to Singapore as I knew I had to come back here to make some of the films I want to make. I've just been doing freelance work as a Production Assistant or Assistant Director, so to be able to make my own film and direct it was really refreshing for me.

J : What's your attachment with Banghra?
S : I've been dancing Bhangra for 5 years already and am part of a Bhangra group called 'Sher~e~Punjab Bhangra Crew", which incidentally is the group you see dancing in my film. I got interested in the dance as I saw a group perform it in my Junior College and was blown away by the energy and vibrancy. I knew one of the guys who had performed in school and asked him if I could join, and he brought me into the group. And I've been dancing ever since, performing at weddings and other community functions. To me, there's an inherent joy that comes along with dancing Bhangra, and I wanted to showcase this in my film, and hopefully whoever watches it gets bitten by the Bhangra bug as well!J : How did you manage to get Lim Kay Tong to act for you?
S : Getting Lim Kay Tong was one of those things where the stars all aligned in my favour. In my first job in Singapore, I had worked on a project where we produced a video on anti-media piracy and in it we had interviewed various people in the local film industry, Kay Tong being one of them. As the PA, I had to call him to arrange an interview time and hence had his number, so after I had written my script, I gave him a call and asked him if he'd be interested to star in my film. I sent him my script, we met up, he said he loved it and that was that. Needless to say I was pretty ecstatic when he said yes as Kay Tong's my favourite Singaporean actor and I didn't tell him this but I pretty much wrote the script with him in mind, so it had to be him.

J : It seems like a relatively extensive production. Was it challenging to carry it off?
S : It was very challenging to carry this project off, mainly because I was also producing it which split my time heaps. Also being my first time making a film in Singapore, there was a lot of groundwork to be done. I had a lot of support though which made the actual shoot days go really well - my crew was excellent and were really efficient despite there being only 4 of them. My parents were also with me all the way, doing things like driving the snacks and I to location, handing out water during shoot, helping me with props and wardrobe...

The most challenging shoot day was probably the wedding scene, which comes right at the end of my film. I had about 30 extras and this was the biggest group of people I'd ever had to work with. My brain went pretty crazy trying to process acting plus blocking plus shots plus logistics, but I think it worked out in the end and everyone left the shoot on a happy note.

J : What type of films do you like?
S : I love American indie films, stuff like Lost in Translation, Me & You & Everyone We Know, anything by Wes Anderson, Juno, Lars & the Real Girl... You know stuff with a good story, well executed and simple. I've also been getting into superhero films of late, my favourites being Iron Man and The Dark Knight.

J : What are your sources of inspiration for films? Any particular person? trend? style? issue?
S : I don't think I can peg my sources of inspiration to any one thing, but I tend to come up with very character-centered stories where the person deals with something, so I suppose whatever issue interests me at the time kind of makes it into a film idea.

In terms of style, I'm very American-indie influenced. Obviously all my favourite filmmakers inspire me, but also, whenever I see a good bit of film, something that's well-written, well-directed, well-handled, I try to learn whatever I can from that and it inspires me to also be able to make something of that level eventually.

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