Winning ideas and Dream Teams, from the 'Movie Makers Short Film' Winners

Film still from winning film 'You and Me'

Winners of short film competitions are aplenty but not many reap for themselves opportunities like getting a chance to develop a commercial feature film. Here is one. Read more about it in our previous post

We learn a bit more about the recently concluded Movie Makers Short Film Competition from both the organisers and the winners, specifically the Top 3 winners, Sean Ng, Ellie Ngim and Sabrina Tan.

The inaugural Movie Makers Short Film Competition, jointly organised by by mm2 Entertainment Pte. Ltd. and FOX International Channels’ (“FIC”) flagship Chinese movies channel, SCM (衛視電影台), drew in numerous quality film entries. Participants were asked to make short films of less than 10 minutes and were not bound by any themes. 20 entries were shortlisted by the judges from the rest of the entries and the judges decided the winners based on storytelling ability, whether they had a distinctive visual style, and commercial sensibility. Here are what the top 3 winners had to say:

Sean Ng
, Winner, 'You and Me', about a father dealing with a cross-dressing son

How did your film idea come about? Please take us through your development process.

It started from a simple father-son relationship, which is a premise I like to explore for shorts. The idea of this young kid character came about from a neighbour I had when I was younger. The story is definitely dramatised, and is only loosely based off this vague memory. My co-writer and I simply thought around the themes of unconditional love, and family, and came up with the narrative. 

Is this your first short film? What films/content have you done in the past?
No. I work at AMOK, a production house, and have created commercials and video content for clients like Facebook, Sony, McDonalds, etc. The other shorts I've done in the past were either branded content shorts, or student films. 

How would you describe your style in film?
I love the drama genre, and European blocking and camera work. I would like to describe my style as personal and intimate.
Who are your favourite directors?
Alejandro G Innaritu and Eric Khoo.

If given the chance, who do you most want to work with in your film?
I would like to work with local writer Wong Kim Hoh, film scorer Gustavo Santaolalla, and cinematographer Rodrigo Prieto. And definitely Eric and Innaritu.

How do you feel about winning and the chance to make a feature film?
I am very excited for what's to come, and am hoping to getting my foot into the feature film industry.

Ellie Ngim, Runner-up, 'Will You be my Valentine?', about about a guy with a crush who ponders whether 'to ask or not to ask' for Valentine’s Day.

How did your film idea come about? Please take us through your development process.
It was during the period when we were about to shoot 'Lollypop Love' and I was introduced to Mindee. Back then, I didn't know she was an actress but there was just something about her that fits into my idea of a romantic comedy character and I was just thinking to myself back then that if I were a guy, I would love to ask her to be my Valentine. And the thought stuck to me for months and when I locked my story, I asked if she would be interested to play it.

The idea development was pretty quick as I tend to sketch first before writing a script -- a little like watching a movie in your head first before reading a storybook I guess. I just needed to pick a song I can put on repeat to remind myself of the mood I felt when this idea came about.

Is this your first short film?
No. 'Will You Be My Valentine?' is my third short film after 'Onee-Chan' and 'Lollypop Love', shot in 2013 and 2014 respectively.

What films/content have you done in the past?
I recently completed my latest short, titled 'Second Chance', before attending the Asian Film Academy (AFA) in Busan as a directing fellow. I have always wanted to explore a story about perception because it is something that is very abstract but yet, almost every actions and decisions we make are influence by perception whether consciously or subconsciously. 

How would you describe your style in film?
Honestly, I do not quite know how to answer this question. Some of my friends have made comments about my style consistency in my films, but I've never quite gotten that. I would like to believe however, that style may evolve over time, somewhat in parallel with that of life and experiences which fundamentally defines a person. Inherently nevertheless, I do am consistently drawn to raw emotions, and I am quick to draw inspirations from people and music.
Who are your favourite directors?
I actually don't have any one specific favourite director. There are just too many films which I love and there are also many great and talented directors out there whose inspiring work has brought me through a whirlwind of emotions.

If given the chance, who do you most want to work with in your film?
My dream team would be a team of very passionate people who shares and believes in the vision and the film. I've had the chance to meet and work with extremely passionate and talented teammates and some of them have stuck by me in my filmmaking journey since the get-go. A team is about growing together, getting better together, learning something new together and ultimately achieving a vision together. The art is important but to me, people is equally important too.

Sabrina Tan, Runner-up, 'Come Home', about a young boy who decides to help his grandfather return home on the 7th day after his death.

How did your film idea come about? Please take us through your development process?
Actually, I had this idea in 2010... When it was the "tomb-sweeping" period in April, I was sitting at the pavilion after cleaning up my dad's tomb with my family. The new cemetery is very quiet and peaceful. A thought came to my mind. I was thinking, what if it is not the peak period for "tomb sweeping", what will this place be like? Will the spirits be where sitting at where I sat? If the dead are buried, how do they "go home" on the 7th day according to Chinese. There, was how Come Home came about.

It was not long till I decided to incorporate my experiences and how I was feeling then into the idea, which I wrote it down in my ideas book. My dad passed on during the post-surgery for his heart. His sudden death affected me a lot.

I did not work on the Come Home until 2015, when my partner Nicholas and I chanced upon the MM2 movie makers competition, which we decided to take part. We had a couple of ideas that we wanted to make then, but eventually, we settled on Come Home because that is something we both felt that is most suitable. 

Nicholas then wrote my story into a script, which we incorporated past experiences, exploring traditional and contemporary ways of dealing with death and most importantly, developing my characters.
Is this your first short film? What films/content have you done in the past?
No. I have made a very short, short film about me and my grandma, titled, "Seventy" for Cathay Motion Picture Award that got into top 10 in 2014.

How would you describe your style in film?
As a director, I don't think I have a specific style yet. But I do have a certain way of treating my materials. I want to present factual social issues that seemed to be contradictions of certain traditions or ways that we are accustomed to, in a light-hearted manner. Basically, treat serious matter in a light manner and yet create an afterthought in viewers, on the serious matter.

And I like to make audiences laugh first, then reveal the situation to them - catching them offguard! I like to work with old people and kids, I think they represent human in its purest nature.
Who are your favourite directors?
There are so many to list! But at the top of my head (in no order):
Quentin Tarantino, Thomas Vinterberg, Martin Scorsese, David O. Russell, Paul Thomas Anderson, Terrence Malick, Wei Te-Sheng, Ang Lee, Doze Niu, Dante Lam, Danny Boyle, Eric Khoo, Hayao Miyazaki, Johnnie To, Nicolas Winding Refn.

If given the chance, who do you most want to work with in your film?
I am a huge fan of Leonardo DiCaprio! If given the chance, I definitely want to work with him! 
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