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Eric
Khoo

Eric Khoo is Singapore’s OG filmmaker. Eric’s first feature Mee Pok Man in 1995 jolted local cinema back to life, and his second film 12 Storeys was the first Singaporean film selected for Official Selection in Cannes Film Festival 1997.

Director’s Hack

Try out Eric’s nifty trick when you shoot your film for Short & Sharp.

A few questions for Eric
The pandemic has hit the movie industry pretty hard. How do you think storytelling has changed as a result?
The hard times faced by the movie industry don’t change storytelling. Good and effective stories will always continue to resonate with audiences. The mode of distribution may have changed, but the art of storytelling remains the same.
Where do you see the Singaporean storyteller in the world as we know today?
Streaming platforms allow the Singaporean storyteller more access and exposure to a wider global audience, which means more opportunities for creative storytelling to connect with these viewers.
Your storytelling is known for its unique Singaporean feel and flavour. Do you see this getting stronger with future storytellers, or are we likely to be more Westernised?
I guess it really depends on what the story calls for, and I would like to believe that we will continue to discover and develop varied and interesting Singaporean filmmakers.

A couple of years back, Kirsten Tan directed the award-winning Pop Aye in Thailand with a completely Thai cast. To be international storytellers and not merely defined by our nationality or origins, now that’s exciting.
Many see in the smartphone the future of filmmaking. Have you considered filming on a smartphone?
I’ve been really impressed with what the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G can do for a filmmaker. Now I want to make an entire feature on a smartphone.
What came to mind when you were invited to Samsung’s Short & Sharp?
It blew my mind. Short film competitions are crucial in discovering new talents. I’m a firm advocate for short films; in fact, my career started with them.

I’m so glad that Samsung is taking the lead. The art of storytelling is the best form of engagement for any brand wanting to connect with an audience.
What do you think about our theme What the World Needs Now?
I believe it’s an especially important message during these difficult times when the world needs healing and love. Go check out the timeless Burt Bacharach-Hal David song [of the same name]!
What recent movies or shows have you been impressed by in terms of craft and storytelling? Any guilty pleasures?
I loved Chernobyl on HBO and Kingdom on Netflix.
Do your family members expect all home videos shot by you to be Oscar-worthy?
Maybe a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away.... but seriously with what the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G is capable of, I would like to think that all home videos would now be Oscar-worthy!
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity. Learn more about Eric Khoo’s filmography here.
Jeanette
Aw

Jeanette Aw has long reigned as Singapore’s favourite TV queen, but she is no stranger to the silver screen either. In 2017, she shot, wrote and directed her first short The Last Entry, which was selected to be screened at the Tokyo Short Shorts Film Festival (SSFF) & Asia 2018.

Where do you think Singapore cinema is headed?
I believe local films would slowly but surely reach and connect with international audiences. With greater exposure to content from around the world, local filmmakers are now expanding and exploring new ways of storytelling. It’s exciting to identify local works and bring them to the international spotlight.
How can you tell if someone has the X factor?
Creativity shines bright on its own. When a production or a performance leaves you stunned with its originality, you start wondering about the mind behind it.

But even with such talent, you need to keep pushing the boundaries so you don’t fall behind. Having the X factor can only bring you so far. The rest is hard work.
Many see in the smartphone the future of filmmaking. What do you make of it?
The smartphone makes filmmaking more accessible. It’s something you always have with you, so it’s the first step towards experimenting with shots and storytelling.

I’ve filmed my recipe videos on the smartphone — or rather, a couple of smartphones that I set up around the kitchen when I do my own filming. I’ve never tried making a short film on a smartphone. I should explore that one day.
What came to mind when you were invited to Samsung’s Short & Sharp?
I’m thrilled about Samsung’s support for the arts. Short films have often been overlooked when they can be the most challenging to make. Telling an impactful story within such a short amount of time isn’t as easy as many would think. To encourage more aspiring creatives to take this first step, Samsung’s support is so important.
What do you think about our theme What the World Needs Now?
Love this concept. I can see so many possibilities and interpretations and personal points of view. I look forward to the submissions.
What recent movies or shows have you been impressed by in terms of craft and storytelling? Any guilty pleasures?
I watched The Queen’s Gambit some time back. I really liked that it’s an imaginative and (at the same time) emotional story of psychological struggle. It also made chess exciting to a lot of people. It just goes to show how a successful production can have the astounding power of bringing positive awareness to a subject.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity. Learn more about Jeanette Aw’s works here.
Anthony
Chen

Anthony Chen’s sincere, honest approach to storytelling explains why his films have resonated far and wide. His debut feature ILO ILO was the first Singapore film to ever be awarded at Cannes, clinching the Camera d’Or in 2013.

Director’s Hack

A filmmaking tutorial from Anthony that would come in handy for your Short & Sharp entry.

A few questions for Anthony
The pandemic has hit the movie industry pretty hard. How do you think storytelling has changed as a result?
With the rise of streaming platforms and social media, distribution channels and media are clearly evolving. But the core of storytelling has stayed the same.

Humans have been storytellers since the start of civilisation, and good stories will always find and connect with audiences.
Where do you see the Singaporean storyteller in the world as we know today?
Being Singaporean and hailing from a diverse and cosmopolitan society, we have quite a broad world view and are highly adaptable. So I can see Singapore storytellers stepping up to telling stories beyond our shores.

For example, I’ve been working on a film about an African woman’s struggle to define her own existence after landing on the shores of Greece as a refugee.
Your storytelling is known for its unique Singaporean feel and flavour. Do you see this getting stronger with future storytellers, or are we likely to be more Westernised?
For me, it’s never about seeking colloquialism for the sake of it. I always seek truth and honesty in my work, and the only way is to get to the core of the characters.
Many see in the smartphone the future of filmmaking. What do you make of it?
Many great films have been made on a smartphone. Korean master Park Chan-wook shot an award-winning short film [Night Fishing] entirely on a phone. So did Sean Baker with Tangerine. In fact, the behind-the-scenes clips for my last film Wet Season were all shot on a smartphone.
Have you considered filming on a smartphone?
Not an entire feature film, but short films. I guess it might be really liberating.
What came to mind when you were invited to Samsung’s Short & Sharp?
It’s great that Samsung is taking the lead to discover a new generation of Singapore filmmakers with Short & Sharp — especially at a time when we consume so many stories and content through our smartphones and mobile devices. Smartphone technology and content, there’s a natural synergy.
What do you think about our theme What the World Needs Now?
Actually, I’ve been pondering the same thing throughout the pandemic last year, and I’ve even made a short film in response to the pandemic. I think 2020 has thrown everyone into some kind of existential crisis, and it’s a good time to figure out what we really need, as we move forward as individuals, as a society, as a world.
What recent movies or shows have you been impressed by in terms of craft and storytelling? Any guilty pleasures?
I rarely watch Netflix, but I did watch a bit of The Queen’s Gambit to find out what the craze was all about. But for those who haven’t seen it, I would suggest checking out Alfonso Cuarón’s Oscar-winning film Roma.
Do your family members expect all home videos shot by you to be Oscar-worthy?
Home videos should just look like home videos. 4K home videos? The high quality of smartphones really makes them look too good these days.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity. Learn more about Anthony Chen’s filmography here.
Mark
Lee

Mark is no doubt one of Singapore’s most beloved kings of comedy, both on television and in movies like Money Not Enough? Lee’s extensive oeuvre has only expanded ever since. In 2020, his star turn in the film Number 1 led to his Best Leading Actor nomination in the 57th Golden Horse Awards.

Where do you think Singapore cinema is headed?
In future, I hope to see more avant-garde directors and more movies with international appeal. Because nowadays we don’t just watch movies at the cinema, but we also stream and watch many quality movies from all over the world. More people are watching short films too. And we have a good crop of up-and-coming storytellers who, I hope, will put Singapore on the international map. The fact that storytelling/filmmaking has become so democratised only makes it easier for Singaporeans to shine on the global stage.
How can you tell if someone has the X factor?
That person must not be afraid to express themselves and be creative, even when they are not yet embraced by the masses. Sometimes it could just be a matter of timing. When the stars align, their ideas and creativity will be appreciated. So to me, how hard that person is willing to work to reach their potential makes all the difference.
Many see in the smartphone the future of filmmaking. What do you make of it?
The smartphone today is no longer just a simple handphone. Besides the usual photo- and video-taking features, the smartphone’s post-production capabilities and special effects are also getting better. Not to mention the apps that are getting fancier and more impressive.

So making a movie on a smartphone can become a norm in the future. Many people with limited budgets have already produced many quality short films with just their smartphones. With that said, the broadcast platform may need some tweaking.

Five, ten years from now, I believe the smartphone may very well replace the camera for full-length feature films, which will mean much lower production costs. If the opportunity arises, I would like to shoot a 90-minute movie myself using a smartphone.
What came to mind when you were invited to Samsung’s Short & Sharp?
I am very happy to be part of it. I look forward to seeing many different genres and types of content, and the ways the participants use the smartphone to come up with something that’s very different from what we see on television or in movies. Hopefully, I’ll also be able to learn and pick up some tips from the younger generation.
What do you think about our theme What the World Needs Now?
It really unleashes people’s imagination and creativity. There are no limits — just like the content we create with our smartphones.

What does this world need? To be honest, I’m not quite sure. Is it love, strength, a cure or simply hope? But that’s the beauty of it – let our storytellers tell us. I can’t wait to see their interpretations.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity. Learn more about Mark Lee’s works here.
Ministry
of Funny

Haresh Tilani and Terence Chia started producing videos as a hobby and ended up becoming viral hit machines. Unafraid of tackling social issues with biting humour, the MOF duo created the TV series She’s A Terrorist And I Love Her, which was nominated for Best Original Programme by a Streamer/OTT and Best Comedy Programme at the 2019 Asian Academy Creative Awards.

Let’s face it, a lot of social media content can be amateurish, even kitschy. Do you think social media has helped or hindered storytelling?
Terence
Social media is a powerful way for content creators to bypass traditional gatekeepers in the entertainment industry to find their own audience. At the same time, it’s easy to get caught up in maintaining one’s online presence and navigating the complex web of algorithms rather than creating content.

Haresh
Social media definitely helps storytelling. A great story doesn’t need high production standards or traditional filmmaking principles to get out there.

On the flip side, it has opened up the floodgates for anyone to share anything with the masses. But for every “amateurish” video, there are probably ten video stories people love that would never have been made if not for social media.
Does technology help or hurt storytelling?
Terence
Technology helps. As consumer digital camera technology gets closer and closer to what’s being used for Hollywood productions, there’s really no excuse not to be out there making films with your smartphone.
What came to mind when you were invited to Samsung’s Short & Sharp?
Terence
I think it’s amazing when a brand like Samsung is taking the lead and encouraging people to get out and create, especially in this climate where traditional film festivals aren’t allowed to hold any physical events.

Haresh
Without a doubt: HELL YEAH! I absolutely love the idea of a mobile film festival. The COVID-19 pandemic has fuelled the need for more efficient ways to create content, and Samsung’s Short & Sharp is a great step in the right direction.
What do you think about our theme What the World Needs Now?
Haresh
It’s a timely theme. This past year has been challenging for filmmakers and anyone working in media. But at the same time, it pushes everyone to become more introspective. I think people are brimming with perspectives, ideas and learnings they cannot wait to share with the world.
The top winner of Short & Sharp will walk away with $20,000. How would you advise them to make the best use of the money?
Terence
Treat your loved ones to a good meal, and save up the rest for a rainy day.

Haresh
Use the money to invest in yourself and your craft, and always question the urge to indulge. Any time you want to spend on something, be sure to ask yourself: “Is this going to make me 5% better in 2 months, or 50% better in 2 years?”
What recent movies or shows have you been impressed by in terms of craft and storytelling? Any guilty pleasures?
Terence
I like true crime dramas and documentaries. I’ve just finished watching Crime Scene: The Vanishing at the Cecil Hotel on Netflix.

Haresh
I recently watched All or Nothing: Tottenham Hotspur, an Amazon documentary about José Mourinho’s first year as manager of the football club. I loved that the film gave the viewer a sneak peek into the world of elite football.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity. Catch up on Ministry of Funny’s latest hijinks here.
Wong
Kim Hoh

Wong Kim Hoh has always had a keen eye and ear for local stories. He is well-known for profiling remarkable stories of ordinary Singaporeans in his columns ‘Wong Kim Hoh Meets’ and ‘It Changed My Life’ in The Sunday Times, of which compilations have been published. Kim Hoh has also co-penned several of Eric Khoo’s critically acclaimed films, including Be With Me and My Magic.

How do you think Singapore’s film scene has evolved since its early days? Do you think it is grappling with an identity crisis?
It’s definitely grown and becoming more confident. Local filmmakers are finding their own voices and becoming more self-assured in exploring many different issues. And judging by the many Singapore films that have been nabbing accolades abroad, I don’t think they are suffering from an identity crisis. The fact that they are making their presence felt on the global stage means their movies are not only uniquely Singaporean but also have universal resonance.
The pandemic has hit the movie industry pretty hard. How do you think storytelling has changed as a result?
I think film industries everywhere have been hit by the pandemic. I guess this means that they will just have to be more resourceful, think and work harder to realise their vision. It is not necessarily a bad thing.
Does technology help or hurt storytelling?
I’m a glass half full kind of guy. At the most basic level, technology has seen to it that filmmaking is no longer an expensive undertaking or the preserve of those with the means. People can make films with their mobile phones today and that has prompted many to come forth to tell stories that they want or ache to tell.
What makes a film: technique or story?
Techniques are important, but a good story is the core and soul of a film. A filmmaker without a good story is like a chef without an idea or a recipe. He may be able to slice and julienne up a storm, but will that help him serve up something delicious and memorable?
What came to mind when you were invited to Samsung’s Short & Sharp?
It’s a great initiative, and conduct very becoming of a good, responsible corporate citizen.
What do you think about our theme What the World Needs Now?
Excellent. The world will always need love and creativity to solve problems, heal, move and inspire.
What recent movies or shows have you been impressed by in terms of craft and storytelling? Any guilty pleasures?
Recent ones I’ve watched and liked include The Queen’s Gambit, Lupin and Little Big Women.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity. Read Wong Kim Hoh’s columns here.
Oon
Shu An

With her extensive work in film, television and theatre, it’s no wonder why Oon Shu An is a familiar face to many young Singaporeans. Besides her star turns in feature films like Rubbers and Our Sister Mambo, she has racked up multiple Life! Theatre Awards nominations, and is the current host of the popular online series Tried and Tested.

Where do you think Singapore cinema is headed?
It’s wonderful to see so many films by our Singaporean filmmakers getting recognised internationally in recent years. I have so much admiration for them. It’s an incredibly tough industry. We know filmmaking isn’t an easy job, and they’ve really paved the way for those after them.

It’s also amazing to see the younger generation being very vocal about issues they care about. There’s a diversity of content and genres emerging from younger filmmakers as well.

With regional platforms setting up their bases here looking out for Singaporean content and stories, I think these are pretty exciting times!
How is your experience with short films as a performer?
So many memorable experiences! The friendships, the camaraderie, the discussions, these are what make me tick. My favourite memories are of heading down to the next shooting location at 2, 3 in the morning, full from supper, tired from the day, driven by adrenaline — but excited to get the cameras rolling again.
How has the smartphone empowered people?
Nowadays, you can really just pick up your phone and start recording things. I remember a short film I did many years back that was shot on actual film. They had to ration their takes because of the limited rolls of film they had. They couldn’t check their shots on the spot to see if they had captured what they needed. No matter your role on set — be it director, actor, director of photography or focus puller — you had to be, in some ways, so much surer of everything.

What’s great with phones is that you can try, practise, experiment and review your shots. You can check things like, “Is this the story I’m trying to tell? Does this accurately reflect what I have in my head?"
You have worked on international sets (like Netflix’s Marco Polo) and local productions. Do you aspire to work overseas or work at home?
I always find this a complicated question to answer. Working on an international set has taught me so much. While working in a different country’s industry would surely be an incredibly eye-opening learning experience, I’m also a huge homebody and deeply passionate about Singapore’s stories.
What came to mind when you’re invited to host Samsung’s Short & Sharp?
I was thrilled! It sounds like a fantastic learning environment. Technology has changed the game by making the tools to tell our stories super accessible. Also, having a tech giant like Samsung actively supporting and nurturing the art of storytelling? Yes, please!
What do you think about our theme What the World Needs Now?
I love it. I think many of us have been conditioned to think, “Does it really matter what I think? Who am I to say anything?” How many ideas, relationships and connections have we missed as a result? Where does this questioning voice come from and why do we automatically view it as more valid than our own? All our voices are important because each and every one of us brings our distinct life experience and perspective to the table. I love that Samsung believes in the importance of our voices by setting such a big theme! I can’t wait to watch the entries.
What recent movies or shows have you been impressed by in terms of craft and storytelling? Any guilty pleasures?
The Queen’s Gambit. I was enthralled from start to finish. Everything about it took my breath away. [Leading actress] Anya Taylor-Joy gave such an enigmatic performance. The storytelling is so human and it’s a real visual spectacle. And I almost always have Friends on repeat.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity. Follow Oon Shu An here.