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.