The right script will take Singapore film far

The right script will take Singapore film far

Last week, I left an Imax cinema not fully understanding Interstellar but feeling inspired at the same time.

At the heart of the science-fiction movie is a moving story about the bond between father and daughter. I was overwhelmed by all the science - some real, some fiction - but I was blown away by the real emotions between parent and child.

A few days before watching the movie, I was asked by a journalist about how Singapore films could travel better.

Ah Boys To Men did well locally but did not travel. Ilo Ilo was sold to many countries but did not perform well in foreign markets. Is the subject matter of Singapore films such that audiences beyond our shores cannot fully understand them?

But Interstellar is proof you don't need to completely comprehend a film's subject matter. In fact, the subject in many films is incidental to the themes, characters or premise.

For the longest time, the weakest link in our local film industry has been attributed to our small market. While that is undeniable, it is, in many ways, not the point.

If we just focus on our small market, we will lose the plot. To me and many in the film industry who care to admit, our biggest problem has to be our lack of focus on the script.

Not enough resources and time have been given to this aspect of film-making. What constitutes a good script is subjective but there needs to be a certain reverence to it, because everything begins and ends with the script.

Our market is not mature, so funding has always been the primary focal point. There is almost this idea that if the money can be found, everything else can be resolved. This mentality has to change.

But I feel the winds of change blowing. Some film-makers had been inactive for several years, but they are now behind some exciting projects.

These projects have been in development for a few years. It follows that their scripts were given the necessary time and resources to go through the rounds of changes to get the acts, characters and plot details right.

Kelvin Tong, who went to Hong Kong, is directing a new movie, The Faith Of Anna Waters, with a fresh mix of local and foreign talent.

Royston Tan's last feature was seven years ago. He is now directing 3688.

Eric Khoo finally gets to make the erotic film he has talked about for nearly a decade - In The Room, which is financed by a Hong Kong firm.

Boo Junfeng is directing his second film, Apprentice, a movie about capital punishment. His script has been discussed at workshops around the world for over three years.

Anthony Chen is writing his next feature, albeit fastidiously.

And I am producing and co-directing 1965, a pet project in the making for almost five years. It was only about a year ago that I finally felt I had the right premise, one that could be developed into a mainstream film with themes and characters that are relatable to people staying in any part of the world.

When good scripts are made into films, they inspire good writers to join the industry and pave the way for better writing.

Christopher Nolan, Interstellar's director, said it is not as important to understand his movies as it is to feel them.

Watching Interstellar, I was floored emotionally by Matthew McConaughey's protagonist. His performance is the conduit for the feelings Nolan wants viewers to soak in - empathy for a traveller who is, above all, a father.

What I am ultimately connected to in his film are its themes of human sacrifice, courage and love. These are elements a Singapore film can have, even when our budgets, expertise and resources limit us from tackling the more ambitious narratives and visions of bigger markets.

One day, hopefully in the not-so-distant future, I'll see a Singapore film inspiring someone in a distant country, unravelling a universal truth about human existence from the small market that could.

myp@sph.com.sg

The writer is a film-maker and life coach. He blogs at danielyunhx.com


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