She created an award-winning short film about a taxi driver in 2 days and it started from her being 'kaypoh'

Putting together a video project takes a village and a lot of time, but for young local filmmaker Lan Yu, she beat the odds to put together an award-winning short film titled $ingapura in just two days.

The three-minute film — which peeks into a day in the life of a taxi driver as he picks up passengers that represent the everyday Singaporean, showing the disparate stories he bears witness to — took home the Overall Best Film and Best Screenplay at last year's ciNE65 Movie Makers Awards (ciNE65 MMA) for the Open Category.

Speaking to AsiaOne on E-Junkies, the 25-year-old shared more of how $ingapura came about.

"I've wanted to do a documentary all along because I'm a very kaypoh person. When I take cabs, I'll talk to the [cab driver] uncle. I'll sit in the front seat — this was before Covid-19 — and talk to them about their day and other stuff," Lan Yu explained.

"I had this idea of a documentary but it's not legal to film with audio in a car, so we had to work our way around it. It's very intriguing how a cab, driving around maybe 12 hours a day, encapsulates so much of what the city is."

In a previous interview, she shared that she and her team took "a very hectic two days" to create the short film, and filming itself took about 10 to 12 hours.

Organised by Nexus, Ministry of Defence, ciNE65 returns for its sixth season this year with the theme Stronger, Together. It consists of three commissioned films, film-making workshops and seminars, a film festival, and a short film competition known as the ciNE65 MMA co-organised with media entertainment company mm2 Entertainment.

And Lan Yu is back this year as one of the three commissioned filmmakers for ciNE65 2021. She screened her short film, A Cat's Purpose, for its launch back in November 2020. This film shows how a homeless man discovers a renewed sense of home when he finds an unlikely companion in a neighbourhood cat.

The inspiration for this came about after Lan Yu's first interaction with homeless people during an exchange trip to Germany in 2017.

She shared: "I've always read about it on newspapers but it's the first time that I've actually witnessed it on my own and interacted with some of them. And it got me thinking about the situation in Singapore. At that time, there weren't any national papers and statistics out [on homelessness] yet."

Good stepping stone

Another commissioned filmmaker who dropped by E-Junkies was 37-year-old Yahssir M., who has 15 years of filmmaking experience and is the founder of Millenia Motion Pictures. His short film Super Girl shows how "each and every ordinary person can be a super person".

"We took this character, a 10-year-old girl, who wants to help another friend and how she goes out of her way [to do it]. And she gets the support of the people in the community to achieve what she wants to do," he said, adding that the film shows how the Pioneer Generation still plays "a pivotal role in our youngsters".

Yahssir is no stranger to ciNE65 and returns regularly to conduct workshops. He feels that the event is a good stepping stone for aspiring filmmakers as it gives them a "boost to work on something" and creates awareness about them and their work.

He added: "Every ciNE65 season, we have [past] participants who return. I think their main [intention] is not to win but to create their short films. Through that, they hone their craft and skills, and it also gives them a very good medium to explore their stories so they can see where they stand."

As for Lan Yu, her ciNE65 experience is a little more personal and it has shown her that it's something worth pursuing. "I've been through it and it reassured me that there might be something to pursue if you tell a story you believe in," she said.

Not another Covid-19 story

For this year's theme of Stronger, Together, Yahssir advised against leaning too hard into a Covid-19 story and to explore other definitions of what it means to be stronger together.

"Even I had this major difficulty the moment I was given the theme. My whole mind was like Covid, Covid, Covid; I couldn't think of anything else," he shared.

"Then I said, 'No, I don't think we want to tell another Covid-19 story. Let's tell something else.' So I think it's definitely best to avoid the Covid-19 topics but find something personal, something that could be even within the family."

Lan Yu echoed this sentiment as she observed that people are "tired of the whole Covid narrative", although she clarified that it's still very important. Her suggestion? Let it be a story "set in the Covid-19 context" where you can see people wearing masks in the film, instead of a Covid-19 story per se.

To ease the unnerved minds of potential participants, Yahssir also shared a tip for aspiring filmmakers — don't overdo it and avoid stretching yourselves too thin.

He explained: "They try to achieve too many things in one shot. That might be one of the major mistakes they [make] because sometimes they want to achieve [many things] and make it look really good. Instead of focusing on one particular thing, they try to mix everything in."

Interested applicants can sign up for the competition here and upload their films to their personal YouTube account with the hashtag #2021cine65 by March 14.

Check out ciNE65's social media page for more information.

This article is brought to you in partnership with ciNE65.

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