Hey Leon, congratulations!
We catch up with him after he recently completed his latest short film, "The Three Sisters".
What's next after The Three Sisters?
Right now, I'm just taking a break. When you're making a film, it just consumes you. For nine months, everything I could think of was the film. Even after the film is completed, I still have to think about festivals, making sure that the film gets into good festivals. I want to make another short film, but I haven't decided on the concept yet. I have an idea box and I'll find the time to go through them. Perhaps the next film will be a longer film, a feature film.
Why did you start in films?
I don't think there was an "Aha!" moment when I woke up and decided that I just wanted to create films. Before I went to Ngee Ann to study film, I was introduced to movies by my uncle. We would watch LDs of all genres at my grandma's place. My parents also loved to rent LDs. I guess all these had an early influence on me. Not long after, I started a website on movies and wrote articles about them. That went on for a couple of years until secondary school. Nowadays, I'd rather concentrate on writing for my own films. At that time, I wouldn't say I was crazy about movies but yes, it was true that I was very very interested, watching movies, following the Oscars. It just had a very strong appeal to me, and I thought to myself, maybe I should give this a try.
After secondary school, I joined a course in filmmaking at Objectifs. It was the first time they were holding it. At the same time I applied to the Ngee Ann Polytechnic School of Film and Media studies, and I eventually did my diploma there. It was then that I really learnt how to interpret and understand movies. Movies are easy to like, but studying them and creating them is totally different. It's definitely a lot more than, "Ooh, I love to watch movies". It can be difficult because this craft demands that one brings together theory, science, technical aspects and a huge dose of creativity into it. You have to find the right balance for yourself and find out if you really have what it takes. You have to really love it. Everyday, I still question myself ... but that is good as it continuously spurs me to better myself.
Do you have a central theme in your films?
Why did you decide to make the short film
"The Three Sisters"?
What did you enjoy most in the making of
"The Three Sisters"?
I enjoyed most aspects of the making of the film. I loved the rehearsals and castings. I truly enjoy working with actors, planning the shots, sourcing locations, dressing it up, discussing costumes, the music and editing. On the negative side, the thing I least enjoyed was the preparation because I was mostly doing it alone in the initial stages. And when I work alone, it is easy to get stuck with certain ideas. It would be good to have a sounding board or someone who can help look at the bigger picture. It was an agonising couple of months, for example, looking for locations that I thought were necessary but actually didn't need because another location which was more accessible and affordable would have been sufficient and could have been used without compromising the look and feel of the film. If I had someone else who I could bounced ideas with, I wouldn't have gone around in circles.
Also, I must add that there was an incident that stood out during the filming. It made me realise that I had a wonderful cast and they were perfectly selected. During the filming of the climatic taxi scene, I realised that "wow, we just shot something amazing". The taxi scene, was an emotional scene. It is quite a roller coaster. It started out angry, then funny, then becoming more melancholic. The actress playing the youngest sister reacted to one line, "One day, you'll find someone who'll treasure you ...". At this moment, she started tearing and I was totally caught off guard because it was not part of the script. It was a wonderful moment that made all of us working on the film realised that we were working on something that could really touch people.
by Richard Chai