Thursday, October 26, 2006

Asian Film Market 2006, Pusan, Korea

Eng Tiong and I were at the Asian Film Market in Pusan, South Korea, which took place over 4 days from October 15 - 18.

Being the very first time ever at a film market, it is actually bewildering. How do you go about selling your film?

Eng Tiong and I had a discussion before we set foot in Korea. Our film isn't complete yet, so we definitely don't want to show it to anyone at this point.

From an article found on the internet, the advice is to NEVER show a work-in-progress to any buyer or distributor. NEVER. The thing is - a person, no matter how convincingly they say they are professionals & thus will understand, will never be able to remain free from judgement. That is only human. So the first impression of your work - a work-in-progress - will be forever etched in their minds. And it isn't a good thing.

I only wished that I have come upon this article earlier so we wouldn't be so hard on ourselves. We showed our work-in-progress to people. Most can't imagine, they can't envision how the final movie will be like. Even the music, the sounds - as temporary substitutes - they take it as it is.

Those were pretty dark days.

I remember hearing or reading somewhere that if someone complains about the imagery in a film, it usually has to do with the sound. And increasingly, we see the importance of the soundscape in a film. It enriches the visuals so much that it really affects how a viewer "see" a film. So yes, we're paying very close attention to our movie's sound design. (So Chee Wei, not to pressure you, but the final dimension to our movie lies in your hands!)

The one thing that kept us going is that we truly believe that Truth Be Told is good. It may not be the greatest film ever but it is definitely our best work yet. So there comes a time, after taking all the blows, that we turned our backs on what others have to say. It isn't a case of being stubborn or being deluded. I guess it's a fine line between that and believing in ourselves.

I digressed... Coming back to the point about our plans at Pusan, we decided that we're there to meet more people, especially distributors in the Asian region. We are not going there to specifically sell our movie. We're there to raise awareness that this movie exists, and that it is still a work-in-progress, and that we will keep them updated on our film's progress and inform them once it's completed. We are going there to meet up with distributors to find out what they are looking for and how they work, and to establish relationships.

I think we've pretty much achieved our goals. But to remain focused on our objectives in the sea of busy buyers and sellers closing deals left and right was rather difficult. I had to constantly remind myself why we're there so I won't fall into depression, being the pessimist that I've increasingly become.

So yes, we had a good time meeting up with distributors and sales agents from Korea, Japan, Vietnam, Hong Kong, Taiwan and the USA. We also happened upon Aaron Kwok and Charlie Yeung promoting their film onstage while strolling along the beach. Some of the guys saw Maggie Q and Andy Lau. Eng Tiong shook hands with Ann Hui and Fruit Chan. We've also visited the cineplexes where the film festival screenings took place. (Note: One of Eng Tiong's idiosyncrasies is cinema-spotting. So we'll always visit cineplexes when we're at new places.) Only wished that we had more time to catch more movies at the Pusan International Film Festival.

And a "souvenir" that Eng Tiong brought back with him - a minor case of food poisoning...

Eng Tiong at the Asian Film Market at Grand Hotel.

Jen Nee at the Asian Film Market at Grand Hotel.

Sales offices at the Asian Film Market. The Singapore Film Office is on the right.

Our movie on the Singapore Film Office banner.

Pre-prep work: Our flyer.

Pre-prep work: Eng Tiong adjusting parameters on the plasma TV for the right aspect ratio for showing our trailer.

View of the Pusan beach from the Singapore Film Office at Grand Hotel. The building on the right is the Westin Hotel.

With prospective buyers at the Singapore Film Office. Our movie poster is in the middle.

With Taiwanese officials at the Taiwanese Networking Party.

The Pusan International Film Festival office by the beach. It's housed in containers but done up real hip & happening!

Korean "Hall of Fame"

Side dishes of an authentic Korean BBQ meal.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Quick Updates

1. The movie's Chinese title is now Zhen1 Xiang4 instead of Zhen1 Xiang4 Da4 Bai2.

2. The English title is now Truth Be Told instead of Exposed!

3. We've just prepared the movie's website. Access it at:

4. We're now very close to the end of post-production. We have a picture lock around mid-August. There's still D.I (basically colour correction/ enhancement) and sound post & music scoring to complete. Then we encode the movie to D-Cinema standards (for digital release) & a film transfer to 35mm (for print release), and the movie is done.... But no, that's not the end of our ride. We'll move on to possibly the most challenging part of our journey - selling it.

Friday, July 07, 2006

The State of Local Films

There is a very important article that ought to be shared with future Singaporean filmmakers.
It appeared in U Weekly magazine on July 1, 2006, issue 29, about local movies.

In gist, the article laments the lack of distribution deals for local films. Out of the 4 recently-produced films highlighted (Unarmed Combat, Singapore Dreaming, The Art of Flirting & Smell of Rain), only Singapore Dreaming garners a distribution deal with local cinema chain Golden Village.

Although most have some form of screening at local and overseas film festivals, the results are still pretty depressing - none has overseas distribution.

To sum it up, the state of local films is rather unpromising. Or is it?

It doesn't have to be this way. This is how Eng Tiong and I see it:

Think of the End in Mind
When Eng Tiong and I set out to make our movie, we constantly remind ourselves we have to see it like a product (yes, just like any other manufacturers out there). And like any other product, it is meant to be bought - by someone who WANTS it. (That is really tough because I see it as our baby (with a hell of a long pregnancy period!) and naturally, has strong emotional attachments to it.)

So from the very beginning, we've thought of distribution but have no idea what is truly means, how the system works. So we asked. We spoke to Juan Foo, Kenneth Tan, SFC and attended film producing & financing seminars. (Now we're still in post-production, so haven't gone full-scale into the distribution stage yet. Will definitely share more insights about distribution once we get our first-hand experience.)

So the moral of the story is - think with the end in mind. It's seriously no point making a film and putting it on a shelf at home. Especially for a feature-length movie, that is alot of time, money and effort gone down the drain.

(I have to point out that I'm referring to people who's trying to make a living making movies. Not as a part-time, freelance kind of thingie. And you're not someone like Royston Tan.)

Film Festivals - What is it Really For?
Some might say, "Oh, I thought about distribution. I'm going to put my film through the film festival circuit!"

Yes, that is a good start, but what exactly is a film festival for? Why don't you get paid for screening your film there?

According to Dov Siemens (I'm saving you a couple of hundreds of dollars here), film festivals are for distributors to pick up potential films for distribution. In other words, a film festival is YOUR chance to show your work to potential distributors. So even if your film gets shown at prestigious Cannes and you come home empty-handed without a distributor, you're still back at square one (maybe square 1.5 cos' afterall you can tell other potential distributors that you're selected for screening at Cannes.)

Another important ingredient - is your film accessible to your audience? What I mean by accessibility in terms of:

1. Storyline
Is it too difficult for your target audience to understand? Too abstract? Too cliched? You know what I mean.

2. Known Actors / Director
I think most people prefer known actors. Also easier for first-timers like us to quickly establish how serious we are about making this movie.

3. Publicity
I think this goes without saying why it's important. The only question is how to get as much of it with a limited budget.

Well, for a start, with item 1 & especially item 2 in place, item 3 seems to follow... get my drift?

All it Takes is a Miracle?
Eng Tiong and I have had many, many discussions and debates about all these issues - right from the beginning, way before we make this movie, and even till now. There is probably no 1 way and no right way to make it in this industry. Someone may just made it the "El Mariachi" way, another may make it the "Jack Neo" way.

How we see it is that we may not be as lucky, so we'd better not wait for a miracle. We have to make decisions based on our survival because our livelihood (read: money) depends on it. If we want to make another film, we'd better make sure we earn some money with this one.

Okay, I'm making it sound like I'm not enjoying making this movie. I do. It's just a question of making our movies accessible, and without having to sell our souls. We don't know how our movie will perform at the end of the day. With what we have and what we know (and without selling our souls), we're trying our best.

I guess only time will tell...

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Wrap Party

Instead of the usual wrap party, we decided to hold a film screening of a local film. That's pretty much in line with our vision of creating a local film industry, and the best way to support our fellow filmmakers is by watching their films.

On Tuesday, June 13, we had a screening of "Love Story" for our main cast, crew and their loved ones at Golden Village Marina. "Love Story" is directed by Kelvin Tong.

We also put together a teaser & a trailer for "Exposed!"

The feeling of seeing just that few precious frames of our work on the big screen is beyond exhilarating. And as the scriptwriter, it's truly amazing to see words on A4-sized papers taking on flesh and being blown to size on the silver screen. Wow... The morning before the wrap party, when Eng Tiong and I were down at Marina testing the footage, we were on a high the whole day after seeing the trailers. Talk about addiction...

A really sweet gesture on Golden Village's part is that they co-hosted the event with us. Mr. Kenneth Tan, the managing director of Golden Village, also attended the screening and gave an inspiring speech.

To our cast, crew & everyone involved in this production - couldn't have done it without you. Thank you!

Now we are in the final lap of production - the post-production stage. It's still going to be hectic, putting the movie together. There's also more worries when it comes to marketing, distributing and selling the film. Steep, steep learning curve...

3 of our crew members before the screening.

L - R : Melvin (location sound recordist), Khairil (lighting intern), Zul (camera intern)

Eng Tiong (director) fishing for more namecards; crew members and their guests mingled in the background.

One of our main cast, Uncle Steven, with his wife, already enjoying the popcorn!

Our lead actors Yvonne (left) & Bernard (right).

Just before the screening, Kenneth Tan, Golden Village's MD, talks about the beginning of an awareness of Singaporean films in the global market, & his support for local filmmakers. So budding ones take note!

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

On the Radio

Eng Tiong went on-air at Capital FM95.8 on June 4, 2006 to talk about the making of our movie.

It is a 1-hour radio talk show. In hanyu pinyin, the programme is called Cheng2 Shi4 San1 Ren2 Zu3, hosted by Qiu Shenyang & Xu Huiming.

Friday, April 14, 2006

Rain, Rain, Go Away

The whole reason for choosing to shoot in April is primarily because we thought that it rains the least. Of course, 2 other practical reasons are that:

1. We'll give ourselves ample time to prepare for production - roughly half a year.

2. April is also Qing Ming time (a Chinese tradition of paying respects to our ancestors, & commonly about visiting graveyards & columbariums), so we wouldn't have to reject potential wedding customers who need are wedding videography services. Nobody should seriously hold their weddings in April. It's considered extremely bad luck.

Another month that is definitely bad for weddings is August, which the Lunar 7th month usually falls on. Tradition states that it is the month of the hungry ghosts, where the Gates of Hell are flung wide open for ghosts to freely roam our world.

So we don't usually have wedding projects in August. And also, for the past 3 years, August is WEVA Expo time, something that we look forward to as well. (I think we're pretty down-to-earth about where our daily income is going to come from, even after making this movie. Afterall, we're still struggling filmmakers...)

So we merrily went about setting April as THE month.

Damn, how I wished that I've checked with NEA first.

According to their website, April & December are the wettest month in Singapore.

In late March, it was pouring cats & dogs every afternoon. I was crossing my fingers that the weather will let up come April.

On our 1st day of shoot, the weather was superb in the morning. Our commencement-cum-prayer ceremony went great.

Filming our 1st scene went great too.

And then the sky turns dark real quickly. By 3pm, there's thunder (bad for sound recording) & lightning. And the rain came. Heavy downpour, to be exact.

Since then, it has been a constant guessing game with the weather. The first week was rather predictable, raining in the afternoon around 3pm. But it has been rather cunning since the 2nd week - sometimes the whole day, sometimes not at all, sometimes early in the morning, blah, blah, blah.

I have been the Weatherwoman on set. I monitor NEA's website religiously. Not that I can change the bad weather. At least we could plan as much ahead as possible and manoeuvre around it.

Check out the NEA's weather website:

Rain, rain, go away, come again another... month, please?

Commencement-cum-Prayer Ceremony
Our commencement-cum-prayer ceremony at the start of principal photography.
Seen here with the main cast are:
From left - Louis, Eng Tiong (dir.),
Jen Nee (prod.), Bernard,
Uncle Liang Tian, Yvonne,
Uncle Steven, our MC & Boss of 933 Roast Duck & Auntie Lily.

Filming in Progress
The weather was splendid when we shot the first two scenes.

After lunch, the sky grew dark & the rain came around 2 pm.

Monday, April 03, 2006

Press Release - New Breed of Filmmakers offer a Breath of Fresh Air

For Immediate Release

Singapore, 3 April 2006 - Pilgrim Pictures is pleased to announce that Teo Eng Tiong and Lim Jen Nee’s Mandarin-language debut feature film, “Exposed!” will be commencing production on April 4, 2006.

“Exposed!” is a 90-minute drama about a TV reporter, Renee Donovan, who has to return to an old neighbourhood she ran away from 10 years ago to cover an assignment.

There, an old neighbour, Old Teo, recognizes her. At every turn, he threatens to reveal her secrets. As Renee struggles to cover her real identity to complete the assignment, she is forced to confront her past and the shameful secrets which surface as a result.

The story is conceived by both Teo Eng Tiong and Lim Jen Nee. Lim wrote the screenplay and is the producer. The film will be directed by Teo.

Both Lim and Teo are graduates of Ngee Ann Polytechnic’s School of Film and Media Studies programme. Indeed most of the crew are graduates from either the Film, Sound and Video Diploma or the Advanced Diploma in Film Production programmes. Says Lim, 29, “I think this is probably the biggest team of Ngee Ann Polytechnic film graduates working together on a movie production. 99% of us graduated there. That’s great because it means we all share the same vision and passion, and will give the Singapore audience a breath of fresh air in film narrative storytelling.

Everyone comes out of film school hoping to make feature films,” says Lim, “for us, this is finally coming true.”

“Exposed!” will be shot over 20 days in April on High Definition video.

The film features a strong cast of popular and veteran actors such as Mediacorp artiste Yvonne Lim, Bernard Tan, Liang Tian and Steven Woon. The lead actress is played by Yvonne Lim.

“We’re really glad to have such a stellar cast on this project,” says director Teo, 33,” without a good script, we wouldn’t have been able to do that.”

Indeed, the story is unique, taking place mostly in 1 location and over a period of 12 hours. It brings the cult independent horror hit, Saw, to mind.

Lim laughs, “Our story is the way it is mostly because of our limited budget. So we have to crank up our creative juices overtime to conceptualise a story that takes place in 1 locale and in 1 day, be as interesting as possible - and yet isn’t a horror film. If it becomes a runaway hit like Saw, that’s definitely great!”

The filmmakers drew their inspirations from their personal life experiences living in HDB flats. Indeed, the location is a block of HDB flats that director Teo grew up in. The block is now up for SERS, a public housing redevelopment scheme to re-locate residents of old housing estates to new ones in the vicinity.

Says Teo, “This is an interesting block of flats. It has quite a colourful group of inhabitants. And it holds many memories for me – fond and otherwise! So I hope to capture the essence of this place and its people, before they’re gone forever.”

Principal photography for “Exposed!” begins April 4, 2006.

To learn more about the production, contact:
Lim Jen Nee at 9792 7223

Picture: Mediacorp Artiste Yvonne Lim (right) as Renee Donovan, a TV current affairs producer while Bernard Tan (left), plays her cameraman, Damien Pang, in a local movie titled “Exposed!”

Saturday, March 18, 2006

Don't Quit

I'm stealing a little bit of time to write in here.

Things have been really hectic nowadays. Alot of organisation to do.

I'm glad that almost everything is progressing quite smoothly, thanks to Marie, my dear production manager, who's really good!

And the issue with that particular authority has been resolved. It takes a lot of re-planning.

I still have enough sleep at night, but it probably isn't too peaceful because I constantly dream about this project (sometimes they're nightmares, so I hope it wouldn' t be a case of deja vu!)

I've came across a beautiful poem that completely expresses what we're going through, thanks to Sister Majorie, Principal of Maris Stella Kindergarten, who showed us the book while we're working on their fund-raising video.

Here it goes:


When things go wrong
as they sometimes will;
when the road you are trudging
seems all uphill;
when funds are low and debts are high
and you want to smile
but you have to sigh;
when care is pressing you down a bit,
rest, if you must,
but don't you quit.

Life is strange
with its twist and turns,
as every one of us sometimes learns
and many a failure turns about
when they might have won,
had they stuck it out.

Don't give up
though the pace seems slow.
You may succeed with another blow.
Success is failure turned inside out
the silver tint of the cloud of doubt,
and you never can tell
how close you are;
it may be near when it seems so far.

So stick to the fight
when you're hardest hit.
It's when things seem worst
you must not quit.

Taken from pg. 25, Treasury of Prayer, 1992

Less than half a month to go till principal photography... we've truly come this far, so much closer to the middle point.

We're not going to quit.

Sunday, February 26, 2006

Going NUTS

Since we made up our minds to go all the way, we have been actively putting things together.

Although there are bumps and all, we're still chugging along fine. Managing as best as we could.

And then, came a shock that could possibly halt the production - the filming location.

We have been rejected by a certain authority to use our intended location. If you have been reading this blog and been on this journey with us, you would have known how important the location is. The whole story is based on this location. Without it, the movie won't work.

I could have accepted the authority's reasons but something that that personnel said really riled me:

"In the first place, you should have find out from us whether you could have the permission to film in this place before you write the script!"

In the first place, we are not writing a story that takes place in a high-security area like the airport or the Jurong Island. It is a place where Eng Tiong grew up. In fact, his parents still stay there. Eng Tiong and I are now staying just opposite this location.

It is a story about a place we know best. Do I need permission to write a screenplay about a place that we knew best?

Secondly, the place is up for re-development. People staying there are already moving away. So when we wrote the script a year ago, we knew there will be vacant places for us to film in.

Oh geez, or maybe I should have consulted with that particular authority before we even attempted to come up with that story!

That reminds me of Mr. Sim Wong Hoo, Creative Technolgy founder's NUTS article in his book "Chaotic Thoughts from the Old Millenium".

NUTS stands for "No U-Turn Syndrome". In Singapore, as long as you don't see the U-Turn sign, you can't make a u-turn.

What he's meaning to say is that, in Singapore, we proceed to do something only when the authorities tell us we could. For everything else, assume that the answer would be a "no" if there isn't an explicit "yes".

So reminders for all Singaporean scriptwriters/ producers out there - before you write your screenplay.... no... before you even think up a story concept, please, call up the relevant authorities and ask about the feasibility of making it happen, even if it's as simple as and as common a setting as your own housing estate.

From Mr. Sim's book, about NUTS:

"To meet the challenge of the new world, to meet the challenge of rising to a knowledge-based economy, we have to innovate like mad. How can we innovate when we need to obey rules to innovate? Innovate means to create things out of nothing, it means moving into uncharted territories where there are no rules.

How can you innovate when you have to get approval of somebody who looks at a rule-book first?"

And we wonder why the local feature filmmaking industry isn't taking off...

Saturday, January 28, 2006

Chinese New Year 2006 Greetings

May the Year of the (under)Dog be our year...


Tuesday, January 17, 2006

1% Talent, 99% Hard Work

The whole of last year saw us going through a lot of self-doubt. It's easy to say, "Oh, we're shooting in April" when you know that April is aeons away when you said it in November 2005.

Tick tock tick tock... it's now 2006.

We've talked to so many people last year and need to talk to even more this year. But we had not ink any deals with anyone - cast, crew or investor by December 2005.

We sat down doing some serious thinking - we haven't an investor, we have no distribution deal. We have some money. Some actors we approached have shown interested to come onboard, some don't. We may have a chance at getting a crew, because at the least, they have the same passion for filmmaking.

But nothing concrete.

And everyone dissuaded us from using our own money to make the film. They think it's suicide.

We wonder whether we should push on with the project...

I remembered that at one point, Eng Tiong is so dejected and frustrated (which he is seldom so because he is usually the more optimistic of us two) when he can't find a feasible post-production solution for Dollhouse, with time running short because of film festival submission deadlines, that he questioned why we're doing this, wanting to make films.

I answered in a really small voice, "because we want to fulfil our dream?"

That sounded really weak. What is a dream anyway but an imaginary bubble in my head? I know I couldn't even convince myself.

By then I, too, wasn't sure whether it's a dream or a nightmare.

He said, "It's all for ego, isn't it? Because we want people to pay money to come watch the film and like it, so that we will feel good about ourselves."

I remained silent throughout the journey home that night. I realised that I don't know the answer either.

Is filmmaking really my dream? Or is it nothing but an ego trip?

A few days later, 7 January 2006, a Saturday, I was reading the newspapers. I don't usually read the Saturday Recruit Section but I did that day. Don't know why.

I scrutinized each and every job ad - engineering, finance, business, HR, sales... and more engineering. There isn't a job out there for my skills and capabilities.

A huge wave of disappointment washes over - there isn't a job out there for me.

But just as suddenly, I had a revelation. It hits me why I want to make "Exposed!"

It's not ego.

It's just simply to feel useful in this world, that I have a reason to be here. That I have something to offer the world.

I may not be able to cook to be a chef or to invent something useful to help mankind. But I can provide a story for their entertainment. That may not seem like much but at least, it is something.

Eng Tiong asks, "Aren't you being over-confident to think that we have a talent in filmmaking?"

I said, "Even Einstein said that being a genius is 1% talent and 99% hard work. 99% is something we can deal with. And I have the intention to make filmmaking my capability."

So there. The first instinct to make a film isn't about making money, it isn't about fame. It's definitely not ego.

It's about being useful in this world with my chosen capability.

So yes, we decided to go ahead with making "Exposed!" We'll put in our own money. And I can tell you, it's totally hard-earned.

Every single cent of it.

It's not going to be enough and we've told everyone involved so. We're going to find the money or go earn some more to make sure everyone onboard gets paid.

We're definitely glad and appreciative of all the advices we've had from everyone. Ultimately, we have to listen to our own. And somehow I feel I haven't heard it for a long while.

It's good to hear it now.