ScreenSingapore 2011 – Fledgling Asian Cinema

Billed as the Asian equivalent of the Cannes Film Festival, ScreenSingapore is

Had the privilege of being invited to witness the birth of ScreenSingapore at Golden Village Vivocity last Sunday and I’m so glad to see the continued efforts of growing our nation into Singawood. Or Porellywood.

ScreenSingapore 2011 was headlined by actress Zhang Ziyi (章子怡) as the festival's celebrity ambassador.

As I mentioned above, I’m gladdened by this latest development in our film industry. But who am I to feel heartened about it? Why? Well, I dabbled in acting in my younger days and played a stammering schoolboy in the MediaCorp English series, Growing Up. My character’s name was Ah Guan and I won the Best Supporting Actor (Drama) at the 1996 Asian Television Awards for that role.

If I may take this opportunity to reminisce about my brush with filmed entertainment, below is a clip from Growing Up Season 1 Episode 9, the episode I won the award with. I don’t know how I could’ve won it especially since I was up against veteran actor Zhu Houren (朱厚任) and that being my debut in acting for television (I did some stage plays before that. Nothing major, mostly school productions and a couple of stints with The Necessary Stage).

I cringed when I first came across this clip on Youtube. My acting was so over-the-top and contrived at the same time, I would have a field day bit*ching about it if I were my own critic. Hope you had a good laugh watching it. Gosh, my hair was so thick back then!

As acting has always been an interest of mine, greater development in the film industry here means more casting calls. Although I’m no longer active in the acting circle, who knows, I may scout for auditions to go for again and if luck would have me, maybe you’ll see me sweeping the floor at a corner in the next Singaporean blockbuster!

Saw Irene Ang & Adrian Pang on the red carpet promoting an upcoming movie that is a collaboration between Singapore and Australia. It

Am I beginning to sound like some has-been loser trying to borrow this opportunity of a ScreenSingapore-inspired blog post to reclaim some fame? Well, I’m not trying to that. You can’t get a has-been out of someone who’s never been in the first place.

I’m just sharing this unsual experience of having been on both sides and reach the conclusion that film in Singapore is a struggling art because the red carpet isn’t wide or long enough to support so many people. More like a red hand towel. Fresh ideas are hard to come by from a mini pool just as how genetic evolution has little progress within a small population. There’s not enough diversity to cross-pollinate.

So trying to plug into the international circuit by creating a platform for Asian movies to congregate is a good move. Let’s hope it lasts and can grow in acclaim to match Hong Kong’s Golden Horse or Korea’s Pusan Film Festival, or what ScreenSingapore is modelled after, *gasp* Cannes Film Fest.

Attended the Opening Gala Party at the beautiful Capella Hotel at Sentosa.

The other reason I was excited about ScreenSingapore was because I participated in a 2-day screenwriting course conducted by the Singapore Media Academy (SMA) and subsequently, a forum that invited budding screenwriters to participate in a close mentorship program to develop saleable scripts last year.

To be selected for the program, we had to write and submit a script that could be produced with a budget of S$200,000. Wha?! Are we writing a script for CCTV (Close-Circuit TV) a.k.a. security cameras?

The hotel staff at Capella were very friendly, full of smiles & provided a level of service brimming with sincerity.

Pardon my surprise at the film production budget but I thought a movie costs more than that to make. I read last month that the unfunny American sitcom, Two-and-a-Half Man, signed on Ashton Kutcher of That 70s Show fame and reportedly paid him $300,000 per episode as the male lead. In USD. (The former lead, Charlie Sheen, reportedly got paid US$1.25 million per ep, excluding backend fees. I don’t know that backend fees are but I presume it means royalties.)

Of course we can’t compare with Hollywood. Not as yet. But S$200,000 for a movie put a very small cap on imagination and how many variations can we have of the Blair Witch-Paranormal Activity formula?

With Ying Zi (blogger), Kew Sim & Thom (I think that

But it’s still a starting seed to test the soil of the screenwriter’s creativity. I had a horror movie idea that was developed during the 2-day screenwriting introductory course. When I shared my logline with the class, everyone was spooked and comments from the 2 Hollywood-grade screenwriters, one of whom wrote the hit movie, Sweet Home Alabama, were very positive.

Encouraged, I started a Word document and wrote my opening scene and started some research into my subject. Then work and other distractions set in. To this day, I still carry that three-page script in the thumbdrive I use daily. Hopefully, one day I can complete it. Even better, have it made!

May this audience one day be mine! Wahahaha... And pray for good reviews coz audiences have seen it all these days.

Oh wow, I wanted to just write a short post but ScreenSingapore brought up so many past and future interests in me. But to be truthful, I’m at the event solely for the free movies and a chance to get starstruck!

For the movie premieres, I was given tickets to 夺命心跳 (The Devil Inside Me) and Super 8. I’ll share my opinions about the 2 shows but keep in mind that I’m not a qualified movie critic or reviewer. As always, opinions are subjective so don’t let my views undermine your experience.

夺命心跳 The Devil Inside Me

The opening night movie was The Devil Inside Me (夺命心跳), a Chinese thriller about a heart surgeon dying of brain tumour who rigged a heart transplant so that he could live again. This longevity premise is based on the belief that a transplanted organ holds memories of the deceased donor and over time, the memories will take over the recipient and transform the recipient into the donor. So the donor lives again.

Interesting concept. But after watching the show, I’m convinced that brain tumour is contagious for it surely infected the director ZhangQi (张琦) to produce a coma like Devilus Insidi Me-llutus. The Devilus Insidi Me-llutus virus (in short, DIM) infects many horror films from Asia and symptoms include choppy story-telling, inconsistent acting, and a script that drowned while trying to outsmart itself.

DIM is serious because it keeps interrupting the entertainment of the audience by giving them what they don’t want to see. If anything, it showed how very dedicated the film commissioning board was in rooting for an Asian piece to showcase on opening night and their bravery in choosing DIM.

I’m a horror movie aficionado and DIM should really just be a direct to video release. Don’t mean to be a jerk by having such unpleasant things to say about the movie, but I really hope standards can improve. Especially for an opening night screening.

Super 8

The first thing I saw from the trailer of Super 8 was Steven Spielberg’s name. Aiyah, anything he touch sure good one lah. True enough, Super 8 is super gr8! I shan’t reveal the storyline for it is very straightforward but basically, it’s E.T. wanna Lego home.

What I liked about the show is that it has everything… human conflict and reconciliation, cool special effects, intrigue, gripping suspense and some pretty novel ideas. I especially liked how the movie ran in parallel with the story of a bunch of kids shooting a school movie using a Super 8 camera in the late 1970s.

Just to nictpick, I found the ending rather abrupt and rushed, but overall, it is good value for money entertainment. The movie will be supercharging Singapore theaters from 9 June. That’s today!


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