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Foo fights film fables: Just do it?

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Not yet a ‘has-been’ but admitting to being a ‘having been’; filmmaker Juan Foo seeks to entertain Sinema.sg with his monthly rants on the travails and tramplings of film and media.

The film production scene in Singapore is really kicking off, with so many filmmakers out there making films now. Our film and media schools churn out many graduates who are either working together, making their features, or in the midst of planning to make them. The government too, is promoting film as a media industry, and the Singaporeans who have studied film overseas have returned to put their skills to use. Even foreigners now want to become Singaporean filmmakers.

Statistics show 2007 to be the year with the most number of Singapore films released. I believe we are seeing another wave of talents seemingly energised to make films. With more films being made, the industry can then establish itself, and with critical mass, a breakthrough will happen. However, breakthroughs are tricky challenges for filmmakers: while each film produced earns a notch in terms of a body of work, each bad film turns away audiences and investors. Any subsequent film will then need to be crafted and calculated well to be able to brave the detracting indifference. To summarise: it is tough to walk and pave the road.

The beauty of filmmaking is that it is so free-flowing and all encompassing. Anyone can be a filmmaker, this much is true. Being a good filmmaker – being an auteur – well that’s another thing altogether.

Basic filmmaking is about pooling resources to make your filmmaking dream come true. These resource may even be the craft itself, cash, friends and family, savvy, savoir faire… everything really. You utilise everything and every trick you can to manifest yourself as a filmmaker, and ultimately, to make your film.

I used to firmly believe that in order to be involved in film – to become a filmmaker – you really need to go to film school and study the craft, or at least allow yourself an academic environment where you can learn the rudiments of the art and craft of storytelling. I am now constantly chided for this belief, as there are many filmmakers now (or eventually) who do not take this traditional path. With the rise of current digital technologies in both production and post-production, the trend has been jump-started. Digital films can be easily made nowadays as compared to those of yester-decade. So if it’s easier, why not do it?

Film also has a ‘high-brow’ association with art. Film, or rather, cinema, is touted as the 8th art form, encompassing the seven traditional predecessors of artisan: craft, architecture, painting, literature, music, dance and theatre. Hence filmmaking, much like the art itself, is driven by ego. A well-respected, now retired civil servant once shared with me his definition of film, or for that matter, art. he told me that through his years of observation, analysis and personal contact with the art and media world, art is defined as the full manifestation of one’s ego. Film, then, is the most dynamic manifestation of an ego-trip. Maybe that is why everybody wants to be a filmmaker.

The justifications are here, the climate is encouraging, the technology has become accessible and there are no firm barriers to entry. To anyone who wants to become a filmmaker: there has never been a better time, is there?

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4 Comments

  1. Kristin
    14 November 2007 at 4:41 pm

    Ching ching to Juan!

    I guess we can never end the argument whether a filmmaker NEEDS to have formal training, and I guess new technologies give rise to this new democratic way of expressing one’s own opinion and manifestations of ego. I also agree that the confidence in our local film scene dips whenever a bad film steps out – it’s never easy convincing an audience who has the freedom of choice. Democracy = free will, no? Maybe if we weren’t so democratic and insist that filmmakers need to be professionally trained, the audience will feel that their decision to make is more informed and leaves little option? I think I just started a new argument 😉

  2. Christopher Tay
    14 November 2007 at 2:06 pm

    Well said Juan…the climate indeed is changing…or has already changed.

    -chrispy

  3. Sharlyn Solomon
    14 November 2007 at 12:49 am

    nice one juan

  4. 13 November 2007 at 5:49 pm

    Ha, high time someone should state the naked truth and not all of it too dire. I agree and enjoyed! Especially about filmmaking being the quintessential ego-trip. My own experience (although I wouldn’t claim it to be a universal truth necessarily) that, yes indeed, the artist by nature is if not an outright egomaniac (some are) but surely self-absorbed.
    But what about making movies for entertainment purposes, geared to audience demand and running the show as a sensible business? No harm in that either, I think!

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