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Panasonic Digital Film Fiesta: Beam

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The next Panasonic DFF film, entitled Beam, was written and produced by finalist Lee Chee Tian.  The film revolves around a boy in the 80s and his relationship with a beam of light.

Catch Beam, and more, during the Panasonic DFF screenings on the 24th and 25th of February.

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How long have you been making films, and have you been doing it full time or part time?

My first attempt at filmmaking was back in 1999. I applied for the inaugural Short Film Grant from the newly-established Singapore Film Commission then, and wrote + produced + co-directed a 20-minute short entitled “When The Haze Was Up And The Network Down”. Being very gung-ho but absolutely untrained, the output of that venture proved to be visibly unprofessional and lacked production value (I didn’t even know there’s such a term back then).

After that failed attempt, I got carried away by other priorities in life and did not get an opportunity to try again, until 2007, after attending a screenwriting class and meeting some professionals in the media industry (I was working in the IT industry), I gathered my newfound resources, applied for an SFC Short Film Grant, wrote + produced + co-directed a new 9-minute short entitled “Colours”.

This time, thanks to all the professional help (including my co-director Derrick Lui, cinematographer Lim Beng Huat, post-production house BLK A Pictures) that generously came on board the project, the output was much more acceptable, and it proceeded to be selected for screening at more than 30 international film festivals, winning Best Film awards at several of them.

I subsequently wrote + produced + co-directed a short documentary entitled “Peter” at the invitation of the organiser of i-CREATe (International Convention on Rehabilitation Engineering & Assistive Technology) for screening at the gala dinner of the event attended by Guests-of-Honour including Thai Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn and Dr Vivian Balakrishnan in 2009.

While working on the above projects, I was still holding a full-time employment in the IT industry.

I have just put aside my IT job at the beginning of this year so that I could concentrate on making this film for the Digital Film Fiesta, and open myself up for more filmmaking opportunities that may come.

beamCan you tell us a bit about your film?

“Beam” is a heartwarming story about an unusual friendship that a boy establishes with a beam of light that enters his room after he has moved in to his new place. The story is set in the 80s, to coincide with the relocation of kampong dwellers to HDB flats.

Where did you get inspiration for your film?

Our cinematographer Beng Huat was sharing with us his childhood memories of moving in to a HDB flat for the first time, and playing with a kid in the opposite block by flashing their electric torches at each other. The image stuck in our heads, and I came up with the screenplay that surrounds this scene.

Which is your favourite scene and why?

There’s one scene where our lead boy plays by himself under his blanket, using two toys to mimic the loving young couple in the opposite block whom he just peeped at, but suddenly the tables turn and the two toys are biting each other’s head off, imitating the boy’s parents who had been quarrelling over the dinner table earlier that night.

Beam3

My director, Lawrence Ong, also loved this scene when he read the script. It shows how children derive sense out of the quiet observations that they make of their surrounding world.

What were some of the things you learnt from the mentorship?

My mentor, Yee-wei, unreservedly shared with my team a lot of his practical experience that he earned during his previous works. His guidance saved us a lot of guesswork which we would otherwise have spent much time on.

Any plans for your next project?

I have a few stories brewing, but I’ll take it a step at a time. Let’s see what comes out of this Digital Film Fiesta first, and I’ll make the best out of it from there.

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