The making of Becoming Royston: Chapter 1/5 – We caught the BUG
Filmmaking is rather addictive. There’s something about the medium that makes you want to put in ridiculous hours and burn lots of money. Sure, we spent only a couple of days and S$300 on our freshman attempt, I’ll Live a Day for You (October 2005) — but that was because we knew that was all the cash we stood to win as entrants in the Fly By Night video challenge.
December 2005 Ã¢â‚¬” An innocent question during a drive to dinner sent us off on the ride of our lives. I asked Kay Chin if he had a story we could turn into a screenplay, figuring that he must have written a lot of stories during his journalism studies days. To my surprise, he told me that he had written a piece which he’d submitted for the National Screenwriting competition many years ago.
The piece, “Becoming Capa”, is a story of a Japanese man who moves to New York and tries to become Robert Capa, the famous war photographer. It’s a beautiful story about escapism and Kay Chin felt that it was quite appropriate for us to turn it into a short film.
Over dinner, we decided that we needed to rewrite the story to fit a Singaporean context. But who could we possibly replace Capa with? While some might argue that Singapore hasn’t developed quite enough cultural history, we do have a few heroes who have dared to make a difference and who have been recognised internationally for what they have achieved.
Eventually, we decided that the character would become a filmmaker instead of a photographer — and that filmmaker would be Royston Tan.
Many people have asked us since, “If it’s going to be a filmmaker, why not Eric [Khoo], Jack [Neo] or Kelvin [Tong]?”. All all them are successful and great directors of their genre, but we felt that Royston had a connection and resonance with young people. He’s been sharing his love for filmmaking by teaching and volunteering at schools. He’s made the Singapore cinema scene more vibrant with his authentic vision and tireless involvement.
First, of course, I had to ask Royston for his permission. We were both from the Temasek Design School, but he had graduated much earlier than I had. Some other connection had to be forged.
The perfect opportunity presented itself at Objectifs one afternoon, at a film screening for some Japanese guests. During the break, I spoke to Royston and told him about this idea that we had. Without hesitating, he gave us his blessings. In fact, his reaction was more along the lines of: “Are you sure you want to make a film with my name in it? You want to get into trouble, ah?”
Er … not exactly.
So that was that. Now we had a film to make.
Meanwhile, Randy had been searching for grants that we could apply for to finance the short film, which was when we realised that we didn’t qualify for any of the Singapore Fim Commission‘s grant because between us, we’d only had a 5-minute Fly By Night short to our name.
However there was a Synthesis initiative from MDA for web-based content. Since we had planned to screen the short film online, we thought we could give this a shot. At least that could help us with the cost of the design and hosting portion.
But there was another hitch. I had earlier applied to do my MA in Photography at London College of Communication. About a week before Christmas, the director of the photography programme replied: I had been accepted and class would start in mid-January 2006.
Then we got news that our application to Synthesis had been selected and approved. Now we had to make the film, regardless of other factors.
What was I going to do? The timing was really good yet bad and I had to make a choice — school or film?
(to be continued)