Part 2 of 3: Alaric Tay9 min readReading Time: 7 minutes
Alaric Tay is not only star of the first HD telemovie (18 Grams of Love), but is also an experienced director, who first step foot into the media industry at the age of 17 in local film Forever Fever.
A full-time artiste with Fly Entertainment, Alaric juggles acting in films, television, dance, hosting as well as directing his own films, fully utilizing the training which he received locally, as well as in Australia and in the US. I spoke with him when he came by Sinema Old School, and with his witty banter and laughter, he shares his journey so far and spills the reasons behind his passion and involvement within the entire film community.
You have chosen to stay in this industry full-time, and to do it professionally, as a job. What we want to know it… why and how?
Why and how? Well, I think I’ve always thought of this as a calling… Sorry, I see you like, very tiring [points to me holding the recorder]
You wanna hold it for me?
Sure, I’d hold it for you.
(Back to the question) I don’t see myself doing anything else. I’ve always been interested in acting since I was in school, so after embarking into acting, I also found out about production. That stirred up interest in storytelling through the use of a camera Ã¢â‚¬” through cinema. I can’t imagine myself doing, say ship-building for example, which by the way, was the course I got accepted into at polytechnic, which I didn’t want to do. I guess it’s just sheer stubbornness and sheer will that I am still here. I’m also very lucky that the circumstances in my life don’t force me to take up a full time job, per say. But at the same time I’m also learning how to manage a career outside of a 9-5 job so to speak — something with a more regular income, I mean I’m learning a lot through being a full time artiste and I’m surviving okay. There isn’t anything that is pulling me away from this and that’s why I’m staying here — its something that I love to do. Love to do is the right way to say it.
I’m sure you love it, because you are very active in the community. But before I get to that: how did you venture into directing then?
It has always been acting, acting and acting for me. At one point I realised that I had to decide on which path of academia to take, so my parents were asking: “Don’t you want to do law, or be a doctor, or go into engineering?” None of those interests me, but I applied for Poly anyway, since my grades doesn’t allow me to get into a Junior College. I already had an inkling that I wanted to do film, so I applied for normal poly courses, and separately for Film, Sound and Video (FSV). Mass Communications is also a separate application, so I applied for both these Ã¢â‚¬” but I knew that I wanted film sound and video that I wanted. I didn’t want Mass Comm, so there was this option which asked if I wanted the other course (Mass Comm) if I didn’t get into FSV. I didn’t choose that option, and for a lot of people they thought my actions were risky, because then I have nothing to fall back on. Truth be told, I didn’t get in the first year. I only got in the second time round after re-doing my ‘O’ levels and making a short film, which was 29 minutes long, which is too long, but I guess that helped. Improving my English also helped… but yes, what was the question anyway?
How did you venture into directing?
It was basically through school. When I went into film school, I spent 3 years, finished the course and as soon as I graduated, I was itching to make more films. My graduation film was probably the first film which I am proud of, and that was “Headache”. After that, I started to do other short films as well… more ideas were brewing in my head. There was a documentary idea which I wanted to do very much, and I finally finished it after the army because that took a lot of research and it was about my church.
To date I have 5 films, but can’t compare to, you know, Mr. Royston Tan or many other directors.
Which leads to a very cliche question, one that I also asked Magdalene: do you see yourself more as an artiste or director? Or is it a grey area to you?
I see myself as… Alaric Tay, haha! I think it is very hard to actually draw the line. I like both crafts, but they are both different and yet complementary to each other. For me, I won’t stop acting, even when I venture into making films and directing films Ã¢â‚¬” I won’t stop acting. I’ll keep doing both for as long as circumstances allow, time allow. There’s only one of me, but if I could split myself into two then yeah, maybe. But I’d do both for as long as I can.
So you are Alaric, actor, director, and also an active participant in the film and entertainment community. I was just looking at your website, and you’re also on the board of directors of Breaking Into HollywoodÃ‚® Ã¢â‚¬” a non-profit entertainment organisation based in Los Angeles.
I was, actually, but not anymore. I’m now just an associate because being on the board really means being a lot more active. But now that I’m overseas, its very difficult for me to contribute effectively so I told Angela, the founder of Breaking into Hollywood. She was my ex-boss: I was her assistant before her husband nominated me to be on the board. They asked me to be on the board as soon as I completed my internship with her in Los Angeles, and after a year of being on the board, I attended like 3 phone conferences Ã¢â‚¬” all long-distance and I had to stay up through the night for them. I couldn’t find myself contributing effectively, and I told her I wasn’t there to go make contacts to help the foundation or the organisation specifically. A lot of things I do here do not directly affect them so I sat out the following year which is this year (2007) and just be an associate. Where possible, if say they need stuff from over here in Singapore, I would put them in touch with the people, but I think so far they are still focused on the things going on in L.A.
Wow, I can see that you are very passionate about the whole film and entertainment, and even the global community. You’re involved in Singapore, Australia, America, and on your website there is a lot of news there, so just share with us your passion for being so involved, and what drives you to do all this and also maintain the website?
See, I’m very success driven, and part of that drive is also the desire to see other people succeed. I believe the only way anyone can succeed is by helping other succeed; I think as a whole, everybody grow together. Breaking Into Hollywood had that very same mentality that I had even before I joined them. When I interviewed for that internship for Breaking into Hollywood and spoke to Angela, we found common grounds in our values. It was a good thing that I joined her because ultimately, this whole contributing back to the community was something that I really appreciated. Not only did I learn a lot, but I also found myself very able to give, so I think part of that contributes to the passion.
When you talk about maintaining my website, I guess having it, for me, is just like any product Ã¢â‚¬” you want to get it out there. In this day and age of information technology and information highway, everything moves very fast, and when people want information they just log on to the Internet. So if you can be found on the Internet, people can access you a lot faster. I think of myself as a product, which most entertainment people do, so having a website helps contribute to putting yourself out there as a brand.
What is your personal impression of the local film and entertainment industry, be it from the point of view of an artiste, or as a director?
Entertainment-wiseÃ¢â‚¬¦ I think we have a pretty long history, but as a film industry, we’re still very much in our infancy. But definitely, since 10 years ago Ã¢â‚¬” since 12 Storeys Ã¢â‚¬” we have come a long way. From the frequency of films that come out each year you can see a vast passion brewing in the hearts of young people who want to make films, and also up-and-coming filmmakers who want to make films.
I think we’re all moving along, and moving in a good direction, but I can’t say if we’re right or wrong, because that’s subjective. But definitely we’re growing, and there’s still a lot of room for improvement, and I can see good things brewing in the near future.
Now we have a trickier question: do you have any opinions on the common remark that Singapore has a lack of definitive leading man in our talent pool? Our female artistes have gone to places, even Hollywood, but there lacks a leading male in Singapore.
Well Gurmit and Qi Yuwu were both nominated for Golden Horse this year right? So they ARE going somewhere regionally at least. And at least, I’ve been to Hollywood, haha.
[Magdelene See interrupts: “I’ve been to Hollywood too, for holiday! Hahaha!”]
I don’t have much comments, but yeah, some day I hope to be a leading man. I’ve always been a sidekick, and sometimes I cry in my bed [jokingly], but ya, I hope to be a leading man someday. *Boohoo*
I love that answer! Now for a fun one: what is your dream role, or dream movie which you want to shoot?
I don’t know if saying it will jinx it — Aiya, I’ll just say it. I want to do Saving Private Ryan, Singapore style; a war movie. If I could act in it, that’d be fantastic, but I’d also like to make one. And I hope that they are two separate projects so that when I am acting I can focus on that, and when I direct it I can also focus on getting it all right.
So you won’t want to self-direct as well as star in it?
It’s very hard for a war movie. Its not like comedy where if you mess up on screen its okay. So yup, thank you!
Wait! We’re not finished yet, just one last request: share with us your future plans.
For the near future? In the coming year, I’m preparing to shoot my first feature film, and we’re trying to lock down the script before New Year. Once that is done we will start the production for the feature film. The script is already there, in the final stages of development, and once that is done we’ll be into pre-production. It’s a comedy, and its exciting — it’s my first feature, so I’m definitely excited about it!