The Torch — Calling it a day on Sinema.SG!6 min readReading Time: 5 minutes
Well now, everybody, it has been my honour and a pleasure indeed!
Having some of you out there as my readers was a challenge — but one that I was very fortunate to try and meet (if only half-way, pardon me for that).
On leaving you to yourselves from now on, I say “Thank You!” to each and everyone unknown but dear to me for being companions in spirit when it comes to furthering the case of the art of cinema in Singapore! I thank you for taking the time and letting me speak out on some of the issues I think are of concern to you as film-lovers and -makers on a daily basis.
But frankly, I cannot leave on such a note — a tad too syrupy for my taste. Because all is not perfect as of today with independent filmmaking in Singapore (or elsewhere for that matter), as much still has not been achieved.
So here is my list of things left to wish for that I want to entrust with you to take good care of:
- Honour: you have one among you who is arguably the best and most talented director to come out of Singapore; identify, recognise and honour the force of genius and what good it can do for the entire industry in its development; and if you can’t do that, then simply stick with practicing the decent thing and show the respect that anyone would deserve no matter what.
- Study: the old masters, those directors whose work and names persist for decades and half a century or more, like Hitchcock, Kurosawa, Antonioni and the greatest of them all: Ozu; but film school students in particular I urge to stay away from Wong Kar Wai’s movies, notwithstanding their exceptional quality; but his style is viral, and some severe cases have already been reported in which an infection (fatally) proved incurable.
- Specialise: there are so many different skills that go into making a movie stand out, which is a well known fact; in stark contrast to this, however, still, most of the craft involved goes unnoticed and without being given their due recognition; any one director by themselves cannot make a single film — the actors, the DP, the producer(s), the editor, sound designer, light technician, location manager, arts department and financial and legal advisers and many, many more, they jointly and individually bear responsibility for the result and must be real professionals; then, a director to helm the crew becomes almost a luxury…
- Diversify: ya, it is a jungle out there — but you’re used to such environs, are you not? Amongst the various traditions, formats, styles and genres of films you are free at any time to choose and opt for that which suits you best; there simply is no need to slavishly follow the flock or tie yourself down to a template; bear in mind that to adhere to standard procedures and by professing what is already established you inevitably will come in second best only — if at all.
- Conceptualize: a good feature film is akin to architecture — the statics of construction needs to be well designed in order to support the structure you envisioned; this is an ingredient too often lacking in much of ambitious young cinema and a filmmaking industry in Singapore, which faces the task of growing out of its (second) infancy and reach new heights.
- Co-operate: be it at the box office or on the festival circuit, you have team players and losers, but even he who wins an award is only spearheading an effort involving many, and thus the real battle is most likely the one you have to fight against your own vanity; for some this may very well prove to be an uphill struggle and simply too much; eventually no-one will be able to go it all alone — and why should you?
- Co-produce: Singapore is unique, but so are others; what you can do (and probably better than the rest) is to take advantage of your melting-pot situation, not by becoming all blur, meshed-up and indistinct, but rather utilizing your trained capacity to reach out, connect and integrate; make it a productive and inclusive show of true flexibility that allows you to gather in the best from wherever you may find it; internationally, there is quite a bit of money looking for an outlet (or inroads to new markets), so capitalize on your potential — and that of others, too!
- Show leadership: not just for your own good, but to give back to your community and help build an environment that enables others to follow in your footsteps, to avoid the mistakes you made; tutor the young, and not just on how to shoot a film, but also on the production side of things, on how to organize yourself into being an effective filmmaker — which is the decisive watershed for most (and the industry future along with it); and in the end, don’t hold it against them if they aim higher than you were able to reach yourself — it is just what you did when starting out, remember?
[Aside: What is a leader? A leader is he who makes people go further than they would go alone by themselves; but then, what is it about leadership anyway, I wonder? Mostly it means the executive sphere and level — but maybe what’s needed here is philosophical leadership as well.]
- Criticize: it is a decision on principles that you have to make early on, of whether being polite or being honest shall be your distinction — sympathy (or the lack of it) is no substitute for making a qualified (and responsible) judgement; where assessing somebody else’s work is concerned, a quid-pro-quo approach doesn’t help anyone and won’t contribute its share to developing the craft as it stands; if there’s a director you don’t like (which happens in a place and community as small as yours) but you can bring yourself to acknowledge in private or in public that, notwithstanding your personal dislike, the films are outstanding and good quality, then you’ve proven yourself capable of mature and professional critique, and it will be fair; but most important of all is that you do voice your honest opinion, share your insights and in that way nurture all that is budding in the same place and on the same plain as you.
As to odd mo, well, just as he’s about to retreat into that static mist of neural malfunction again, we’ve been able to confirm the following facts for you:
he apparently still hates being photographed
he still considers himself fairly clever
he still doesn’t concede that postmodernism is dead and over
he still favours the marginal.
But rumour has it that he, too, has learnt a thing or two along the way…
And with this I end The Torch. What light remains? – Singapore filmmakers: It is all in your hands, where it belongs!