What’s the Point of Matching? – Keith Jun Opens up About His Raw Short Film With NSFTV
NSFTV, a channel by The Hummingbird Co., has challenged conventional and “safe” content since the creation of their channel. With their innovative and in-your-face storytelling, they have constantly pushed the boundaries in filmmaking with their narrative and documentary formats.
Their recently launched short film, What’s The Point Of Matching (WTPOM) is the first in a three-part anthology titled THIRST. WTPOM takes on LGBTQ themes in the face of dating and hook-up culture in this technologically driven generation. The film starring Matthias Teh, Ryan Ang and Raychie Kuok is seven minutes long and takes its viewers through a series of moral dilemmas that question hetro-normative relationships. Sinema.SG had a chance to catch up with the Director of WTPOM, Keith Jun, and Creative Lead at NSFTV, Hui Er, to understand how WTPOM was conceived.
Keith, tell us a little bit about yourself and your work.
K: I am a communications graduate from the University of Western Australia and have been directing for the last two years. This is my first time dabbling in directing outside of schoolwork so it has been quite an adventure for me. Most of the work I do is actually in corporate.
What was your inspiration behind WTPOM?
K: The story initially started with me being very jaded by Tinder because I’ve been using it for about six years (desperately single). I think it was about me wanting to say something about the culture of online dating such as people ghosting each other, the superficiality of the first date, and why people don’t reply to you after you get a match – that’s always baffled me.
I think as the story developed, it naturally took a turn to talk about identity and finding ourselves in our current social landscape, using dating apps as a way to share a story, about the fluidity of it, and also to touch on some experiences that the LGBTQ community has shared with me.
It’s how we grow up with these normative expectations of what relationships should look like. I was trying to dig deeper into those expectations. Many of the films I’ve watched with LGBTQ themes always start with someone who comes off straight or heterosexual. As they move on with the storyline, they reveal that the person is actually of the LGBTQ community.
So what I tried to do with this film was also try a new format of revealing the LGBTQ portion by starting with it and then revealing the heterosexual side of the character later on. That’s where most of the story starts to take shape.
HE: After watching the film, I think what I took away – and as we were conceptualising it as well – was about the expectation to be in a heteronormal relationship. Popular culture always shows couples in a hetero relationship so that’s what you grow up experiencing and seeing. You are expected to be a certain way. So I thought that this was pretty interesting because I feel like Timothy (main character) is in that situation where he kind of has always expected to be that way until he really started questioning it.
Keith, did you see Timothy as a victim of his own circumstances? What was your general character arc for him?
K: That was the question that I wanted to post to the audience. I don’t think there really is a fixed answer for it, as long as the audience is able to put themselves in his shoes and ask themselves if they can relate to his experiences. It also gives people who aren’t in the LGBTQ community a bit of perspective to the difficulties of being unsure about your own identity.
So as long as I’ve got the audience in that headspace then [the film] has done its job. Whereas for the LGBTQ people, I think it’s more of giving them a story to relate to, and also to let other people who are confused know that these are experiences that people have shared before.
When it came to casting your characters, what were you looking for?
K: The most important thing for me was finding someone who would inject life to the characters, of course. But I think – in the set of three of them – it was also to see which trio made the most sense in terms of chemistry and compatibility. That was something that I was very worried about when I was casting – it was difficult to see who could gel. So I actually sat in for a lot of the casting sessions just to get a general feel of their personality as well.
What were the challenges you faced when you were directing them in such authentic and raw scenes?
K: My biggest worry was not to oversexualise the scenes and ensure the emotions were taking over. It was also about keeping the set more private so that the talents could feel more comfortable. In terms of chemistry, I think the biggest worry was whether they could get along and if they would feel physically comfortable with each other despite only knowing each other for a few days.
After you overcome that physical difficulty, was it smooth sailing from there?
K: No, there was still a lot to tweak from there because I think that even if they were physically comfortable, we had to focus on getting the right emotion out. For Emily’s character, she is a lot younger – the youngest one out of all of them – and she had the least experience in terms of dating and being physically intimate with someone. So guiding her was a bit of a challenge. Whereas Ryan is a lot older so he had more experience. Matthias is in a relationship of three years. So it was guiding Raychie that was playing Emily that was a bit more challenging. But I think I was quite pleased with their performance
You seem so personally connected with this film. How much of yourself can we see in this film?
K: I think every character has a little bit of me in it. When I wrote it, I drew from a lot of my personality and from my own experiences dating people. There is quite a bit of me in it and also lots of my friends as well. The stories that they tell me from their experiences.
For instance, a lot of the uncertainty that comes from Timothy was drawn from my experience growing up. The conflict of “maybe I like the girl, maybe I don’t”. That’s where I drew most of his uncertainty from. For Arthur, it is sort of at the point that I’m at right now, where I’m more flippant with being with people and it’s also the kind of thing that I want to push myself to not do – ghosting people and all that, unfortunately. That was where I approached Arthur from. For Emily, I think it was more of the “where do you go from here,” when you put yourself in a situation where you’re really head-over-heels for someone. That was also a bit of my experience from my younger self.
What do you think the film’s role in the community would be?
K: I wanted to tell a story that had some insight into the conundrums of finding yourself. It’s a phase that everyone in the LGBTQ community has been through at some point of their lives, and these are important stories that aren’t as available in Singapore just because they’re not seen in the light of mainstream media. But these are the type of stories that can help young uncertain people – teenagers particularly – through difficult times in their lives. I think that was a point for a lot of us growing up where we had this challenge of sacrificing our true selves and sacrificing authenticity just to fit in, really.
The main message that I want to leave the audience with is that they’re not alone through whatever questioning and struggle that they might be facing – particularly for people in the community. There are so many other people who are going through the same phase, even those who outwardly might not seem like it – people like Timothy.
The message is that it’s okay to be unsure, it’s okay to question and whatever choice that they make should be for themselves. I think that’s what viewers from the LGBTQ community could take away from it – comfort that they’re not alone in Singapore.
What’s next for you?
K: I’m hoping that this film gets picked up and developed into a full series, because I think that there is just so much more to explore about the themes especially in the digital age where there are so many films that speak about identity but not so much set within today’s context – particularly in Singapore. There’s just so many more conversations to be had, so I hope that this gets expanded and we will see where we can develop the storylines.
HE: With the anthology, and all our videos – we have always hoped to tell stories of social issues that popular media may have dismissed. And we’ll constantly be going back to that with the next two narrative series and the micro-documentaries coming up. There’s also going to be a very special video dropping soon that is a continuation of a piece of work from last year that we found audiences really loved!
The response for WTPOM has been largely positive, as seen by the feedback left on NSFTV’s Instagram stories. One user said “It is important to be one’s self even if the truth might hurt others. Know who you are,” while another user notes that individual happiness may not be what society accepts. With such positive responses, we at Sinema.SG are looking forward to the remaining two short films of the THIRST anthology.
Watch What’s The Point Of Matching below.