Presenting the Two Biggest Winners of the Sixth Annual National Youth Film Awards – Lady E’s Wedding Revenge Plan and Sunday10 min readReading Time: 7 minutes
The National Youth Film Awards (NYFA) is THE stage for emerging talents and has been since 2015, when the awards first took the youth film scene by storm. Organised by *SCAPE, NYFA is split into the Media Student Category and Open Youth Category. The former comprises short films made by students attending the various film courses in Singapore, while the latter is a platform for independent youth filmmakers to showcase their work.
In this sixth installment of NYFA, the central theme was the “unbreakable spirit of our youths”, aimed at encapsulating their passion, drive and determination. Amidst a very competitive line-up, two films emerged the biggest winners for the 2020 edition.
In the Media Student Category, Lady E’s Wedding Revenge Plan was the big winner with three awards – Best Live Action Film, Best Director and Best Editing. For the Open Youth Category, Sunday bagged three awards with Best Screenplay, Best Cinematography and Best Actress. Sinema.SG had the exciting opportunity to review the two films and speak to the talented directors behind them.
Lady E’s Wedding Revenge Plan – Media Student Category
Eloise, an eccentric young girl, is terrified of growing up. When her older sister, whom she adores and respects, announces her engagement to her long-time boyfriend, Eloise decides that she is not ready for this change and sets out to ruin the wedding.
Director: Kathleen Bu
Cinematographer: Nicholas Teo
Editor: Rios Morales Carlos Antonio
Art Director: Claudia Park Kyu Li
Sound Designer: Glenn Soh
Cast: Priscilla Chong, Lynn Chia, Shaun Lim
Lady E’s Wedding Revenge Plan is a very fast-paced film filled to the brim with style. It features powerful performances, especially in the form of Priscilla Chong who nails her character, Eloise. The film’s editing keeps viewers on edge from start to end without a dull moment on screen. It’s witty, heartwarming and visually stunning – making this film one of the best in the entire NYFA line-up. Kathleen Bu, director of Lady E’s Wedding Revenge Plan tells us more about her motivations behind the film.
What was your inspiration behind the film and what did you want to convey to the audience?
Kathleen Bu: My initial inspiration stemmed from my childhood. As a kid, I was always with my sister – wherever she went or whatever she did, I would follow suit. My parents didn’t let us use a lot of technology until we were older, so we depended heavily on our imagination and the company of each other to have fun. As we grew up and entered adolescence, those times started to fade away.
I was starting to grow up too, having many doubts about myself. This led to a multitude of emotions just crashing down on me, all at once. It was difficult to adapt to the changes of life as they came, but what helped the most was having someone there to tell me “it will be okay”. My sister and I are still close and I look up to her a lot. We had our fair share of teary nights together, and in a way we both helped each other to become who we are today. This film is a tribute to our sisterhood as well as an acknowledgement of my past self and emotions.
From the beginning, I didn’t want it to be a film targeted at teenagers, like another ‘coming of age angsty teen film’. Rather, I wanted everyone to be able to relate to this film. I think everyone can relate to the painful process of growing up. It doesn’t matter what stage of life you are at, sometimes there are too many things to handle, too many things to say – you end up exploding. I want to tell everyone that it’s okay to feel, cause that’s what makes us human.
Lady E is a short that is very stylised. Why did you decide to take that direction and what impact did that have on your story?
Bu: At the core of it, we wanted to stand out from the usual Singaporean melodrama. My Director of Photography, Nick, wanted to emulate what an eccentric child would see in the world. For example, the wide angle shots of the film mirrors how a child would perceive every object as larger than it would be to an adult. In the end, every small decision made with the idea of “mirroring a child’s point of view on the world” came together to create a visual aesthetic that was whacky and vibrant.
We decided to split the film into three colour-coordinated segments: Yellow, Red and Blue. The art direction was also very important, because they built the world and character of Lady E. In the end, I think every element in the film was born out of importance to the story. In terms of impact, I would like to think that it created an entirely new world that audiences could soak their toes in for 10 minutes before going back to reality. I think it also helped to make this really unlikeable character seem more likeable.
At the same time, the story kind of takes on a life of its own and builds its own world as you write more. The style of the film actually took me by surprise as well. It’s something that gets built on bit by bit, and at the end when you look at it you kind of go, “Huh that makes sense. That’s the world of Lady E.”
What were some of the challenges of directing a child actor in such a complicated and layered role?
Bu: Honestly, it was really easy to work with Priscilla. I feel like it wasn’t any different from working with adult actors. When you see younger actors as equals and treat them with respect, I always get a sense that they immediately take the job seriously and really take the time to listen to my direction.
Of course, initially, it was difficult to break the ice, but I was lucky to have an actress who was relatively open about herself. I always feel like the best way to direct for me is to really understand the actress. Since Priscilla was around the same age as the actual character, she could understand the messy emotions Eloise was going through.
Even though she is much younger than me, I felt like I could connect to her in that sense. Until now, we are still really good friends and we text a lot. She even tells me about teenage stuff – like crushes or problems she’s having. It’s really rewarding for me as well, because I feel like I understand what she is going through. Adolescence is really difficult. I just hope having someone older to confide in helps her. In a sense, I really feel we formed a sisterly bond as well, just like in the film. When you consciously choose not to look to age, I feel like a lot more friendships can be formed.
Sunday – Open Youth Category
A young woman with a full body rash is driven to violence during a forbidden encounter with her sister’s boyfriend.
Director: Kris Ong
Producer: Tan Si En
Cinematographer: Lincoln Yeo
Cast: Adam Jared Lee and Vicki Yang
Sunday is a very gripping short that completely transports you into its world. Each frame is littered with twists that you never quite see coming. It has an air of sensuality that is handled in a very classy and subtle way, often leaving the audience shy but too captivated to look away. This bold attempt is propelled forward with stylistic cinematography that brings forth the message that sometimes, the itch is metaphorical.
With off-centre shots and differing focal points in each frame, the visuals are the perfect complement to the compelling performances from the cast, especially Vicki Yang. We picked the brain of director Kris Ong to tell us what she wanted to create with Sunday.
What was your inspiration behind the film and what did you want to convey to the audience?
Kris Ong: The story came from some soupy and slimy part of my unconscious. It was a horror story, washed up like a beached whale and I couldn’t push it back where it came from. I wrote the script in one afternoon and just ran with it. I was lucky enough to have some amazing collaborators that agreed to run alongside me, including our many crowdfunders. We made this film very quickly, and maybe a bit feverishly.
What were the challenges of including racy scenes in your short? Do you think Singaporean audiences (and/or competitions) are ready for such bold stories?
Ong: We talked about the scene plenty beforehand to make sure everyone was comfortable. Vicki and Adam (who play the leads in the film) were professionals. The scene demands a lot, and Vicki really poured her heart and pain into it. I know some audiences may be taken aback by the sex, but I don’t think that many will be shocked by it. There are very few things that shock people these days. In that way, I did not worry about whether audiences would feel ready or not.
What was the inspiration behind the cinematography? It’s very different and the shots are not how one would ordinarily set the scene which is definitely why the film won best cinematography. Was that intentional or was it just a personal style?
Ong: All the characters in Sunday are hiding from themselves or each other. Their own nature is not apparent to them. My Director of Photography, Lincoln Yeo and I knew that we could not just shoot the film simply, because a lot of the story is contained in this space of characters holding back.
The camera is like a voyeur in the film, its gaze is quite intrusive sometimes, probing and poking and it’s not comfortable to watch because the camera keeps insisting on looking even though the characters want to hide.
With that, another exciting installment of NYFA comes to an end. Sinema.SG would like to congratulate all nominees and winners as we eagerly await NYFA 2021 and the creations that come along with it.
– Through Engaging Characters and Superb Camera Work, ‘Singapore Dreaming’ Strikes at the Hollow Pursuit of Wealth and Status
– Film School Graduate Productions: Nanyang Technological University’s School of Art, Design and Media
– Empowering Over Victimising, ‘Jagat’ Is the Realist Masterpiece That Malaysian Indians Deserve