Film & TV News

Five Southeast Asian filmmakers answer our burning questions about filmmaking!

AFTER the success of the first Next New Wave (NNW) Young Filmmakers Workshop last year, NNW is now back in its second edition!

The eight-day workshop which began on 19 August 2016 will end with a graduation ceremony this Friday. Founded by independent filmmaker Tan Chui Mui — an advocate of community-driven filmmaking — NNW is an initiative supported by the National Film Development Corporation Malaysia (FINAS). The workshop focuses on the basic pillars or filmmaking, namely producing, directing, production design, cinematography, editing and sound.

At the end of it all, the workshop’s 14 participants will also be divided into two groups (#TapauWare and #Tumbler) and each will have to present their very own productions. After the screening of both films, two participants will be selected for the ASEAN-ROK Film Leaders Incubator (FLY2016) Workshop in Cambodia.

NNW differs from its peers in that its participants are mentored by Southeast Asian filmmakers as well as local talents. Facilitators this year include Isazaly Isa (Malaysia/Editing Mentor), John Torres (Philippines/Directing Mentor), Kenneth Raj (Malaysia/Assistant Directing Mentor), Pete Teo (Malaysia/Sound Mentor), Rasiguet (Pom) Sookkarn (Thailand/Production Design Mentor), Sam Cochaputsup (Thailand/Cinematography Mentor), and Tan Bee Thiam (Singapore/Producing Mentor). 

On 23 August 2016, The Daily Seni was given an opportunity to meet with five mentors from the program.

Given long working hours and the constant deadlines, how do you guys keep your creative juices flowing?

Sam Cochaputsup (SC): I try to keep it fresh by taking inspiration from everything. I still study, like what these mentees are doing. Keep learning and try to break the rules when learning. Things from the internet can also keep me inspired for a longer period.

John Torres (JT): It’s very practical for me. I have other passions outside of cinema like music, sports and other interests that keep me going. Just stay away from what you do once in a while and taking an approach to your work which won’t result in stress. Don’t take yourself seriously, just play. Life is fun. Don’t let your troubles hinder you from getting things done creatively.

Rasiguet Sookkarn (RS): I have more of a supportive role from a filmmaking perspective. I find that many scripts I have worked on have so many contrasting  differences. I learned a lot from working on one project at a time because of the detail I put into it.

Isazaly Isa (II): I love reading, that’s the one thing I learned the hard way. If I don’t read I don’t know what’s happening out there. I try not to read about cinema and instead look up politics, life, new inventions, and what the human mind can achieve. Sadly, university students nowadays don’t even remember the last time they finished a book.

Tan Bee Thiam (BT): I like to talk and work with young people, they’re a way for me to look on things in life in a new way. I also like to watch a movie with an audience so I can study their response towards something that’s happening on screen. That’s my way of getting ideas and inspiration.

As filmmakers, are there any habits that you just can’t seem to avoid while working on a project?

II: The one that I can think of is that I trust people too easily. Sometimes it’s just like “OK I can trust this guy” but then something happens and you’re like “Oh shit!”. Because in this industry, people come and go. You don’t usually meet the same people in every project you do. You could meet people who are passionate at first but things might begin falling apart and this always happen to me. And I would be like “Why can’t I tell whether this individual is really passionate or just crap?”. I’m too optimistic about other people.

BT: I guess it’s natural for a producer to worry too much. I think at some point you need to know that you have to let go and just do the best you can. Because there is no perfect plan and shit always happens. Sometimes when we plan too much, we fail to see and react to any possibilities of the shit that might happen. Over-planning can be your downfall.

L-R: Rasiguet Sookkarn, John Torres and Tan Bee Thiam provide some insight into their processes.

What are the factors that you look for in a project? What do you look for before joining a project?

SC: Well, I never actually say no to any project offers because I try to compromise with what I see and try to meet the client’s need and that’s usually how I accept any projects. I believe that most of the time when a client or a director come to me to propose a project they know the way I work and how I do stuff.

BT: I look at the people. I think people and chemistry is important. It doesn’t mean working with the same people all the time but thinking of what would be a good mix of people and what kind of chemistry the project needs.

JT: I just really want to show my craft so that’s the thing I look for most in a project. I actually don’t take on projects often. I think of my own process and where I am in terms of filmmaking and see whether I can explore more and work around certain limitations. I’m very specific.

II: When I get offered a job, I ask for the script. After reading the script I can tell whether the writer has actually convinced me enough to believe that the story is real. Can I contribute more to this film based on what is written now? Can I make it better with my editing?

What is it that makes a film memorable even five years later?

II: Content that can last. For example, Redha is a movie about autism. Autism has and will continue to affect the population, so Redha will be the kind of film which people will continue talking about. The movie is still travelling to festivals. It is considered fresh and valid because autism is real.

In general, what advice do you have to give for young and aspiring filmmakers?

SC: In cinematography, you just have to explore and keep on trying. The best way is to have passion for what you do.

BT: Don’t rely on other people’s advice. Try to watch a movie each day instead because you learn the most from watching. It will make you a better filmmaker. If that doesn’t work, at least it will make a better you.

JT: If you want to be a filmmaker, build on your craft and the viewers will recognise your frames. Try to explore more of the filmmaking process. Be realistic about who you are and embrace your strengths as well as your weaknesses.

RS: There are millions of frames which have already been captured. Whether you like them or not, you can learn from them.

II: To be a good editor, you must be really observant. Just observe what the directing has to offer. Being observant is what makes a good editor. Expose yourself not just to Hollywood films but Asian cinema too. We must keep learning from others. I’m still learning something new everyday so that I know more about how to make a good movie. Learning makes us successful.

Next New Wave‘s 2nd Young Filmmaker’s Workshop will run over eight days from 19 – 26 August 2016. Two selected participants from the workshop will represent Malaysia at the ASEAN-ROK FLY workshop held in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. For more information on the workshop, visit Next New Wave or contact Also check out our interview with FLY2015 participant Sharifah Aleysha! Interviews conducted and written by Aizuddin Norzaid, Bukhori Tajudin and Aiman Firdaus.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: