Singaporean stories in Hollywood? Why not, says young award-winning filmmaker

Bryan Lim

14 Jun 2019

Fresh off his big win at the local short-film competition ciNE65 Movie Makers Awards (MMA), young filmmaker Jastine Tan has his sights set on Hollywood.

The 21-year-old Temasek Polytechnic graduate said: "The dream for every filmmaker is Hollywood. No matter what it is, it's Hollywood."

Tan is heading there on a mission, armed with his ambition and verve and emboldened by others who have travelled a similar path.

He added: "I want to tell unique stories from me and unique stories from Singapore instead of the cookie-cutter films. Filmmaking is becoming a more open industry because you see YouTube short-film makers getting big feature-film deals.

Jastine Tan snagged the ciNE65 Movie Makers Awards and Overall Best Film (Student). PHOTO: AsiaOne
"Like the director of Shazam - he was a YouTube short-film maker and he made it big that way."

So what Singapore stories does this up-and-coming director think have a chance to make it to the Hollywood silver screen?

"I think that Singapore has a wealth of stories to tell. Not just about the HDB (Housing Development Board flats), but we have many folklore stories that we have never seen on film before.

"Such as the story about Bukit Merah - with the swordfish - and Sisters' Islands. Even the China film industry is targeting (folktales) because they want to make a big spectacle and there's a wealth of stories to tell," he explained.

WES ANDERSON 'HELPED' HIM MORE THAN ONCE

Combining a uniquely Singaporean story with the Hollywood vision shouldn't prove to be too much of a challenge for this filmmaker.

After all, his award-winning submission in ciNE65 was a Wes Anderson-inspired short film titled My Homeland: A Photography Project by Grandpa Chen.

The film clinched the top prize ciNE65 Movie Makers Award, netting him a feature-film deal with mm2 Entertainment, as well as the Overall Best Film Award in the student category.

The familiar cinematography is no coincidence at all as Tan is unabashedly a Wes Anderson fan.

He said: "I find that Anderson's films are very eccentric and very inspired because he uses film as a medium not just to tell a story. He makes every frame a painting.

"It's something that's very unique and I love that he utilises every frame, every technique and every acting capability to the best of his ability."

Fun fact: Wes Anderson not only helped him score a big win at the ciNE65 awards ceremony last night (June 13), he also got Tan into Temasek Polytechnic.

All thanks to the first Anderson film he watched: Moonrise Kingdom.

"That was the film I wrote a review on for me to get into Temasek Polytechnic," he said.

However, Tan clarified that his vision for My Homeland extended beyond trying to pay homage to his film icon.

"We do not want to replicate Wes Anderson 100 per cent because if you blindly copy something, then it's not authentic.

"(My Homeland) is actually a combination of influences from other filmmakers that I try to mould and shape according to my artistic style and taste," he explained.

Where is Jastine Tan's style in this production then?

Without missing a beat, he replied: "I would say it's the conversation (between the grandfather and his grandson). A lot of people who have watched the film say that the dialogue is very me, but they don't know how to place it."

SUBVERTING EXPECTATIONS

One of the things that made the film stand out was the twist at the end where (spoiler alert!) the grandfather actually wanted a photo with his grandson instead of a historical landmark of Singapore.

Tan explained that he drew on his lesson learnt from his submission for a previous edition of ciNE65 where they made a film which felt "very pandering" to the audience and wasn't representative of the story they wanted to tell.

For this year's submission, they decided to subvert the audience's expectations while trying to tell a story that was "simply done" but also "very layered and complex".

Don't just hear it from us, though. It was a sentiment echoed by Colonel Joseph Tan, one of the judges of ciNE65 MMA.

Speaking to AsiaOne, the director of Nexus, Mindef's central agency for National Education and Total Defence, said: "My Homeland was a very interesting story with a little twist and it's something that people relate to.

"Very often when people talk about home, they relate to infrastructures, playgrounds and places. But the story was all about the people.

"And I thought that the twist in the story and storytelling were very impressive."

FUTURE OF LOCAL FILM INDUSTRY

The ciNE65 Movie Makers Awards plays an important role in nurturing the young talents in the local film industry.

Colonel Tan said: "ciNE65 is a platform to showcase and tell the Singapore story. What's particularly unique this year is that it's the first time ever that we've partnered with mm2 Entertainment.

"This partnership is a very important one because mm2 Entertainment is at the forefront of the film industry. Through this partnership, we hope to not only encourage and nurture budding local filmmakers but to allow them a possible transition into the industry.

"I hope that we will continue to grow this partnership and I'm very optimistic about where we're going with ciNE65."

On that note, when will we see Tan's big feature-film debut?

"First things first, I have to finish my National Service," he quipped with a laugh.

He may have just enlisted two months ago, but we have a feeling that two years won't be enough to dim this rising star from becoming a force to be reckoned with in the industry.

To watch the short films for this year's ciNE65, head over here.

This article was brought to you in partnership with ciNE65.

bryanlim@asiaone.com

*The Following is an excerpt from asiaone's article. The full article can be found here: https://www.asiaone.com/singapore/singaporean-stories-hollywood-why-not-says-young-award-winning-filmmaker