Tag Archives: SGIFF

Darren Aronofsky in Singapore: You can make anything if you persevere

Posted by Larry Gleeson

By Genevieve Sarah Loh

SINGAPORE: In the space of six feature films, Darren Aronofsky has shown that challenging and original work still has a place within mainstream movie-making.

With work like the unflinching Requiem for a Dream, the fantastically ambitious The Fountain and the epic Noah in a resume that also includes award favorites Black Swan and The Wrestler, few working filmmakers have left such a striking cinematic footprint.

Which is why the Oscar-nominated director and his work are a perfect fit for the 27th Singapore International Film Festival (SGIFF) – a regional event with a focus on celebrating and encouraging independent cinema.

The rapt audience at Aronofsky’s sold-out SGIFF Masterclass held last Friday (Nov 25) at the ArtScience Museum turned out to learn from an auteur who, with films like Black Swan and The Wrestler, has successfully managed to bridge the gap between commercial and indie without losing artistry or audiences. They were there to pick the brain of a filmmaker whose debut feature was financed entirely from $100 donations from friends and family, and catered by his mother “who fed everyone peanut butter and jelly sandwiches”.

Darren Aronofsky singing autographs after his masterclass (Photo: Genevieve Loh)

“It’s usually that original image or idea that stays with the film forever that is an anchor,” he told the audience of local and regional film directors, writers, producers and students. “That’s the passion that makes you willing to face the hurdles you’re going to run into, because you believe that one essence is worth sharing. It’s a long process of spit-balling, telling the story over and over again, and making it richer and richer.”

For the director-writer-producer, screenwriting is similar to sculpture, in that “you slowly work your way at it.”

“For me it’s always been about just doing draft after draft after draft,” he shared, adding that he goes through an average of 20 to 30 drafts even before production starts. “Something like Black Swan probably (saw) hundreds of drafts.”

This meticulous approach – that perhaps borders on the obsessive – might just be the secret of Aronofsky’s success. And it is perhaps the reason why he’s only made six feature films since his audacious debut Pi in 1998.

It might also be the one tip many aspiring independent filmmakers in Singapore’s burgeoning film industry could consider picking up. After all, Aronofsky who studied anthropology and film at Harvard before going to graduate school at the American Film Institute Conservatory, is known for pursuing his passion projects through to fruition.

The 47-year-old told Channel NewsAsia in an interview after the masterclass that he tries to make projects that he believes in.

“That’s all I can do,” he said. “Whatever…I really believe in and seems to make most sense, is the one that I do next.

“For all my films, I just do them in the same way. I really don’t have full control if they become hits or not, but it’s just a matter if something connects with people at the time,” he continued.

Darren Aronofsky on top of the ArtScience Museum after his masterclass (Photo: Marina Bay Sands)


“It’s always a tricky balance of how to get something made. The Fountain took six years to get made and it changed very much in what it was. But eventually we figured out a way to make it,” said Aronofsky. “So I think if you have persistence, you can make anything.”

Aronofsky’s sprawling The Fountain was originally a US$70 million vehicle for Brad Pitt who famously pulled out just weeks before shooting commenced. The director only returned to the project two years later, this time with replacement leading man Hugh Jackman and a lower budget. He says of all the films that he’s made, The Fountain “was the film I was most passionate about.”

So what advice would he give to aspiring indie filmmakers in Singapore struggling to find the balance between critical and commercial viability while navigating a notoriously difficult industry?

“Certain filmmakers can make those bigger films. And if that’s their aesthetic, that’s their aesthetic. I don’t know why would you do it, it’s such a hard job,” he said with a grin.

“But I’m sure there are stories here in Singapore that need to be told… (by) someone who is passionate. And only they can tell it,” he continued. “You just have to figure out a way to tell it. If you have to do it on your iPhone or a little camera, there is nothing wrong with that. Those type of cameras work in today’s world.  There are a lot of ways to get films made.  At this point, you just have to have the story that you’re passionate about.

He confessed to not being as familiar with Singaporean filmmakers as much as he would like to be.

“I tried to educate myself before I came here but I didn’t have time,” he said.  “But I’ve met some good filmmakers and I’m curious to see what they’ve done.”

He singled out Singapore filmmaker Ken Kwek, who moderated his masterclass and is known, most recently, for the satirical Unlucky Plaza, which opened the SGIFF in 2014.

And what would Aronofsky, a filmmaker known for constantly taking risks, say to an industry in a country that is arguably risk-averse?

“Art is all about being honest and truthful… you have to continue to pursue what you want to do. It may not work well in Singapore or it may work well in Cannes. It may put you in jail, but you can’t resist it. Your job is to keep telling the truths that you know.”

This is part of Channel NewsAsia’s coverage of the 27th SGIFF, which runs from Nov 23 to Dec 4.


(Source: http://www.channelnewsasia.com)

Michelle Yeoh graces red carpet event at opening of Singapore International Film Festival

Posted by Larry Gleeson

By Genevieve Sarah Loh

SINGAPORE: Malaysian superstar Michelle Yeoh was one of the biggest names gracing the red carpet at the opening of this year’s Singapore International Film Festival (SGIFF) on Wednesday (Nov 23). The event flags off the 27th edition of Southeast Asia’s longest-running international film platform.

The recipient of SGIFF’s first-ever Cinema Legend Award last year, Yeoh is the guest-of-honour and will be joined by the likes of homegrown filmmakers Royston Tan and Eric Khoo, as well as local celebrities Felicia Chin, Ian Fang, Suhaimi Yusof, Lim Yu-Beng and Adele Wong.

While Yeoh has reportedly joined the cast of the upcoming Star Trek: Discovery series, she kept mum about details when asked on Wednesday night. “We all grew up (in) the Star Trek generation, so of course I am a big fan,” she said.

Local celebrities Felicia Chin and Ian Fang at the opening of the Singapore International Film Festival. (Photo: Shawn Lim)

Homegrown filmmaker Royston Tan at the opening of this year’s Singapore International Film Festival. (Photo: Shawn Lim)

The region’s film glitterati have also descended on Singapore shores for SGIFF. Indonesian star Nicolas Saputra will be gracing the carpet alongside his Malaysian director Dain Iskandar Said and castmates Nandita Solomon, Iedil Putra, Prisia Nasution, Nadiya Nisaa, Alvin Wong and Chew Kin-wah. Their film Interchange, a fantasy noir supernatural thriller, is the opening film of this year’s SGIFF.

SGIFF 2015 Best Singapore Short Film recipient Gladys Ng. (Photo: Shawn Lim)

Vietnamese-born French filmmaker Tran Anh Hung will also be on the carpet. Renowned for breaking through with his first film The Scent of Green Papaya, his second film Cyclo won him the Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival in 1995, making him one of the youngest filmmakers to be honoured at the festival at the age of 33.

Several international stars will also be gracing various SGIFF red carpets this year, including Oscar-nominated director Darren Aronofsky and Hollywood star James Marsden who are walking the red carpet on Saturday for the SGIFF benefit dinner.

(Source: http://www.channelnewsasia.com)

What Filmmakers Need To Know About Marketing In Digital Space

Posted by Larry Gleeson

By Charmalne Lim

The 27th Singapore International Film Festival (SGIFF) kicked off on 23rd November and we delve into the exploration of digital space.

Watching TV used to be a communal activity with the family, and movie theatres were exciting places to hang out with friends as we stuff our faces with popcorn, but now, technology gives us a push and we fall backwards into a couch at home, streaming movies and dramas online with a subscription fee of about $12 a month.

We find out from three SGIFF forum speakers, Missy Laney, Lionel Chok, and Scott Kaplan, via email interviews, on whether Virtual Reality can be a game changer, and how the Internet is a boon and a bane for filmmakers.

Choose The Right Platform, Not Any Platform

The challenge of the new-age behavioral phenomenon is not only finding the platforms to host your show, but also adopting various marketing strategies to promote it.

It boils down to the basics of marketing: Knowing what you really want to achieve.

Scott Kaplan, SVP in Global Sales at Gunpowder & Sky Distribution, points out that film distribution in digital space is a reaction to macro-shifts in human behavior.

“People want to watch WHAT they want to watch, WHERE they feel like it, and WHEN they feel like it.” – Scott Kaplan


Kaplan outlines the rigmarole of choosing a distributing platform, “Viewership?  Revenue? Awards-recognition?  It comes to knowing how the platforms respond to creatively, what they will pay, what territories, rights and terms they need, [and if] they need exclusivity etc.”


The Right Audience, Not A Large Audience

“Social media is a tool, not a solution. It can be used to elevate a film or degrade a film. It allows us to measure our audience, dissect our audience demographically, and ultimately communicate with our audience.” – Missy Laney

It’s easy to mistake online marketing as mindless updates, which can dilute your film’s branding.

Missy Laney, Film Strategist and Director of Creative Initiatives at BitTorrent, believes it has been easier than ever to reach your audience, but keeping their attention is tough.

She drops a strategic tip like a giant hotcake:

“To stand out on social media, you have to have a strategy customised for each platform.  Your Twitter strategy should not be the same as your Facebook strategy. Study how your audience engages, learn their language, and build a timeline of when and how you plan to cultivate and activate your fan base.”

Laney raises an issue with most strategies, “The biggest missed opportunity is slowing down once their film has been released.  Once the final release rolls around, they are either too burnt out or funds are too tight to further engage an agency. Make a post release strategy and stick to it for one or two months following the release. The release is just the beginning.”

Money As The Cause Of Frustration & Motivation

A monthly subscription doesn’t really justify the money pumped into physical production. Film creators are losing money and are desperately trying to work the digital space towards their advantage.

Kaplan says, “The decline in box office for independent films and the collapse of the DVD market can’t be replaced by a monthly Netflix subscription. But there is a ton of new money being injected into the film-ecosphere as new platforms launch, and filmmakers are getting smarter and better at making great films for less money.”

Additionally, fans can also interact with films now as funders and backers using crowd funding so that’s another big shift in the relationship we have with movies now,” says Missy Laney.

“I believe the success of each film is measured by one question, ‘Did it find an audience?’”

Virtual Reality As Our New Reality?


The entire scope of cinematography is now changed. We have to change the environment to suit the 360 capture and delivered through a headset. So you cannot just capture it and then watch it on YouTube after.” – Lionel Chok

Lionel Chok is a Singapore filmmaker, director, and many other titles under his belt. From how he sees it, Lionel thinks the digital trend and VR technology are two great things amalgamated.

“This is something very powerful. We are currently developing apps for VR content to be published in an online store. As the cost of app development has reduced, this is definitely going to impact filmmakers, as the Play Store or the iOS store will now become a method of distribution. The platforms are also evolving and content can be priced across different stores for all demographics,” says Lionel.

While the local movie scene in Singapore is still quite dry, VR is a new direction for aspiring local filmmakers. Having a passion in Augmented and Virtual Reality, Lionel is excited about its future.

He says, “The cameras are becoming more affordable with prices matching up to $2000 ~ $4000. In time to come, I see more VR stories that are going to be curated and delivered via apps, headsets and who knows, maybe even communal VR spaces in open spaces.”

Future of Cinema Forum – Independent Film: Navigating the Digital Space, as part of the Singapore International Film Festival, will be held on 26 November 2016, 1pm at *SCAPE.

More information can be found at sgiff.com.

Feature Image Credit: onespacemedia.com