Monday, January 09, 2012

Q&A with Mun Chee Yong – one of our brilliant judges

You've been very successful in a short time - how did you get to make a feature film so quickly out of film school?

Thanks... time is a relative concept!  I did a radio interview in Singapore and the radio host thought I took very long! Well, I am one of the lucky few among my University of Southern California classmates who have made our first feature films. Like everyone else, I graduated from film school with a thesis short film, did the festivals, won some awards, got a manager and took meetings. After a while I decided that I didn’t want to wait for someone to hand me my break. I decided to find out the steps I needed to take to make my movie. Film school taught us how to make a movie creatively. But it didn’t teach us how to get it made, the business side of it. I investigated the process and learned as I went. Having been a journalist gave me the toolset to find information and piece it together. Then when I had to put together my first business plan, make deals, talk to investors etc., it was helpful that my background was in economics so I was able to speak their language.

So all of that has to do with getting the movie financed, which is the biggest hurdle for most first time feature film director with no track record. I'm quite a fearless optimist and that helped. I also have a hard time giving up.

You went to film school in the United States. Do you think there is any difference between Asian cinema and Western cinema?

Yes, there are huge differences as well as similarities. Films tell stories. I believe that the voices behind that storytelling make the biggest difference between Asian cinema and Western cinema.  Those voices are different because they are shaped by very different sets of circumstances and life experiences. The cinematic languages are different too. For instance, western color theories and design concepts are unlike their Asian counterparts. The audiences are different too. What appeals to one audience doesn't necessarily appeal to the other - and that is a big factor in what gets made, east or west.

People who are into digital art, cinema and computers often say that "feature film is dead" - your thoughts?

A lot of people have declared that cinema was doomed ever since the day it was invented. As I’ve said before, I am an optimist. And I am a cinema lover. I believe that cinema will continue to reinvent itself endlessly so that the joy of movie going experience will continue to be relevant to its audience. It will evolve. It will not stay the same. But it will find its place in the new media landscape. In fact I happened to visit two countries recently where cinema is still very much alive and thriving -  China and Brazil.

Where are you and what project are you working on now?

I'm in Los Angeles right now. I have just been to the Bahamas, for the Bahamas International Film Festival where my movie was screening in competition. I’m also doing some work on a thriller script that I’m attached to direct, as well as developing some other scripts.

What do you think would make a good MyView entry? 

I don’t know. I’m looking forward to be surprised!

How can people link with you online? 

They can message me on facebook... I will answer messages. I tweet as @wtrmts when we had our release in the [United States]. So they can check out @wtrmts for the latest about my movie or check out my movie's facebook page where they can also reach me:

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