×

From First Film to Second, Singapore Directors Try to Make the Leap

The Singapore government’s support for the film industry has helped a lot of people to make their first feature. Moving on to a sophomore performance is a trickier proposition.

Some of Singapore’s most recent first feature debutants, K. Rajagopal (“A Yellow Bird”), Wong Chen-Hsi (“Innocents”) and Jacen Tan (“Zombiepura”), assembled Saturday for a seminar at the Singapore International Film Festival.

After their first feature efforts, all three of them have had a hiatus, but are now developing new projects.
“I didn’t have my second script right away. […] There’s lot of pressure after your first feature. You need to be disciplined to say I’m not ready, I need space, I need time, when people ask you about your second script,” said Wong, who won Shanghai film festival’s Best New Director award with her first feature “Innocents” (2012).

Rajagopal, whose “Yellow Bird” premiered in Cannes’ Critics’ Week in 2016, agreed. “I think making films shouldn’t be an exercise, or something you have to do. Most of my films are very personal. I find it very hard to just start thinking of a film. It has to happen to me. Something triggers, then I can think ‘oh I want to tell this story; I want to share it.’ Until then I don’t think I would even dare say that I have a second film,” he said.

Tan took the opposite approach.

Popular on Variety

“Whenever you go, you should have your next project ready to be pitched,” said the director of army-set zombie comedy “Zombiepura” (2018). “If someone asks you about your next project after your first film, that’s the moment you get the most chance. You need to have your ideas ready regardless of which stage you are; whether they can be features is a different story,” he continued.
They, however, all agreed that when initiating a film, it should be about what the director believes and done the way they would not regret.

“Your first film is the one that defines you as a filmmaker. It would be great to find the idea you want to stick to, and the one you don’t regret. You have to like the idea and have authorship,” said Tan.  “For me it’s not about getting a gigantic release but more about my personal voice. You have to stick to your guns. [There is a scene in “Innocents”] where the character is walking in the forest. People asked me if I can cut it in half. I refused, and I don’t regret. […] When looking back after years, you should still be able to stand for your decision,” Wong said.

Seven years after her first film attempt, Wong is currently working on her second feature, a film adaptation of Singaporean novel “City of Blessings” by Simon Tay.

“I was afraid that the author might hate me after watching the film. But Simon let me adapt it as I wish, and said he would consider my work as a response to his book. It is a huge privilege to be given that freedom,” said Wong. One of the beneficiaries of Thailand’s Southeast Asian film fund Purin Pictures’ 2018 grant program, “Blessings” is the story of a retired elderly man fighting to save his home in a country that has grown too quickly and expensively for him.

Rajagopal said that he has only recently started to plan his next feature. “ [My ideas] happen to be with images. Recently I had a very surreal dream. I put down a few images that I saw, and I hope it takes me to my second film.”

More Film

  • Ariel Winograd'TOD@S CAEN' film premiere, Los

    Viacom International Studios Signs First Look Deal with Ariel Winograd (EXCLUSIVE)

    MADRID  — Adding to a powerful and still growing talent roster, Viacom International Studios (VIS) has clinched a first-look deal with Argentine writer-director Ariel Winograd whose latest movie, “The Heist of the Century,” has just become one of the biggest Argentine openers in history. The multi-year pact takes in the development and production of not [...]

  • William Bogert Dead: 'Small Wonder' Actor

    William Bogert, Who Appeared in 'War Games,' 'Small Wonder,' Dies at 83

    TV, film and theater actor William Bogert, who appeared in a recurring role on 1980s sitcom “Small Wonder” and in films such as “War Games,” died Jan. 12 in New York. He was 83. On “Small Wonder,” which ran from 1985 to 1989, Bogert played Brandon Brindle, the Lawsons’ neighbor and Harriet’s father who became [...]

  • 1917 Movie

    Why '1917' Is the Last Film That Should Be Winning the Oscar (Column)

    There’s a feeling I always get at the end of a long Oscar night when the movie that won isn’t a terrible choice, but it’s the safe, blah, MOR predictable choice, the one that conforms to the dullest conventional wisdom about the kinds of movies Oscar voters prefer, because in the core of their being [...]

  • Civil Rights Drama 'Praying for Sheetrock'

    Civil Rights Drama 'Praying for Sheetrock' in the Works as Feature Film (EXCLUSIVE)

    Enderby Entertainment is developing a feature film based on Melissa Fay Greene’s civil rights drama “Praying for Sheetrock,” Variety has learned exclusively. The non-fiction book, published in 1991, was a finalist for the National Book Award and won the Robert F. Kennedy Book Award, Chicago Tribune Heartland Prize, Georgia Historical Society Bell Award and the ACLU National Civil [...]

  • Jared Harris arrives at the 26th

    No, Jared Harris is Not Playing Doctor Octopus in Marvel's 'Morbius'

    The first-ever trailer for Marvel and Sony’s next Spider-man spinoff “Morbius” left comic book fans reeling with theories. While the plight of the main character, Dr. Michael Morbius (Jared Leto) – a scientist dying of a rare blood disease who accidentally turns himself into a vampire – seemed ripped right out of the comics, the [...]

  • SAG Awards 2020: What You Didn't

    SAG Awards 2020: From Charlize Theron to 'Parasite,' What You Didn't See on TV

    Brad Pitt made a crack about his marriages. Robert De Niro got political. And Jennifer Aniston talked about appearing in a commercial for Bob’s Big Boy. Those were just some of thing that happened on stage at the SAG Awards that were broadcast on TNT/TBS on Sunday night. However, Variety was inside the Shrine Auditorium [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content