Announcements

"Justice Devil" is now approved for public screening by Media Development Authority of Singapore. It is soon coming to a theatre near you.

"Gift" has a combined online traffic of more than 5 million hits as of 1600H GMT 15 Apr 2014.


.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Slangs, Lingo and Colloquialism





Recently, I sent a letter to the Straits Times Life, about the use of standard English in films. The letter, edited for brevity, is published as follows:



As in most articles edited for brevity, some interesting details are lost. So, here you are... the original letter:

Dear Sir/Madam

I refer to the letter by Mr Yeoh Teng Kwong, of the above-mentioned reference.

I agree with Mr John Lui about promoting local music and films. I also agree with Mr Yeoh about producing art with universal appeal and standard English to reach a wider audience.

I know this because I have acted in the lead role of two short films that have gone viral on the Internet.

The first one "Hentak Kaki", about an army Warrant Officer hitting his glass ceiling due to his knee injury, was scripted in a typical Singapore Armed Forces lingo. It speaks to all male Singaporeans instantly and went viral as they can identify deeply with every word spoken. It has a combined online hit rate about 200,000 hits. This is a good score considering that local  full feature film trailers with a significant marketing budget barely hit 50,000 hits. However, I suspect that because of the very localised lingo, the film did not travel much beyond Malaysia and Singapore, even though the film expresses issues that are common in any army in the world.

The other short film that has gone viral is "Gift", which is a story about a misunderstood father and his disgruntled son. This film has a combined online hit rate of about 5 million hits and counting. Besides South East Asia, USA and Europe, the film has gone viral in far away and exotic places like Brazil, Ukraine, Russia, Croatia,...etc. Moreover, we are also getting a spontaneous response from audience from all over the world volunteering to translate the subtitles into their native languages as they want to make the film more accessible to a yet wider audience. Incidentally, the film uses standard English. :)

"Gift" is so successful that I am now getting calls to give talks in schools, to act in foreign feature films and from investors who want to produce feature films of a similar story line between a father and his son.

Below are the links to the two films, so that you can experience them for yourself.

"Hentak Kaki"
http://youtu.be/TukUlXU6P84

"Gift"
http://youtu.be/1DUYlHZsZfc

Further, another short film worth studying would be "Detour", which I acted in and had won a handsome swoop of four categories for the Best Director, Best Script, Best Performance and Best Fiction awards at the recent 5th Singapore Short Film Awards 2014. The film uses Hokkien, with one or two English words. The full film is not online yet as it is making its rounds in the film festival circuits, but a trailer is available at:

http://youtu.be/XvgMSX5XH90

I think films with universal values travel, but films with mainstream languages travel further. Let's see. The jury is still out there.

Michael Chua

Sunday, March 2, 2014

5th Singapore Short Film Awards 2014 - "Detour"



"Detour" won the Best Fiction, Best Director, Best Performance (Michael Chua, Presley Lim & Yolby Low) and Best Script awards in the 5th Singapore Short Film Awards 2014.

Written/Directed by Michael Kam
Produced by Mabelyn Ow
Shot by Amandi Wong
Edited by Alicia Lim 



The judges felt that the film stands out for Iits economy of dialogue, the development and movement of the scenes, and the wonderful acting.  They also said that the director had led the development of the story and cast very well particularly in a sensitive topic like this one involving children.

For more about "Detour", click here.

The list of the other winners should probably be up soon at The Substation's website (www.substation.org).

This is my second time winning the Best Performance Award.

The other one was in the 3rd Singapore Short Film Awards 2012, via the short film "Hentak Kaki". See here

When the results was announced, I was a little surprised at winning the Best Performance this time round, as there were a few other nominees whom I felt had delivered their role very well.

Thinking it through later, I suspect that it was probably the chemistry among the three of us in the cast that made us win.
So directors out there, do look out for the chemistry among your actors. It was also a major factor how  "Hentak Kaki" won.






Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Michael Chua Evening of Short Films

I would like to thank Lasalle School of the Arts; James Khoo from Pangolin Films; Osman from Hijrah Films; Chef Jeremy Cheok; Harvaraj from Lion City Film Studios; Marrie and the Reel Frenz;  the film producers and directors who are so generous to allow me to screen their films; and most of all the seventy or more of you whom had taken time to attend the event on a Saturday evening.

I have received very positive feedback about the films and some are already asking for another screening. I will organise another one, probably in six months' time, as I am doing all these amid my productions, scripts and shoots. It also takes time to request for the films and the  permission to screen, converting them to mp4, testing them out in the theatre, getting the theatre itself, organising the catering, publicity and registration. 

Some of the comments received were:

"Awesome acting!! 2 thumbs up!! Thanks for organizing ."  
--- Calvin Huang

"Good acting from the cast and the scripts explored a spectrum of society issues. Thought-provoking, touching and insightful. Thank you very much to Michael and all the assistants who helped organise and make yesterday's screening a success!" 
--- Emily Woo









"Generally well organized, get to see film clips completely different from the cookie cutter style comercial films. Displays how budget films attempts to wow audiences with subtle messages that address bigger issues in life"
--- Larry Lim


"I really enjoyed the short films - interesting, touching, entertaining.....Looking forward to the next screening. Thk u Michael for organising it."
--- Sally Teo

"It was a wonderful evening with a mix of talent and art from the film fraternity accompanied by the actor himself. Great work and an even humble and down to earth person. Michael truly was the star of the evening:). FABULOUS WORK! ! Looking forward to the next meet up."
--- Sankeshwari Deo

There is a French man in the audience who said that he was surprised that there are such entertaining and inspiring films made in Singapore, particularly so as he didn't think that there is a film industry here.

The next screening will likely be a smaller one with a more selective audience, according to their interest in films and their being punctual. Some of the very late comers in this screening will be banned. In the next screening I will lock the door when the screening start. Those who registered and did not turn up this time will also be banned.  You have been warned.

-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------




Finally, I got my act together to choose eleven short films out of the 150plus productions I have been in over the last three years. Then I had them converted to mp4 format and tested out. Alas...

This wil be a once in a long while screening of the short films I have acted in. This screening has been requested by many of my friends, but something which I have procrastinated for about two years. So here you are...

This event is FREE, but registration is necessary. RSVP here and ALSO email your name, email address and mobile phone number to jupilier1@gmail.com .

Seats are very limited, so please change your RSVP well ahead of time if you cannot turn up, so that we can re-allocate them to others. Those who fail to do so will be banned from future screenings.

Date: 15 February 2014 (Sat)
Time: 4.30pm to 8pm

Venue:
Room F208, Lasalle College of the Arts,  
1 McNally Street, Singapore.
187940

Registration will start at 4.30pm
Screening will start at 5pm.
Q&A at 6.45pm.

Mix and mingle after that.
Light snacks, tea and cold drinks will be served.
Courtesy of Lion City Film Studios and my banker brother. The food will be catered by my good friend Chef Jeremy Cheok, whom I befriended during the Secret Supper Club days.


LIST OF FILMS


We only have time to screen eleven films as that will already take close to 90 minutes.
For more write-ups about some of the films and others, please refer to other articles in this blog.

1. Dinner


Directed by Heng Le, Winner of Open Category, 180 Short Film Competition 2013, organised by Singapore Media Academy.
Actors: Michael Chua, Kelly Lim and Ezekiel Chee.

A security guard is a father and also like a superman to his son. (In Mandarin, 2 mins 18 secs)

 

2. Godverdomme Coffee
 

Directed by Eric Eloffson. 
Actors: Michael Chua & Sjors Wijers.

A Dutchman's last wish to have his cup of coffee before death row. (In English, 9 mins 47 secs)

 


3. Change


Directed by Leon Tai. 
Actors: Michael Chua, Karen Tan & Horsey Hui. 
A beggar is a beggar until he comes in handy in times of need. (In English, 8 mins)

 



4. Last Wish
 


Directed by Jeah Goh. Actor: Michael Chua & Sean Goh. 

About the final reconciliation of father and son.(In Mandarin, 10 mins)

 





5. Detour

 
Oirected by Michael Kam. Nominated in 4 categories of the 5th Singapore Short Film Awards - Best Fiction, Best Director, Best Performance (Michael Chua, Presley Lim & Yolby Low) and Best Script. Screening in competition at the 13th Mumbai International Film Festival for Documentary, Short & Animation Films over in India from 3 to 9 Feb '14.

On a hot sunny afternoon, a father and two restless siblings stuck in a traffic jam took a detour that leads to a misfortune that the family struggles to come to grips with... For more details, click here. (In Hokkien, 7 mins 22 secs)

6. Anniversary


Directed by Joseph Hsu. 
Actors: Michael Chua & Aki Masabayashi.
  
On a visit to the cemetery, a man catches a girl stealing flowers he laid on his wife's tomb. For more details, click here. (Silent, 4 mins 19 secs)

 

 
7. Stitched


Directed by Paul Tang. 
Actors: Michael Chua, Dora Teo & Phumtida Kiatthat. 
Horror befalls a father and his daughter after the former deserted his pregnant girlfriend in Thailand.(In Mandarin and Thai, 10 mins)

 



8. Reunion
 

Directed by Joseph Hsu. Grand Prize (Student Category) 1st Taiwan Weifilm Festival (2013).
Actors: Kelly Lim, Low Heng Joo, Jiayi Wang & Michael Chua

A family is compelled to an awkward revelation during a Chinese New Year Reunion dinner... (In Mandarin, Hokkien and English, 10 mins)

 

9. Gift



Directed by Daniel Yam. 
Actors: Jim Koh, Jon Tay, Michael Chua, Yoro Tan Yuan Chong. A touching story about a karunguni man, exemplary father and generous soul...For more details, click here. (In English, 7 mins 32 secs)

 

  
10. Hentak Kaki


Directed by James Khoo. Winner of Silver Screen Award (Short Films) at the 24th Singapore International Film Festival (2011).

Actors: Michael Chua and P Muruganandan
 

Winner of Best Performance and nominated for Best Director and Best Script at the 3rd Singapore Short Film Awards (2012).

"Hentak Kaki" is one of the few local short films that have gone viral on the Internet and even gotten the mainstream press attention. It is currently the most popular video (by far) on viddsee.com

2nd Warrant Officer Teck Hong served his entire life in the army, but now finds himself needing to make a pivotal decision to continue serving in the army or leave and face the harsh reality of life outside. (In English/Singlish, 10 mins)

11. Deviant Ink


Directed by Brett Rogstad. 
  
A defiant teen, her tattoo and her motivation. (In Mandarin, 10 mins 21 secs)


 





Total: 88 min 39 sec

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

The Nasty Bits


Here are some nasty bits they asked me to do on set... This one plays the beggar at a urine stinking corner in Chinatown. It is a pity that cameras cannot capture smell.




This one is for a scene in Jack Neo's "We Not Naughty". The most painful part was not having to be sprayed upon, but rather the need to over-act.



This one is for Suria TV's "Nine Lives" drama, coming soon to a TV near you.

It is not as difficult as it looks. You just have to get used to seeing the world upside down and going underwater for a few seconds at a time, blowing out bubbles from your nose. The hardest part was to play dead at the end - motionless enduring the discomfort of the water flowing into my nose.

They planned to have a stunt man for me, but he was too small and it was hard to disguise and match. So I did it myself - (thankfully) in one-take. More about "Nine Lives" in another post.





Friday, December 20, 2013

The Lying Theory

The Lying Theory, written/directed by Lauren Teo. Picture: Julie Tan
I was roped in for the minor role of the philandering father less than a day before the shoot, as I didn't put myself forward for it and I swear I don't have any experience in that department. But together with the lovely Sharon Hoo, who played the role of the mistress, we managed to pull it off, culminating with the mother  (Karen Tan) dropping the cake, beating the mistress up and young Claire's (Kyra Cheung) childhood bliss for a trusting father broken forever..

It was one of the many times I have acted with Karen and my first with Sharon and Kyra, and at that time didn't know that the older Claire would be played by Julie Tan, whom I later acted with in the movie "That Girl in Pinafore". Then, Julie was a student in NAFA, before her foray into mainstream acting at Mediacorp TV.

I didn't have any expectations from this film besides knowing what I had to do in the scene and that it is about  a cute 'Lying Theory'. So it is a pleasant surprise to watch it today and discover the more inspiring bigger picture.

If only more people realise that lies no matter how well hidden emit different energies and thought forms than truth does. Lies also compound matters into bigger unexpected ones, often with undesirable results. We can spot a lie by the weaker tone of the voice, the unnecessary longer pauses in between the speech, the defensive body language and the inconsistencies of data that follow. Sometimes, it would be just the inexplicable hunch that something is amissed.  If only everyone has Claire's clairvoyant abilities, then perhaps less people will lie and the world would be a simpler place without the myriad of falsehoods criss-crossing our lives and making them more complicated .

Post scriptum:

"The Lying Theory" is nominated for Best Script in the 5th Singapore Short Film Awards 2014.




 

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Film Review - Firestorm


At a film festival recently, Hong Kong actor Andy Lau said in jest that he is expensive because he is worth it. This is also why I feel "Firestorm" is worth watching. However overall, the movie fails to lead the audience into a believable action-thriller..

But after accepting some excesses and fantasies, I felt that I  need to draw a line at some point in the movie.

In a nutshell, the plot capitalises on the bad guys' superiority in the robberies and consistently keeping a few steps ahead of the game. They are better than the police in ground intelligence, technologies and  firepower, and moreover are a dab hand at shooting on target at the police, while they themselves would miraculously escape death and bullets. This despite being widely exposed to gunfire most of the time  - well, not until the very end when they too get gunned down.. But the real thorn in the eye is not the above-mentioned visual gimmicks, but the other logical contradictions that stand in the way. 

For instance, why didn't the police use their ability to trace IP addresses and GPS locations of the baddies; or simply arrest the crane operator that lifted the police armour car? Wouldn't that be easier than searching the myriad of CCTV footages from the cameras dotted around the city?

Okay,  I am no party-pooper, as afterall, movies are fantasies and we all need some. I did enjoy the great escapism that are expected of such movies - the gun fights; the grenade blasts;  the fist fights that fall several floors down and yet hit the ground running (pun intended).

What stands out in this movie is also the computer graphics (CGI) of the colossal damages by the bombs and blasts - very impressive by Asian cinematic standards.

I would consider "Firestorm" to be a big budget visual action-thriller rather than one that is character driven and inspirational.  If you go with such expectations, then you will probably be more forgiving and not be disappointed.









Monday, December 2, 2013

Comchest : Gift



With Jon and Daniel.

This is one of my favourite short films. It is produced by The Creative Room, directed by Daniel Yam, for the Singapore Community Chest (Comchest). Comchest initially wanted a corporate video style of presentation, but Daniel sold them  this compelling short story instead.

During the audition, Daniel asked for a monologue with my (imaginary) son going through his growing pains, his delinquency and consequential jail sentence. Next, Daniel asked for the contrary, that I celebrate this (imaginary) son's jail term and urge him to make the most out it - to test how far my emotions can stretch and my ability to take directions. 

The script was one of the more challenging ones as it required  me to be in a cheerful disposition, but with an underlying sadness that culminated into sheer dispondence. This, when he realised that he will miss out seeing his son again in his final moments.  I guess there may be many people that too live through such situations, given that it is common for one to leave their hometown for cities to edge out a career. So this is some food for thought. I can relate to some of that personally. In addition, I also learn that I ought to smile more in my own life off-reel, as it does make life feel a lot happier.

This was the first time that I have acted as a clown. It was energy sapping to deliver extreme expressions continuously to entertain. A clown cannot let his guard down for even one moment, as all eyes are constantly on him to deliver the comic. 

And so I wonder, "Can a clown be truly happy inside?"

Though I was exhausted and stretched by the broad range of emotions in this production, I really enjoy and treasure the experience. I am satisfied with the result as it tells a story that both entertain and inspire.

Post scriptum:
The scenes at the old folks home and children's home reminded me of my student days in the Polytechnic. Then, we visited and served the homes every weekend. It was also the time when I performed sobbing stories on stage to encourage freshmen to become volunteers to serve the underprivileged. Those were truly happy days. Happy, because we gave.