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[InC-terview] 'Han' Filmmakers on Post-NYFA Life and Charlie Lim's MV

By Freddy  /  23 May 2017 (Tuesday)

Rachel Liew and Jonathan Choo. Photo credit: Vivien Tan

Jonathan Choo and Rachel Liew are young local filmmakers whose short film ‘Han’, won the Best Direction and the DBS Best Picture Award at the National Youth Film Awards last year. The film has also travelled to film festivals including Indonesia’s Jogja-NETPAC Asian film festival and the Cleveland International Film Festival.

We talked to them about their life after NYFA and working on Charlie Lim’s new music video, ‘Light Breaks In’.

(Read our interview with Jonathan Choo and Julie Heather Liew last year)

Jonathan Choo. Photo credit: Vivien Tan

InCinemas: Since ‘Han’ won the National Young Film Awards last year, the film has travelled to many film festivals around the world. How do you feel?
Jonathan: Haha, it’s just a few festivals. It’s always an honour to have work shown in different parts of the world, it pushes you to keep on telling universal stories that people find relevance in.
Rachel: It warms my heart to see how well it's doing internationally. We didn't set out to make it 'festival-worthy' so being accepted to all these festivals overseas justifies the efforts we put into the film.

Rachel Liew. Photo credit: Vivien Tan

InC: What have you been up to since winning the NYFA?
J: I’m pursuing my masters in directing at the National Film Television School (NFTS) in the UK currently.

The team who works on Charlie Lim's music video 'Light Breaks In'. Photo credit: Vivien Tan

InC: How does it feel to work together again for Charlie Lim’s music video for ‘Light Breaks In’?
J: I’m glad, I wouldn’t be able to make anything without this team, I think we worked the same working style we did on Han, just that we face different scope of challenges.
R: I think after Han, we were all looking for another opportunity to work together again so it was a no brainer that we would bring back the old team for the MV. It's not easy to find like-minded people who are equally passionate about their craft in this industry so it was an absolute experience to be able to do something together yet again. I think what is exciting is that we pushed ourselves every time we work together and it reflects in the MV as well. I think it’s really important to surround yourself with people that are able to challenge your every step, because it only makes you better at what you do, so I'm glad that we did this together but this will definitely not be our last project as a team,.

InC: Mental illness is not an easy topic to tackle. How did you approach the narrative?
J: It is one of the elements of the narrative and it’s impact on the characters is huge so there was a worry if we would be portraying it appropriately, so doing some basic research is definitely important in this.

InC: What challenges did you face while working on this music video?
J: I think the set was probably the biggest challenge, we needed to create an immersive world and needed a whole house to make that happen. Fortunately, Julie our Production designer and art director came to our rescue in that aspect. Another challenge was my inexperience in making music videos as I was more used to making narrative films, so I needed to be very concise with what I show and still maintain consistent emotion.
R: For me, the biggest challenge was creating that energy in the light for every scene. One of the main characters of the film is actually the light, so I had to dissect and plan every light source for each scene and weave it into the characters and the story. And because of how we packed the rooms with set decoration, I was not able to bring in any interior light at all and I had to work with my lights solely being on the outside coming in. But I think it ended up more poetic in a sense and relatable to the story.

Photo credit: Vivien Tan

InC: How have you grown as a filmmaker after NYFA?
J: I used to think I should only make certain kinds of films. Now, I think as long as I know what the core is on a human level, I’m willing to open up to try making different kinds of films.
R: Definitely. I feel that after NYFA, we have developed more of our own style and flair and discovered what we want to achieve with our careers. And it's great that we are all individually trying to expand ourselves differently because it just means that when we do come back together as a team to create another idea, it would be something different and more evolved.

Photo credit: Vivien Tan

InC: Could you share any upcoming projects or future plans we should look forward to?
J: I’m working on my first year film in school about a girl who can hear people’s thoughts, that’s about it. Haha
R: I am currently waiting on replies for my Masters in Cinematography. So fingers crossed there, I might end up either in LA or London!

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