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[InC-terview] '1400' Filmmaker, Derrick Lui - Making his 5-year Dream Come True.

By Flora  /  19 Feb 2016 (Friday)

Local filmmaker Derrick Lui had a dream since young: to produce and direct his very own a feature film. He finally fulfilled this dream in 2013 with ‘1400’, but not without struggles, quarrels and breakdowns. 

As a Singapore independent filmmaker, producing a full-length feature film is no easy feat. One will not only have to take on multiple hats as the director, producer, location researcher, casting director, etc; the filmmaker will usually have to make use of his or her own resources to get things going - such as calling all your family and friends to be your actors, pulling strings to shoot in a particular location or studio - and sometimes, forking out money from your own pocket. 

Are all these worth it? 

For Lui, it was. 

Besides taking out a five-figure sum to fund his own film, he admitted to have strained the relationship with his wife because of the production of the film. 

“It was hard to part with the money, but because it was five years and nothing,” said Lui in an interview with InCinemas. 

“I told myself: “Enough is enough.”, I am not young anymore and have just spent five years procrastinating. All my other peers at my level have made their features, some of them three or even four films!”

Though '1400' do not have a planned theatrical run at this moment, the film has already screened and several awards overseas such as winning the 'Best Feature Film' at flEXiff 2015, and had premiere screenings at Festival des Films du Monde and Venice Film Week.

Read on for our interview with Lui!

InCinemas: Why the 5-year wait?

From the day one when I had the idea, I went around asking people who could possibly collaborate on this film. I approached producers, media organisations and people that I knew, but couldn’t get down to doing it. That took me five years! The good thing was that most of the people who worked on 1400 had previously worked with me on other projects and I believe they liked my work for them to come onboard this project pro bono… even the actors!

InCinemas: In any production, big or small, there is going to be some budget involved. How much did you have to fork out?

I took out about a five-figure sum. 
The only money I had to come up with is the equipment - like some others that we didn’t have. On top of that, food and transport too. To me it was a coming of friends to do it. 

InCinemas: Was there a lot of convincing on your part to form your team?

It didn’t really take a lot of convincing to get the cast and crew on board. I just shared with them my idea, and that I’ve been wanting to fulfil this for five years. All of them were willing to help me! I was lucky in that way.

It’s funny because I’ve always wanted to make a feature film but didn’t get to do it. When I was single, making a feature was something I wanted to do as well, and I only came to doing it when I’m married with three kids. That’s actually one of the worst times to do a feature because the timing is all over the place. My kids are also very young at the moment.

InCinemas: Tell us about the inspiration behind '1400'. 

'1400' is about four stories that are connected with one another with the concept of ‘searching love in a hotel’. I wanted all four stories to intertwine with each other.
I’ve been the ‘Uncle Agony’ since my secondary school days since I was fifteen. These stories that I’ve heard from friends and the people around inspired me to do a film like 1400. I chose those stories are were moving for me.

InCinemas: From the 4 stories, is there one that is particularly close to your heart? 

The story between Ya Hui and Desmond is one that I really love because this story is really about true love. Rain (Tan’s character) sees for her while she listens to him - it’s something they do it without asking for anything in return. That, to me is the purest of love and what I believe in. That’s the message I want to send at the end of the day. 

InCinemas: Looking back, what was the toughest obstacle you had to overcome?

Finding investors wasn’t an easy task. They wouldn’t invest in your film without a script; and I am someone who makes a film without a script. That has been the way I’ve been doing for the past few years. I do have a scene breakdown but there won’t be any dialogue written on it. Winning awards in your previous films isn’t enough to convince a potential investor to invest in your film.

So after four years of trying to find investors without a script, I agreed to have it written and we did use it. As much as I would like to have it done without a script, I needed investors and financiers to create a movie… and they needed at least a script to understand my idea of the film. 

InCinemas: Was there a point where you felt like giving up?

Many times! There were many times I was depressed about it and wondered what was going on. I have three kids now, so maybe I should just give up and concentrate on my family, which I value a lot. I believe that if you miss out the growing years of your children, you miss out a lot - like their first word; first walk and all. I kept having these thoughts of giving up because there wasn’t a light at the end of the tunnel. 

I even had a breakdown on the 3rd day of shoot. I was just really exhausted. I was so tired and stressed out about it. Obviously filmmaking is my passion, but fulfilling that passion is not enough for me to sacrifice the amount of money, the time spent and to leave my family to make this. I have to admit that our relationship was strained because of this production. 

InCinemas: What was the greatest satisfaction you had from making 1400?

It has to me the moment when I finished this project. I remembered telling my friends that if we were to be selected in any film festival, it will be a great success for us already. I’m so glad we  were not only selected for a world premiere at Montreal, which is a pretty big deal, we even won the best feature film! So that’s a reward for everyone!

InCinemas: Will there be a theatrical screening for 1400?

We’re still in the midst of talking with the cinemas to see if they are willing to distribute this film. There’s no date set on this yet, but I’m hoping to see it up in theatres as soon as possible! 

1400 also stars Vincent Tan, Alan Tan, Angeline Yap, Will Lawandi, Maria Alexandra and Grace Lee-Khoo.

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