Call for short film ideas on diversity

From far left: Sanif Olek, Kelvin Tong, K. Rajapgopal and Eric Khoo will work with winners to produce a screenplay for a film between three and 10 minutes in length.
From left: Sanif Olek, Kelvin Tong, K. Rajapgopal and Eric Khoo will work with winners to produce a screenplay for a film between three and 10 minutes in length.PHOTO: MCI

Public can submit ideas and stand a chance to work with local film-makers and win $5,000

A $5,000 prize awaits anyone with a winning short film idea, in a contest launched by the Ministry of Communications and Information (MCI), to promote better relations within communities in Singapore and between locals and foreigners here.

The ideas must address issues of social integration and cultural diversity.

Four winners will be picked, and each will work with a film-maker to produce a screenplay for a film between three and 10 minutes in length. The film-makers are Eric Khoo, Kelvin Tong, K. Rajagopal, and Sanif Olek.

Olek, 46, whose first feature Sayang Disayang was selected as Singapore's entry to last year's Oscars in the Best Foreign Language category, says that he likes to hear ideas "that come from the ground".

"I like to tell stories that connect, stories that relate to everyone," he says. All four film-makers were speaking at a press event yesterday.

The contest is open to anyone residing in Singapore and who has lived or worked here for at least a year. Those submitting ideas can do so alone or in a team, up to a maximum of three members. No film-making experience is necessary.

Each of the four winning submissions, to be picked by the four film-makers and the MCI, will win $5,000.

The website (www.lapis-sagu.sg) is now open for written submissions, in the form of a 30-word story and synopsis of not more than 1,500 characters in length. The deadline for submission is Dec 11 and winners will be announced on Dec 15, after which production of the films will begin, in time for a gala premiere on March 16 next year.

Project Lapis Sagu, as the film-making contest is called, takes its name from the dessert with many layers, holding it up as a symbol of integration and tolerance.

The film-makers gave tips on how to write an eye-catching 30-word pitch, or in film parlance, a logline.

Kelvin Tong, 44, director of the horror hit The Maid (2005) and maker of the Grandma Positioning System short film in last year's anthology 7 Letters, offered an example.

"'Shark attacks a small town' - that was Jaws," he says. He adds that "brevity encourages creativity", hence the restriction on length.

Eric Khoo, 51, encourages submissions in unexpected genres, such as horror. He is a fan of films such as Dawn Of The Dead (1978), a work of zombie horror which carries a social message. Avoid sermonising, he advises.

"You don't have to use a hammer," he says.

K. Rajagopal, 51, feels that those who want to submit an idea should keep in mind that the project's brief includes the goal of promoting understanding between locals and more recent arrivals, and so should be as specific as they can about different cultures.

"You could try to represent the diversity of people who are coming here - Indians from different parts of India, Filipinos and Chinese," he says.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 17, 2016, with the headline 'Call for short film ideas on diversity'. Print Edition | Subscribe