Helping more film-makers to succeed

Distance's cast and crew include (above from left) Cheng Huan Lin, Tan Shijie, Yeo Yann Yann, Chen Bo-lin and Anthony Chen.
Distance's cast and crew include (above from left) Cheng Huan Lin, Tan Shijie, Yeo Yann Yann, Chen Bo-lin and Anthony Chen. PHOTO: ALICIA CHAN FOR THE STRAITS TIMES

Director Anthony Chen wants to create more opportunities for film-makers in the region

Ilo Ilo director Anthony Chen, Singapore's most highly acclaimed film-maker, says his success has been at least partly due to luck.

"There are so many wonderfully talented film-makers in Singapore and around Asia, but who just have not been as lucky as I have been.

"While I cannot create luck for them, I can create opportunities for them," he said at a Singapore press event yesterday to promote his new project.

The movie Distance, which opens next Thursday, is an omnibus which he executive-produced under his movie production company Giraffe Pictures, but he left directing duties to three rising Asian film-makers: Singapore's Tan Shijie, China's Xin Yukun and Thailand's Sivaroj Kongsakul.

Each of the three directors helms one segment of the film on the theme of distance.

Chen, 32, said: "All three are directors whose work I admire and they deserve to have their work seen.

"Having experienced the struggles of a young film-maker myself while making Ilo Ilo, I've always wanted to set up a home such as Giraffe Pictures to support other talented young film-makers in the region. This new film is the start."

Chen's debut feature film, the acclaimed drama Ilo Ilo (2013), has bagged a string of international awards, including the prestigious Camera d'Or at the Cannes International Film Festival and the Golden Horse Award for Best Picture.

His impact on Distance has been great, said Taiwanese actor Chen Bo-lin, who is the leading man in all three segments of the film.

The 32-year-old heart-throb, who is best known for his Taiwanese drama In Time With You (2011), was also at the press event.

He said in Mandarin of producer Chen: "Anthony is an executive producer that is hard to beat. He's extremely diligent and he cares a lot about the project. He's always the first to be on the set and the last to leave."

As for Singaporean director Tan, 34, he said he has learnt to be more direct in the way he instructs actors after working with Chen.

Tan, who won the Best Singapore Short Film award at the Singapore International Film Festival in 2014 for Not Working Today, said: "When I direct, I tend to work with actors in such a way that I lead them slowly to where I want them to be.

"Anthony, however, is more direct. He will say exactly what he wants. I think I've taken away a bit of that from him."

In response, Anthony Chen said with a laugh: "That's because I'm more impatient. Shijie is such a careful film-maker that he can have 20 takes for a single scene. Meanwhile, I'm on the side just worrying because time is running out of the filming day."

• Follow Yip Wai Yee on Twitter @STyipwaiyee

• Distance opens in cinemas next Thursday.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 28, 2016, with the headline 'Helping more film-makers to succeed'. Print Edition | Subscribe