Writer-director Boo Junfeng and editor Natalie Soh: 'MindFi' chemistry between them elevates their work
Since working on writer-director Boo Junfeng's debut feature Sandcastle (2010), Natalie Soh has become his go-to editor.
The two collaborated on his second film, the psychological drama Apprentice (2016), and also teamed up on a telco television advertisement and Home, the campaign music video for annual lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rally Pink Dot in 2013.
They have Mr Freddie Yeo to thank for playing match-maker. He is the chief operating officer of media company Infinite Studios, where Sandcastle was edited.
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He says: "I felt that Junfeng and Nat would work very well together due to their personalities. Both are deep critical thinkers and love film-making and storytelling.
"The creative business is also very much a people business. People forget that."
But things did not exactly get off to a flying start.
Soh, 31, recalls: "It was my first feature and crafting a feature-length narrative is a completely different challenge from other short-form works. My first few edits were flat and confusing, but Junfeng was really patient and kind."
Perhaps it helped that it was Boo's first feature as well and they were facing a steep learning curve together.
At one point, they were stuck and could not figure out how to make the story work.
Boo, 33, says: "Then I had a sudden inspiration at 2am while we were having supper. I told her about it and she got it immediately. The people sitting at the next table must have thought we were crazy, the way we were talking about the characters.
"It was the cut of the film that made it to Cannes."
The coming-of-age drama screened at the prestigious Cannes Film Festival's International Critics' Week in 2010 and won Best Feature Film and Best Director at the Vietnam International Film Festival later that year.
Boo's works are very much character-driven, from teenager En searching for answers about his family in Sandcastle to prison officer Aiman's conflicted feelings about learning the hangman's ropes in Apprentice.
And that is something that Soh is sensitive to.
He says: "She is very perceptive and she has a great sense of dramatic rhythm. She also really cares about the characters in the films that she works on, which is important. She has definitely grown a lot over the years."
Soh studied electronic and broadcast media at Nanyang Technological University, but was drawn to editing. "It's like piecing together a giant jigsaw puzzle with endless possibilities."
She loves the collaborative nature of film and working with different directors. At the same time, she treasures the relationship that she and Boo have built up.
"By now we've got some form of 'MindFi' going, a lovely chemistry that allows us to collaborate without enabling each other's predilections. There's a wonderful kind of alchemy in collaborations like this, because the understanding and secret language help to elevate the work."
She adds sweetly: "Plus I care about him, so it makes working with him more fun."