Novices, veterans receive MDA grants of up to $250,000

The team behind Popeye (above, from left) Anthony Chen, Kirsten Tan and Lai Weijie, seen here at the Cannes Festival's 2015 Cinefondation Atelier, a financing and co-production forum. Priscilla Ang (below left) is the youngest recipient. Posters for
The team behind Popeye (above, from left) Anthony Chen, Kirsten Tan and Lai Weijie, seen here at the Cannes Festival's 2015 Cinefondation Atelier, a financing and co-production forum. Priscilla Ang (below left) is the youngest recipient. Posters for Popeye (below, right) and The Tenants.PHOTOS: LAI WEIJIE, KIRSTEN TAN, MIKE KOH
The team behind Popeye (above, from left) Anthony Chen, Kirsten Tan and Lai Weijie, seen here at the Cannes Festival's 2015 Cinefondation Atelier, a financing and co-production forum. Priscilla Ang (below left) is the youngest recipient. Posters for
The team behind Popeye (above, from left) Anthony Chen, Kirsten Tan and Lai Weijie, seen here at the Cannes Festival's 2015 Cinefondation Atelier, a financing and co-production forum. Priscilla Ang (below left) is the youngest recipient. Posters for Popeye (below, right) and The Tenants.PHOTOS: LAI WEIJIE, KIRSTEN TAN, MIKE KOH
The team behind Popeye (above, from left) Anthony Chen, Kirsten Tan and Lai Weijie, seen here at the Cannes Festival's 2015 Cinefondation Atelier, a financing and co-production forum. Priscilla Ang (below left) is the youngest recipient. Posters for
The team behind Popeye (above, from left) Anthony Chen, Kirsten Tan and Lai Weijie, seen here at the Cannes Festival's 2015 Cinefondation Atelier, a financing and co-production forum. Priscilla Ang (below left) is the youngest recipient. Posters for Popeye (below, right) and The Tenants.PHOTOS: LAI WEIJIE, KIRSTEN TAN, MIKE KOH
The team behind Popeye (above, from left) Anthony Chen, Kirsten Tan and Lai Weijie, seen here at the Cannes Festival's 2015 Cinefondation Atelier, a financing and co-production forum. Priscilla Ang (below left) is the youngest recipient. Posters for
The team behind Popeye (above, from left) Anthony Chen, Kirsten Tan and Lai Weijie, seen here at the Cannes Festival's 2015 Cinefondation Atelier, a financing and co-production forum. Priscilla Ang (below left) is the youngest recipient. Posters for Popeye (below, right) and The Tenants.PHOTOS: LAI WEIJIE, KIRSTEN TAN, MIKE KOH

Projects getting MDA awards cover genres from drama to thriller and horror

Five budding film-makers have been awarded grants of up to $250,000 by the Media Development Authority (MDA).

The awardees range from young writer-directors with only a few short films to their name to veterans who have made television programmes for more than a decade.

Their grant-winning projects, chosen from a field of about 20 applications, also run the gamut of genres, from drama to thriller to horror.

Mr Mark Shaw, 46, executive vice-president of operations, Shaw Theatres, was one of four assessors who selected the shortlisted projects.

"These are all film-makers who have a future in arthouse or commercial cinema. Their proposals all had something interesting about them," he said. He described the winning proposals as having a more polished and complete story than the ones that failed to win.

The panel also took into account the experience of the producers in the team, Mr Shaw added.

The New Talent Feature Grant is given by the MDA's Singapore Film Commission to help first- and second-time film-makers make career-launching feature films.

Started in 2012, the grant has helped film-makers such as Raihan Halim make his Malay-language comedy-drama, Banting. This was released in cinemas, but the grant has helped fund more festival-oriented works such as Ric Aw's Standing In Still Water and Jason Lai's Ms J Contemplates Her Choice, both of which premiered at last year's Singapore International Film Festival. Lai's work, which stars Kit Chan, is set to open in cinemas next month.

The awardees this year are Kirsten Tan (for her project Popeye), Priscilla Ang (The Red Butterfly), Ong Kuo Sin (One Head Light), Mike Koh (The Tenants) and Tan Bee Thiam (Tiong Bahru Social Club).

Popeye is described by producer Lai Weijie as "a road movie set in Thailand", telling the story of Thana, a "55-year-old pot-bellied architect with an existential crisis" who is re-united with an elephant he knew when he was child.

The team of writer-director Tan, producer Lai and exective producer Anthony Chen (maker of the Golden Horse-winning Ilo Ilo) were awarded the full $250,000 and will be raising the rest of the budget through other awards and private investors.

Writer-director Tan, who is in her early 30s, will be making her feature debut with Popeye. She says the story was inspired by the sight of boys pulling an elephant to the sea for a bath in Thailand.

"The purity of that image stayed with me over the years," she says.

The youngest recipient is Priscilla Ang, a 27-year-old graduate of Nanyang Technological University's School of Art, Design & Media.

She will be directing The Red Butterfly, a thriller written by Kirsten Ong, and produced by Kenneth Hu and Juan Foo.

Part cyber-thriller and part coming-of-age story, the film revolves around a woman hacker who discovers disturbing secrets about a powerful corporation.

Foo, 40, says that he brought Ang into the project because he was impressed by her short film on child sexual abuse Broken Crayon, which was "bold, to address such a sensitive topic".

"I liked how she is committed to telling stories about people are underdogs, slighted by the majority," he said.

johnlui@sph.com.sg