At the National Youth Film Awards (NYFA) 2018, more than 30 LASALLE students were nominated across 15 categories, winning Best Direction, Best Lighting and Best Camerawork in a Documentary Film, as well as all three Animation awards for Best Animated Film, Best Writing and Best Art Direction.
Held annually since 2015, NYFA helps bridge the gap between higher education institutes and the film industry by providing a platform on which young filmmakers can gain industry exposure, having their work evaluated by experts in the film industry. “We are delighted by the high standards and quality of all the films we received this year for NYFA. This is testament to the excellent film education that our youths are receiving in the local film schools,” said Mr Nicholas Chee, Awards Director, National Youth Film Awards.
LASALLE BA(Hons) Animation Art students Mirza Jaafar, Chee Sumin Amanda and Soh Fia, won Best Animated Film with Big Top Dreams, an animated short about overcoming the obstacles in one’s path to pursue one’s dream. Live action short film Joyride, directed by LASALLE BA(Hons) Film student Alexis Terese, won Best Direction, telling the story of a single mother who brings her daughter and ailing mother on a trip to the beach, only to have it cut short when her mother’s condition inadvertently worsens.
We speak with the two winning teams below to learn more about their inspiration behind the films, their process and their plans for the future.
How did you start on your journey in filmmaking?
Joyride team: We come from different backgrounds but we share a common passion for storytelling, and thus we began our journey to tell stories through the medium of film.
Big Top Dreams team: Like many others, we started out of love for the medium (favourite films, cartoons etc). We became inspired to tell stories of our own and express ourselves through the art of filmmaking.
Why did you choose to work with the medium of live action film and animation respectively?
Joyride team: We have experimented with different mediums, such as animation, and even motion graphics, but we felt that the heart of this story was best conveyed through live action.
Big Top Dreams team: The reason we chose animation instead of film was because of the 100% creative control we have over everything, from the way our characters move to the placement of every asset. We also enjoyed playing with colours and lighting for different scenes in our film, as a way to better convey our story.
What inspired you to tell this particular story? How was your telling of the story influenced by your own experiences of living in Singapore?
Joyride team: The story originated from the director, Alexis, and was developed with the writer, Nicolette. We are both strongly influenced by the women who brought us up, the women who surround us, and we wanted to tell their stories. The stories of contemporary women in Singapore have so many facets to them and we believe every story is worth telling. We knew we wanted to tell the story of a seemingly mundane Singaporean mother, and we wanted to show the audience that dreams worth pursuing do not always have to be grand dreams.
Big Top Dreams team: The main theme of our film was about the fear of failure and the strength to overcome it. Our story is not influenced by Singapore culture but rather, of personal experiences, told in a metaphorical way. Part of why we chose to build our story around a circus/aerial hoop artist was also based off our Art Director Soh Fia’s own personal journey as an aerial hoop student.
Why is it important to you that this story be told?
Joyride team: Every mother was once a child. As mothers, they often struggle between wanting to be role models to their children and wanting to do their parents proud. It is something that everyone struggles with. We wanted to convey that it is okay to be struggling, that it is important to feel the full spectrum of emotions, even if we feel like we don't deserve to.
Big Top Dreams team: We feel that telling a story that taps into common emotions has more global appeal and is able to cross cultures. It is a universal theme and one that everyone can relate to somehow. We hope that through this film, we can inspire others to not lose hope and continue to persevere through their endeavours.
What was the biggest challenge you faced in making your film, and how did you overcome it?
Joyride team: The biggest challenge was finding actors who could bring the characters to life. We decided to do away with a curated look and we knew that for the story to work, the characters had to be real, as if you could find them in your HDB block. It was vital that we casted actors with a strong understanding of what we wanted to portray in the film, and they needed to believe in the story as much as we did. It was through a long casting period and various meetings with the entire team that we finally decided on the main cast of the film.
Big Top Dreams team: Our biggest challenge was definitely the narrative structure of our film, because we are taking a basic common emotion and telling it in a more linear, metaphorical way. It was tough trying to be obtuse but at the same time, clear enough for the general public. Our storyboarding stage took about six months to confirm, with a lot of drawing and redrawing of boards involved.
What’s next? Now that you are LASALLE graduates and NYFA 2018 winners, what are some of your short and long-term plans, or goals you wish to achieve?
Joyride team: As graduates, our short term goals are to find our footing in the working world. Eventually, we aim to find a balance between work and passion. We'll continue making short films to gain more experience and continue to learn from industry professionals, before we attempt our next big challenge, which is to make a local full-length feature film.
Big Top Dreams team: While our team has gone separate ways to settle on a job and possibly get married, we do have plans of making more of our own personal films and projects in the long run. Our Creative Director Mirza also has plans to make a music album as a pet project.
Warmest congratulations to all winning teams, and we wish all participants the best of luck in their future endeavours!
Cover image: Video still from Big Top Dreams.