Breaking Boundaries at All In! Young Writer’s Festival

by Rachel Lim Jia Sing | Victoria Junior College

“We were like did they mix the names up? We were nobody at that time,” Mr Jason Chan recounted his reaction when BananaMana Films got contacted by Okinawa Film Office to do a tourism video.

He and his partner, Mr Christian Lee, were both shocked upon receiving this collaboration opportunity as this was before the phenomenal success of Perfect Girl. This film opportunity lead to the production of Jimami Tofu.

The Ready for the Close-up session was headed by the brilliant duo, Jason Chan and Christian Lee. Mr Jason Chan has won and been nominated for multiple international awards including Best Writing Editing, Directing, Drama, Acting and Composing.

They had dabbled in YouTube, skits and even corporate videos but later decided to tell their own stories by creating a film production company of their own. BananaMana Films is therefore their brainchild. The aim of BananaMana Films is to produce premium Asian aspirational content in English. One of the film series they have created is Perfect Girl , the first Singaporean film series to make it big on Netflix. Mr Jason Chan himself has starred as the male leads in all those productions, i.e Perfect Girl and Jimami Tofu.

Sharing that YouTube is a good platform for budding filmmakers to showcase films, he also added that budget shouldn’t be a factor that gets in the way of making a film. Start small and work your way up. He, together with Mr Christian Lee, also demonstrated their way of brainstorming ideas for film plots, called the “yes, and” method. One party offers an idea and the other party builds on it and so on. He also advised budding filmmakers to create what they love and don’t start out by just finding a target audience. 

I feel that local filmmakers will gain inspiration from Mr Chan and his partner, Mr Lee since they are proof that local film companies can also make it in the international film industries, bagging awards across borders.

During the session, it was mentioned, while they were elated at the opportunity to work with the Okinawa film office, they did encounter difficulties in the filming process and were disheartened. However, they pushed on and made the successful film, Jimami Tofu, which has been gobbled up by Korea’s IHQ, Vikki and Encore. Moreover, when they started out with the vision to create Asian content in English, this was considered relatively foreign in the film industry at that time. There were also naysayers that said they would not make it. Look where they are today!

Summing up the session, Mr Lee shared, “It just comes down to true effort and staying optimistic.”

Mr Chan, as well as his partner Mr Lee, possessed the element of grit and stayed true to what they believed in, and that’s why they succeeded. As young adults, we should take notes and persist when faced with life’s challenges.