Of Film and Film Writing

by Lim Xiao Hui, Victoria Junior College

The atmosphere at the film writing workshop was buzzing with anticipation. Such excitement was only natural as Wee Li Lin and Jacklyn Chan, the speakers for the workshop, are renowned local filmmakers with many years of experience. Their names have definitely been recognised by the eager audience.

The workshop began on a light note, with both speakers cracking jokes and sharing personally about themselves. Likewise, the audience did not hesitate to interact with the speakers. After the sharing by the speakers, the audience got to view a short film made by Wee, titled ‘Perm’. The short film was inspired by Wee’s own childhood, bringing out themes such as generation gaps. The audience was enthralled by the fine detail of the film—from the delicate pastel palette to the carefully-selected wardrobe and setting.

Although Wee is currently a film director, she started out studying creative writing in college, pursuing her love for writing. Wee found fiction writing to be the best way to start as it is more interesting, allowing the addition of details that cannot be shown in scripts as well as a ‘stream of consciousness’. She lamented that screen writing requires discipline and format, even describing it as ‘cold’. However, she strongly encouraged aspiring filmmakers to keep reading more, going on the Internet to get tips and to learn even more. In fact, Wee herself goes online to get tips on directing.

When it comes to her writing process, Wee has an interesting style. She deviates from the norm and prefers to think about the theme first, before going into the characters, especially for short films. She feels that themes are broader thus visuals are enabled, such as the setting. In her opinion, thinking about characters first would make her feel more ‘trapped’.

Regarding directing, Wee mentioned the use of a storyboard, explaining how it was helpful in visual ideas by showing how certain shots could be achieved. In this way, a ‘strong visual sense’ is effectively created. Wee also highlights the cruciality of wardrobe in a film, the sheer importance of detailing as it tells lot of the character. Furthermore, Wee usually casts actors for her film first, before writing the script with the specific actors in mind, professing to work better in this manner. This process is definitely a unique method of filmmaking!

According to Wee, as film tells things in physical way, subtlety is required in portraying the scene or emotion of the character. A particularly intriguing way mentioned to understand film more is to act. Wee advised aspiring filmmakers to put themselves out there to act in other films. In addition, she cites acting as being helpful in creative process. For instance, acting in silent films forces the actor to understand how pivotal subtlety is, how vital it is to be able to convey meaning without words. Such experiences would certainly improve and enrich a filmmaker!

In spite of her commissioned work, Wee would never fail to set aside time to create a short film for herself only, no matter how low the budget is. Wee’s love of filmmaking is definitely a true inspiration!