A final year student at the Wee Kim Wee School of Communication & Information (NTU), Guo Wenxu is a quiet and humble student filmmaker with big visions that exceed his unassuming demeanor.
Currently working on his final year film that he hopes to extend into a feature-length production, Wenxu shares a little of himself with us: what inspires him as a filmmaker, and how being a Singaporean has influenced his work.
Struggle (2009) [View the high quality version here.]
Q: Could you tell us who and what are your greatest inspiration as a filmmaker?
Wenxu: I’ve liked watching movies since young, and these have been great sources of inspiration for me. I still remember those late night old Hong Kong movies that my family and I would stay up to watch on Saturday nights; movies that usually feature either Stephen Chow or Jackie Chan during the CNY period. Also, my aunt used to be a videographer, and she had this huge camcorder that records on VHS tapes. We used to have quite a sizeable collection of home movies on these tapes. I think I was probably in kindergarten when I learned how to operate the VCR and watching these tapes became a pastime for me.
I was also really inspired by Royston Tan when I first saw his short films in school exactly 10 years back. I also like works from Hong Kong directors Andrew Lau, Wilson Yip, Tsui Hark and Wong Ching Po. More recently, I was also exposed to works by Tsai Ming Liang, as well as those from the Malaysian New Wave, which kind of set me thinking about what exactly is the purpose of film: to entertain or to convey a deeper message? For me, the best is if one can achieve both. It is not easy, as most will hail that arthouse and mainstream just doesn’t go hand in hand. But I do believe it is possible, and that is actually something that I hope/aim/try to achieve.
Q: How and when did you start making films?
WX: When I went to secondary school, we had to produce short films as part of our syllabus under AEP. Mr Tan Siang Yu, who was my teacher then and also a filmmaker himself, was actually the first person who got me started in filmmaking. I started off with stop-motion animation for my O level FYP equivalent, and also started making some MTVs with friends for fun on the side. I guess the ‘real’ filmmaking started when I came into WKWSCI, and with a strong base of students who really love the craft, it is really easy to get involved in filming projects as well as to get fellow enthusiasts to help out.
Q: How does being a Singaporean influence your craft?
WX: I guess as a Singaporean, we are exposed to the culture of a few different races other than our own, thus we have learned to understand more about others. Language wise, what is uniquely Singapore is Singlish, which is predominantly English, but mixed with the other languages that are commonly used in Singapore as well. So for me, I think in order to give identity to the film, it is also important to incorporate what is ‘true’ to the locale, and language is definitely one important factor that gives our films the Singaporean identity.
Q: Could you tell us a bit about some of your latest works?
WX: For my last few projects, particularly Letting Go and Forgotten Memories, these were done after my Mum had been going on about how films should be more nostalgic, advocate the importance of kinship and bear more humane elements rather than violence and more violence. Thus the last two projects were actually dedicated to my family. I am really glad that they are really supportive of me embarking on these projects and that they really liked the two shorts that I dedicated to them.
Letting Go (2009) [View the high quality version here.]
Inspired and influenced by Royston Tan.
Q: Any last words on being a filmmaker in Singapore?
WX: I think filmmaking is fun and fulfilling when you do see your end product being appreciated. However, in our local context, at least for now, filmmakers often find it difficult to make a living in this trade and I think it is very tough for filmmakers to pursue this as a career. We are not like Hollywood, where the system for filmmaking is already so well established and is in fact one that is very profitable. We also cannot match up to their high budgets and wide distribution. Here, local audiences are also not as receptive to local productions yet, as we have seen so many local movies flop at the box offices. So many local directors have also gone into bankruptcy just to produce a film.
With all these challenges, I guess one can get really jaded along the way, thus it is important to stay focused and remember what is it that we are hoping to achieve through our films. Sometimes we really need a strong passion for the craft to keep us going through such periods of doubt.
Forgotten Memories (2010) [View the high quality version here.]
“A revisit to one’s childhood. A revisit to one’s forgotten memories.” Edited from some old VHS footage shot by my aunt in 1993/94.
Know anyone who should be featured on Rediscover? Let us know.