What They Talk About When They Talk About Programming

Want to know what happens during film programming? This interview featuring the programmers of the Southeast Asian Short Film Competition will show you how it is done.

What They Talk About When They Talk About Programming

While the demure smile and petite figure of LEONG PUIYEE might fool you into thinking light of her skills and abilities, she is no filmic lightweight: one half of the film programming team responsible for the SEA Shorts Programme of the 25th Singapore International Film Festival, her delicate shell is just a disguise for the intense and dedicated film buff under the skin.

The Coordinator for the educational programmes and film sales at Objectifs Pte. Ltd., Puiyee also managed film events such as the Singapore Short Film Awards and the Fly By Night Video Challenge since joining the visual arts centre dedicated to promoting photography and filmmaking in Singapore.

On the other hand, we also have the other half of the team: JOW ZHIWEI, recipient of the Young Artist Award 2014, whose short films have been shown at various international film festivals. Both exuding charisma and a certain sense of the brilliant insanity that all maestros would need in their craft, Zhiwei proves an intriguing figure in the burgeoning scene of short filmmaking in South East Asia
Exclusive to the Youth Jury coverage, they have decided to share some of the great thoughts behind the choices made for the short film programme.

Q01: How is this year’s lineup different from previous years?
PY & ZW: In previous years, the Silver Screen Awards was restricted to just Singapore short films. This year, the Festival is introducing the Southeast Asian Short Film Competition to include short films from Southeast Asia. With this expansion, it allows us to take a deeper look at the short film talent our region has to offer. We also hope to create a platform to discover new Southeast Asian shorts films and filmmakers.

The Singapore Panorama Short film programme, as always, allows us to look at some of the brightest talents and the latest films that the Singapore filmmaking scene has to offer. We are very excited that all the short films will have its World Premiere at the Festival.

Photo Credit: Rebecca Toh

Q02: What were your main criteria in selecting these shorts?
ZW: Very simply, it has to be a good film. We don’t set out looking for films with specific themes or topics or a certain type of film. A film with a strong personality will stand out immediately. We hope to be convinced of the film’s universe, its characters and come across a clear directorial vision in achieving the film.
PY: As Zhiwei mentioned, we don’t set out looking for films with specific themes or genres. We kept an open mind and did not restrict ourselves to any particular themes/topics while watching the films. Everyone has their own opinions on what makes a film a ‘good’ film. For us, it was important that the films have originality and heart to it, with its own distinct individual voice.

Q03: What are the themes that you find to be more relevant in recent cinema?
PY & ZW: Generally, speaking of the selection, with the Singaporean filmmakers this year, we noticed that there was a tendency to delve more into narrative drama. Whereas, we found that the filmmakers from Southeast Asia often made more unclassifiable, off-beat, experimental films.

Q04: How would you define a short film and differentiate it from other short pieces?
ZW: I think the most important difference is that there must be the ‘voice’ of the filmmaker behind the films even if it was 30 seconds long.
PY: Short films has to capture the essence of the characters and stories within a duration of 3 mins, 10 mins or 30 minutes. A film that manages to capture the essence of the story successfully, with its own distinct ‘voice’ can set it apart from the other films.

Q05: Which director would you consider to be the most promising within your lineup?
PY & ZW: The films were all selected after many intensive discussions and debates within the programming team, and we spoke extensively about the merits of each film before making the selection. We believe that each of the selected films will offer something different to the festival audience and we are very excited to be able to showcase these films at the festival as well. They are all special to us and we hope that the audience will share our enthusiasm.

Q06: Describe your screening process. 
PY & ZW: We watched and went through every film submission over a few months. At the end of each day, both of us discussed and talked about the films that we watched, which films stood out for us and why. We had a preliminary short list of films that stood out for us which we then discussed it together with both Yuni (Executive Director) and Wenjie (Festival Director), before shortlisting it to the final 19 films (over many long discussions and debates as mentioned!) for the Southeast Asian Short Film Competition Silver Screen Awards.

Q07: How were the different programmes classified?
PY: Each of the shortlisted film had its own distinct story and individuality. The 4 shortlisted programmes were programmed accordingly to highlight the originality of each film.

Q08: Describe an ideal short film.
PY & ZW: The only limitation that a short film has is that it has to be less than 60mins under our submission guidelines for SGIFF. Other than that, there really isn’t a single ideal formula, style or approach to a short film.

Photo Credit: Alice Colomer

Q09: Which film made the deepest impression on you and why?
ZW: The films selected are a very eclectic bunch, so it will be difficult to choose just one. There are a number of films across the programme that I feel deeply for.
PY: All the films are unique in their own special way. Be it the experimental or the narrative ones, it has been a pleasure to be able to watch these amazing films and they all left an impression on me one way or another.

Q10: What do you foresee as the possible trajectory of the East Asian short film scene?
PY & ZW: We feel that short films will continue to remain important for filmmakers in Southeast Asia. Many filmmakers honed their craft by making short films so the short filmmaking scene will definitely be an essential platform for all filmmakers. Short films have smaller budgets, and often have more flexible schedules, allowing filmmakers the space to discover and experiment.