This has been an incredibly long year for me. With so many things happening since the shoot of Sandcastle, it’s hard to believe that the film was actually shot this year. Before the year is completely over, I think it I should reflect on what must have been the most eventful year of my life. Pardon the occasional hyperbole.
2010 began with a nervous breakdown. Literally. It was 1st January, a day before the shoot, and I was feeling the weight of the entire production on my shoulders. 10 years of dreaming of making a full-length movie, 18 months of writing and preproduction, a process that involved so many close friends and loved ones, were to culminate on shoot on the next day. I couldn’t believe how smoothly things were going and I kept telling myself that something was going to go wrong. With some comfort from Auntie Lucilla and Ting Li, I braced myself for the challenges to come.
The 18 days of shoot went incredibly well. Before I knew it, I was on my way to New York for a short break, totally uncertain about the rushes that I had captured, but relieved that production was over.
Piecing the narrative together during postproduction in February was a whole other challenge. For six weeks, Natalie and I spent days and nights together at Infinite Frameworks. The biggest challenge was in filtering out the feedback that was coming in every direction – from my producers, friends and focus-group screenings – and figuring out the best way of presenting the story I wanted to tell. Just a few days before the picture-lock deadline, I booked myself on a flight to Hong Kong with the a cut of the film, to convince my producers there that it was its final cut.
And then one night in March, in the midst of preproduction of NDP, I was delivered the news that Sandcastle was selected at the International Critics’ Week in Cannes. I was overjoyed and told Ting Li, who was working on the audiopost for the film. I think neither of us could sleep that night.
What came after was a mad rush to complete the film. We also had to finish its trailer, press kit, poster and website. Thankfully we had David, Ash and the kind folks at Milk Photographie who jumped in to help. By that time, preproduction for NDP was in full-gear and I was also concurrently working on the videos for Pink Dot with Shu and Ash. In mid-April, Ting Li, Sharon and I went up to Bangkok for three weeks to complete the sound mix and colour grade of the film, so that the print could be sent in time to Paris for subtitling.
And then May came. I had to miss Pink Dot because Sandcastle’s premiere in Cannes fell on the exact same date. Jasmine, Jeremy, Martyn and a few other filmmakers jumped in to help for Pink Dot, while my team and I flew to France to present Sandcastle. I was in disbelief of everything that was happening – the press junkets (up to 20 interviews in one day), the Q&A sessions, the reviews, and witnessing the film take a life of its own. Xd also flew to Cannes from New York to be with me for a weekend.
I returned to Singapore and jumped right into work for NDP. It was such a massive undertaking it was as if Sandcastle couldn’t have happened in the same year. I was so glad I had my producer Chao, who was also the AD on Sandcastle, to help coordinate everything. Being in the creative team was a joy, and the officers and NSFs made a fantastic team to work with. During this period, xd decided to quit his job in New York and return to Singapore. I was also told that Auntie Lucilla wasn’t going to renew her contract with us. She had been a part of my family for 22 years and was going to return to her family in the Philippines.
So I thought May was the craziest month ever. And then August came. Eight weeks of NDP rehearsals, a preview, and a show later, it was time to return to Sandcastle. This time for the Singapore release of the film. It was another round of interviews, Q&A sessions and media whoring. The charity gala premiere of the film took place on 18th August at GV Max in Vivocity, the same date Auntie Lucilla was scheduled to leave. After a tearful goodbye at the airport that morning, I presented the cast and the film to an audience of family, friends and partners at Vivocity. That was followed by an after-party at St James Power Station. It was quite an emotional roller coaster ride.
The local media was very kind to the film and it enjoyed a lot of press coverage and favourable reviews. Sandcastle ran for five weeks at Cinema Europa and grossed nearly double of our distributor’s projections. That was very encouraging.
Soon after, it was time to travel again. First stop, Toronto in September for its North American premiere. Then Vancouver, Chicago, Pusan, London, Hanoi and Hong Kong. It went on to a few other festivals but I couldn’t travel with it. It picked up the Best Film, Best Director awards and NETPAC Jury Award for Best Film at the Vietnam International Film Festival, and Special Mention at the Hong Kong Asian Film Festival.
In between the travels, I also directed Not So Secret Lives 3, an interactive web film commissioned by the Health Promotion Board, and also helped put together Short Circuit 4. And in mid December, after 13 cities and 32 flights (I know because I collect my boarding passes), I finally took a holiday to Bali with xd, and then Cambodia with my family.
Wah lau. And the year isn’t even over!
Things seem so different now from when the year started. Xd is back, Auntie Lucilla is only around on skype, Sandcastle did not turn out to be a disaster and I’m now an iPhone-convert. It’s nice to know 2011 won’t start with a nervous breakdown!
Thank you everyone who has been a part of my 2010! It’s less than 11 hours to new year! Have a great one!!
On the shoot of Sandcastle with my assistant directors Chao and Kim.
On shoot of Sandcastle with Sharon.
On the way to New York in late January.
Hunter Mountain in New York.
Team Sandcastle departing for Cannes.
Pink Dot in Cannes too!
Moments before the premiere of Sandcastle in Cannes.
In Cannes with xd.
Caméra D’Or red carpet with Raymond.
Presenting my short films at NUS to promote Sandcastle.
Presenting at Rojak to promote Sandcastle.
Q&A with Nick Shen at Against The Tide, a screening of my short films at GV Cinema Europa.
Q&A with Swee Lin at Against The Tide.
After the Q&A session at Cinema Europa with Elena, Josh and the team at GV.
With Auntie Lucilla.
Posters outside Sandcastle’s charity gala premiere in Singapore. Supported by Far East Organisation, Singapore Tatler and St James Power Station.
Q&A with Giovanna in Toronto.
In Vanvouver with Raymond.
In Vancouver with Charmaine.
In Chicago with Zihan and Dennis.
In Pusan with Sharon.
Hye Jung in Pusan.
Accepting an award in Hanoi.
Q&A in Hong Kong.
In London with the [sin]efest organisers – Steven and Brian.
Uluwatu Temple – Bali
Angkor Wat – Cambodia
It’s a wrap! with the cast and crew of Sandcastle.
looking forward to your next feature film. hang on to your beliefs and let not the commercial part swaya you too much! 加油!
Thanks, Bill! 🙂
Firstly, congrats on your achievements!
It is always encouraging to know that with passion and determination, one can make a difference to society. Carving out a name in the film industry is no easy feat and you have accomplished that.
I have to say you really make all Singaporeans proud and I’m sure your family members are proud of you!!
All the best in 2011!! 🙂
Thanks! 🙂 have a great 2011 too!
I know you from the strait time that I read in singapore,when I was working last year,,
I like it,I wish I can understand your movie more,,
Like the dream come true,,
After I know you,,
I believe there is nothing imposible,,
Hi Junfeng, I’m really sorry if I caused you to have a nervous breakdown in 2011. I didn’t intend to put you through this ordeal.
Lastly, I just want to wish you all the best in your future endeavours. Soul mates don’t come easily. Trust, love and cherish when you find one. I’m sure you will.
This is my final message. Take care! 🙂