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   Interview with Kan Lume - The Director of "The Art of Flirting"

30th March 2006 The Art of Kan Lume - Trailblazing Visionary

If there had ever been anyone who said the film industry in Singapore will fizzle, they should eat their words now. Signs are pointing to a local movie boom in the next few years. Four Singapore films will be screened at the upcoming 19th Singapore International Film Festival (SIFF), one of which will be "The Art of Flirting".

movieXclusive.com caught up with the director Kan Lume, over drinks on the night of 30th March 2006, as he shared with us valuable insights into his works, his vision about the local industry, and what he hopes to help create and nurture in time to come. Like his film, the following will be presented in four chapters.

Chapter 1: The Present

Having been selected to present The Art of Flirting at the Jeonju International Film Festival alongside luminary, Eric Khoo, Kan is busy preparing publicity materials like posters and stills. Going without an outfit or a personal assistant, he has to do things the DIY way.

Being selected to compete in Jeonju has been an encouragement to Kan as The Art of Flirting is competing in a group of twelve films from around the world, which have been selected from a list of a hundred.

He is also concurrently working on two film projects. The first is a commercial action film with a S$1.2 million budget, based upon a script which he has worked on for about three years. Most action scripts are short as they deal more with fight choreography, stunts and pyrotechnics, and he has submitted 2 scripts to his producer and are now looking for investors.

The other is a lower budgeted (S$30K) independent film, made with the European festivals in mind. The subject matter deals with the exploration of human sexuality and chances are that it might be banned in Singapore. While not intended for the purpose of sensationalism, Kan felt that the European market might be more ready for it, and that they are hungry for material from South East Asia.

Chapter 2: The Past

Kan left his job as a manager in a training company three years ago, to pursue filmmaking. With a year of film school experience under his belt, he felt he had to explore the practicality of filmmaking here full-time on only two conditions - that he must get to tell his own stories, and to do it his way.

In the first year, he had made about ten video shorts using family member as casts. He also participated in the very first Fly By Night Video Challenge, hoping to take it as a sign that filmmaking was his calling, should he win that is. While he failed to do so, Fate refused to deter him. A producer, who was present that night, contacted Kan, having been impressed with his work. Kan was offered to make a short film set in an optical and a S$15K budget to go with it.

Clearly inspired, Kan made more short films in his second year as a full-time director, this time casting friends in roles. Garnering various awards for his short films at local festivals, Kan made the natural transition to embark on making his first feature film, The Art of Flirting, in 2005.

Completed by the third quarter of 2005, he was shocked to have The Art of Flirting take top honours at the 10th Malaysian Video Awards for Best ASEAN Feature Film, beating "Gol and Gincu.” Previous winners included Yasmin Ahmad’s first two feature films, Rabun and Sepet respectively.

Chapter 3: The Wave, the Industry and The Art of Flirting

Kan Lume also shared with us his interesting insight pertaining to the wave of the world's attention to Cinema around the world. Following ten year cycles, regions around the world take turns to experience the "wave", an invisible push as the world's cinema finds favour in a new region at each cycle.

In the sixties, the French new wave swept the world. Critics started making their own films, which were considered to be revolutionary at that time. In the seventies, we had the Scandinavian and American wave, where we saw the passing of the old and the coming of new filmmakers like Spielberg, Scorsese and the likes, emerging with new inspiration and newer ways of doing things. In the eighties, Hong Kong cinema experienced an explosion of films, and the wave moved northwards towards South Korea in the mid nineties explaining the influx of the kimchi fever which is still going strong today.

Kan predicts the possibility of the next wave to come from China, India or South East Asia, with the inclusion of Singapore. In his opinion though, he felt that China might probably not be ready yet, unless it has successfully tackled its piracy issue. With the case of India, its top directors are constantly being wooed by Hollywood. South East Asia, in particular Singapore, would be most feasible as both are ready and poised for the wave.

Peering into the local scene, we will witness developments in areas like animation boosted by the recent opening of a local LucasFilm animation office by George Lucas, the man synonymous with Star Wars. There are encouraging signs from the aspect of the digital revolution with more filmmakers braving themselves to go digital.

Stressing that the shifting of the wave is not a guarantee of success, Kan believes that it provides an invisible and extra push which we should ready ourselves for.

Already in 2005/6 there have been an unprecedented number of films being in production, like Smell of Rain and Cages. Having both the machinery and infrastructure in place, Kan believes we are in for a very exciting time. What is left is for the push to develop a critical mass of local films. Having made The Art of Flirting on its budget of S$300, Kan hopes it serves as an encouraging sign to budding filmmakers and those thinking about making films, to just do it, and not wait for grants to develop their ideas.

Skeptical of the S$300 budget? No surprise there. Kan explained the break down as follow - S$250 was used to hire a professional sound person and the remaining S$50 for film stock. Other fees were waived, and the cast did it for free because they were passionate about the movie. Not so difficult afterall is it?

Chapter 4: The Vision of the Future

Kan Lume clearly subscribes to the spirit of generosity, and explained to us his long term intentions of
a) Helping to create an industry, in particular, starting with the creation of a platform for actors and performers.
b) Creating celebrity culture.

He explained that a buzzing local film industry can help in spinning off or injecting vibrancy into sub-industries like the magazine and tourism industry, and the creation of agents, personal assistants and a spectrum of film-production related jobs.

Kan believes that all types of movies should exist in the local industry, be they from genres like Horror, or "B-graders", whether or not the movie was made to preach an underlying message or done just for fun, they are all required to create that buzz and the importance of building critical mass for an industry to thrive upon.

The Art of Flirting is Kan Lume's showcase of what can be done, if he is given a bigger budget. He is attempting to make his own American Graffiti, and has shared with us his long term plans. In ten years, he wishes to have a film featured in Cannes or any other major European film festival, and in twenty years time, to be able to be in a position to affect film funding in Singapore.

movieXclusive.com wishes Kan Lume every success in his dreams and aspirations! Cheers to more movies to come from this trailblazing local director!

Special Feature: The Making of The Art of Flirting

"I Promise" was the 23 minute version of the feature length, The Art of Flirting. What prompted the making of the feature were the reactions and the questions posed from the audience (which Kan Lume didn't have answers for) when "I Promise" was screened at last year's 5th Asian Film Symposium held at the Substation. The reactions from the ladies were fiery, while the guys felt maligned. The Art of Flirting was also made in response to sweeping statements that "Singapore had no stories to tell". Kan wanted to demonstrate that big operas can also happen in small spaces, and you do not necessarily need a big stage for it.

The chemistry between the leads, WKRZ radio jockey Marilyn Lee and Leonard Yeo was obviously brilliant, and we learnt from Kan that he had not auditioned them. He had met Marilyn through a mutual friend, and had in mind for her to be in a different film. However, having listened to her talk about her personal life, he decided to cast her for the Art of Flirting project. He wrote the part for Leonard because he thought that their personalities would match, and from the end product on screen, you can say Kan was spot on.

Having the knack of observing the intangible and capturing it on celluloid, Kan likened his role in the project as a facilitator, and disclosed that some coincidences in the film were engineered without revealing them to the cast, in order to get their genuine reactions. An example would be the introduction of an old couple to a scene in which the characters were talking about elderly love. Kan had a skeletal script with key points that the cast should hit and touch upon, thus giving them free reign in talking and leading into the required topics like the five languages of love, kids, etc, resulting in the dialogues having a very natural feel to them.

For practicality reasons while on location, rehearsals were always being done before the shot was taken, although he revealed that sometimes he rolled the camera when he told the cast that it was not rolling, and vice versa.

Here are some trivia tidbits - Kan allowed Leonard to slur a bit as the movie progressed, as in the beginning, audiences are introduced to Leo and he had spoken in good accented English as he was out to impress Marilyn. The film was shot in sequence, though Marilyn did not know how the ending would turn out to be!

Easter Eggs: Budget Filmmaking Tips
Some tips on how to make films on a budget, as shared by Kan Lume

1. Script - ensure the script does not require actors to inhibit. Wrap stories around actors in a collaborative manner. Some things are born out of necessity or desperation - find new ways out of limitations.

2. Find persons natural in front of camera and tell their story. Kan spent a lot of time with Marilyn and Leonard, and is able to hit emotional resonance with both.

3. Let the film evolve, otherwise you'll sap the life out of it. Film captures the spirit of the process well, so it will show.


Click here for our review of “The Art of Flirting ”

Reported by Stefan Shih and Mohamad Shaifulbahri | Layout: Linus Tee

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