Zulkifli Zaid, a Diploma in New Media (R19) graduate from Republic Polytechnic's (RP) School of Technology for the Arts, recently won the Best Direction award for Cine65 Short Film Competition 2011!
By: Ruzanna Bte Abdul Rahman Diploma in Communication and Information Design (R32) Centre for Culture and Communication The competition encourages aspiring film-makers to share what Singapore means to them through film and recognise film-making talents such as Zulkifli's. We spoke to Zulkifli to find out more about his winning film, Home, his inspiration, motivation and the challenges he faced. Check out the video here: Home.
RP: Tell us more about the short film Home you directed.
Zulkifli: The short film, Home, was set in the early 90s and revolves around a young boy, Hakim. While Hakim who a playground, he spotted his friend, Gary, who was running away from home. Worried for his friend, Hakim tries to reason with Gary and persuades him to stay. Home is a visual representation of the current issue that we are facing, where the younger generation wishes to leave Singapore to look for better opportunities. While it may seem that the grass is greener on the other side, the actual truth is that we have everything here in Singapore; friends, family and a home. RP: What was the inspiration behind this film?
Zulkifli: As the script writer, I was inspired by my very own personal experience. I grew up in the early 90s where swings and slides in sandy playgrounds were common sights. It was during the same time that I noticed most of my friends were leaving the neighbourhood, including a close friend of mine. Before this friend migrated, I told him to keep in touch and that he could always come back to Singapore because it will always be his home. RP: What prompted you to enter this competition?
Zulkifli: I decided to enter the competition because I felt that there are stories to be told in Singapore. I am now with Chapman University Singapore and doing my degree in Creative Producing. Contrary to what most people believe, there IS content here in this little island of ours. Everyone in Hollywood is looking at Asia and expecting big things from us. I wanted to create something that could reflect our Singapore spirit succinctly. Another reason was that my team wanted to show that quality films could be made even though all of us came from various background and were never film students to begin with. In fact, the producer of Home came from RP as well. Nadia Salleh is a graduate of RP's Diploma in Communication and Information Design (R32). RP: What were the challenges faced during the competition? How did you overcome it?
Zulkifli: Budget is always an issue when it comes to independent productions. In total, it was produced with a budget of less than $100 a major part of which I had to foot myself. However, we managed to save a lot on equipment with the help of our cinematographer. Talent was the second major issue. We found Farihin fairly easily and the prior experience in working together facilitated everything. However, we had difficulties in finding the supporting actor and managed to secure Vincent, who was Farihin's classmate, to play the part. In fact, we secured him just three days before the actual shoot date. RP: How did you feel about winning the Best Direction award?
Zulkifli: The win was unexpected! My team was actually banking on two other categories, Best Cinematography and Best Art Direction. We lost out on both categories, so we were pleasantly surprised when they announced Home as the winner for Best Direction. The feeling of winning a film award is indescribable. You will realise, in an instant, that everyone recognises your effort. They understand the message that you tried to convey, the emotions you tried to evoke and the value of your film. Yet, I have always believed that a director is as good as his crew and that his crew is as good as the producer. A good team will always produce good results. RP: Do you have any role models you look up to who have been a major influence in your film-making?
Zulkifli: One of my role models in the filmmaking world was the late Yasmin Ahmad. As a graduate of RP's Diploma in New Media (R19), I've always been interested in shooting videos but rarely had the opportunity to do so. I read up on Yasmin Ahmad and saw her works after I graduated from RP. The interesting thing about her is that she is a fantastic storyteller. Yasmin Ahmad tackled social issues and was brave enough to shed light on those topics to the society. Though she has passed on, I feel that one should follow her example in telling good stories about real issues. RP: What is your biggest take-away from this film-making journey?
Zulkifli: The biggest take-away from this journey is that a strong team is essential – you need to get the right people to work on a project. Many a times, I have seen people teaming up with others on friendship basis. In the real world, you need to progress and you can only do that if you can identify the strengths and weaknesses of your crew and ensure that all of them complement one another. The right people will lead you on the right track towards the right direction. RP: In 10 years' time, what do you see yourself as?
Zulkifli: A new media producer. My love will always be with the digital world but I will always have a soft spot for short films. It is easy to tell a story in a feature length film but the challenge comes when you need to tell the same thing within a few minutes. RP: What changes do you hope to see in the film industry in the future?
Zulkifli: I would like the film industry to pay homage and recognition to the producers in Singapore. With more creative producers, there is a possibility of putting Singapore on par with the rest of the world in the film industry.