Movie’s Less Glam Roles

Published on 26 July 2017

Many Singaporeans see mascot suits as fun, oversized get-ups. Yet there is incredible craft involved when it comes to creating high-functioning character costumes for performances.

By JO TAN

When people talk about films, they often gush about the actors; more savvy viewers sometimes discuss directors, while the deeply enthusiastic might even mention directors of photography and music composers. But take one look at the end credits of any film and you will see it takes a village to put together a production. We meet a motley crew of professionals who may not walk the red carpet, but whose contributions are essential to a film’s success.

KEXIN FENG - Second Camera Assistant

The clapper board is the quintessential image associated with a film set. One of those wielding this iconic tool is second camera assistant Kexin Feng, but a lot more goes into this job.

Feng’s multifaceted work includes helping the first camera assistant with the following: setting up of cameras, changing lenses, keeping check on the inventory, as well as setting up the monitors for the director, agency and clients. “It is also important for me to know what the first camera assistant needs for each setup so that I can make their job easier by getting it prepared so they can concentrate on their own job scope,” says Feng.

Her first time on a movie set as a camera intern working on Innocents, by her then-lecturer Chen-Hsi Wong, was an eye-opening experience into the world of professional film-making. Although circumstances prevented her from joining the camera department in her next job, The Kitchen Musical, working on the television series led her to realise her real interest in camera work.

“I enjoy how we all work as a team to make every shot happen, to anticipate what the cinematographer wants and to anticipate problems that might surface. It is important for each department to have adequate assistants so that the respective heads of department can concentrate on their craft to make the whole production a better one.”

PHILOTHEA LIAU & PRISCILLA HOO - Casting Directors

“In any film you watch, the first thing you notice are the people. All filming departments are important, but even the most beautiful scene is pointless without the right human beings or animals,” says casting director Philothea Liau.

Together with Priscilla Hoo, Liau heads casting agency Hello Group, and is behind the faces in films like 7 Letters, Hitman: Agent 47, Beyond Skyline, Equals and the famous So Simple! Visa commercials.

“We work with directors to find out who they want in their films. We put out casting calls, audition actors, then present the shortlist to the director for the final casting decision,” explains Hoo. Catering to the differing tastes of directors is not an easy process. “Experience working with different directors and clients helps us become familiar with their styles and preferences,” adds Hoo.

What is a casting director’s biggest asset? “An eye for detail and character, and a really good memory!” quips Liau. “When a director describes a character to me or when I read a script, I usually have maybe 10 faces I know who might fit the role.” Liau continually expands her cache of contacts of potential talents. “I save everyone’s number, even GrabCar drivers! You never know when you might need a driver. I have in my mind a dictionary of people.”

Photo: Hello Group

EILEEN LOH - Producer

One of the key figures behind every production is the producer — like Eileen Loh — who describes the work as “fun, demanding, and enriching” but does not deny the heavy workload and responsibility.

As a producer, Loh oversees the production of each film from start to finish, and is involved in every aspect of it, including funding, scheduling, budgeting, assessing scripts, and manpower.

Prior to producing, Loh worked various roles, beginning with freelance production assistant, casting assistant, then on to production manager and assistant director. “Working in various roles helped me have a better understanding and empathy towards team members and their job scopes,” she says. “Also, working in different sets has given me different perspectives in running productions. The experience I garnered over the years has become a great attribute in leading a team.”

A frequent misconception is that her job is easy and easily replaceable, which is an unfair reflection of Loh’s tightly packed work schedule, often battling tight timelines and even tighter budgets. “When people hear I am a video producer, the most common follow-up question is, ‘So you go out and shoot videos?’ And most find it surprising I don’t work in Mediacorp!”

WESLEY LEON AROOZOO - Writer, Indie Film-maker, Lecturer

Juggling various interests keeps Wesley Aroozoo busy in the world of film, including educating the next generation of film-makers.

Aroozoo has numerous film credits (in various roles) under his belt, including director and producer. He is also a lecturer at the Putnam School of Film & Animation at LASALLE College of the Arts. Above all, his forte is in writing, having churned out scripts not only for film and television but also for theatre and print.

“Whether it is teaching or creating, it is about working with people who share the same passion as you,” Aroozoo muses. “One thing I found surprising was, contrary to the expectation of how lonely being a writer was going to be, I found that it is never a lonely endeavour to write. You are constantly engaged with the characters.

“Many people think writing is only about letting your creativity and imagination run wild! It is, in fact, extremely structured creativity and imagination. Film and television writing is very organised to make the viewer feel a certain way and satisfy their expectations at different points of the plot.”

PROS SPEAK UP

What does it take to make it in the film industry?

Starting at the bottom!” shares casting director Hoo. “That’s how we start: as production assistants, getting scolded, doing anything for the experience. If you want to be a freelancer, your experience counts more than your paper qualifications. If you work hard and get to know more people, you will be remembered and hired again.”

Most agree on the prerequisite passion and hunger to make it in film. Given the long hours and intense work, film is not for the half-hearted or lukewarm.

Laying the right foundation goes a long way, as well as following your heart. “If you are having thoughts and dreams about studying film-making then I would strongly urge you to give it a try!” says Aroozoo. “Sometimes, it requires you to experience film-making with peers who feel the same way you do to push you further in affirming your passion.”

WANT TO STUDY FILM?

Enrol in diploma and degree courses at these schools….

– LASALLE College of the Arts
– Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts
– Singapore University of Social Sciences
– Nanyang Technological University
– Temasek Polytechnic
– Nanyang Polytechnic
– Ngee Ann Polytechnic

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