IT is not always the outspoken film director who takes the glory. Talented young filmmaker Kathy Tan won a place at an international film workshop following her display of quiet brilliance at the Next New Wave (NNW) Young Filmmakers’ Workshop 2016.

Although assigned the role of production designer and one of the most reserved participants, cinematography student Tan, 22, came up with the story for her team’s short film and quickly became the point of reference for many creative decisions.


Tan (left) on set at NNW2016 with team member Lee Sy Yi, who was the group’s cinematographer. – PHOTO: Next New Wave

Filmmaker and musician Pete Teo, who was one of the panel judges of the NNW workshop said he could see the potential in her despite her quiet demeanour.

“At the beginning of the week she couldn’t speak, she was so painfully shy,” said Teo. “But she is an extremely talented young lady.”

The workshop she will take part in, ASEAN-ROK Film Leaders Incubator (FLY2016), is a 14-day event designed to nurture Asian filmmaking talent. It is incredibly competitive as each year only 22 participants are selected – two from each ASEAN member country and two from the Republic of Korea.

The intensive, hands-on program will be overseen by internationally renowned industry mentors who will deliver special lectures, provide one-on-one mentoring and design film exercises to help participants reach their potential.

A panel of mentors at the NNW workshop selected the Malaysian representatives to FLY2016 based on the quality of their teams’ films, interaction with team members and one-on-one conversations with their mentors.

Related Story: Read more about the Next New Wave workshop here

“It’s really a big surprise, I didn’t expect it at all as I’m a shy person,” said Tan bashfully, clearly ill at ease with all the attention she’s been receiving.

Despite her reluctance to talk about her own achievements, those who worked with her think she deserves this huge opportunity.

“She’s an introverted person,” said her industry mentor Rasiguet Sookkarn, an award-winning Thai production designer. “But I noticed her from the beginning. She has a strong sense of visuals, an important skill for filmmakers.”

Three mentors taking a time out

Sookkarn (left) discusses the NNW2016 participants with fellow mentors John Torres (centre) and Rapatchanun Cochaputsup (right). — PHOTO: Next New Wave

It was Sookkarn who encouraged the six other mentors to consider her during their long debate to decide who would win the coveted workshop spots.

He was keen to ensure that not just the most outspoken were recognised, reminding the mentors that people learn at different rates and given a chance, can even the quietest can make a big splash.

Putri Purnama Sugua, 23, impressed the mentors so much she got the second spot at FLY2016. “Even being in this workshop is already a big gift for me because I love to make connections with other filmmakers,” said Putri, who recently won KKIFF2016 Golden Kinabalu Award in the Indigenous Language category for her fifth short film, Dream to Fly.

“But to be selected as a participant to represent my own country – I don’t know how to express it. We will make Malaysia proud.” Tan and Putri will fly to Cambodia in October to take part in FLY2016 where participants who excel can look forward to even more opportunities to learn and connect with other people in the industry.

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According to Choi Yoon, Managing Director of the Busan Film Commission, who co-organises FLY 2016, Tan and Putri will gain international experience from famous and experienced mentors.

“You also have to cooperate with other students from other countries, so you will have really good international experience,” he said. “So they will be really proud of having those experiences when they go back to their own country.”

On top of all that, Putri and Tan will also stand a chance to be selected for the Asian Film Academy (AFA) in Busan, which is a 17-day programme designed for Asian filmmakers, and has close ties to the internationally acclaimed Busan International Film Festival (BIFF), the biggest and most prestigious film festival in Asia.

This progression of workshops could ultimately see Tan and Putri representing Malaysian creativity as they work their way towards screening at BIFF and beyond.
With her heart set on a filmmaking career, Tan is already looking forward to the future.

“I’m grateful to my mentor, who helped me by giving me this opportunity,” said Tan. “I will use this chance to learn more about screenwriting and directing because I’ve always wanted to make films that make people happy.”

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