May 8, 2021

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Immortalising love and life on screen

Chan Teik Quan’s last short film Setting Moon earned him three awards at the prestigious Kancil awards in 2019. He received the Kancil 666 Young Director’s Challenge award, the Jury award and People’s Choice award.

Following these accolades, Chan, 25, who is currently a junior film director at an advertising company, is set to direct his sixth short film called Homecoming soon.

Tell us more about Homecoming.

It is adapted from a short story written by my brother Teik Onn. The story centres on two women on a bus. One woman is just returning from her workplace, while the other woman is going to see her family whom she has not seen for years. The story talks about family values and the meaning of separation. I have already written the script. I am currently searching for a grant to make this short film.

Where did the inspiration for Homecoming come from?

It is a continuation from the short film I did in 2019, Setting Moon. In Setting Moon, I told a story about a young woman who was accompanying her mother on her spiritual journey to the next world. My late mother Shim Koon Fong is the inspiration for both these films. She died of lung cancer at the age of 57, two years ago in 2018. Losing my mother was a difficult thing for me and my two other siblings. When my mother was sick, my sister was busy taking care of her and Setting Moon depicts this element. In some way, my brother and I are hoping that one day, our mother will return home to us and Homecoming depicts this emotion.

What kind of themes do you like to use in your work?

For the past few years, I have been fascinated with the subject of mortality. But my mother said life is easier as long as we remember that nothing lasts forever. It hurts when things are taken away from you. But at the same time, it is comforting to know that like happiness, suffering does not last too. A recurring factor about my films is that I love to work with non-professional actors, specifically my own family members. For instance, both my parents starred in my short film Weeping Birds and my sister, Samantha starred in Setting Moon. I think making films with my loved ones is a way for me to “immortalise” them. One day, they will leave me (or I might leave them first), but they will continue to live in my films.

What was the best compliment you received about your films?

It was when I saw my mother tear up, with a smile on her face, when she watched Weeping Birds. It was the most rewarding feeling ever. Later that year, she passed away. I wonder if I will ever feel that way again.

What has been your biggest challenge as a filmmaker?

I think it is that I have not found the balance between doing what I love to do and making money to pay my bills. It is hard to enjoy doing certain things when money is involved. For example, if I get a large amount of money to make a film, a huge burden falls on me, and people will have expectations. I don’t want people to expect anything from me, but if they’re paying me to make something, of course they will expect something in the end. I have been told that the films that I love to make don’t make money and I am okay with that, but at the end of the day, I do need to pay bills. It is a dilemma.

Have you always wanted to be a filmmaker?

I love to write, I wanted to tell stories. I also love photography and painting. Later, I discovered that as a filmmaker, I could combine my love for writing, photography and painting into telling stories on screen. When I received a scholarship to study filmmaking at the Multimedia University in Johor, it set me on my path.