‘100 per cent creative control’ on new SG50 film: Royston Tan

Lead filmmaker for “7 Letters”, Royston Tan, speaking at a press conference for the launch of the film’s trailer at the Gallery Theatre, National Museum of Singapore on Jun 16. Photo: Bryan Kwa

By Bryan Kwa

Seven directors picked for an anthology film have total creative control over their mega SG50 project “7 Letters”, said the project’s lead filmmaker Royston Tan at a press conference for the launch of the film’s trailer Tuesday (Jun 16).

“7 Letters” is directed by local filmmakers Boo Junfeng, Eric Khoo, K Rajagopal, Jack Neo, Tan Pin Pin, Royston Tan and Kelvin Tong. Billed as seven heartfelt “love letters” to Singapore, the film is fully funded the Singapore Film Commission (SFC), which is part of the Media Development Authority (MDA).

Royston’s comment was significant, as some of the filmmakers involved in this project worked on projects that were previously censored by the MDA. For example, MDA banned Tan Pin Pin’s film “To Singapore, With Love”, from public screenings last year.

Royston, too, has had brushes with the censors. The censorship board pressured him to cut 27 scenes from his 2003 feature film “15″, which was about Singapore’s teenage gangsters. In response, Royston made a satirical short film “Cut”, mocking the censorship board.

Yet for this SG50 project, the filmmakers and the censors have appeared to have made peace with each other.

Royston said, “This project is obviously governed by the spirit of love, so when we initiated this project, we wanted to have 100 per cent control in the entire film. So, no government body or anyone is able to interfere with this because we are all very clear to them when we talk about this project. We want this to be a present from the filmmakers as well as the arts community.

“There was a discussion talking about this and after that, they just gave us the trust – that is 100 per cent go ahead without interference. I think this is a step closer to bridge the communication between government as well as the filmmakers.”

Film industry maturing in Singapore: Royston Tan

The seven directors involved in “7 Letters”: (from left) Kelvin Tong, Eric Khoo, K Rajagopal, Royston Tan, Tan Pin Pin, Boo Junfeng, Jack Neo. Photo: 7 Letters

Royston said he is heartened by the personal stories that came out of the new SG50 film.

“Everybody is telling a different side of Singapore, which is so different from the textbook (version). It’s very people-oriented, so I think it’s something every Singaporean will actually watch,” he said.

Royston also revealed there are many other film directors supporting the seven main directors, in response to a query if any budding filmmakers were part of this project.

“There are some names that I can’t name now. But there are a lot of Singapore filmmakers who are a part of this thing,” he shared.

Royston prides the “many diverse voices” and the rise of “independent films with their own identity” as signs of hope and maturity for the Singapore film industry. As a filmmaker, Royston believes his role is to capture what is happening and disappearing in Singapore regardless of the project he takes on.

“Be it SG50 or not SG50, I’ve always been doing my part to document different aspects of Singapore. I want to be part of the change to shoot different things for the next generation. I also want to document the sentimental aspect of Singapore to make people really appreciate what we have now rather than just complaining,” he said.

“There are certain parts of Singapore that are precious to us.”

“7 Letters” has been selected to be the first film to premiere at the newly-opened Capitol Theatre. Its gala screening will take place over three nights from Jul 24 to 26. Tickets will be released Jul 1 via the official website. Ticket applications are open to all Singapore Citizens and Permanent Residents.

All tickets will not be priced. Instead, each ticket holder will be invited to make a donation of their own accord at the screenings, with all proceeds going to charity.

Watch the official trailer for 7 Letters:
(to embed) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dI_Tp92v_OA