Artist Spotlight: An Interview with 667 Producer Royston Tan

 

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Royston Tan (third from left), with the directors of 667. Photo Credit: Facebook

Missed the chance to catch the newest set of short films from some of Singapore’s very best up and coming filmmakers back in May? No worries, the Singapore Chinese Cultural Centre (SCCC) will be bringing back film anthology 667 for a special screening this weekend!

667 is Singapore’s first ever dialect film anthology and made its premiere in May as part of the inaugural Cultural Extravaganza. Commissioned by the SCCC itself, the anthology was produced by award-winning filmmaker Royston Tan and consists of all new shorts from five young local film directors, namely Eva Tang (The Songs We Sang), He Shuming (And The Wind Falls), Kirsten Tan (POP AYE), Liao Jiekai (Red Dragonflies), and Jun Chong.

667 refers to the average size of an HDB flat in Singapore in square feet, and collects five short films that reflect on cultural roots, heritage, and the filmmakers’ perspectives on them as the omnibus presents a meeting of past and present, where the older generation meets the current one and work to understand each other. The anthology will even be shown overseas, making its international debut at the 22nd Busan International Film Festival in October next month!

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Photo Credit: Royston Tan’s Twitter

667 producer Royston Tan is of course, best known for his many directorial credits, from smash hit musical-comedy 881 (2007) about getai singers and his powerful, socially inclined short films. We talked to Royston about the process behind creating the film, and his upcoming projects. Check out the interview in full below!

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Still from Kirsten Tan’s Wu Song Sha Sao. Photo Credit: Kirsten Tan

BCM: 667 represents the average size of an HDB flat. Why do you use numbers for the titles in each and every one of your feature films, and how do you come up with these numbers?

Royston: The numbers in the film titles are selected for their significance to the film. Numbers are also open to interpretation, allowing viewers to come up with their own meaning towards the film.

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Still from Eva Tang’s The Veiled Willow. Photo Credit: Eva Tang

BCM: What was the inspiration behind creating 667, and why did you choose to use dialects in the films?

Royston: We were commissioned by the Singapore Chinese Cultural Centre (SCCC) to produce a film to shed light on the vibrant Chinese culture as part of the inaugural SCCC Cultural Extravaganza in May this year. During the conceptualisation, we decided to task the five local film directors to trace their personal journey in discovering their cultural roots and the heritage they represent.

Chinese dialects are part of Singapore’s Chinese culture and heritage, and as common languages that bridge the older and younger generation, it is natural that they are incorporated to express the flavour in the stories.

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Still from Liao Jiekai’s Nocturne, which stars local film director Boo Junfeng. Photo Credit: Liao Jiekai

BCM: As Singapore’s first dialect film anthology, do you think that the film adequately portrays the melting pot of cultures and languages that Singapore is made of?

Royston: Singapore’s Chinese culture is rich and diverse. While 667 sheds light on stories of five dialect communities, there are more stories to be told and explored. As the commissioned film by Singapore Chinese Cultural Centre, 667 is definitely an entry point for more to understand the vibrant culture we have as we work towards preserving and passing it on. We hope more will join us in telling their stories on our unique Chinese culture.

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Still from He Shuming’s Letters from the Motherland. Photo Credit: He Shuming

BCM: How did you choose the five directors who contributed to 667, and how much influence did you have over the way they made their films (i.e. plot, casting etc)

Royston The five filmmakers are young and up-and-coming local directors who are good and passionate in what they do. We started with the concept of producing a film that tells stories of Singapore’s Chinese culture. To make it more personal, we decide to challenge each filmmaker to go in search of their own cultural roots, and produce a short film on their self-discovery journey. This free expression led to the variety of stories ranging from traditional art forms and family ties, to food and language. We hope that the omnibus will resonate with its audience and inspire them to discover more about their cultural roots too.

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Still from Jun Chong’s Ke. Photo Credit: Jun Chong

BCM: The last feature film you made was 3688 in 2015. Is there a new feature film in the works yet? Or do you intend to continue producing and directing shorter works for a while?

Royston: I am currently working on my next feature film, 1998, and will be able to share more details later! Beyond film, I am also open to exploring other types of projects. For example, I had the opportunity to work on Voyage, a multimedia musical that incorporated 3D projection mapping and holographic imagery to present Singapore’s Chinese culture in a unique manner during the official launch of the Singapore Chinese Cultural Centre in May. That was an eye-opening experience and I hope to explore more innovative works in the future.

667 plays at the Singapore Chinese Cultural Centre on 23rd and 24th September. Tickets available from SISTIC

667
When: 23 & 24 Sep, 2.30pm and 7.30pm
Where: Singapore Chinese Cultural Centre Auditorium

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