How The Chicken Dance Inspired Ellie Ngim’s Chinese New Year Film

 

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Ellie Ngim on right with Kaydash Cheung in the Dog mascot outfit

Ellie Ngim was primed to climb the corporate ladder in the banking and finance industry. The London School of Economics graduate carved out a successful banking career over eight years and was honoured by her peers for her performance at Citibank with the ARC of Excellence Awards for two consecutive years.

You wouldn’t think that Ellie would need to work part-time as a production assistant.

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On the set of ‘Run Chicken Run’

But she did to nurture her love of storytelling, and it paid off.

While juggling her full-time job at the bank, she debuted her first short film ‘Onee-Chan’, got nominated as a Directing Fellow in the Busan Asian Film Academy and produced a streak of short films.

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Onee-Chan, about a little girl and her fractured family, received great responses at international film festivals screenings.

She finally took the plunge into filmmaking full-time two years ago and to her surprise, “I am busier than when I was holding two jobs!”

We find out more about Ellie’s unexpected but wholly inspiring journey:

1 – Her precocious starts as a storyteller

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Dragonball, Doraemon and Hong Kong TVB series ‘The Good Old Days’ were some of Ellie’s initial inspiration. Image source

Like many children, Ellie grew up around comics, books, movies and TV series. However, if she didn’t like the ending of a story, she would create an alternate ending by drawing a satisfying conclusion on paper. The strong-headed creative took roots very early!

These days, music and people are her sources of inspiration, and songs from Stefanie Sun and Sammi Cheng are some of her favourites. Ellie combines moving visuals and music to drive storytelling, and the result is an unfolding of emotions and sensitivity.

2 – Finding the magic in the mercurial

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Alysia Tay, who is making her acting debut in ‘Run Chicken Run’

While some directors may prefer not to work with children due to their shorter attention span and lower stamina, Ellie revels in the unpredictable.

“You never know what you are going to get and sometimes when that is caught on camera; it is pretty magical,” she quips.

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Sawyer Leong and Debbie Loo, the child actors of ‘Lollypop Love’

Her approach is to build a sense of familiarity and comfort with the child actors via playtime.

And it has proven to work, with the incredible performances she drew from Sawyer Leong and Debbie Loo in ‘Lollypop Love’, which premiered at the Los Angeles Women’s International Film Festival in 2014, and was selected to represent Singapore at the 2015 One Film One Country Apchat International Film Festival in Europe.

3 – The unexpected spark for ‘Run Chicken Run’ & the rain that nearly drowned it

‘Run Chicken Run’ started from a joke. When Ellie and her team were brainstorming a film for Chinese New Year, someone started to do the chicken dance, and an idea began to take form.

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Using the changing animals of the Chinese Zodiac (we’re shifting from the Year of the Rooster in 2017 to the Year of the Dog) added a lighthearted touch to the tale of filial piety and family.

Heavy thunderstorms almost derailed the two-day production and shooting had to be cancelled on the first day. Instead of freaking out, Ellie reacted the only way she knew how.

“We actually laughed when the few of us were stuck under an awning trying to seek shelter from the rain because we didn’t know what to do.”

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Bad weather, good spirits on the set of ‘Run Chicken Run’

Luckily, the sun prevailed on the second day, and the team was able to catch up!

We hope you enjoy Ellie’s short film starring Peter Yu, child actress Alysia Tay, Andie Chen, Charlie Goh and Hayley Goh!

Watch ‘Run Chicken Run’ by Ellie Ngim (Singapore) on Viddsee:

 

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