Losing someone you love might just be one of the toughest challenges in life. Even more so when losing them during festive seasons that are centered around family reunions.
Filmmaker Koh Chong Wu experienced just that. His beloved grandfather unexpectedly passed on the third day of Chinese New Year (CNY) back in 2018.
“I never really had the opportunity to show him my works, or invite him to any of my screenings,” Chong Wu reflects in a Facebook post written as a tribute to his grandfather.
Coping With The Unexpected Loss Of Your Loved Ones
Chong Wu was by his grandfather’s side watching his departure with a heavy heart
“Something I always look forward to every CNY is the long drive to Malaysia, to my grandpa’s place,” Chong Wu shared. With his maternal family in Malaysia, the journey has been a part of his CNY childhood memory and family tradition.
After grandpa’s passing, CNY is definitely no longer the same anymore. “It’s still a joyous festival, but it is also his death anniversary. The sadness, the memories of him will always be there.”
“Hence the title for this film,” shares Chong Wu on what inspired him to make ‘Not The Same’ — the March Viddsee Shortee winner.
“I made the film for my grandfather, for my family.”
The Difficulties Of Making A Deeply Personal Film Near To One’s Heart
Having made several family-oriented films under his belt, it is still not easy to direct films that are deeply personal for Chong Wu.
While developing the script for ‘Not The Same’, the first thought that came to Chong Wu’s mind was that he will never get to taste the fried pork with black fungus dish that is cooked by his grandfather ever again.
“No matter how hard and complicated it is to get the ingredients and prepare them, my grandfather will always make it a point to cook my favorite dishes.” A scene in ‘Not The Same’ reflects how the family may try to recreate the dish but it is no longer the same.
The ring in ‘Not The Same’ is a ring that used to belong to Chong Wu’s late grandfather
‘Not The Same’ was a self-initiated project and therefore there wasn’t any funding for its production.
“It’s harder to be critical when you have so much vested interest”, Chong Wu reflected. As a filmmaker has to manage personal emotions and the realistic sides of filmmaking such as finances.
Despite constraints, Chong Wu thinks the gist to making family-oriented films is this – “the story has to be real, close-to-heart and relatable”.
Chong Wu shares his personal stories behind ‘Not The Same’ with the lead (Pic Courtesy of Aden Tan represented by Basic Models Management)
The rule holds true even when directing films that are not of one’s original story. “I will spend time to talk to the person where the stories are coming from and research about the themes and topics,” Chong Wu shared. He will also try to identify something in his own memories and experience that he can relate to, so it becomes personal and close to his heart.
Trained As A Fine Artist, Now Under Singapore Film Doyen’s Wing
Trained in the School of Art, Design & Media, NTU, Chong Wu doesn’t limit his form of expression to pure fine arts. He’s all for motion pictures as he is a big fan of movies and films.
The person that he looks up to as a director is Singapore’s very own industry pioneer, Mr. Eric Khoo. Chong Wu even went on to be Eric’s first assistant director in HBO series, Folklore (2019).
“That role gave me many opportunities to learn from him and hone my skills,” Chong Wu shared gratefully.
Chong Wu (Second from left) with Mr. Eric Khoo (Middle, in specs) in an award-giving ceremony back in 2015
Past And Future Endeavours
With over 10 years in the filmmaking industry, Chong Wu is humbled to say he is still exploring his foothold as a filmmaker. One of the interesting projects he did was Singapore Cinema: Between Takes. This film encompasses the evolution of Singapore cinema from the 1950s to its revival in the 1990s. It was made during the Singapore Film Commission’s 20th anniversary in 2018.
In the future, Chong Wu says he’ll continue to explore all forms of works. He loves to explore odd topics and interesting genres, such as the horror and paranormal genres in particular. He’s cautious when it comes to making these types of films, given past creepy experiences on set. As a director, he believes in making sure everyone has a good time during the shoot,
“As the saying goes, it’s better to be safe than sorry,” replied Chong Wu. That’s why he always takes his time to do extensive research and all necessary preparation prior to the filming.
He’s now working on his first feature which is a spin-off from ‘Late Night Ride’. This film is currently in the post-production stage. Viddseers can certainly look forward to being spooked again by his next release!