Spotlight: Ng Yiqin’s Short Film Explores Masculinity and its Nuances

 

Ng Yiqin is no stranger to storytelling and the power of narratives. She directed the documentary, ‘Beyond The Border, Behind the Men’ about migrant workers in Singapore, travelling to their home in Bangladesh, as well as a couple of commercial short films for Vaseline called ‘Visible Scars, Invisible Strength’. Last year she directed the Viddsee Voices five-episode social documentary series on food, ‘Memories On A Plate’.

This year, she’s back with ‘Something I Wanted To Ask’, kicking off our Viddsee Originals Scene City anthology. This time, it’s not a documentary, but a short film told through the perspective of a teenage boy questioning the polarizing issues of masculinity.

We speak to her about working with children and teenagers, choreographing a fight scene and exploring the idea of masculinity and identity through the lens of a teenage boy.

“I wanted to create characters, not caricatures”

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A scene from Something I Wanted To Ask

When it comes to masculinity and identity, there are many facets to explore – questions that tend to get lost in the complexity.

“I asked these questions through the eyes of a young boy. I prefer to use this perspective as a young person’s views are often uninformed, fluid and open. Along his search for answers, I hope he can throw up some useful questions that our audience can take home,” Yiqin elaborates in her director’s statement.

“There’s a thousand questions and that’s the beauty of film… through Andy’s questions, we can hold a mirror to ourselves and ask if we have been part of the problem or the solution.”

(Read her director’s statement in full, here)

When working with kids, you can’t be prepared for everything

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Ng Yiqin getting to know Thaddeus Ho, Aniq Qamal, Nyeow Zhong Yi and Alston Yeo before they went on set

When in doubt, YouTube is your teacher… until Yiqin realized that there were some things you cannot over-prepare for.

“It was my first time directing teenagers so I wasn’t sure what to expect. I went on Youtube and searched ‘how to work with child actors’. There were some useful tips that I wrote down, but when it came to set, it all flew out the window.”

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Yiqin with Jovan Lee, who plays Andy as a toddler in his flashbacks

The most important thing was to cultivate a connection; to loosen up and have fun, and the chemistry will naturally come after.

“During rehearsals, I made sure to build a connection and once on set, create the environment for them to be at their best… If you want them to be vulnerable on camera, you have to show your vulnerability to them too.”

Watch ‘Something I Wanted To Ask’ by Ng Yiqin (Singapore) on Viddsee:


Trigger warning: Contains scenes of domestic abuse and violence.

On choreographing fight scenes

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Stunt coordinator Yang Guang

One of the more exciting elements of making this film was getting the chance to choreograph fight scenes. Yiqin had enlisted the help of stunt coordinator Yang Guang, teaching the kids and actors techniques and the right moves to sell the aggression on screen.

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Stunt coordinator Yang Guang instructing Alston Yeo and Thaddeus Ho before their fight scene
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Stunt coordinator Yang Guang instructing David Oh and Darrel Chan on their fight scene during rehearsal

“For the fight scene, he broke down the moves for the kids in super slow motion and made sure everyone understood the choreography. The kids practised and after familiarizing their moves, were ready to add emotion to their body language on screen.”

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Goofing off on set

It was not all fun and games, though as they started getting too comfortable and wouldn’t stop goofing off on set!

“The kids were having too much fun and kept laughing. I had to put on a stern face and asked them to behave themselves to get the scene right.”

The beauty of collaboration

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Art Director Michelle (in the striped top)

In the world of filmmaking, no woman is an island, and as many filmmakers can attest to this – making a film is an adventure, so taking the right people on the journey with you would be instrumental. Yiqin had brought her A-team together: producer Koh Min Yi, Director of Photography Chia Meng Chee, art director Michelle Kuek and editor Lindy Chong.

“During pre-production, we turned the story upside down to find loopholes. There was a lot of critique, discovery, improvising, adding and subtracting; I’m so glad we had this process which made the film much better than what I had in my head.”

Watch more of Yiqin’s films on Viddsee, here

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