In the spirit of International Women’s Day, we speak to five female film directors on Viddsee to hear about their thoughts, challenges, insights and film journey.
Christine Seow is the director of social documentary web series While You Sleep, featuring Singaporeans who work the graveyard shift.
The five-episode series profiles the extraordinary jobs of an animal rescuer, a suicide hotline volunteer, an ambulance driver, an A&E medical staff and an embalmer. It launches on 8 March on Viddsee.com.
Christine, we’d love to hear about your start in storytelling.
I’ve loved to read since I was a kid and it was the start of my interest in storytelling! I was initially encouraged to major in journalism (by my parents of course), but found that I enjoyed my film and literature electives more. Great professors piqued my interest in cinema and I developed a greater appreciation and understanding for films.
I was involved in programming Perspectives Film Festival (the only student-run festival in Singapore) and was also part of the SGIFF Youth Jury & Critics Programme. Thereafter, I met other producers, directors and critics — and gradually started assisting on other people’s films!
Tell us about your inspirations, and aspirations.
I’m often inspired by real life events and experiences. Certain emotions invoked within me tend to spark my creative mind and I pen down those thoughts into literary poems.
I also attain my inspiration while sitting on the swing near my house and gazing at trees. The serenity and tranquility of just being away from the modern landscapes soothes my mind.
I aspire to continue learning and improving as a filmmaker.
What do you think is different about being a female filmmaker? Does it influence your perspective when telling stories?
Sometimes I find it hard to command and make decisions as most of the crew are older men with greater experience in the industry.
Subconsciously, I may be apprehensive of what they think of me as a female director; whether I’m too bossy or not. That internal logic prevents me from voicing out what I truly think.
Being a female filmmaker definitely affects my perspective and I’m sure it’ll translate in my work.
What does strength look like to you and how has it been portrayed in your work?
Let’s get down to business, to defeat the males. Mulan is strength. Kidding! Frankly speaking, work-wise, I still have a long way to go.
What would you consider when developing female characters?
I will consider the authenticity of female characters and not succumb to societal standards of what females should be.
Your filmmaking journey has been a collaborative effort over the years — from the creation of the story up until the final product. Tell us about the relationships you have formed over the years, and how gender comes into play?
I think being a female definitely helps me in some aspects and with my personality, people find it easy to befriend and trust me. These relationships allow me to continue collaborating with the same group of people.
What are your comments on the more diverse box office results, such as with ‘Lady Bird’ and ‘Wonder Woman’ (directed by women), as an audience, and as a filmmaker?
I feel that both films were successful. I loved ‘Lady Bird’ for its authenticity. I watched it with a male friend who did not see what the hype was about, which made me realise perhaps my identity as a female allowed me to relate to the complexities of a mother-daughter relationship.
Before these films hit the big time, chick flicks and women-themes are often portrayed with the male gaze – how do you think female directors can bring new layers of complexity in the characters, making them more compelling and moving?
When a female filmmaker is the one telling the story, the focus shifts and women are not as sexualised. With our changing society, women are empowered and we need such filmmakers to accurately portray the roles of women today.
For instance, I think it is important that in ‘Wonder Woman’ the females were clothed appropriately in battle gear compared to the common scantily clad bikini warriors.
What important lesson has had a positive effect on your films? Feel free to elaborate.
I used to yearn to do narrative work, never once thinking about working on documentaries. But after realising that my sister has a passion for mission work, I began to see the value and importance of documenting real life ordinary people who are, to me, unsung heroes.
Who are your recommended filmmakers who create meaningful female stories or interesting female characters?
Maren Ade, Sofia Coppola, Amanda Lipitz, Deepa Mehta, Naomi Kawase, Roh Deok and many others! ☺
What does the power of possibilities mean to you?
It means anything is possible. Follow your passion and realise that the world is much bigger than you think. You may fail at times but every experience paves a path for growth and development.
Watch Christine’s films on Viddsee now!