In Her Own Words: Ellie Ngim

 

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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.

Ellie is an award-winning film and television commercial director who started seeking out opportunities in film production while holding the daytime job as a banker. She has directed a few short films on Viddsee, including Run Chicken Run, a Viddsee Original short film released over Chinese New Year.

Ellie, we’d love to hear about your start in storytelling. Tell us about your inspirations, and aspirations.
I would like to think I have a great sense of humour. But my friends would ask me not to even try (to be funny). I was a Science student, then went to Finance and Economics and later on landed in Arts. Think I will be staying for a while.

I started out on set doing production work and whilst I still write and direct, I have also moved on to business in the Media industry now.

My inspirations come from experiences and purpose in the field of my interest is my aspirations.

What do you think is different about being a female filmmaker? Does it influence your perspective when telling stories?
Some people think female filmmaker gets away with a lot of things while some may think otherwise but for me, but I feel it is just a perception. Like how people thinks black cats are more evil but are they really? However, what may be different, that could be reflected in the work, is the difference in their perspectives and individual characters, I feel.

As a female storyteller, I do have my perspective in the way I feel or see things. Taking a simple example of a specific guy asking a specific girl out on a date. Both parties will feel, react, see, anticipate and respond differently. I wouldn’t say it is better, it is just different. Like how a piece of art can never satisfy everyone.

What does strength look like to you and how has it been portrayed in your work?
Strength to me is tenacity and empathy.

I like stories that brings people through the emotions of happy, sad, afraid and anger, and characters who empathise to such.

What do you think is different about being a female filmmaker? Does it influence your perspective when telling stories?
Different characters are unique and specifically to developing female characters, I would take abit more notice on their level of sensitivity that may make them react in a certain way. This is not to say that male characters are not or less sensitive, but as mention, the perspective will always differ.

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 am fortunate that I have very good friends and teammates of both genders. Thats the beauty of a film set, it puts a group of people together, on a common goal and topic – which is the vision and the story of the film.

Historically, the film set commonly is relatively male-dominated, especially the head of departments, but now that we are seeing more instances of a good balance, the probability of the spotlight being shined on a good story that is directed by a female filmmaker increases.

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?

If you hide the director’s name for the films quoted, you could tell that they are directed by a female director or storyteller (at least for me) — from the mood to the shift of dominance in the characters, the perspective is very obvious from a female’s perspective.

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?
Back to my previous point — It may be more compelling and moving for those who are not used to or have not seen the other perspective. This doesn’t mean that one is better than the other, they are just different.

What important lesson has had a positive effect on your films? Feel free to elaborate.

Be honest and genuine about learning. Whether you are a girl or a guy, asking a fellow girl or a guy something — be genuine and honest about it. Because each of them is master of their own craft, and the different perspectives you would get encourages you to grow in different areas.

Who are your recommended filmmakers who create meaningful female stories or interesting female characters?

I have so many. They are all so different too. From Penny Marshall who directed Riding in Cars with Boys to Kathryn Bigelow who created Jessica Chastain’s character. I would strongly recommend everyone – female or male, to catch Riding in Cars with boys though, one of my favourite movie of all times.

What does the power of possibilities mean to you?

The power of possibilities encourages aspirations and hope, in not giving up in what you choose to do.

Watch Ellie’s films on Viddsee now!

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