Up Close and Personal with Singaporean Filmmaker Boo Junfeng

A writer needs a pen, an artist needs a brush, but a filmmaker needs an army ~ Orson Welles

By Velda Wong

October 5 2018

Recipient of relatively new and coveted Rising Director award at the 21st Busan International Film Festival’s Asia Star Awards 2016, Boo Junfeng is a well-known talented Singaporean Filmmaker whose debut feature film Sandcastle was the first Singaporean film to be invited to the International Critics’ Week at Cannes Film Festival. In 2013, Junfeng won the President’s Young Talents Credit Suisse Artist Commission Award for a video art piece, Mirror. His films mostly show a preoccupation with places and historical and personal memory, have won prized and acclaim and have been shown in film festivals around the world. STYLEGUIDE sits down with Junfeng to find out more about his journey and motivations behind his films.  

Share with us the activities you partook in while you were studying in Ngee Ann Polytechnic and at Laselle College of the Arts.

At Ngee Ann, I went on a 6-month exchange programme to Barcelona. I was 19 at the time and it was the first time I had ever lived alone by myself. It was a very significant experience for me as I learned a lot about who I was while immersing myself in a culture that was completely different from mine. At Lasalle, I made a short film called Tanjong Rhu, about the police entrapment of gay men in Singapore in the 1990s. It was denied funding by the Singapore Film Commission due to its subject matter, but Lasalle continued to support it and it ended up being selected at Berlin Film Festival, which was a huge deal for me at the time. I'll always be grateful to Lasalle for its support.

Why did you choose to study Film and Media Studies?

I fell in love with filmmaking since I was 15, and when I found out there was a film school at Ngee Ann Poly (it was the only film school in Singapore at the time), it was all I wanted to do.

Where do you draw your inspiration from for your films?

From life, and from the stories I feel need to be told.

Share with us the best memory you have of your filmmaking process. Which is your favourite film?

I think the biggest challenge I've had to date was needing to put together a prison location in Apprentice made out of disparate locations across Singapore and Australia. The locker room was at the old Jurong Stadium, the corridors were at Beach Road, the offices in Ayer Rajah, the cell blocks in Maitland Gaol in Hunter Valley, New South Wales, and the armoury was in Parramatta Gaol near Sydney. It was a huge challenge piecing it all together so that it was seamless to the audience, and it was a logistical nightmare for an indie production. But we managed to pull it off.

Where do you see yourself in five to ten years’ time? Any upcoming work we can look out for?

Continuing as a filmmaker, I hope! Though at the rate I'm going, I'm not sure if I'll even make 3 films in the next 10 years. I'm quite slow, I've been told.

What advice do you have for young people who are still looking for their meaning and purpose in life or a career path?

Don't be afraid to throw yourself into the deep end - it's the best way to learn to swim.