Metropolitan Film Festival award winner Raymond Delon Poh subscribes to self-learning and a multi-layered approach to filmmaking.
Raymond Delon Poh received a very special Christmas present last year—for his four-and-a-half minute documentary on the 2010 Haiti earthquake, he won the Best Documentary Short award at the Metropolitan Film Festival in New York City.
The winning clip, a snapshot of humanity at some of its darkest and brightest moments, was captured by the 38-year-old in the aftermath of the quake. “Life is very fragile; sometimes it’s not in your control,” he says of the experience. Poh’s diverse portfolio includes short films featuring some of the world’s most glamorous cities as well as the most poverty-stricken villages in rural China.
Winning awards at film festivals, however, is not an end in itself for Poh, whose ultimate dream is to organize film festivals in Singapore. His vision is to help nurture talents in the creative industry, be they actors, sound crew, musicians, fashion designers or make-up artists, with film festivals as a platform. “I don’t just want to be a winner, I want to create winners as well,” he says.
Poh had always wanted to be a movie director since he was 12. He got an early start, working at MediaCorp as an extra at age 18. The position offered him the opportunity to learn the ropes of sound, lighting and other production aspects that went into the shooting of a movie.
Subsequently, he enlisted into National Service. As a naval weapon specialist in the army, he found himself handling missiles and other gunnery equipment—a scope completely at odds with his passion. He thought he had left his dreams behind for good, until he found himself given the responsibility of filming the navy’s exercises. His passion reignited, he then freelanced for a year for a food and beverage company as a video editor, and was responsible for filming big-scale events like the World Gourmet Summit. He received the opportunity to be involved in a CityCare project to film the 2008 Sichuan earthquake, which provided a rich learning experience for him. “When you’re on this kind of filming, often you need to rely on intuition to capture certain shots,” he says.
While he started as a wedding videographer (“because of the benefit of volume”), Poh now divides his time between corporate assignments and his own passion for filmmaking. In fact, he now produces short films for wedding couples instead of the usual montage, one with a conceptualized storyline.
|PHOTOS COURTESY OF RAYMOND DELON POH|
A MULTI-LAYERED APPROACH
Poh is now busy working on another short film between two young lovers titled Sweet Secret, one of whom is mute and the other, deaf. Suffice to say, there is not a single line of dialogue. “In every project, I always aim to have four layers—firstly, there has to be the artistic and entertainment value. Secondly, the film needs to address an issue in society. It also needs to reflect a political situation or make a political commentary—in Sweet Secret, for example, due to their handicap, there is a barrier between the characters and the society, and this symbolizes the state of citizens in countries where the exchange of information is stifled. They don’t know the real world. The final layer is of course my belief in the Word of God, and I don’t mean to hard-sell the gospel, but to infuse my works with positive values and messages,” says Poh. The short film is slated to be completed sometime next month.
Letting aspiring filmmakers in on how he learns, he says, “The film DVDs I buy must have the director’s commentary, or the ‘making of’ clips—these help me understand the intention behind the producers’ work … I will watch the films at least thrice—once for entertainment, the second time with the director’s commentary and the third time to make my own analysis.” His all-time favorite movie is Scarface, starring his favorite actor Al Pacino.
The biggest challenge facing the industry, says Poh, is the lack of good scripts. “The world has no shortage of directors, actors and actresses. What’s lacking is good scripts—that’s why the West is going to the East to buy scripts now,” he says. It reflects his main gripe that many budding filmmakers nowadays put the story as secondary while inundating him with questions about the technicalities of shooting. His parting words—“I think life experiences are very important. Also, you need to be very observant. I believe in learning through observation as opposed to just asking others for quick solutions.”