Filmmaking has a long and proud history that depicts the progress of human invention, innovation and creativity. From the first camera to the first moving picture, filmmaking is considerably one of the arts that have evolved with time.

As modern technology rose and conquered the world, it changed our very own lifestyles and behaviours, including the way filmmaking is approached and practised. Together with Media Prima and Primeworks, Huawei is redefining the future of smartphone cinematography with the Huawei Mate 30 Pro.

Huawei Malaysia embraces that evolution of film and technology with the Huawei Film Awards, to elevate the power of smartphone cinematography and create a platform for young aspiring filmmakers. Recently, Huawei has invited five local directors – Jess Teong, Gavin Yap, Nik Amir Mustapha, Kroll Azry and Tuan Faisal – to test the brand’s new Huawei Mate 30 Pro. Under the theme “Empowering Your Possibilities”, these directors showcased their short films during the launch of the awards and prevailed.

Here’s a glimpse into these local renowned directors’ perceptions of smartphone cinematography.

 

Nik Amir MustapHA

 

Known for his 2011 film, KIL, director, screen writer and also former Men of The Year Nik Amir Mustapha definitely enjoys his work in the arts. After finishing his studies in electrical engineering, he took on a film course in Australia and later returned to his home country, inspired to pursue his career in the production line. With the use of the Huawei Mate 30 Pro, Nik and his team succeeded in producing the short film ANA that tells the story of a boy helping an AI robot to achieve her dreams.

 

How has a smartphone changed the way you film or direct?

This is my first time using a smartphone to shoot a film. As far as I am aware, the difference for me in smartphone cinematography is the mobility, making tricky shots easier to achieve. When shooting ANA , I really tested its limits by using the phone only without the use of any additional lighting. Since it’s a phone, it’s become more accessible especially for students or newbies who want to shoot a film for their projects. But at the end of the day, different stories call for different tools but mobile phones do open up new doors for future filmmakers.

 

WHERE DO MOST OF YOUR INSPIRATION COME FROM?

Usually, I get most of my inspiration when I’m at Mamak stores; when I’m chatting and observing the motions around me, ideas tend to pop out because ideas aren’t muscles, they’re thoughts. I’m also fortunate to have friends that would give me suggestions that would spark up an idea for a film in my head.

 

What’s your favourite movie genre?

I love conceptual things like those in Christopher Nolan’s films. I tend to enjoy filming scenes in a conceptual take, but grounded in reality. I love to tell real human stories, without any serious topic involved. It’s where you can get a glimpse of actual human life, a simple story with a twist of lo-fi sci-fi action to it, that’s my taste.

 

What are your thoughts on what the Huawei Film Awards is trying to achieve?

I think it’s an interesting approach. Although they are selling a phone, I think it complements the type of product they have. It’s a good initiative that could one day inspire young filmmakers to push their limits and convert their imagination to a film.

 

What’s your next filming plan?

I’m currently prepping for a next feature film called IMAGINUR. It’s a love/mystery story with a storyline that involves hypnosis.

 

Gavin Yap

 

For someone who started out as a child actor at the age of eight, director and actor Gavin Yap has come a long way, making his mark in many aspects in the local film industry, including animation. Chasing Santosham is the short film that Gavin and his team did for the Huawei Film Awards screening. With the use of the Huawei Mate 30 Pro, Gavin talks about his thoughts about it and also the things he encountered in the world of film.

 

What mindset should a director have when filming?

Directing is a huge headache, so it’s very important that you care a great deal about the story you’re telling. Always believe in the story that you’re telling because you need that passion to ensure that the film goes the way your head visualised it. If not, it’s not worth the hassle.

 

What’s the process of animation like?

I’ve only directed animation primarily in the audio department, and I still work the same way I do with feature films. It’s just that animation is much more tedious. Many people would think that it’s easy but it’s much harder, because it’s basically creating a story out of thin air. For example, a Pixar film takes up years to produce just one movie because of the animation process, and to reanimate a scene, it takes up a lot of time and money.

 

What’s the difference between filming with a camera and a smartphone?

The picture quality between the two gadgets is slightly different. I approached Chasing Santhosham the traditional way – creating storyboards and having back to back meetings with my DOP to discuss what’s possible and impossible. My main concern is how far we could go with that little gadget. The main advantage of shooting on a mobile phone is that it’s easy, accessible and the size gives much versatility. No one would think that you’re shooting a film especially in strict areas, so I’d definitely consider filming on a smartphone again.

 

What are your thoughts on what the Huawei Film Awards is trying to achieve?

I think it’s great to have a competition like this, and to open it up to the younger generation, to see what other talents lies out there. I think smartphone cinematography will only become bigger and will be a more recommended filming technique in the near future.

 

Jess Teong

 

In 2015, Jess Teong made her debut as a film director with The Kid from the Big Apple, which she also wrote the screenplay. Released to immense critical success, the film went on to nab several awards at the 7th Macau International Movie Festival and the 28th Malaysian Film Festival. Often praised for her ability to convey personal experience, perspective and value through her films, Jess is leaving her mark once again – in Roots , a powerful story that showcases the importance of family as well as happiness.

 

In what ways do you think the advancement of mobile technology will impact filmmaking?

For now, I don’t see filmmakers replacing their tools with mobile phones. However, it is a very good way for the general public to get into filmmaking. Without a doubt, the advancement of mobile technology serves as a great platform for YouTubers as well as film school students to explore the world of filmmaking. I can see a future where an entire feature film is filmed on a phone.

 

How was your experience with Huawei Film Awards?

I had my doubts in the beginning. I remember bringing my director of photography as well as the producer to the training session, since I’m not the most tech-savvy person out there [Laughs]. That being said, the process was fun because the many functions of the phone were presented to me were very interesting, the slow-motion feature in particular. When done right, it’s as if the characters are telling you what’s on their mind. The process, despite being rushed, was fun. That’s why I love to always be prepared, so that when the challenge comes, I’d be ready for it. For the project, despite being filmed with mobile phones, I treated it as if I was preparing for a film. Well, we can’t expect the phone to be of the same caliber as a 400,000-dollar camera, but the challenge pushed us to step out of our comfort zone.

 

WHAT’S HARDER? GETTING STARTED OR BEING ABLE TO KEEP GOING?

To keep going. Not only do you have to muster the willpower to continue, but also maintain the quality of your previous works. It’s the toughest thing. In my opinion, it’s down to the character of the individual. It is within my character to give my best.

 

Kroll Azry

 

Having won two major awards at Russia’s International Motivational Film Festival, Kroll Azry’s debut film, Pekak , is regarded by many as one of the best modern Malaysian films. Naturally, filmgoers are going to be interested to see what the filmmaker brings next. Marvelled by the capabilities of the Huawei Mate 30 Pro, the idea of Kucing Air – a tale that illustrates the significance in one’s pursuit of his dreams regardless of the limits – was developed after Kroll discovered the many opportunities that he could explore with the device.

 

Who were some of your major influences when you first started out?

I started out as a still photographer when I was back in high school. You know how every year your yearbook does that thing with the class photos? After Form Four, I’d try to sneak in whenever there’s a photoshoot session. It caught my headmaster’s attention, and he asked me whether I’d like to step up and take up the task. After a while, I started to get bored and films started to capture my attention. I began watching a ton of films, during a time that I’m not particularly proud of. And by that, I mean my exposure to films was through pirated VCDs (laughs).

 

What are your thoughts on what the Huawei Film Awards is trying to achieve?

I think it’s good, because there’s another major brand that’s part of this now. Before this, I believe there was only BMW with its BMW Shorties. The other one is probably Astro. Nevertheless, it’s great, because it provides opportunities for talents; it’s not only the directors that benefit from this, but the actors and actresses who are looking for an avenue. As a result of that, it’s no longer the same group of people over and over again. It’s fantastic.

 

In what ways do you think the advancement of mobile technology will impact filmmaking?

The good thing about filmmaking in Malaysia is that we are not too far behind. Whatever it is that we need, we have it here. Which is important because we need to keep up in order to stay relevant. However, if you’re talking about mobile technology in particular, I think the products are still very much geared towards consumers. For the professional devices, there’s usually more buttons. (Laughs) Still, when I finally get to see my film on the big screen, I was genuinely surprised that it was filmed with a phone. I couldn’t believe it.

 

Tuan Faisal

 

While the Huawei Film Awards marks Tuan Faisal’s debut as a film director, you’d be severely mistaken to assume that he’s new to the filmmaking industry. Tuan is most wellknown for his efforts in writing and producing the 2014 hit film, Terbaik Dari Langit, a film that’s often revered for capturing the hearts of many with its stunning cinematography as well as endearing writing. Tuan’s Tire is an endearing homage to the love story between him and his wife, as well as a compelling story about empathy.

 

What are your thoughts on what the Huawei Film Awards is trying to achieve?

I think I gave the organisers a shock because they thought that I was going to turn down the opportunity (laughs)! I feel that they really undersold the scale of the project at the time. The way the project was pitched, led me to believe that it was a small project. After hearing the pitch, I figured that it was something that I could do within a week, and I agreed to it. It was only after that when I discovered that the project is hosted by Huawei and it’s the beginning of something great. So, you could imagine my surprise when I discovered that. Surprising, but in a good way. I’m so glad that I participated in this, because I get to be a part of a movement that’s geared towards inspiring the next generation of filmmakers.

 

In what ways do you think the advancement of mobile technology will impact filmmaking?

Very encouraging. First off, the types of content that we could produce. Next, the number of talents that will rise as a result of that. I’m very positive as to how the advancement of mobile technology will impact the filmmaking industry. However, as of now, a mobile phone is still a mobile phone. But the thought of being able to make films with mobile phones just blows my mind.

 

What genre would you like to tackle next?

I’d still go for something humanistic. Something grounded, human. It will definitely be something about relationships, and how that dynamic could be tested. Because that’s pretty much my voice at this point in time. Not so much to preach, but to express something I observed that not many people are talking about. I hope to convoy that all things exist in grey, like the theme in my short film. It’s about empathising with others.

 

This Media Prima/Primeworks x Huawei Mate 30 Pro article was first published in the August Man Malaysia Jan/Feb 2020 issue.

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