7 Quick Questions With Paul Gan, Winner Of The 2014 Sundance Short Film Contest

One year on, we sat down with Paul to discuss his award-winning film and what he's been up to lately.

Cover image via Christianity Malaysia

Late last year, local filmmaker Paul Gan came out tops in the first ever Sundance Channel Short Film Contest with his Guitar Hero-inspired short 'The Boy Who Rocked the World'

Winning the grand prize brought Paul to the 2015 Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah earlier this year, with all access passes to attend workshops and movie screenings at the renowned indie film fest. Paul's short film also premiered on the Sundance Channel on National Day this year.

Video production is a full-time job for Paul, who owns Wedeoh Pixels, a production company that produces corporate videos for clients. He also dabbles in quirky videos packed with visual effects, which you can view on his YouTube channel Tiny Rex.

P.S. We're giving away some exclusive passes to the finale event of this year's Sundance Short Film Contest. Scroll down for more details!

Set in the slums of modern day Kuala Lumpur, Paul's short film tells the story of young boy (Aiman) who turned to his imagination and deep passion for rock music as an escape from his daily struggles and a life of poverty

'The Boy Who Rocked the World' has also bagged awards from BMW Shorties Malaysia 2013 (Best Cinematography, Best Set Design, and Best Sound Design) and Malaysia Digital Film Awards 2013.

One year on, we sat down with Paul for some quick questions and to catch up on what he's been up to since his big win:

1. SAYS: Hi Paul! First things first, what inspired you to start making videos?

Paul Gan shooting the shorties ‘The Boy who Rocked the World’

Image via Christianity Malaysia

Paul: It was my dad's "fault", he brought me to cinemas when I was a kid. Then I realized I loved movies, the emotions and impact in a movie. I knew I would wanna do it one day.

When I was in my primary school days, I always wanted to be like Jim Carrey, so I pursued the path of acting where I got into commercials and roles in TV series. I realized then, that a lot of local film directors do not utilize the boundaries and possibilities of acting, except a few notable ones like the late Yasmin Ahmad.

My core has always been in performance, where I realised I can tell stories. It was then that I decided to take up directing.

2. How did you come up with the concept for 'The Boy Who Rocked the World'?

As a filmmaker, I wanted to produce a film to remind my audience that there are still the underprivileged and the voiceless among us in our society. In this short film particularly, the urban poor. They are the people that are usually forgotten.

On top of filmmaking, one of the key elements to direct one emotional film is to be up close and personal with the script. I came from a family where, in my teens, I did not have much financially. I recalled the struggles my family had to go through. During my childhood, I was a quiet boy who lived in a world of my own. At times, my parents would accidentally misunderstand my actions or intentions. Recounting those experiences, I decided to transcend them into Aiman.

Moreover, I spent quite a number of days in Malacca growing up in a Malay community. Once, I saw two youngsters playing the guitar in front of their kampung house, which became a short scene in the film. With my mom's nyonya background, where Malay language was quite common in my home, that added a personal touch to my work.

3. Do you have a particular style or personal signature that you associate with your own productions?

As much as I try to deny it, my peers always say that my signature is visual effects.

Nonetheless, my belief in filmmaking is that we should keep on striving to perfect our methods so that we'll explore new methods and grounds in storytelling.

4. What would you say is the biggest obstacle you face as a filmmaker, and what motivates you to keep doing what you do?

Paul Gan shooting a film

Image via Christianity Malaysia

Budget is usually the main concerns for filmmakers. As the art scene in Malaysia is still in the process of maturing, we filmmakers still face the struggle to build up a budget or obtain investments from people.

As for what keeps me motivated.... Whenever I see a great movie, the satisfaction and thought-provoking messages stay with me. I love that feeling. I've often told myself, that if I were to direct, I will want to do the same in my films to impact my audience, and it's a great platform to educate the massed.

I remember how it felt after seeing 'Slumdog Millionaire', which opened my eyes to the harsh truth of poverty in India. Or the daring and courageous documentary 'The Cove' that exposed the brutal slaughters of dolphin in Taiji.

Films are not just an educational tool, they can also be deeply impactful to people's lives. I love filmmaking, as our work sparks a close and intimate relationship with our audience when it touches their hearts. That relationship is rewarding and magical.

5. Are there any filmmakers you look up to?

The Wachowskis

Image via GeekyTyrant.com

The Wachowskis, who did 'The Matrix', 'V for Vendetta', and Cloud Atlas. They are the first filmmakers who opened my eyes to the fact that great philosophy, story, romance and action can be contained in a great masterpiece.

I also like Danny Boyle, of 'Slumdog Millionaire' and '127 Hours'. He is a director who tries to portray reality as accurately as possible, and makes you feel like his actors are ACTUALLY the characters rather than acting.

Oh, and Christopher Nolan, who directed 'The Dark Knight' trilogy, 'Inception', and 'Interstellar'. He twists narratives in a non-conventional plot, yet they can be accepted by a mass audience.

Danny Boyle (left) and Christopher Nolan (right).

Image via The Times / The Hollywood Reporter

6. So, what have you been up to since winning the grand prize at the 2014 Sundance Short Film Contest?

I’ve been doing videos for clients, like Astro On Demand, where we created some mock-up videos for 'Jurassic World' and 'Minions'. I've also worked on some video projects – music videos and some experimental videos - with Tiger Beer.

I’m currently in the midst of prepping for another film as well, which is supposed to start shooting next year. It’s called ‘The Lullaby Sons’, a true story of a mute family.

I will just be myself constantly striving to tell a better story, stories that are true to me and that will move my audiences' hearts. I hope, one day, my films will make it onto the big screens.

7. Do you have any words of advice for aspiring filmmakers?

Always be humble, that's how we learn to be relatable to the most important receiving end in filmmaking - the audience.

Stay hungry, stay foolish. Knowledge is like currency, the more you know, the more options you can trade.

Watch Paul's award-winning short film here:

GIVEAWAY: In conjunction with this year's Sundance Channel Short Film Contest, we're giving away 5 PAIRS of exclusive passes to the finale event on 11 December!

Image via Hype

Besides viewing the contest's shortlisted short films, aspiring filmmakers will also get the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to attend a filmmaker masterclass with award-winning documentary filmmakers Zhou Hao and Zhao Qi, whose documentary 'The Chinese Mayor' was awarded the Special Jury Award for Unparalleled Access at the 2015 Sundance Festival.

So, if you wanna get your hands on those passes, here's what you gotta do:

1. SHARE this story on your Facebook and tag as @SAYS. Don't forget to set your profile to PUBLIC so we can find you!

2. Answer this question in less than 30 words: "If you could produce a short film, what would it be about?"

3. Submit your answers in the Comments section of this Facebook post.

The giveaway ends on Friday, 4 December 2015 at 11.59pm, so be sure to submit your entries before then. Good luck!

NOTE: The winner will be contacted directly on 7 December 2015 via Facebook and will be given 12 hours to respond. Should the winner fail to respond within the given time, the prize will be forfeited and the next best entry will take the place.

Winning entries will be judged on creative merit and will be based on originality, humour, and wit. All decisions made are final and no other correspondence will be entered into.

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