SINGAPORE: His film- The Faith Of Anna Waters – may have just opened in cinemas this week, but it looks like there is already another American co-produced horror film in the pipeline for Singaporean director Kelvin Tong.
“I’m glad how The Faith Of Anna Waters turned out as we are in talks for another American co-production,” Tong told Channel NewsAsia in an interview. “Given how rare opportunities are in the film industry, I’m just grateful to be allowed to continue pursuing my dream.”
US film production and distribution company Highland Film Group - Tong’s production partner in The Faith Of Anna Waters - offered him the opportunity.
But the award winning filmmaker has not gone all "Hollywood” on his homeland yet. “At the same time, I am starting to write a Singapore film. I need to make my Ang Mo Kio Avenue 3 films alongside the international horror flick,” he quipped. “I feel it keeps me balanced - the same way Grandma Positioning System in 7 Letters kept me grounded while making The Faith Of Anna Waters. I’m a Singapore filmmaker at the end of the day.”
On being the first Singapore filmmaker to make a Hollywood produced horror film, Tong is taking it all in his stride. “It’s always nice to be the first to do something but, frankly, I don’t put much store in being first,” he shared. “I just want to do my best and continue working at a high level.”
Made on a budget of US$6 million and shot entirely in Singapore, The Faith of Anna Waters stars Mad Men actress Elizabeth Rice as crime reporter Jamie Waters, who travels to Singapore to investigate her sister Anna’s mysterious death, with the help of Anna’s former husband Sam, played by Matthew Settle (of Gossip Girl and Band Of Brothers fame). The film also stars local actors Adrian Pang and Tan Kheng Hua, alongside Australian thespian Colin Borgonon and first-timer Adina Herz.
It has already been bought for distribution in France, Germany, Spain, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Thailand and the Philippines.
So what has Tong learnt about himself after making a horror film with Hollywood actors and a massive budget?
“I’ve learnt that despite finally shooting in English - the language I am most fluent in and which I had yet to use in my prior films - I immediately missed the intimacy and immediacy of shooting in either Mandarin or dialect,” he shared. “I think more than a decade of making films in Singapore about Singapore has changed me profoundly than I realized. It was almost weird on the first shoot day of The Faith Of Anna Waters to hear English being spoken through my headphones. It was almost as if I had walked on to the wrong set.”
Tong also revealed that he would have liked to spend more time with the US actors before the shoot so as to get to know them better as people.
“It would have led to deeper and more nuanced performances. However, with the packed schedules of our cast, our preparation time together before the shoot started was limited, “he said. “This is something for me to improve on the next time round.”
So what surprised him the most about working with and mixing local actors with the Hollywood lot?
“What surprised me most about mixing local and Hollywood actors is that how little separates them,” he said with a laugh. “Be it their acting skills, professionalism or easy casualness, I found my Hollywood cast no different from our Singapore artistes. Okay, maybe their reaction to the tropical heat. The US actors definitely sweated a lot more on set.
The Faith Of Anna Waters is in Singapore cinemas now.