Producing the Dream

Final-year student Zachary Tang (CS’17) and his team got their big break when they won a $20,000 grant to produce a short film.

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When final-year student Zachary Tang (CS '17) heard about the Temasek Short Film Project, which offered a generous grant to aspiring filmmakers, he thought it would have been a long shot. Yet, he and two classmates decided to throw their hat in the ring.


"We just wanted as much experience as we could get and this seemed like a good opportunity,’’ said Tang. Tang and his classmates Chong Kai Yan (CS’17) and Matthew Yang (CS’17) were elated when they were handpicked to be among the selected 20 groups of student filmmakers to be part of the Temasek Short Film Project.


"I mean, how often do we get $20,000 to make a film? Most of the time when we make a film, it’s going to be on low budget and a casual thing with a group of friends, so this was an opportunity to get a platform to try out (filmmaking),” Tang added.


Last May, 20 groups of students from the five polytechnics, Lasalle College of the Arts, Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts and Nanyang Technological University had their short films premiered online, as part of the 20/20: Temasek Short Film Project.


20/20: The Temasek Short Film Project is a commissioned film series sponsored by Temasek International Private Limited, with the aim of nurturing aspiring young filmmakers. Aspiring filmmakers are funded to produce a short film of approximately 5 to 10 minutes based on real-life stories from the work of Temasek’s non-profit philanthropic organisations.


For the project, Tang and his team produced Windmill and was mentored by Singapore filmmaker Boo Jun Feng – the first Singaporean who had his debut feature film Sandcastle invited to the International Critics’ Week at Cannes Film Festival.

“How often do we get $20,000 to make a film? ... So this was an opportunity to get a platform to try out (filmmaking).”

Zachary Tang


Windmill, Tang’s first full-scale short film, follows the life of a B-boy dancer and his personal journey of overcoming doubt and pursuing his dreams. Tang said he had about 20 people on his crew and they had to rent equipment and hire actors, which made this a “large-scaled experience” that ran over the course of six to nine months.


"I learnt how to work with actors a lot better for my FYP project. I was very careful with the actors whom I chose, very careful with the dialogues that I was writing and very careful with how we spent our money,” he said. Tang recently completed his Final Year Project (FYP) film How to Melt Away Completely, a short film about the aftermath of an abortion that pushes a young couple to the precipice of adulthood.


Looking back, Tang shared that the experience of taking on the multiple roles of scriptwriter, director and editor in the production of Windmill was not easy. With the belief that “directors are not encouraged to edit their own films,” it was difficult to detach himself from everything that he had shot.


"I don’t intend to be a filmmaker right after graduation, but that will still be a dream that I will keep in mind or work towards, ” Tang said. He acknowledges that the film industry in Singapore is a niche area that is still growing, and that a lot of hard work might be required before a breakthrough in his career. He intends to start small.

"There’s no hurry to be a filmmaker because it’s a really long process before you can make your first successful feature film, ’’ he said.