Self taught film maker carving a name for himself in the local industry, Cho Junming

A 22 year old film maker that was recently awarded the Merit Award for cultural achievement in the Ten Outstanding Young Persons of the World Singapore 2018 by Junior Chamber International. Cho Junming is young self-taught local film maker who tells stories that have strong positive social messages.

We caught up with Junming to talk about being about being a film maker in Singapore.

How did you get into film making?

I started out as a small part time actor because I’ve had a very great interest in films since young to either act in films or make them. One day I got an opportunity to take part in a short film competition but during that period of time I don’t have much film making knowledge or skillset and was not confident about it. But still, I gave it a try and surprisingly I won a second runner up under the student category. From there on, I was encouraged to continue making films and pursue my passion.

All along, I do not have any film making knowledge or skillset due to my poor academic results which is also why I couldn’t get into a proper film making school but I didn’t give up and worked hard towards my goal. I am a self-taught film maker and I learnt the art by watching countless YouTubes videos, movies and going on set as an actor to witness the film making process. From there, I just kept trying to produce more films in order to get more experience by myself and also to seek advice from people with film making experience or simply by using Google.

What do you enjoy most about it, about the process?

By film-making, I enjoy interacting with different kinds of talents and also the whole process of it while producing a film because making a film isn’t a simple thing. It takes huge effort and time to produce, from planning to execution. I enjoy sharing ideas other people and seeing how we can use our own specific skillsets to contribute to the process of making of films.

I create positive inspiring films because I feel that I need to contribute back to the society and also to shine for my father one day in terms of being a successful film maker. I hope through films, I can spread positivity and hope to people by teaching and sharing relatable life lessons based on my personal experience or from peers stories. I believe film is a way to motivate people and also I want to provide an entertainment platform not just to entertain people through visual media but also teaching them something in the end: Life lessons.

Now, I've noticed that you have some recurring casts in your videos. How do you get people to star in your short films?

I started off with a group of non-acting friends and I slowly guided them towards film stuff and acting as a role in a film. Eventually more of my friends started to know I’m doing films and expressed interest in being a part of it. I accepted their interest and pulled them in together so that we can do something great, something we love to do together. Most of them are my childhood friends, mutual friends and some of them were hired with a small budget.

So it's like a community effort, then. Who are some of your favourite local and international film makers?

My favourite local film maker is Royston Tan as most of his films are relatable to the society and also quite an inspiring touching genre. It serves as a great purpose to teach people more about life lessons relatable to society. My international favourite film maker will be James Wan because he is an Asian but gained huge recognition overseas with his movies Saw, The Conjuring, Fast and Furious and more. His movies are very well developed, shots are very exciting as well as a good storyline. Also, most of his movies are commercially successful.

How do you decide what kind of film to make and where do you find inspiration?

I decide the kind of films to make based on my own preference and I find inspiration by listening to friends stories or experiencing incidents myself. When I feel that a story can be well developed into a film and serves as a very great purpose in contributing positively to the society, I will do it.

Cho Junming (second from right) with his Merit Award for Cultural Achievement

When making these short films, how big of a production crew do you have? And where you go find the budget?

To be honest, my production crew team is not very big and it only consists of 3-4 person and most of the work I’ll be doing it myself such as: directing/Producing/writing/editing/acting films. For budget wise, I have to find investors or people who are willing to help me in funding my films by writing a proposal to them and explaining to them what can they get back in return. For example if I would want to do a film about anti-suicide I have to write to anti-suicide department in Singapore to see whether if they are keen or not, but having said that, most of my films are actually zero to low budget.

What is your ultimate goal with film making? Do you want to make feature films? International films?

I hope I can go far with my film making in terms of representing Singapore for film festivals and also getting film awards. Right now, I wish to enrol myself into a proper film making school to enhance my knowledge in making of films and to understand more about it, having guidance from professional trainers. Once I’ve gathered enough knowledge and skills about film making and funding, I will then wish to make a featured movie one day in the near future.

What project are you currently working on?

I’m currently in the national service and going through my basic military training phase. At the same time I have also started planning for the next international film festival and I hope that I can get a chance to represent Singapore one day in films and to shine for our homeland.

What's it like being a film maker in Singapore?

Honestly being a film maker in Singapore indeed is quite a tough job and very competitive because Singapore market is small and there are various film makers in Singapore. So in order to stand out from them, one must produce films that are unique from the common films in Singapore and also to make it relatable not just in Singapore itself but in other countries as well to push the films overseas and attract foreign investors.

It's quite tough to make films in Singapore because the laws here are quite strict and films have to go through numerous attempts from the government such as IMDA cuts before the film is finalised and can be screened island-wide. This can result in the film losing important shots that could deliver the story more smoothly and consistently.

For independent film-maker like myself, the path is even tougher because being an independent film-maker means that you have to settle everything on your own, from pre production to post production. Usually, not many people will be willing to collaborate or to support  independent film maker because of lack of team, manpower, budget. So in order to get enough support from investors or people with specific films skill sets, I have to convince them by working very hard and not giving up showing them that I can be trusted and also we can produce great results that can eventually help shine for Singapore’s Film industry.

Independent film-makers usually don’t receive much recognition from public or fame in the industry and this is very important because if nobody knows about us then who will want to watch or support our films? I do hope that whatever I’m doing now can be seen by people who can eventually support me or assist me in the film making industry, I know it’s not easy but it is not impossible too as long as I keep working hard.

One of Junming's short films.