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Diary by TK Cheng: AFA 2016

I am starting my first 2017 blog post with one of best moments of 2016. This was a very special moment of my life. That year, I was selected for the fellowship of Asian Film Academy (AFA), hosted by Busan International Film Festival, DONGSEO University and Busan Film Commission.

I completed my major in Directing under guidance of Dean, Tsai Ming Liang, Mentors Vimukthi (directing) and Bogumil. Things happened too fastafter I had received the news of my selection. That time, I was busy working as a 2nd Assistant Director for a feature film. I did not have time to prepare well and without thinking much I flied to Busan and spent 3 weeks there with a bunch of good fellows.

I was assigned to TEAM A along with another 3 directors, Linh from Vietnam, Rahat from Bangladesh and CJ from Taiwan.We paired up with another 4 DOPs, Ham from Thai (my DP, a crazy funny guy that you will fall in love with), Khai from Singapore, Che from Philippine & Dohee from Korea. Along with Production Designer Elder from Kazakhstan, Sound master Ankita from India, Editor Chu from Hong Kong, we all were lead under Producer Mai from Japan. Such a great team it was and I wish to be back again in set with them whenever I can. There also was TEAM B, and my friend in Malaysia,YING XIAN was that Producer of that team.

We spent around 1 month for pre production before we arrived in Busan for one short film. I remember, during that time it felt like a never ending story. We discussed, modified the script, script being rejected, revised again, rejected again, finally approved, got our artists and locations but lost the locations due to some reason. Finally we reached Busan a week before to shoot the short film. But yet again our locations destroyed by the typhoon (along with BIFF village T.T).

We were lucky to get all our locations before the shoot.We did our principle photography for only 3 days to complete a 20 minutes feature. Working with another 3 directors was not easy, all of us have different kinds of ideas and styling. We had to compromise most of the time, our meeting almost always ended up with the same questions asked in the loop and our producer Mai had to give a decision or conclusion on this. It was a great experience for me, and I didn’t expect I could be so open-minded to work along with others. As a filmmaker, I was kind of stubborn about my own creation. But this time I felt really great, sometimes if you try to accept different working style you will feel another type of enjoyment.

Working with people from different countries and supported by a group of Korean professionals are fun and interesting, especially directing a veteran Korean main actor BONG Tae Gyu (I’m kind of surprise he willing to acted for us when I proposed him in the lead role), a talented child actress CHOI Da In and KIM MiSeung. They’re so professional and talented that though we spoke in English and they did in Korean, I didn’t feel that I had to face much trouble for communicating with and directing them (of course with help from translators).  We spent lot of time together and they committed so much into developing the characters with us. One thing that impressed me and brought out respected for Mr. Bong- during the travelling to Busan before the shoot, Mr. Bong had an accident and got injured, yet he insisted completing the shoot before going to the medical checkup, I was worried about him most of the time. Eventually we completed it without any big problem. I should mention that we almost lost the chance to use one of the locations again during the shoot.

The scene that I directed for both actor Mr. BONG and actress Ms. CHOI
Ms. KIM, she did a very well job, unfortunately I never have chance to direct the scenes that involved her, this scene directed by CJ from Taiwan .
My precious photo with Mr.BONG

I thought all the fun will end after the shoot, but fortunately I was wrong! We continued with different master-classes, sharing sections and watched films of our mentor and AFA alumni. And I guess, this time was the busiest time for our Editor CHU and Sound Engineer ANKITA (she did sound recording during the set as well). They had to complete the post production for the short film, A.K.A within a short period of time. But I was impressed by their outcome nevertheless. Both of them were supported by other instructors- Steve M. CHOE (Editing) and HAN Myung Hwan (Sound Design). Online colour correction was done by Mr OH Byung-geol and his team, and Scoring was composed by Mr Han Jae-gweon and his team.

It was glad to met a Producer friend Liang Ying in film festival

At the same time, we enjoyed classes from our Dean, Mr TSAI Ming Liang, Directors Souleymane CISSE (who was also the head Jury for BIFF 2016), I have to admit that I envy for all the DPs, they have lot hand-on classes and could share knowledge with different people. We spent most of the time on these for the second half part of the workshop, yet I managed to watch ONE film, by Davy CHOU, before end of the film festival.

My only photo that captured Mr TSAI

And here comes the end-the day before closing ceremony. 2 of our short films (along with Team B) were screened during the film festival. I felt weird as my friends could not get any ticket for the screening while I saw a lot of empty seats during the screening sessions. Well, of course we had our graduation ceremony as well and here came another surprise for me that I won the Dongseo Scholarship Fund along with Maaria from TEAM B. Finally I had some fund for my first feature. But all I was thinking, whether the scholarship was REAL or not! If it was, that could be a wonderful opportunity for me to study in the school! I had to thank all the fellowsthere who supported each other during the courses, especially my producer Mai.

The good experiences walking red carpet with Dean, Mentors and fellows

It was the end of my tour to AFA with such a great achievement, it was an experience of a lifetime!When I came back, it seemed like a dream. All the memories started to fade off, but something still remained inside my heart. I think the workshop is the place to meet persons, share experience with each other, build up a new connection, and experiences something new. I think this is what our Malaysian filmmakers needs, to explorer more.

I still wish to thank all the fellows, Korean supporting team members, technical assistants, team formed by the AFA Alumni, and all the Instructors.

P.S. Most of the photos attached above were taken by official AFA photographers, Mr YEO Seung-jin, OCK Su-dong and; PARK Min-cheol.  

The writer Mr. TK CHENG is a Malaysian Chinese descent film director, screenwriter, and producer.  In 2015, he joined Kyoto Filmmaker Lab as Production Manager and in 2016, he selected as one of fellow (Directing Major) of Asian Film Academy and won a Dongseo University Scholarship Fund. In 2017, he was invited as TA for AFA 2017 !

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