Meet Ewan Windebank, the 15-year-old winner of the Across Asia Youth Film Festibal 2018, hosted by Tanglin Trust School.
Tell us the story behind your film, The Recital.
There was a girl in my school who seemed like a bad person; she treated everyone poorly, never smiled, and always snapped back, especially when she lost marks. She was extremely smart but she would fight teachers endlessly to try and get that one mark deduction removed. No one liked her really, I mean, how could you? But then one day, I saw her with her mother after school. The girl hesitantly handed a report card to her mother and immediately she started shouting. It was really harsh. I heard the mother say that one mark could mean life or death. But she genuinely got 97% on her average. I found that crazy but then I realised, it’s actually quite common in Hong Kong and it sort of goes unnoticed. I didn’t make the film to say tiger-parenting was ‘bad’ as such but to just highlight the fact that there are some pretty adverse effects to this way of parenting. This was a problem that needed to be brought to light, especially now as student suicide rates in Hong Kong have been on the rise and this could be one of the leading causes.
What is your favourite part of the process?
I consider myself the scriptwriter, director and editor of the film. I do each one out of passion and so I enjoy the whole process, really. It is incredible to go from the birth of an idea; to the moment I can actually watch it on a screen.
As the scriptwriter, I envisioned the idea as I typed. Yet at the shooting stage, some of my visions never made the cut but that’s because as the director, of course, I had the camera to hand to genuinely see what it would look like on screen. This led to additions and cutting from the original as some things just didn’t work, or a new idea popped into mind on set. It all added up to become the footage I had to work with as an editor. This bit was vital; it was just putting all the pieces together.
If you asked me which bit was the most fun, it was this bit – but it was also the most frustrating. You have all your footage in front of you, and it is the most joyous thing to have the perfect shot exactly how you envisioned, but then it’s frustrating when the shot you need just isn’t there. Maybe the angle was a tad lower than you wanted, or the focus was out – it just makes you want to pull your own hair out sometimes. But in the end, when everything comes together, seeing the final product on screen is just like dreams coming true. Quite literally sometimes.
What do you feel are the major benefits when entering these competitions?
I’d say it’s important, not to win, but to meet people. The film industry is all about knowing the right people. But I go to experience, to meet and learn from others who are in the same sort of area. There’s a lot to absorb out there and I believe the best way is through people, learning from other fellow filmmakers, be it people my age or industry experts. The AAYFF is one of the best for people like me in my opinion. A whole industry day to get to learn from the pros but also being given time to talk to the other filmmakers too.
Rather than your age being a hindrance, what do you think being a young filmmaker actually contributes to new work?
Starting out this young gives you a lot of time to learn, and it’s also the best time to do so. I believe that young minds are some of the most creative – it’s just a little hard for some people at this age to express it. How this all contributes to new work? Well obviously the creativity helps out with the whole content creating bit, from coming up with script ideas, to new and interesting editing techniques and camerawork ideas. That all adds up to a pretty interesting and ‘next gen’ film. All of the filmmakers my age are in a sense, the next generation of filmmakers, so what they learn is what the film industry will be in the future.