Share with us your journey as a director.
As a young teen I fell in love with the horror genre and I think that was my gateway to watching films that were not the usual ones you could easily find in mainstream cinemas. I wanted to watch all the classics, silent films, cult films, banned films. I completely fell in love with cinema from there. And then I went to art school to study graphic design but most of my projects turned out to be short films and animations, and along with that, I would make all the music videos for the bands that I was in, so I eventually did my masters in filmmaking. It definitely took a while for me to secure the decision that I wanted to be a filmmaker, but I remember how much adrenaline I would feel making my student films and how I loved to go into school every day just to learn and experience more.
Who or what has been your biggest inspiration in the world of filmmaking? Are there any specific directors, films, or artists that have influenced your work?
I think my peers are always my biggest inspiration, the filmmakers that I’m friends with, the film community that I’m close to in South East Asia. I find having a close community a lot more inspiring than any specific legendary director. Of course, when I was younger, I was always excited to discover female filmmakers, since at that time, it was so difficult to know about them, and even at film school you rarely learn about these filmmakers.
How do you see the current state of the Malaysian film industry, and what potential do you see for its growth and recognition on an international level?
I’m glad to see that Malaysian films are making great box office numbers locally, it’s always a good thing when Malaysians are going to see Malaysian films, and in the current climate I have been seeing this happen. I think the next step is to bring our films out to the world, to have international distribution, to collaborate with international partners and to open up for co-productions with other countries.
Your films often incorporate elements of Malaysian culture. How do you strike a balance between portraying cultural authenticity and appealing to a broader international audience?
My background has always been very mixed, I was born here, but spent a lot of my formative years in the UK, and then I decided to return back home in my late 20s. I guess I’ve always felt like an outsider wherever I was, and that really drives the emotion behind my storytelling. And I think this feeling of being an outsider can be quite universal, in some way or another, we as humans are striving to be a part of something, but sometimes we’re not fully accepted as our whole selves. Most people around the world can share this sentiment in some part of their lives, in one way or another.
Sound and music can be powerful storytelling tools in film. How do you use music and sound design to enhance the emotional impact of your stories?
I get super excited when I get to the music and sound stage. I played in various bands when I was still living in the UK, so music of course is something very close to my heart. Sound design plays that same role where it can breathe a new life into your film. For such a long time you’re working on your edit until you reach picture lock, and then when you start working on the sound design and music, there’s a new energy to your film and you can start to create and explore once again. I love that about filmmaking, every new chapter is a new place to explore your story and decide where you want to go with it.
What drew you to the horror genre, and what do you find most intriguing or captivating about it as a filmmaker?
When I approach horror, I like to have a sense of humour about it. I also love that horror doesn’t take itself too seriously, it is fantastical and pushes things to the extreme, it’s not real life. My films deal with a lot of very real and serious emotions, and how I play with horror is to use the genre as a storytelling tool, it’s a beautiful colour that lets me have fun, and hopefully the audience has fun watching it too.
Are there any classic horror films or directors that have significantly influenced your work in the horror genre?
I think since I’ve watched and loved so many horror films, and still haven’t finished watching them all, it’s difficult to choose. The influence however will come depending on the story that I’m telling. Some stories require a more B-grade gore approach, some more campy and humorous, some more psychological. It really depends on the script I am working on. However, I think I’ve always been inspired by old monster films, I love the practical effects, I love the make-up, I love the DIY feel, the gnarly looking monsters that appear on screen. I do always go back to the images of our Pontianak films from the 1950s as well, she is always delightful.
Let’s talk about your personal fashion style; comfort or aesthetics? How do you strike a balance between the two?
It really depends on my mood and of course the occasion. Most of the time it’s definitely comfort and practicality - gone are the days where I could run around town in 5-inch heels. If I could still do it and not feel pain though, I probably would. But I love to play with colour too, something crazy bright that might offend people can be fun. I love fashion and style; I love that it can express your personality and mood. I can be super casual and tomboy, but I also love to be super feminine sometimes.
Can you give us a sneak peek into your current Work in Progress project?
I’m currently spending a lot of time reading and researching. I have an idea to set a film in pre-world war 2 Malaya, so I’m doing as much research as I can on it. The film will touch on themes of motherhood and the expectations that come with it, but it will definitely have a genre twist once again. And I think I will use more blood this time, because that’s always a lot of fun!