Day 28

30 Days Of Art With NAC: Getting creative at home for short film

To inspire and uplift readers as the country emerges from the Covid-19 circuit breaker, The Straits Times, supported by the National Arts Council as part of the #SGCultureAnywhere campaign, has commissioned 30 works by local writers and artists on the pandemic and what it will be like when all this is over

A short film featuring actor Erwin Shah for the National Arts Council and The Straits Times' 30 Days Of Art series.
For the short film Views, actor Erwin Shah Ismail roped in his wife Tiffany Tallon to play the romantic interest.
For the short film Views, actor Erwin Shah Ismail roped in his wife Tiffany Tallon to play the romantic interest.PHOTO: ERWIN SHAH ISMAIL

Actor Erwin Shah Ismail has been a computer network engineer and, in his theatre career, he has played the ukulele, danced and performed stunts.

For the 30 Days Of Art series, the 34-year-old had to wear a few more hats: "I had to play the role of scriptwriter, director and actor.

"The role I am least familiar with is scriptwriter. I took inspiration from my favourite local playwrights like Joel Tan and Alfian Sa'at to achieve a script that is banal on the surface, but filled with exposition and emotions. I'm certainly glad I have them as my points of reference."

The resulting short film, Views, follows a protagonist whose human interactions have been reduced to digital communication during the pandemic. He chats with his partner, who is stuck in another country, and scrolls through social media to keep in touch with friends. These are now-familiar scenarios for many after more than two months of circuit breaker-enforced isolation.

The stage veteran, who has been nominated twice for Best Supporting Actor at the Life Theatre Awards, says: "Theatre is at an intermission. My peers from all departments are affected. I wondered what they were doing to keep themselves occupied, sane and emotionally stable. I found some answers on social media platforms, most of them filled with positivity.

"I needed to share all that goodness. I also wanted to touch on some aspects the pandemic has changed us in the way we communicate, think and lead our lives."

To get around the limitations of shooting under phase one of the reopening of Singapore's economy, he had to get creative with locations and collaboration.

"I drew out a blueprint of my tiny apartment to figure out as many ways to shoot the film, including moving furniture around the house to accommodate the intention and idea of shooting it in one long take," he says.

He roped in his wife Tiffany Tallon to play the romantic interest so as to minimise contact with other people. But as a member of the theatre community, he wanted to include others in the work.

So, he called in a friend, Dzafirul Haniff, to work on cinematography, and name-checked other theatre stalwarts with a clever film solution to working at a distance.

"All in all, we enjoyed being creatively charged by the project," he says.

As Singapore cautiously exits from the circuit breaker in planned phases, he adds: "I hope viewers will accept and adapt to the new norm and find light (and their own way) at the end of the tunnel during this difficult time."

  • Watch Views at str.sg/30Days.
  • For more local digital arts offerings, go to a-list.sg to appreciate #SGCultureAnywhere
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 15, 2020, with the headline '30 Days Of Art With NAC: Getting creative at home for short film'. Print Edition | Subscribe