Students from the SUSS Introduction to Film Studies course got an insight into the level of preparation that goes into making a movie when accomplished director Alvin Lee, joined the class. His latest, Smoke Gets in Your Eyes, won Best Short Film at the 35th China Golden Rooster Award and Best Singapore Short Film Award at the 33rd Singapore International Film Festival’s Silver Screen Award.
Alvin emphasised the importance of telling a story visually through framing. This directs what viewers will see, which then affects how they respond. To illustrate, Alvin broke down scenes from his award-winning short films, Seed (2016) and A Time for Us (2018). It was fascinating to see how each shot was so carefully crafted, from framing the scene and planning the camera movement to positioning actors within the set to visually reflect the characters’ relationship dynamics.
A comparison between the storyboard for his short fim Seed (top row) and the actual shot in the film (bottom row).
In A Time for Us, Alvin used mirrors and doorways to separate and frame the characters, creating a sense of their awkwardness and discomfort with each other.
Alvin pointed out how colour is used to tell viewers that the two lead characters in Drive have different personalities and values.
Alvin also explained the integral role colours play in visual storytelling through a scene from the movie Drive, directed by Nicolas Winding Refn in 2011.
During the Q&A, a student asked Alvin how he manages his time when making a film. Alvin advised, “Ask yourself what you really want to do. Be willing to make sacrifices and to work hard for something you care about.” He also encouraged students to read widely, learn about art and music, and be curious about the world.
Hannah David, SUSS English Language & Literature student, said, “I enjoyed hearing about Alvin’s creative process, research, and the work behind each of his films. It was truly an eye-opening experience!”
Agnes Goh, SUSS Psychology with Film Studies student, said, “Hearing first-hand how a film director is so meticulous helps to reinforce what we have learnt in class. It makes me appreciate a film more deeply, now that I know a 30-minute short film can take up to a year to write, plan, and make. Alvin also shared how he learned about painting, music, and classical literature in film school — all it takes to equip him to be a professional filmmaker.”Group photo of director Alvin Lee with the Introduction to Film Studies class.
This is the first industry talk for the year, with more to come! Find out about Film Studies at SUSS, with courses on cinematic language, the film business, scriptwriting, smartphone filmmaking, streaming and more.