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Chase the dream: Clare Chong

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Who knew that your dreams at night can be made into a film?

She started playing the piano when she was 4, and picked up the violin at age 6. Clare Chong's passion for music grew and she enrolled in the School Of The Arts (SOTA) to study music when she was 13.

Little did anyone expect that all her years of pursuing music would suddenly take a turn when her foundation course in SOTA exposed her to the world of film.

Clare, who has always been interested in visual and media art, said: "Film blends all the different art forms together, where music, sound and aesthetics are important. I learnt so many different things while making film. Focusing on either music or visual arts cannot provide one with that platform to experience this." 

She changed her major to film two years ago and it turned out to be a good decision. Clare, 19, received her first nomination at the recent 6th Singapore Short Film Awards (SSFA), for her first narrative film, Stranger by Night. The seven minute film is about a security guard who experienced strange encounters while working one night. The actor in the film, Lim Poh Huat, is a security guard in real life. The film, which took two days to shoot, was nominated for Best Fiction Film, Best Director, Best Script and Best Performance.


CLARE (MIDDLE) WITH HER ACTORS AT SSFA.

When asked about the source of inspiration for this film, Clare said: "One night while walking to my friend's place, I saw this ulu school and there was a security guard sleeping, so that sparked the idea of making a film revolving around a security guard's life."

Clare added: "This film is more of evoking an emotion and studying a person's life than anything else.

"It is a commentary on the social status in society. Just like how a security guard kind of gets looked down upon by actors and actresses, this depicts the different classes in society."

Although Clare did not win at the SSAF last Sunday, she won other awards previously. In 2012, her documentary, 'The substation: An Island' won second runner up prize at Hi-Story, My Story Filmmaking Competition. The following year, her experimental short film 'Sound Film I', won second prize in 13 Little Pictures Film Lab in Bangkok.


CLARE RECEIVING HER PRIZE FROM TECHNICOLOUR AT BANGKOK WORLD FILM FESTIVAL.

PHOTO CREDIT: SOPHIE BELLE

Clare admitted that this path has not been all smooth-sailing. From writing a script to securing a shoot locating, the young lady, who is working in a production house to fund her future films, encountered challenges such as being judged by her age. On one occasion, she was considered for the assistant producer role instead of the producer simply because of her age.  

She added with a laugh: "Being young and looking young is like the ultimate curse."

Clare revealed that she dug into her savings to fund Stranger by Night, which cost about $500.

But the challenges are not stopping her. In fact she is preparing to film a prequel to Stranger by Night.

Clare said: "I have been collecting dreams for quite some time because I always dream five minutes before I wake up. I have a lot of these short dreams which are really weird and I thought of piecing them together for my new film."

This passionate filmmaker cares more than just creating films.

The creator of online community, Stranger Collective, said: "I wanted a platform for people who make films and I hope that this can turn into a business in the long run."

Stranger Collective is an online community where filmmakers and artists collaborate and create art together.

As someone who is not an avid film lover, I was drawn in by Clare's fervour about film and I asked her about her inspirations.

With a gleam in her eye, Clare replied: "I really want to meet Jim Jarmusch and David Lynch. Jim Jarmusch is an independent filmmaker and he is very much in control of the whole process, which is the way I want to make films. As for David Lynch, it is definitely his style (which is inspiring) and he has that spiritual edge in him."

The young fan humbly added: "I'll be really happy if I can work with them."


"SHOOTING A FILM IS REALLY HARD BUT FUN AS WELL." - Clare

PHOTO CREDIT: LLOYD KOH

Although Clare's parents - her mum is a piano teacher while her dad works in the apparel industry - are supportive of her dreams, she has other worries. 

She is worried about her finances as a young filmmaker, but is working hard to be financially independent.

"I wouldn't want to rely on my family to finance my films or art, hence I am working now," said Clare.

So, what's next for this young filmmaker?

Clare is considering furthering her studies locally, if she does not attain the scholarship to Tisch School of the Arts or California Institute of the Arts in the States.

She said: "My parents don't have enough money to fund me (overseas) and I think that's actually a good thing as well. If you're making art with a big budget, you will have no obstacle, and then you won't be creative enough to get what you want."

Clare, who aims to direct and produce feature films for a living, added:  "Being practical and all, I'll still have to work in a production house in the future. However my goal is not to earn big bucks, but to fully explore my capabilities as an artist."