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Blazing into Jaze Phua's world of film

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This young filmmaker will stop at nothing until he achieves his dreams.

He once ate bread and instant noodles for three weeks while working on numerous photography and graphic design jobs – just to make enough money to fund his films. 

Aspiring filmmaker Jaze Phua, 25, recalled the time he worked on his first film: "I couldn't afford to pay people well, so I had to resort to pulling strings and paying actors token sums instead of following the actual market rate.

"Even though I saved all my allowance, I was still so short on cash that every time I filmed, I would have no money left.

"I didn't want to ask my parents for more [money], so I ended up with rather poor nutrition," joked Jaze, whose physique shows no sign of his once-lacklustre diet.

 
Jaze barely scraped by in between paychecks from his freelance jobs when he first started out in filming.
PHOTO CREDIT: YOUTH.SG/STEPHANIE SOH

10 years on, Jaze, now a film major at Nanyang Technological University, has won five film awards, including second-runner up for the Cathay Motion Picture Awards 2015, and Audience Choice and Best Actor Award for the 48 Hours Film Project in 2014.

The 25-year-old is also the proud co-founder of action-comedy YouTube channel, JUO productions, which he started in 2016. Jaze started the channel, which now has more than 35,000 subscribers, with his good friend from seconday school, Jerry Lim.

With his current achievements in YouTube, Jaze now dreams bigger.

"I hope it'll grow and expand into a powerful team ready for making movies when I graduate in two years' time," explained Jaze.


The creative pair collaborated with local influencers for their films,
including Yan Kay Kay (above) and Eunice Annabel.

Jaze was not always into filmmaking, having started out in animation.

He said: "I had always been very inclined towards the arts. I was only 4 years old when I discovered my love for drawing. That brought me towards taking up a diploma in animation.

"However, I quickly realised that animating frame by frame took a very long time, and filming live-action with a camera was much faster. The more I picked up the camera, the more I fell in love shooting," shared the animation graduate from Nanyang Polytechnic (NYP).

When Youth.SG sat down with Jaze at his 3-room flat in Jalan Rajah, he was surprisingly soft-spoken, a stark contrast from his exuberant persona on camera. He spoke fondly about his mother, whom he lost to cancer in 2015.


Jaze's late mother defended him when he was caught doodling in his textbooks
during lessons in primary school. 
PHOTO CREDIT: JAZE PHUA

He recalled how his mother, who was a proud supporter of his work, often chipped in when he had difficulties covering the expenses for his films.

"Growing up, I never excelled academically. My father often reprimanded me about my poor school results, but my mum would tell him that my talents were in the artistic field and that I could draw well," recalled Jaze emotionally.

This bond with his mother has influenced some of his works, even though his YouTube channel features mostly comedy and action films. 

One of his moving works, An Open Letter from the Son of a Cancer Mom, based on a personal story, was a tribute to his late mother. 

"I promised her that I would make it big one day," said Jaze, with a slight pause.

 
In July this year, Jaze clinched the Best Art Direction award in the ciNE65 short film competition through his short film, With My Life.
PHOTO CREDIT: YOUTH.SG/STEPHANIE SOH


  With My Life tells a touching wartime story of how a father exchanges his life for his daughter's, out of love. 
PHOTO CREDIT: NEXUS, MINDEF

His mother was not his only supporter. Jaze also spoke fondly of his former lecturer from NYP, Grace Toh.  

"Given my 'O' level results, I was not able to get accepted to any of polytechnic courses. 

"However, I managed to get accepted into NYP using my portfolio because Grace Toh believed in my ability and passion for animation. She eventually became my course coordinator and provided me with a lot of guidance," said Jaze.


Jaze edits most of his videos on a desk in his bedroom. 
PHOTO CREDIT: YOUTH.SG/STEPHANIE SOH

What else can we expect from the aspiring filmmaker? 

"I am currently busy filming the sequel to Rule Breakers, a five episode web-series about campus life. I also hope to be able to shoot a feature film within the next five years," said Jaze confidently. 

"Thank God I have sponsors for my videos now. I can now eat a good balanced diet," he added, with a laugh.    

BANNER AND TEASER PHOTO CREDITS: YOUTH.SG/STEPHANIE SOH
The creative pair collaborated with local influencers for their films, including Yan Kay Kay (above) and Eunice Annabel.
The creative pair collaborated with local influencers for their films, including Yan Kay Kay (above) and Eunice Annabel.