FLIMMAKERS SPOTLIGHT

Turning Fear Into Inspiration


02 April 2018 Written by Viddsee

Stanley Xu’s biggest fear was losing his mother. Instead of avoiding the taboo topic of death, he instead dove deep turning his fear into an unexpected inspiration.

Mother follows the physical and emotional journey of a son who is the sole caretaker of his ageing mother. It was created as part of the pilot season of 20/20: The Temasek Short Film Project.

Scene from Mother

Attracted by the funding and mentorship opportunities of 20/20, Stanley and his fellow would-be Ngee Ann Polytechnic graduates pitched two ideas. The winning one was Mother, and the film has become a surprise hit, travelling widely across international film festivals.  

We spoke to Stanley about his unusual inspiration for filmmaking, his biggest lesson from mentor Chai Yee Wei, and why he would like to buy your Sony PSP, if you have one to sell. 

Tell us a bit about yourself!

Hi, my name is Stanley Xu Ruiyang, and I’m a filmmaker from Singapore. Drawing inspirations from my observations of everyday life, I hope to explore and capture the nuances of the human condition using moving images. 

Scene from BLK 401

Besides making and watching films, I like to spend my free time reading in cafes, and also loitering around town with my 35mm camera. I’m also a fan of works by Yasujiro Ozu and Hou Hsiao-hsien. Their films perk me up when I’m feeling uninspired or in doubt. 

Could you share with us how you caught the storytelling bug?

My journey started when I was 15. I came across an NBA highlight video while playing NBA Live 07 on my PSP. I was amazed and excited by the combination of visuals and music. That’s when I started to learn video editing on my own, using the Internet.

Nick Shen, the lead actor in Mother

How has your Temasek 20/20 experience influenced your filmmaker career?

It's my first time working with professionals from the industry, such as established actors like Nick Shen. I gained a lot of insight from this experience. It also gave me a boost in confidence to take on other projects.

Behind-the-scenes on Mother

You were mentored by Chai Yee Wei while making this film. What’s your biggest takeaway from him in the process?

My biggest takeaway was not to limit myself, to always see things from multiple angles by thinking out of the box. Sometimes I tend to be too focused on a specific direction. It may be a good thing to know what you want. However, it can blind and stop you from exploring other alternatives.  

Behind-the-scenes on Mother

In Mother, you tackled the emotional and physical burden caretaking that often gets overlooked. What inspired this approach?

Many stories focus on the party that’s being taken care of, but often, in reality, the suffering applies to the caretaker as well. Hence, I wanted to approach it in a way that’s closer to reality by exploring the emotional turmoil the son is facing while caring for his mother. 

Your films have a focus on the forgotten or invisible member of society. Does that drive your filmmaking vision?

What I usually do is find inspirations that are very personal to me, and then write stories about it.

Scene from Lullaby

For example, both short films Lullaby and Mother were born out of my fear of losing my ageing mother one day. I made the film BLK 401 for a local short film competition, ciNE65, on the theme of ‘Home Truly’. Hence, I did a short film to recollect memories of my past in that particular space, which is the coffee shop near my old home where I used to frequent.

As a filmmaker, how would you like to be remembered by the audience?

I hope to make films that are remembered for exploring the depths of our shared humanity, by capturing the simple beauty that lies in our everyday life.

Stanley (centre) receiving the ‘Best Editing Award’ at the cine65 for BLK 401

Stanley is currently serving his national service in Singapore and is due for completion in May 2018. He plans to further his studies at Taipei National University of the Arts. He is also on the lookout for a second-hand Sony Playstation so that he can relive the memories and experience of playing NBA Live.