Award of Merit – The Pitch (Singapore)

Title: The Pitch
Runtime: 22 min
Country: Singapore
Director: Ken Kwek
Placement: Award of Merit
Competition: September, 2020

Synopsis: As the COVID-19 pandemic ravages theater industries around the world, three dramatists must outwit one another to win a rare commission to stage a musical in Singapore.

FILMMAKER Q&A – Ken Kwek – Director, co-writer

GS: What was the inspiration for your film?

KK: The inspiration for The Pitch was seeing Singapore’s theatre industry devastated by the pandemic, with a multitude of a shows cancelled and venues shuttered. Even after lockdown, when other businesses re-opened, the restrictions on theatre remained. So me and the three theatre companies featured in The Pitch, we wanted to create a work that would encapsulate this time of struggle–but with a generous dose of comedy. We turned to film.  

GS: When did you conceive the idea for your film and how long did it take before it was realized?

KK: The idea was actually put to me by the creative directors of Pangdemonium, Wild Rice and Singapore Repertory Theatre – three major companies in Singapore whose productions are usually quite different in tone. I wrote the screenplay with Pangdemonium co-artistic director Adrian Pang and it took a blistering three months for the film to be realized, from script to screen. 

GS: What was the most challenging aspect of working in a short film format?

KK: To be able to work in the short film format actually came to me out of joyful necessity. As a writer-director I have created works for both the stage and screen, but The Pitch was a strange combination of both: a film meta-narrative about beleaguered theatre practitioners forced to pivot away from their medium to remain relevant in the age of social distancing and Zoom. Who would’ve ever dreamed of a scenario where theatre had to be produced for tiny laptop screens? As a playwright, having to use the film format was ironic in and of itself. As a filmmaker I had a field day! 

GS: What was the most challenging aspect of your production?

KK: The most challenging aspect of The Pitch was in the writing. The three theatre companies featured in the film have very different sensibilities. How do you create a story that sums up those different sensibilities whilst putting your own stamp on the work? There was much debate and argument about the first three drafts of the screenplay but once all three producers agreed on Draft Four, all the pieces fell into place and my work as a director was relatively easy. 

GS: Do you have any advice for first-time filmmakers?

KK: I generally don’t like dispensing advice, but if you’re talking about first-time filmmakers, I’d say don’t rush into it. Most shorts are partially self-financed, so you want to make sure you’re very happy with the script before moving into production. One myth that’s very insidious in the age of smartphones is that ANYONE can be a filmmaker and shoot a short film with practically no resources. As a professional I find myself quite resistant to that idea. You want to create a short film that shines, not one that merely disappears into the glut of Internet content.