Interview with Filmmaker Yiqin Nq (SAM)

SAM was the winner of BEST ROMANCE FILM at the Feb. 2022 LGBTQ+ Film Festival.

1. What motivated you to make this film?

There was an open call for filmmakers and it felt like a great opportunity to collaborate with a meaningful organization like Action for Aids. I was always intrigued by the idea of acceptance and shame and knew I could use film to address stereotypes about people with HIV. I was unfamiliar with the topic and the journey from the initial scripts to the final film taught me a lot about HIV stereotypes, mainstream portrayals and what we can do as filmmakers to tackle that.

2. From the idea to the finished product, how long did it take for you to make this film?

It was 2 years in the making; the project got greenlit at the tail end of 2019, then covid struck and we only started filming in July 2021. In between, the story changed dramatically as we had to adapt to the new shooting rules (less people, less moving about). Initially, I set the film in an office environment but I later changed it to a home setting for a more intimate story between two would-be lovers.

3. How would you describe your film in two words!?

Seeking affirmation

4. What was the biggest obstacle you faced in completing this film?

The writing was most challenging; it was hard to write a script about a topic I was ignorant about. I relied a lot on books and movies, which I later realised were complicit in contributing to stereotypes of people with HIV. It was not easy to access actual persons with HIV, especially in the climate of covid where physical meetups were rare. The fact that there were few Singaporeans openly living with HIV spoke a lot about our public attitudes and how social acceptance still lagged behind medical advancements.

But, I did have conversations with people who represented parts of the characters, whether they were gay, in the closet or having a divorce, and they helped to flesh out the actual characters.

5. What were your initial reactions when watching the audience talking about your film in the feedback video?

Like the characters in the film, I was also seeking affirmation of some sort, and watching the audience feedback affirmed that I made the right decisions for the script and performance.

Watch the Audience Feedback Video:

It was also surreal to see the film travel outside of Singapore and connect with a diverse audience. I shared the clip with the cast and they were really happy about the feedback!

6. When did you realize that you wanted to make films?

My love for stories started when I was really young, later it grew from books to film. I was about 18 or 19 when I helped out on a student film, and I was intrigued by the energy on set. That led me on a path to learn more about film and I’ve since made a career as a producer/director working on short form branded content. Being able to work on a short film like ‘Sam’ was a rare treat to me as I did not have to adhere to commercial objectives.

7. What film have you seen the most in your life?

My favorite would be Blue Valentine! Watching the film is like going on an emotional roller coaster.

8. What other elements of the festival experience can we and other festivals implement to satisfy you and help you further your filmmaking career?

Feedback would be great. I especially loved the feedback clip which I was able to share with my cast; it was very helpful for the team to close the loop and learn more about what worked and what didn’t. It would also be great if we can have online discussions among like-minded filmmakers on how to approach certain themes.

9. You submitted to the festival via FilmFreeway. How has your experiences been working on the festival platform site?

It was a seamless experience; it was easy to upload and update information and communication with the festival was prompt and smooth.

10. What is your favorite meal?

Mom’s noodles! It’s a comforting meal that can be whipped up in minutes and brings me back to my childhood.

11. What is next for you? A new film?

I’m currently exploring my capacity as a producer for this year; it’s always good to seek out new challenges as I want to take on a different role that could allow me to discover other potential strengths. I find myself enjoying the process of organizing and think this could be a year of discovery for myself.

By matthewtoffolo

Filmmaker and sports fan. CEO of the WILDsound Film and Writing Festival www.wildsound.ca

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