THE winners of Shortcuts – Astro Shaw’s first competitive short film funding scheme – not only received funding to make their shorts but also got to attend workshops to hone their craft and benefit from the guidance of mentors in the film industry. The first workshop on scripting by some of the leading voices of Southeast Asian cinema was held in March and attended by selected participants. At the end of that workshop, the three best short scripts were picked to each receive a Shortcuts Short Film Fund 2016 production grant worth RM40,000. The winners were Lagi Senang Jaga Sekandang Lembu by Amanda Nell Eu (director) and Gan Hui Yee (producer); Kampung Tapir by Aw See Wee (director) and Ooi Wei Seng (producer); and The Nightingale of the Plantation by Abhilash Chandra (director) and Sean Lin (producer). The teams were given six months to realise their projects and complete them by September. In the meantime, selected crew members also have to attend two more workshops on presentation and pre-production to help guide them along. theSun met up with Eu, Aw, Lin and Gan for an interview, while Ooi and Abhilash were reached via email. When asked what made them take part in the competition, Aw, a freelance director and temporary lecturer at a local college, said: “This kind of (workshop-based) competition is rare in Malaysia. I took part as I wish to improve my [knowledge in short films].” Eu, who has taken on various roles behind the camera since graduating from film school, said: “A friend of mine told me to sign up since it had a cash prize at the end of it all! The workshops seemed like a good opportunity to improve myself as a filmmaker ... getting the grant isn’t so bad.” She added that her main goal is to improve her skills as a writer. Construction manager Lin took part because it gave him the chance to learn from professionals across Southeast Asia as well as local filmmakers. He added that the Shortcuts grant allowed him and Abhilash to breathe life into their project. As for working under the guidance of a mentor, Eu said she never had any disagreement with them. “They were very helpful and their criticisms were all constructive. It was really good to have them there to point out all the flaws in my work. “It’s not easy to give the right kind of comments to a script to help improve it ... I think it’s definitely a skill that all the mentors have!” Aw, on the other hand, admitted to having some disagreements with their mentors, but he looked at it as a learning process. Lin added: “Their advice was very helpful and valuable, but there were a few differences of opinions. However, it was an expected process because art is subjective, and is observed through personal experiences and connections.” Gan, who took on the job of producer for Eu’s Lagi Senang Jaga Sekandang Lembu, had done a bit of acting in the past and also worked behind the scenes as a production manager for arts festivals and theatre productions. Incidentally, the two had worked together before on another short film called Pasak. Gan said she hopes to learn “a better working procedure for management – [and] grow my knowledge” through these workshops. Eu urged aspiring filmmakers to attend as many filmmaking workshops as possible to sharpen their own skills, adding that she has benefited greatly from them. Abhilash, a producer in an ad agency in Singapore, said he was keen to be a part of Shortcuts because he felt it would give him the opportunity to learn and grow as a filmmaker, while developing his own stories with other filmmakers from the Southeast Asian region. “I’m always learning how to be truthful and honest about my intentions when I’m trying to find my story. I hope Shortcuts allows me to find my vision and voice; but beyond that, I want to learn how to collaborate more with other filmmakers in terms of coming together to form a single narrative.” Lin and Abhilash were neighbours in Johor and had worked as part of the crew in the Netflix production, Marco Polo. Ooi, who runs a production house in Alor Star, said he was lucky to be invited by Aw to be his producer for Kampung Tapir. “I am still new in the production field, hence, it is a challenge and I feel excited about this. I hope it will help me make my own short films and feature films in the future,” said Ooi, who hopes to build a relationship with other filmmakers. When completed, all three films will be submitted to the international short film festival circuit.