Focusing on a fantastic film career
Heiward Mak Hei-yan knew that one’s interest is not necessarily one’s career. She loved the film industry but also understood she might not be able to make ends working in the field. So, early on, she decided she would give up if she could not crack the movie industry before the age of 25.
But just like in the movies, Mak’s hard work paid off. Not long after she graduated, she was offered the chance to become involved in the production of popular local films such as Men Suddenly In Black, Ex and Love In A Puff. As a post-’80s child, Mak says she felt the need to express the thoughts of her generation through her camera.
How did you get started with movie production? What are the obstacles you had to overcome?
My university lecturer showed my final-year project to famous movie maker Eric Tsang and he decided to offer me a scriptwriting post. I was responsible for casting temporary actors. I wrote a few lines of dialogue to test their acting skills. Tsang loves that kind of dialogue and he encouraged me to write more.
I think I am lucky to have a chance to work with, and learn from, a veteran like Tsang. I think industry veterans are very willing to nurture new talent if you are motivated and dedicated.
Not having a steady income is the biggest worry for anyone wanting to enter the movie industry, but you can overcome any obstacle if you are doing what you love.
Why does movie production fascinate you?
I am never too concerned about box-office records or awards. I embrace movie production because I value working with a crew. The teamwork I develop with the crew is my biggest inspiration to continue working hard. I love every aspect of movie-making. I don’t just enjoy being a director, I also love being the scriptwriter and the producer.
What are the difficulties you have to tackle at work?
In shooting a movie, there are frequently many unexpected turns of events and I have to think on my feet to solve the problems.
But that is not the biggest obstacle. Leading the crew is my most challenging duty.
Everyone has his or her own way of thinking. My job is to get everyone on the same page and to work towards a common goal. There are steps to follow in shooting a good movie, but there are no guidelines for dealing with people.
What is the message you want to deliver in your movies?
Every generation has its own values and unique experience of growing up. I want more people to understand my generation – the post-’80s – in order to tell them about the things that my generation cares about. I think a lot of people in my age group have problems finding their values in society. I hope my movies help them find themselves.
What do you see in the future of local movie production?
I predict that there will be fewer movies for local viewers as the market will shift towards catering for the mainland and Asia. Investors from the mainland are playing an increasingly important role in local movie production and we have to adjust our creativity to match their demands.
In order to survive, we need to broaden our audience base to include not just Hong Kong but also all of Asia.
What do you think of the quality of talent in local movie production?
As a graduate of City University of Hong Kong’s (CityU) creative media programme, I have extensive experience of working with university students. I am confident enough to say that there is plenty of young local talent, but in movie production, success often depends on how much you are willing to give.
Techniques in movie shooting can be taught, but the motivation comes from the individuals themselves. The irregular income is a turn-off for many young talents, so everyone has a choice of whether to go on or not. You can choose to stay away from movie production but movies themselves will never abandon you.
What advice would you give to young people?
I was invited to be a guest speaker at the D.I.Y. “Dream Life 28” Video Image Competition, an event hosted by CityU that aims to inspire young people to have dreams and goals. Young people should dare to break boundaries and express their own views.
There are three don’ts in creativity: don’t direct criticism at anyone in particular, don’t harm anyone and don’t produce meaningless work.