A few weeks ago, we heard that Lai Kah Chun, a 23-year-old IACT College alumni, won 3 awards under the Film category of Short+Sweet Malaysia 2020. To our amazement, he won Best Script, Best Director and Best Overall Production for his short documentary film, Tip Toe.
Wanting to learn more about the artist behind the movie, we arranged for an online interview with the young, award-winning filmmaker.
Kah Chun is a storyteller, photographer and poet – all these interests led to filmmaking
Although he was in the science stream during his high school years, Kah Chun mostly spent his free time pursuing his artistic inclinations. And when the time came to pick a career option, he chose his passions – visual arts and storytelling.
As Kah Chun narrated his story, I was curious as to what exactly interests him about storytelling and filmmaking.
“I loved going to the movies as a kid – it was the most interesting activity! But despite the number of movies I watched, I only really remember Star Wars!” Kah Chun laughed in spite of himself.
But his interest in filmmaking took different turns over the years. As he grew older, Kah Chun realised he was more intrigued by the storytelling aspect of filmmaking, rather than “fancy editing and action.” He indulged in the raw emotions that emanate from each character within a film. This aspect of his interests is clearly seen in the nuances of TipToe.
TipToe – it’s accomplishments and impacts
TipToe is based on Kah Chun’s best friend, Douglas Philip Labadin, a Sabahan native. It follows the main character’s struggles as a plus-sized dancer.
The idea behind this film was to break down stereotypical body images people have of dancers – tall, lean and shapely.
When speaking to his best friend prior to filming, Kah Chun realised how hard he had to fight to carve his way as a plus-sized dancer and make it to centre stage. Now, his best friend is always front and centre during performances.
“This has nothing to do with his size. But everything to do with his character and soul. He enthralls the audience. Yet, despite his natural talent, my best friend is never the first option because of his physical appearance,” the filmmaker lamented, hints of frustration layering his tone.
Kah Chun realised that he had to do something to alter this narrative and that’s how TipToe was born.
Production began at the end of 2019 and they wrapped up filmmaking before the start of 2020.
The awards came as a complete surprise to Kah Chun, especially since the rest of the entries were short films and the creative flexibility they have surpasses that of documentaries.
Aspirations and artistic perseverance
Kah Chun was studying for his Media, Culture and Communication degree while working part-time at a cafe and freelancing as a production assistant when the pandemic first hit.
He personally felt how much the industry was affected by the movement control orders. His freelancing gigs had stopped completely and even as things gradually started up, he had to deal with lots of last-minute cancellations.
However, Kah Chun is determined to keep persevering. He has been working on his personal craft and writing to ensure he continues to improve. Having just completed his degree at IACT, Kah Chun is currently interning and looking to join bigger production houses.
When asked what he has to say to those who may be facing discouragement from pursuing their artistic interests, Kah Chun stated that it all boiled down to passion.
“You need to have an undying, unrelenting passion about your work. You also really have to practice and keep improving yourself. Passion fuels your drive and with practice and patience, you’ll just keep soaring to greater heights. Nothing and no one will be able to hold you back,” Kah Chun strongly asserted.
TipToe was a collaborative effort amongst Kah Chun and his friends from IACT. Intrigued, I asked Kah Chun to describe his IACT experience.
“I loved our classes at IACT – small, personalised groups, with lecturers who teach and work within the industry. This aspect gave us a rare insight into what our working lives could be like,” he responded.
Kah Chun then explained how IACT provided him with an extremely supportive environment – like-minded friends, lecturers who were in tune with their students and a curriculum that allowed for personal artistic growth.
“We were always given opportunities to practice our crafts – this is what gave way to TipToe!”
When asked about his most memorable moments at IACT, Kah Chun recalled his experience as the Program Director of the IACT FilmFare (IFF). He highlighted how due to IACT’s prestige, they managed to invite renowned industry players – young and old – to the FilmFare. Such experiences gave Kah Chun much-needed exposure to filmmaking in Malaysia.
We got in touch with Kah Chun’s degree lecturers at IACT, to see what they had to say about their award-winning ex-student
Ms Sheila Arianayagam
“Lai Kah Chun is one of the most hardworking and determined individuals that I have ever met. The awards he won for his documentary did not surprise me as I had always known he was destined for success. His dedication and commitment knows no bounds, be it in class or when working on his filmmaking projects. His passion has always shone through his work. Well done KC. I am so proud of you and I am so lucky to have been your lecturer.”
Lai Kah Chun is a dedicated student who always strives to excel in his studies. He is enthusiastic, attentive and constantly pushes himself to do better. He is relentless in pursuing his goals. An overachiever who always aims to be at the top of his class. Lai Kah Chun is accountable and responsible. He makes smart decisions, admits mistakes and listens to opportunities to improve. He is frequently among the first to help and mentor other classmates. Lai Kah Chun is a valuable part of the classroom.
With talents like Kah Chun in the forefront, releasing productions like TipToe, it is without a doubt that the future of our film industry is in good hands.
All of us at the BAC Education Group wish him nothing but the best in all his artistic pursuits!