In Conversation with Anthony Chen, former SCDF NSF turned Film-Director

July 14, 2020
Anthony Chen

Anthony Chen, Film Director of Ilo Ilo and Wet Season.


Anthony Chen is a young film director who made his debut feature in Ilo Ilo in 2013. It was premiered at the 2013 Cannes Film Festival and was awarded the Camera d’Or award (Best First Feature Film award). He became the first Singaporean to win an award at the prestigious Cannes Film Festival.


Rescue 995: Share with us your full-time National Service (NSF) experiences when you were at SCDF’s Public Affairs Department [now known as Corporate Communications Department].


Anthony: Most of my NSF days were spent at SCDF’s Public Affairs Department (PAD). I was part of the editorial team for the SCDF’s in-house magazine, Rescue 995. Besides organising editorial meetings, I was involved in coordinating visits by foreign delegates to SCDF. Not only am I glad to have acquired basic lifesaving skills from my NSF training but also learned public relations skills and how to write well when I was with PAD. Nowadays, I am writing my company’s press releases and for that, I have to thank SCDF.


Rescue 995: Has it ever crossed your mind that you will be a film director one day?


Anthony: Since I was 15 years old, I had been determined to join the film industry. As a teenager, I was already looking out for courses from many prestigious filming schools all over the world and was resolved to embark on a career in filming. However as these courses were very expensive, I pursued a local diploma in Film, Sound & Video from Ngee Ann Polytechnic. It was the only tertiary institution in Singapore then that offered a full-time filming course.


Wet Season (Behind The Scene)Anthony’s filming crew recording a scene from Wet Season.

Rescue 995: Your latest and second feature film, Wet Season, has received many positive reviews since its release on 28 November 2019 in Singapore. What is this film about?


Anthony: Wet Season is about a forty-year-old Chinese teacher from Malaysia who was struggling in both her marriage and work. The story reveals how this character restarted her life afresh after experiencing a major crisis. I would say that my films are always open-ended, written from the heart, from a very honest and genuine perspective. I feel that people who watched my films could easily relate to them based on their life experiences and the ups and downs of human relationships.


Rescue 995: I understand that you are now based in London. How long has it been since you moved to London?


Anthony: It has been 13 years. I first went to London to pursue a Masters Degree at the National Film and Television School. That was when I met my wife who was a foreign student embarking on her PhD. We eventually got married and settled down in London, a city that we both fell in love with.


Rescue 995: What do you like about London?


Anthony: London is a very inclusive and inspiring city, with its rich history and heritage. You could tell by the sheer numbers of museums and theatres. I am also very humbled by the diverse talents I had encountered in different parts of the cosmopolitan city.


Rescue 995: What do you miss about Singapore?


Anthony: My family, friends, and of course our food. Some of the Lion City’s delicacies, such as my favourite Laksa, are so hard to replicate elsewhere. You can buy the ingredients for the Laksa in London but you will never find that same, authentic “sea-hum” (cockles). It just does not taste the same!


Rescue 995: How is this COVID-19 affecting your film-making projects and what have you been up to lately?


Anthony: I had planned to embark on my next film this autumn but inevitably it had to be postponed due to the pandemic. In fact, my film Wet Season was screening in France for two weeks before the cinemas had to be closed due to the lockdown. A film festival that I am due to attend in Hong Kong in April this year had to be cancelled. Yes, like many of you, COVID-19 has also affected my routines and plans.

Lately, apart from attending to several interviews over Zoom video calls, my wife and I have been taking turns looking after our 21-month old son. Honestly these days, I find myself taking care of my child more than writing my film scripts, and guess what, I am truly enjoying it. The sheer joy of fatherhood! But for my fans out there, be rest assured that I will be writing more film scripts once the pandemic situation improves. And do look out for my next film, ya.


Rescue 995: Well Anthony, thank you for your time.


Anthony: Any time for SCDF. Take care and stay safe everyone.