24 April 2014 by Adeline Lum CM-
Awarded as the Best Filmmaker, Paul Gan’s short film feature—The Boy Who Rocked the World—won numerous awards at the BMW Shorties Competition and Malaysian Digital Film Award.
Why did he want to make a short film? Besides breaking into the competitive filmmaking industry, Paul wanted to tell a story that is different and interesting, relying on God’s Providence and using His Way.
Paul believes that his Christian values would show in making films that would not only educate but also inspire his audience. He believes that the love of God, for example, is not a love limited to only believers in Christ, but also transcends all humanity. To Paul, the Lord should perpetuate all areas of life without division of what is secular and spiritual.
Ultimately, every film speaks about the unspoken intention and heart of a director. A person reaps what he sows (Gal 6:7), and a good tree bears good fruit while a bad tree bears beat fruit (Mat 7:17). The fruit of his work, therefore speaks for itself, which is the message of the film.
In what Paul identifies as an exhilarating ride with challenges after challenges, Paul took the leap to make his first film, relying on the hands of God.
Step 1: Scriptwriting
Although Paul had become an editor for Astro before for the Masterchef Malaysia Reality Show in his early career and worked with a digital-effects company, he never did a full-fledge cinematic short film before.
However, in only less than two months, Paul was able to crystallize his ideas into a script, which had been brewing in his mind for over a year. He came up with a script of a poor boy that dwells in his rich imagination for music, introduced by his dead brother.
Drawing from his childhood experience, Paul reminisced how he was a poor kid as well who would watch his peers play video games that he could not afford. He grew up imagining a world of fun using ordinary items at home, much like the little boy Aiman in the film.
Also, growing up in the local culture with the influence of his mother’s baba side and P. Ramlee movie, he learned how to tell a story brilliantly with local flavor. Writing a story that can pull you in many senses such as joy, sadness, pity, suspense, and surprise, Paul shared, is a good story! In fact, every frame tells a story.
Watch The Boy Who Rocked the World here
Fun Fact #1: The boy in the film kept a rock to himself to signify the film title itself of The Boy who Rocked the World.
Fun Fact #2: The white-chalked guitar on the wall resembled the death of a person in a crime scene, which is linked to the boy’s dead brother who introduced the guitar into the boy’s life.
Fun Fact #3: The hanging of the guitar denoted the martyred passion of the boy by his friends.
Fun Fact #4: The maturing form of the guitar with more details as the story progresses, demonstrated the boy’s mental maturity in finding innate joy and strength from grieving for his dead brother.
Step 2: Finding a Production House
Meeting with a video production house to shoot the film, Paul’s partners agreed to shoot it by sharing only half of the expenses. This means Paul had to foot out RM18,000 from nothing! Although Paul did not have the finances, he trusted that God would provide if it were His Will.
He gained God’s first confirmation in a prayer watch when Rev John Gunapathy (with a gift of sight) witnessed the fire of God burning in him and prophesied how he would run for God. The second confirmation came a week later, when Rev John prayed for Paul over the phone. This time, Rev John saw a vision of Jesus Christ pouring water over him, and Jesus holding the film in his own hands.
Although he knew he would go through bouts of hopefulness, anger, and disappointment with God through the filmmaking process, he knew God would pull him through.
Step 3: Seeking Funds
Drafting out a proposal for the film, Paul approached a few brothers and sisters-in-Christ to seek their financial support. More than RM18,000 trickled in for six months from various people who believed in the project. Praise the Lord! The next steps is therefore finding the right cast and scouting for the perfect location.
Step 4: Finding the Cast
His illustrator artist Marlto Wayan believed that the script was beautiful, though they also felt that a good cast is required to bring out the film. The main character Aiman, in particular needs to be able to express what is within himself, externally through vivid facial expressions and motor skills.
Paul searched high and low for a boy to fit this role, even street casting at pasar malams, until his partner somehow paved his first step to Mano Maniam who introduced him to the mother of two professional young actors, who were brothers.
He prayed for wisdom from God to be able to objectively choose the right cast, and finally chose Faid, a boy suitable for the role due to his apt adaptation to different emotions and calm demeanor, rare for a child actor. This demeanor is especially important to handle the stress from the tight production timeline Paul had. And evidently, Paul made the right choice because Faid got nominated as the best actor!
Step 5: Scouting for location
Scouting for a location that could bring out the mood of the filmmaking was also a fascinating journey. With limited funds, Paul could not create a set from scratch, unless he is given a billion-ringgit budget. Hence, he wanted to scout for a place in Kuala Lumpur that showed a paradox of the poor against the rich.
Running against time, Paul asked many non-governmental organizations (NGO) for help until one NGO referred him to a lady who is interested to help him. Appointed to meet her in a school at Kampung Baru, Paul decided to take a stroll around the school while waiting for her. As he walked, he noticed a very small and secluded area with wooden houses. It was exactly like how he would envision the background story to be—a wooden-framed house against the backdrop of KL Twin Towers.
As for the recce for a dumpster, he prayed and stumbled upon it when he was passing a dumpster at Sungai Buloh. Near the dumpster was a shop which serendipitously made custom-made guitar with an existing wall of a guitar drawing on it.
The next challenge was to find a ‘guitar hero’ arcade shop. Paul was driving and praying one day around Kajang, where God provided him the wisdom to approach a delivery-package company. Although the lady told him that there was no guitar-hero-arcade around her, a boy came into the shop and introduced him to a video shop that has the arcade.
The pieces all finally came together when Paul saw a friend in Facebook who posted a picture of two sets of guitar for the guitar-hero game. With that, all the props and location to shoot are prepared at a very affordable cost with the help of many good people, in the divine hands of God.
Step 6: Production of Film
On the first day, Paul already faced his first trouble; foreboding dark clouds were rolling in, which may hinder the shooting. In such situations, calling the ‘weather-man’ is common practice to ward off any unfavorable weather.
But Paul warned his partner that calling the ‘weather-man’ would set the cast into a spiritual battle. The partner finally called, where Paul walked away praying that God’s Will be done. It rained for two hours even after the call. Though that took away two hours of daylight production, Paul stood on his belief of not wanting to involve the ‘weather-man.’
The second challenge came when the main cast Faid had to hold a toad in one scene but he got frightened when he saw the large toad they bought for him. Emptying the bag, an unseen small frog came tumbling after the toad, which was acceptable to Faid. This scene hence, allowed them to complete the scene by daylight.
The third challenge was shooting on the Putrajaya highway by placing cones to direct the traffic. While bribery is also common practice, Paul prayed to God that He would pave a way of righteousness and protection for him. Paul was able to complete the shot smoothly.
Step 7: Post-production of film
Finally, after shooting the film, Paul approached his lecturer’s husband to help do color-correction to enhance the mood for the film. Instead of the hefty charge of minimum RM4000 per hour, he was gracious enough to charge Paul for a total of RM1000 for the whole day! What was more amazing is how the color-correction technician commented that the clouds covering them throughout the shooting, made the film more gritty and gloomy; this enhances the overall short-film mood as well.
And shrunk to having only one week of post-production from the appointed one month, Paul’s staff who does 3D-work quit at this time. Paul prayed and asked in Facebook who could help him, in which a brother-in-Christ Billy Lim replied and co-liaise with him (alongside another friend Jason Lim). This helped him tremendously in completing the whole production.
Hence, from having no funds for production to his desktop not being able to start in the first day for editing, Paul went through many challenges to produce this film, only to see God’s hand brought him through every one of them! He found the location and cast in one week, and produced the film in seven days within two weeks.
With the challenges he faced in the film, Paul knew that he had to share his testimony if he happened to win anything because he is very certain that God’s hands are in the filming amidst these challenges.
And turned out, two weeks after he submitted his video to the BMW Shorties, he got an email that he had seven nominations! In the end, he won four awards for his film The Boy that Rocked the World in the BMW Shorties, i.e. Best Cinematography, Best Sound Design, and Best Production Design. As for the Malaysian Digital Film Awards, Paul got Best Short Film, Best Young Filmmaker, Best editing, and Best media and experimental 2013. In addition, his film was chosen to be in the International Film Festival Circuit as well.
Certainly, Paul has a big dream to achieve in producing this award-winning film. But the reason he could achieve so much is because he had a big view of the God he has. As we can see, troubles and challenges are not absent from achieving God’s dream.
In fact, we could see the impossibility of each step of situation, given the limited time and funds Paul had. Did he have moments of frustration with God? He did.
Like every one of us, he struggled and wrestled with God and himself, especially during overwhelming troubles and challenges. Nevertheless, Paul persevered through the trials, with the unending hope in Christ, which never fails (Romans 5:3-5).
With God, everything is possible in Christ! Your dreams done in God’s Way, God’s Timing, and God’s Will can become a reality!
Although the world points us to an easy road of pursuing what we love, Paul admitted that pursuing it God’s way is the hard thing to do. God did not promise us an easy journey following Him. But surely, following Him as you can see from Paul’s life, bring about a strong foundation to set an everlasting and rewarding result and fruit.
The truth is that we need nothing but God Himself to realize the dreams we have in life. Do it God’s Way and you will never regret. The question is, do we believe God is who He say He is in the Bible? You are the child of God. And you can do everything in Christ!