Kindled Dreams in the Hands of God – Paul Gan

Paul Gan at the Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah
Paul Gan at the Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah

20 March 2015 by Adeline Lum CM-


On 15th of March, Paul Gan from the Whispering Hope Methodist Church shared how God brought him through the journey of becoming a filmmaker. 

Growing up as a talkative child, many would ask him when he would become a pastor once he grew up. But embedded in his heart, he had always dreamt of becoming a filmmaker.

“When I was a kid, I saw people going onstage to receive this prestigious award and give their speech. But what caught my attention was this guy who yelled, ‘I would like to thank our Saviour Jesus Christ when he received his award!’” said Paul. 

He wanted to be one of the actors arriving at the grand Oscars. But he realized that only a well-scripted movie could bring out the essence of acting. Thus, he decided to not only direct but to act as well. 


Paul Gan in Los Angeles


“Along the way, God mould me through those desires. Instead of wanting to prove to the world how good I am, God taught me a few lessons on humility. He made me realize this important question, ‘What good would I want to bring to others?’” said Paul.

During his college days, a lady named Soo Choo from Tenaganita gave a memorable sermon entitled, ‘Strangers in our midst.’ Paul’s eyes were opened to the hidden sufferings of the forgotten people of the city.

“She came and shared that a lot of basic human rights issues that are hidden in plain sight. There are so many things happening in Malaysia that I did not know what I can do to help,” said Paul.

This movie touched his heart. Intending to direct Blockbusters movie, Paul realized he could do so much more in making films.

“A film is even more powerful when you speak out for the voiceless. And that has become my burden since then. In our faith, we are told to see the truth and share it,” said Paul.


Paul Gan shooting a film
Paul Gan shooting a film


When he graduated from UTAR, he knew that he wanted to make films but he has no money and he was a nobody.

“As I walked my life as a child of God, I have been experiencing a few times of the verse — I was young and now I am old, yet I have never seen the righteous forsaken or their children begging bread – this was embedded in my heart,” said Paul.

He remembered how God showed His faithful providence. With only RM2 in his pocket, the Holy Spirit prompted him to offer his RM2 to church instead of using it to buy roti canai for breakfast. Paul obeyed. And after service, someone offered to buy him breakfast without him asking for it!

“So, I embarked on a journey to make a film with God in mind. I submitted to Him in prayers,” said Paul. “I decided to choose faith. Through this journey, I wanted to prove to myself that God is with me in whatever I do.”


Paul Gan at the Sundance TV HQ
Paul Gan at the Sundance TV HQ


So the film was called ‘The boy who rocked the world.’ And true to Paul’s expectations to see God’s hands out of his continual dependence, God brought Paul through every challenge from finding the production house to completing the film production.

“Even while shooting, our funds were only half. Imagine having a group of people waiting for you to pay them with checks. That was really scary to me. In times like this, I choose courage and faith,” said Paul.

At the end of the production, God covered all the funds. Paul was reminded of Hebrews 11:1 that says, “Faith is being sure of what we hope for; and certain of what we do not see.”


Paul Gan shooting the shorties 'The Boy who Rocked the World'
Paul Gan shooting the shorties ‘The Boy who Rocked the World’


“What I have learned in my journey working with God is the harsh truth that when God is with us, things are not necessarily easier. Sometimes, it’s even harder,” said Paul.

He recalled the times when he was forgetful of God’s goodness and angry with God. Due to the extended time of shooting and limited time of editing, he could not submit his film on time.

“I told God in my silent breath, ‘It’s so much better without you.’ But then, my wife Joy reminded me to count my blessing. By the grace of God, the competition allowed me to resubmit my film later,” said Paul.

Flashing forward, Paul recalled the difficult moments he had with submitting his dreams to God. 


Paul visiting Dolby theatre in Hollywood, the place where the Oscars is held
Paul visiting Dolby theatre in Hollywood, the place where the Oscars is held


“I was thinking that my dreams are not holy enough. I didn’t think God would like it. I thought to be a Christian filmmaker, I had to always do things spiritually, only then God will have favour in me. 

“I thought I had to do Christian movies only. Imagine I had to shoot from Genesis to Revelation, a series. However, I learned that God does not really care about what you do but God cares about how you do it. That has opened my eyes to let Him to be a part of whatever I have been doing,” said Paul.

With a limited budget, the film was released in the film festival. And beyond his wildest dreams of winning several awards, God brought him to Hollywood from winning the ‘Film your way to Sundance Film Festival competition held by Astro. 

“In all honesty, I never thought I would be going to the United States that fast. I always thought it would be a few years later. I had the chance to visit the places of my dreams,” said Paul.


Paul Gan in Hollywood
Paul Gan in Hollywood


He found himself visiting Dolby theatre in Hollywood, the very Red Carpet where the Oscars is held. He also met his filmmaker hero Louie Psihoyos, an Oscar-winning National Geographic director; composer extraordinaire Harry Greg Williams who composed the music we hear in Metal Gear, Chronicles of Narnia, and The Rock; and director Edgar Wrights who directed Scott Pilgrims versus The World, Shaun of the Dead, and At World’s End.


Paul with Louie Psihoyos, an Oscar-winning National Geographic director
Paul with Louie Psihoyos, an Oscar-winning National Geographic director


“Dream for God, do whatever you are passionate about, well. We were pioneers back then. But where are we now as Christians today? We were the ones who were culturally influential. But today, we are culturally influenced.

“I lived with some brokenness in some point. But through my brokenness, God has used that to inspire my heart to make films about it,” said Paul.

And sometimes, Christians are plagued by playing things safe and putting God in a box.

“I have also learned that courage is a constant choice. It isn’t something that is inbuilt. Even today, we are bombarded with choices. I pray that we will constantly do what is right and pleasing to him.

“I want to encourage you to keep submitting your long lost dreams and desires to God. When your intentions are honourable to Him, God will make a way,” said Paul.

And in the words of the missionary William Carey, expect great things from God and attempt great things for God.


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