Tag Archive for: animation

A forty-five-second short horror film, garnering 16 million views online, propelled me into a dream I didn’t know I desired.

Life is a game of random chances. You put in the work and hope the universe aligns. For me, the creative professions were distant stars in the constellation of ‘What you could be when you grew up.’ For good reason. My parents grew up in extreme poverty. There were days when my father’s dinner consisted of just two mouthfuls of food. My mother studied under the light of a kerosene lamp. Surviving life in the thick political humidity of Malaysia, they rose above it all and won national scholarships that turned them into local beacons of hope, elevating their lives to the middle class. This was what made me resist committing to filmmaking for the longest time.

My first memory of watching a movie is time-stamped between the ages of two and five. Perched on my dad’s lap, tightly shutting my eyes and covering my ears in an attempt to shield myself from witnessing the eerie metamorphosis of a man to a werewolf.

My life was filled with any movies I could get my hands on: Hong Kong movies, Bollywood movies, Hollywood movies – I was agnostic. It didn’t matter whether it was good or bad; it was my escape from the stifling Malaysian life. I wondered about my sliding door moment if I never came to New Zealand. Because New Zealand is my enabler.

Hweiling directing on the set of ‘Vaspy’ / Photo: supplied

When Ant Timpson ran a competition for his ABCs of Death anthology. Our team, consisting of Peter Haynes, Johnathan Guest, and Nick Burridge, entered with T is for Talk, a horror concept that I came up with. This was my creative awakening. For the first time, I experienced what it was like to see something my brain cooked up translated to screen. And it was watched, ripped, re-uploaded by others. I believe the true viewership count is in the millions.

From this short film, three things happened almost simultaneously: we received Skip Ahead funding; CryptTV, a digital studio, reached out looking for short horror bites in under a minute; and I received the New Zealand Film Commission’s one-off Women’s Short Horror Film Fund.

We pitched ten ideas to CryptTV, and they selected the two I came up with. I knew nothing about directing and insisted that I needed to direct at least one of the short films we pitched to CryptTV. The Tattooist climbed to 16 million views within the first year.

Hweiling directing on the set of ‘Vaspy’ / Photo: supplied

Being a migrant in this country is challenging. Social nuances are different. I was still looking for my tribe. I had gotten so used to being on the outside. This is where I met my second enabler. A chance meeting with Mia Maramara, where she made me giggle about eyeballs floating in fish guts; we would cook up ideas and enable each other, propelling us into various places. We shared many values. Along the way, we combined forces with the amazing Morgan Leigh Stewart and created MHM Productions with a shared vision to work on genre films and collaborate with cool people.

Homebound 3.0 was another random chance encounter. When NZ On Air called for Asian Pacific web series, I rallied everyone I knew to apply. I had just come off directing Sam Wang in a play and he pitched his idea to me and I immediately saw its potential. It didn’t get into that initiative, but it won the SPADA big pitch 2019 and caught the attention of Kevin and Co. Empowered by friends, I asked to direct a couple of episodes, and thankfully, the team said yes.

Hweiling directing on ‘Vivie’, her latest short film selected to premiere at SXSW Sydney / Photo: supplied

Since then, I have been phenomenally grateful for all the opportunities that have come my way. With the support of the New Zealand Film Commission, I was able to direct and write my short films Vaspy (horror), ChengBeng (Unreal), and Vivie (Kopere Hou). I co-wrote and co-produced Albularyo with the MHM team, which was part of Beyond the Veil on TVNZ. I received the New Zealand Writers Guild Seed Grant and co-wrote the feature horror Grafted with Mia Maramara, set to release later this year. Additionally, I received another Seed Grant for a feature comedy about a nihilistic Asian grandmother.

 My advice to cut through the noise? Utilise the free online soapbox to your advantage. Popularity and external validation literally count. You will be asked what your voice is. And I challenge you to look for the uncomfortable truth within yourself, the one that makes you feel vulnerable. That is likely your authentic voice that people want to hear and see. And then ensure you are supported by a team of people (definitely do a background check no matter what their credits are – hahaha) who will care for that heart as you journey through baring your soul naked to the world.

About Hweiling Ow

Upon arriving in New Zealand, Hweiling Ow was bitten by a radioactive Weta that made her fall stupendously in love with film-making. She has since developed muti-hyphenated skills in the areas of producing, writing, directing and acting, and has been taking the world by storm with her online digital series and short horror films that have garnered millions of views. She has also successfully received New Zealand funding for numerous local productions. Like a moth drawn to a flame thrower, she is attracted to telling genre stories with a migrant twist. Her quirky cheery view of the world influences the type of projects she is captivated by. She is the recipient of the 2020 WIFT Women to Watch and participated in DEGANZ’s Women’s Filmmaker Incubator in 2021. She is currently one-third of MHM, a collaborative production company between her and fellow creatives Mia Maramara and Morgan Leigh Stewart.

How I Got Started in the Industry is a guest blog series from the Directors and Editors Guild of Aotearoa New Zealand (DEGANZ). Our members reflect on how they made their way into assistant editing, editing, and directing—with no two stories the same. They offer advice for those starting out. Get in touch with admin@deganz.co.nz if you’re a member and would like to share your story.

Script to Screen announced the three films selected for the 2024 Kōpere Hou – Fresh Shorts fund. DEGANZ member and current Incubator participant Jo Luping is attached as director for the animated drama I Duok om I Bohuntung – The Owl and the Rainbow.

Kōpere Hou Fresh Shorts is a short film fund offering development resources and a grant of $30,000 per film from the NZ Film Commission. Across six weeks, the teams will participate in workshops and receive mentorships to refine their stories, visions, and production plans.

This year was particularly competitive, with 119 applications submitted for the grant.

Congratulations to Jo and the team! We look forward to watching I Duok om I Bohuntung – The Owl and the Rainbow when it is out.

The International Federation of Film Producers Association (FIAPF) and Women in Animation (WIA) have selected DEGANZ member, Hweiling Ow (2021 Incubator), to participate in the second edition of the Stories x Women program for her new animated project, The Golden Pig.

The program works to increase diversity within animation globally, providing support and international opportunities for women animators from emerging film and animation communities from Africa, Latin America, and the Asia-Pacific. FIAPF and WIA are particularly interested in uplifting creatives who want to tell authentic and unique stories.

Sponsored by the Walt Disney Company with additional support from Sony Pictures Entertainment, participants will receive mentorship and one-on-one coaching sessions from internationally acclaimed animation experts. The course will prepare the delegates to pitch their project at the Annecy International Animation Festival and Market (MIFA) later this year.

This selection follows the release of Hweiling’s 3D animated short, Cheng Beng, earlier this year. The short was made as part of the Unreal Engine Short Film Challenge in 2022.

Congratulations to Hweiling on the exciting opportunity!

I was born curious and enjoy figuring out how things work, which is essentially what I still do today as a director.

I drew a lot as a kid and wrote and illustrated comics at school. Art was always my focus, so it seemed like a natural progression to go to art school. I did a first-year foundation course and hated it, so I continued illustrating and started a freelance career to make money doing what I loved. I tried a few other things along the way, like animation, which seemed like another logical step (taking still images and making them move).

While looking for illustration work in advertising, I was offered a trial as a junior creative. I was curious, so I accepted and was hired after three months. I didn’t realise how lucky I was at the time. This job was a turning point for me creatively – advertising taught me to interrogate my ideas, and I started working with directors. I’d write a script and was able to observe them make it, which I found fascinating. I thought directing was something else I wanted to try, and I asked a director I connected with if I could help them out in any way to learn more. They said, “If you really want to direct – then direct”.

I wasn’t sure how to take that first step, but when a band I was playing in received an NZ on Air video grant, I put my hand up to make it. I instantly fell in love with the process of taking an idea from my head to the screen. This is what I wanted to do for the rest of my life (a fortunate realisation at the age of 22). The music video was nominated for an award, and I quit advertising (my first and last full-time job). I went back to the freelance world – this time as a director.

The next few videos I made all involved aspects of animation, but eventually, I fell in love with the immediacy of film. I was repped by Fish n’ Clips, a division of Flying Fish films. I wanted to make a living from music videos, but the NZ scene had never been sustainable. Through the music videos I’d made, my advertising connections, and the help of Flying Fish, I started making commercials to save for a trip to London.

Director Wade Shotter on set for Mint Chicks music video ‘Post No Bills’ / Photos: provided

In the five years I worked in London, the bottom fell out of the industry (they blamed downloading). But due to the work I’d done there, I was lucky enough to win some great NZ commercial work, which kickstarted my commercial career worldwide.

I moved back to NZ and eventually joined FINCH, an inspiring Australian-owned film production company. Making commercials has supported me in branching out into other realms, like shorts and a tv series I’m developing. I’m still trying new things, ticking boxes, and having realisations.

Wade on set of his short film ‘I Will Not Write Unless I am Swaddled in Furs’ / Photographer: Thian Benton-Fieulaine

Being a director is a constant challenge. In an over-saturated industry, there’s a never-ending balance between being true to yourself and being relevant. I’ve sacrificed a lot, and there were several stretches of unemployment. But there have also been some amazing rewards that made it all worthwhile.

There’s no ‘right’ way to become a director. You can come at it from any angle, and you will succeed if you’re passionate enough and stick at it. I never went to film school, although when I think back – I’ve always had a deep love of film that was omnipresent throughout my life. I’d forgotten that I used to animate flip book stick men, make Lego-men films with my friend on his dad’s Betacam, and although I almost failed art school, I got an A+ in the subsidiary filmmaking course. For me, everything was pointing towards filmmaking.

Wade’s Self Portrait / Photo: provided

Everything you experience will make you the director you are. I developed an eye for composition and light through illustration, a sense of tone, emotion, pacing and energy through composing and performing music, and learned to hone my ideas and storytelling through advertising.

Nobody will make your project for you. You must take the first step and the last. But it’s also never been easier to make something and put it out there. So be a sponge, find collaborators, never get too comfortable, and stay curious.

About Wade Shotter

Wade Shotter’s origins are in illustration, where he worked on children’s books and created eight comics. From pen and paper, he moved to animation, where he worked with Disney for a stint in traditional 2D animation. Since shifting gears to film, he has directed his short film, music videos for various bands, and commercials for clients such as Fire & Emergency NZ, BNZ, Uber, Qantas, and more. He continues to play with form through his work and is drawn to deeply cinematic and visually expressive styles that engage and surprise. Currently, he is developing a pilot script for a television series.

How I Got Started in the Industry is a guest blog series from the Directors and Editors Guild of Aotearoa New Zealand (DEGANZ). Our members reflect on how they made their way into assistant editing, editing, and directing—with no two stories the same. They offer advice for those starting out. Get in touch with admin@deganz.co.nz if you’re a member and would like to share your story.

DEGANZ member and Incubator 2021 Alum Hweiling Ow‘s heartwarming 3D animated short, Cheng Beng, is available to watch online now! On the team, fellow member Léah McVeagh produced alongside Executive Producers Hweiling and Morgan Leigh Stewart.

The film was made as part of the Unreal Engine Short Film Challenge, where teams were given just eight weeks to produce their finished shorts using the Unreal Engine 5 software. The challenge also included two weeks of training with the software, showing them how to incorporate it into the animation workflow.

Cheng Beng follows the efforts of a lonely man in the afterlife as he tries to communicate with his family on Earth through the Taoist ritual of zhi-zha. While his family means well by offering him material goods each year, he must find a way to tell them what he truly desires – a dog to keep him company. This film explores Chinese tradition and afterlife through its narrative and use of animation to visually inform the world.

Watch Cheng Beng now.