Almost everyone of us are passionate about something. But most of us will go on to establish our careers for a stable rice-bowl and pursue our passion in the name of hobbies. We are the conformists. We pretend to love our jobs or find solace in the fact that we are good at what we do. If you had all the money in the world, how would you spend your days? What would you devote your time and effort to?  Would you still choose to do what you are doing?

We all embark on this journey of life with dreams in our childhood. How many of us dared to pursue it?

Today, The Guru Project is proud to feature a young man who dared to realise his dream. He is a shining example within our community. Join us in getting to know him better and  understanding  his journey.

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Tell us a bit about yourself. How did you end up in such an offbeat, unconventional and cool career?

As a teenager, Kannan Vijayakumar already knew what it took to be in the spotlight.

After all, his pre-university experience included a stint as a production assistant – more precisely, a gaffer who operates the lights. That meant that he learnt how to cast the best lighting on actors, a lesson that has become useful in his film career.

Last month, the third-year student’s latest short film, “Jeevi,” premiered at the 2nd THIRAI, Singapore Tamil Short Film Festival. The day-long event held at The Projector was organised by Anchor Point Pictures, a production company started by him and his friends in 2013.

The 48-minute mini feature that he wrote and directed follows the story of three friends as they “uncover a mystery that changes their lives.” The movie was filmed and produced during his second year at the Wee Kim Wee School of Communication and Information at NTU (Nanyang Technological University).

I was from Bendemeer Primary school and then did my secondary studies at Saint Gabriel’s Secondary school. I was a Digital art student in secondary school and I would say that’s when my interest for film sparked. I did my Diploma in Moving Images at Temasek Polytechnic. After my NS, I am currently in Nanyang Technological University, pursuing my Year 2 in Bachelor of Communication Studies. Currently I also own a small start up company together with my best friend, Qing titled Anchor Point Pictures, specializing in commercials, corporate videos, TV dramas, music videos, short films, etc.

Besides my freelance directing/writing, my hobbies which has now translated into another spectrum of career is movie reviewing. Another hobby I have is  soccer. I am a huge Liverpool fan!

Congratulations on your getting the Scholarship. Can you explain in detail what the scholarship entails?

Thank you. My MDA Media Education Scholarship (Film) will cover my entire compulsory fees including tuition fees for my education programme.  After which, I will need to work in two feature films (in any role, including directing).

What and where are u going to pursue your studies?

I am already enrolled in NTU under Bachelor of Communication Studies (Honours)  and currently in my second year.

How was the experience at WKWSCI (Wee Kim Wee School of Communication and Information)?

Kannan admitted that when he first entered WKWSCI, he found it difficult to manage both school and work, but has since learned to better manage his commitments.

“I used to get two to four hours of sleep. But this year, I managed to plan my school and work schedule in a way that they won’t clash,” he said. “It’s still challenging, but better now.”

Looking ahead, Kannan already has his eyes set on even bigger projects – feature films. He plans to apply for the MDA’s New Talent Feature Grant next year, and begin production after he graduates in 2018.

“I have to push myself to achieve more, to move on to the next step. So much support (for APP) is coming from reputable industry players, and I feel that with their guidance, we can achieve that.”

How did your interest in film making come about?

Like  I mentioned earlier, my Digital Art class back in secondary school evoked the interest in me to analyze films and wonder how they are made. That fascination soon evolved into a bigger spectrum of passion.

Even though, I was in a film course in Poly, what really cemented my interest for writing and directing was the first documentary I wrote and directed. A team of four students were shortlisted and brought to Belawan slums of Indonesia to do a community service project and a documentary about the lack of sanitation. Despite being nervous at first, I soon became passionate to put across a message through my documentary. After the documentary was released, it was screened in few exhibitions and Okto. Upon watching it, many NGOs were aware about the situation and travelled to Belawan to build toilets in different parts of the slum. That day I decided that I want to make films, tell stories and touch lives.

How did you hone that skill?

It was constant set of opportunities that made me explore my strengths. I interned at Mediacorp Eaglevision and wrote my first docu-drama for TV at the age of 18, titled Vizhigal. Since then, I started doing corporate videos while I was still in school and of course short films. Starting off as a production assistant, I observed and asked lots of questions to learn. I was really blessed with good mentors like Velmurugan and Raja who inspired me at later stages of career. Writer Jaya Rathakrishnan who I still work closely with, was one of the important mentors who made me realize my strength for writing and directing. With constant opportunities, I was able to explore, experiment and furnish my skills.

Every single day, I am learning new things from my technical team, Lee, Seri (camera team) and Qing (Editor) as well.  I think it’s a constant process. Learning never stops and skills will always develop over time.

What were some of your challenges and hurdles in this pursuing this interest of yours?

During the early stages in my career, I was always frustrated with small blunders I make and take reprimands too personally. That affected my work. Like I said I was blessed with great mentors who brought me up to take criticisms constructively and never get deviated from the bigger picture, which is the work.

There will always be up and downs in every project I work in. Every day there is a new problem coming up. This is my 6th year in the industry and finally I am getting the hang of solving them in my stride. The trick is never get deviated, especially the captain of the ship.

One filmmaker in Singapore you look up to. Why?

Abbas Akbar. After watching his award winning short film, Certain Chapters few years back, I talked to my mentor Vel for two-three hours straight on how inspired I was. Same respect for Vettai 1. I feel that, Mr Abbas has his own distinctive style of direction. His raw yet filmic style of storytelling is one of things that I admire. Of course, never have I imagined that I will be working with him then. Even during Kshatriyan, his precision and passion to bring TV dramas to next level really captivated me.

What is your ultimate dream in film-making?

I want to direct and write feature films in near future that are entertaining and also thought provoking. My ultimate dream is to make Indian films that are viable in the scene of Hollywood too like Hong Kong and Chinese films.
As a first step, after my graduation, I am planning to start my first feature film. Talks are going on. Fingers crossed!

Any message to aspiring film makers?

Firstly, I really hope that the local Indian film scene will also be very healthy in future. My first attempt was hosting ‘Thiray Film Festival’ which screens aspiring Indian filmmakers in cinema, graced by local Indian actors, directors and producers. The main idea is to create a platform for even younger, less experienced aspiring filmmakers. This worked well last year. I hope to receive more entries from the passionate film folks out there this year too.

I think it is very important for anyone who wishes to join the industry to be really disciplined and determined in what they do. They should take this art seriously and intend to progress the industry. For me, I feel that the current local film scene among Indians is driven heavily  from influences from the mainstream Indian film industry. Therefore, style is rather preferred over substance.

This is merely my opinion. I know its difficult not to succumb to commercial temptations but I will urge the aspiring film makers to try to ensure that their films have some sort of a point or message in them. This will cultivate their storytelling skills during further stage.

And yes,  in any film you do, the STORY always comes first!