Malaysian-born and KL based Wei Peow is a director at Directors Think Tank, a leading production company with offices around the APAC region including Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia. We put 15 questions to Wei Peow to find out more about him and his approach to directing.
When Wei Peow isn’t directing, he can be found cycling or riding his motorbike beyond the city.
Q1. What’s your favorite part of the job?
Wei: My favorite part of the job is also the most challenging part to me, referencing and ideation. I like the feeling of exacting the “essences” whether from life experiences or references, incorporate them, and apply them in my treatment to elevate the work. While that happens, my brain branches out looking for more options for solutions and potential executions. That keeps me excited and ambitious to continue.
Q2. What is your most productive time of day and why?
Wei: That would be anytime of the day, as long as I have got all the ideas and helpful sources ready. I can work without noticing how late it is if I am excited with the ideas that I throw on the screen. And the ideas come from many researches that I have done throughout the day and night.
But, I do have time when I am zero productive, that’s when I am hungry.
Q3. If you didn’t have this job, what would you be doing instead?
Wei: If I didn’t have this job, I think I would be focusing on post production. To be in exact role, perhaps a motion graphic designer, or an offline editor. I graduated as a Multimedia Designer before I worked as a Multimedia Design lecturer. Hence, I would probably be putting my knowledge and skills in good use in other parts of the production process.
Q4. How early did you know that this would be your path?
Wei: I was still a lecturer for Multimedia Design back then, when I won most of the prizes and recognitions in a local short film competition in the year 2010. Since then, I thought I could step into the filming industry to elevate my visual storytelling skills as well as inspire others, regardless of TVCs, short films, movies, etc.
Q5. Can you name some recent jobs?
Wei: The latest work I did before the pandemic lock-down was the “MAE by Maybank” 2021 Raya ad. It was one of my very first few festive ads. The story’s characters were based to be delivered in Kelantan dialect, and that made an interesting and relatable brief to me, as my hometown is in Kelantan as well. Therefore, the client and agency gave me a lot of freedom to develop the story.
The other recent memorable job would be “TOYOTA GR Sport”. It was quite a challenging brief due to many restrictions during the Recovery Movement Control Order (RMCO) period. Furthermore, we were the first team to film the unrevealed car at the time with a variety of technical executions required. The task gets even more exciting during the post production as there are a lot of CGI work to be added in.
Besides, I also recently completed works for brands like Mitsubishi Xpander, Perodua, Cadbury, Nescafe, Pizza Hut, etc.
Q6. Do you put on a different hat when shooting for a specific genre?
Wei: Yes, I do, especially when it comes to filming kids and food. I always have this “formula” or capabilities in handling children, at least most of them. So, I will be not just a film director but also a big brother who uses “play” as a command to direct their performance.
It is always a team work when it comes to filming. Thus, I always love to also handle some food styling or art department work when it comes to food shots productions. I like to get my hands on, arranging or styling the products and ingredients, as a way of contributing ideas to the team to make the shots better.
Q7.Have you been continuing to shoot during the COVID crisis? Can you describe that experience?
Wei: Yes, and it was during the first movement control order (MCO) back in the 2nd quarter of 2020 when everything was full of uncertainties. The remote directing was really tough, as a lot of things were out of my control. Not having myself to be physically there with the talents is also a huge obstacle as well as time consuming in communicating what is needed. It was a remote filming that relied purely on the talents themselves to do everything.
It was a painful yet worthwhile experience. An experience that allowed us to undertake remote filming afterwards.
Q8. Do you have a favorite piece of kit?
Wei: It will be my iPad that has all what I need to complete my tasks in the entire production process. I always open up my treatment, notes and references from the iPad to recall my ideas from time to time.
Q9. Are you often asked to do more than directing? If so, what are you asked to do?
Wei: Besides directing, I also draw storyboards. Sometimes, I help out some illustration or design work that are needed in the key props.
In the early days when I started my career in Directors Think Tank, I was always assigned to operate second unit camera, especially the guerrilla filming style in overseas shoot. That’s the time when I learned to capture beautiful moment and angles without a storyboard from Rajay Singh and Maurice Noone (Film Directors and Co-founders of Directors Think Tank).
Q10. What are three pieces of technology you can’t live without?
Wei: My laptop, mobile phone, and tablet. All these devices help me complete my tasks as well as enjoy my entertainment.
Q11. This is a high-stress job. What do you do to de-stress from it all?
Wei: Definitely some “me time” alone, doing some household chores. And, of course – sports, like cycling, running, and surfing. I also like to ride my motorbike to the outskirts in order to release my stress when I have some free time.
Q12. How do you manage producers’ expectations with the reality of what can really be done?
Wei: I always have discussions with the producer every time we receive a new brief. The conversation includes creative ideas, experiences, or even time and budget restriction.
With these discussions we have from time to time, planned and sustained efforts have already established a mutual understanding between me and the producer. So, managing producers’ expectations shouldn’t be the words, but create dialogue is.
Q13. How do you manage your time? Do you manage expectations or try everything they ask of you?
Wei: I think there are always sacrifices of personal time especially when you suddenly have multiple jobs at the same time. I would say I do both managing expectations and also try things they ask for even with limited time and resources. However, based on experiences, I would be frank with them on what can be done and what not in the beginning.
Q14. When someone who is starting out asks what they should learn, what do you recommend?
Wei: Many things, but, those are skills and knowledge that one can learn along the way as they plant themselves in the industry. I think these are the two most important things to learn at the start.
First, is to learn to be beyond passion in what you want to do or achieve. It’s also means to be ready to sacrifice certain things in order to reach a great success. Second, to succeed, one should learn to be more patient. Nothing will come easy, moreover, this job may seem glamorous but there’s a lot of hard work involved.
Q15. How do you take criticism? Do you find yourself defensive or accepting of others’ ideas (good and bad)?
Wei: I take all critiques from everybody into consideration, but I will filter and analyze which one is beneficial to the work at that current situation. There’s no idea that is good or bad, there are only ideas that meet the requirements and solve the problems.
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