Malaysian-born and KL based Wei Peow is a director at Directors Think Tank, a leading production company with offices around the region including Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia. Campaign Brief Asia 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.
1. What’s your favorite part of the job?
My favourite 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 happen, my brain branches out more solution options and potential executions. That keep me excited and ambitious to continue.
2. What is your most productive time of day and why?
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.
3. If you didn’t have this job, what would you be doing instead?
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 put my knowledge and skills in good use in other part of the production process.
4. How early did you know this would be your path?
I was still a Multimedia Design lecturer back then, when I won most of the prizes and recognition in a local short film competition in the year 2010. Since then, I thought I could step into filming industry to elevate my visual storytelling skills as well as inspire others, regardless TVCs, short films, movies, etc.
5. Can you name some recent jobs?
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 are based to be deliver in Kelantan dialect, and that make an interesting and relatable brief to me, as my hometown is in Kelantan as well. Therefore, the client and agency gave a lot of freedom for me 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 (MCO) period. Furthermore, we were the first team to film the unrevealed car in that time with variety technical execution needed. 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.
6. Do you put on a different hat when shooting for a specific genre?
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 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 production. 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.
7. Have you been continuing to shoot during the COVID crisis? Can you describe that experience?
Yes, and it was during the first movement control order (MCO) back in 2nd quarter of 2020 when everything is full of uncertainty. The remote directing was really a tough one, 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 and 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 worthy experience. An experience that allow us to undertaking into remote filming after that.
8. Do you have a favorite piece of kit?
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 recalls my idea from time to time.
9. Are you often asked to do more than direct? If so, what are you asked to do?
Besides directing, I would also draw storyboards. Sometimes, I help out some illustration or design works 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 oversea shoot. That’s the time when I learnt to capture beautiful moment and angles without storyboard from Rajay Singh and Maurice Noone (Film Directors and Co-founders of Directors Think Tank)
10. What are three pieces of technology you can’t live without?
My laptop, mobile phone, and tablet. All these devices would help me to complete my task, enjoy my entertainment.
11. This is a high-stress job. What do you do to de-stress from it all?
Definitely some “me time” alone, doing some household chores. And, of course carry out sports, like cycling, running, and surfing. I also like to ride my motorbike to the outskirts in order to release my stress when I free.
12. How do you manage producers’ expectations with the reality of what can really be done?
I always have discussion with the producer every time we received a new brief. The conversation includes creative ideas, experiences, or even time and budget restriction.
With this discussion had from time to time, planned and sustained effort have already established a mutual understanding between me and the producer. So, managing producers’ expectation shouldn’t be the words, but create dialogue is.
13. How do you manage your time? Do you manage expectations or try everything they ask of you?
I think there’s always sacrifices of own personal time especially when you suddenly have multiple jobs at the same time. I would say I do both managing expectation and also try things they ask for even with limited time and resources. However, based on experiences, I would be frank to them on what can be done and what not in the beginning.
14. When someone who is starting out asks what they should learn, what do you recommend?
Many, 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.
15. How do you take criticism? Do you find yourself defensive or accepting of others’ ideas (good and bad)?
I take all critiques from anybody, but I will filter and analyse which one is beneficial to the work at that current situation. There’s no idea that is good or bad, there’s only idea that meet the requirement and solve the problem.