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Directing 101: In the classroom with Hong Kong Director Ho Cheuk Tin

SUSS Film Studies students recently had the privilege of meeting award-winning Hong Kong director Ho Cheuk Tin. Director Ho was in Singapore to attend the Hong Kong Gala Film Presentation (HKGFP) presented by the Asian Film Awards Academy. His film, Over My Dead Body, was the opening film for the HKGFP, and SUSS was his first stop in Singapore.

1_Ho outside SUSS
Director Ho Cheuk Tin landed in Singapore and came over to SUSS, still wheeling his luggage! Photo courtesy of Singapore Film Society

Ms Khoo Sim Eng, Head of Programme for Film Studies, is very grateful to the Singapore Film Society and the Asian Film Awards Academy for providing this wonderful opportunity for students to meet a filmmaker. Director Ho gave students insights into many topics, including researching for a film, working with actors, and making films that are in vastly different genres. 

2_Kenneth introducing Ho
Director Ho was introduced by Mr Kenneth Tan, Chairman of the Singapore Film Society, which collaborated with the Asian Film Awards Academy for the Singapore leg of the Hong Kong Gala Film Presentation.

Director Ho prepares extensively for his films. His courtroom drama, The Sparring Partner (2022), is based on a real murder case that had rocked Hong Kong, so he did a lot of research into the case. He attended real courtroom trials and spoke to people who had served on juries, so that he could make his film as authentic as possible. He also wanted to make audiences think about the meaning of right and wrong in a film where the facts were seemingly well-known. The film resonated with audiences and won over twenty awards, including Best New Director at the 41st Hong Kong Film Awards this year.

Director Ho switched gears for his next film, a satirical dark comedy called Over My Dead Body (2023). In the film, the residents of a swanky apartment block in Hong Kong find a naked dead body; worried that their block’s value will fall because of the taint of murder, they go to great lengths to try and dispose of the body. Director Ho regaled the class with the unexpected trials of casting and directing an actor to play a dead body. The actor had to be able to keep his eyes open, hold his breath, and stay very still for long periods of time—all while naked. Filmmaking is full of surprises, indeed!

3_Ho sharing stories

Director Ho Cheuk Tin sharing filmmaking stories with the Film Studies students. Photo courtesy of Singapore Film Society.

The director said it is important to be sensitive to actors, who respond to different styles of direction. For Coreen Tan, who is taking General Studies with Communication, “It was fascinating to hear Director Ho talk about how his actors prepared for their roles. For example, some isolated themselves before serious scenes. But when filming a comedy, Director Ho encouraged humour on the set. It was great to hear a director personally share how his style of directing helped his actors delve deeper into their characters’ thought process.”

Director Ho emphasised that he wants to make films that are relevant not only to Hong Kong but also to audiences worldwide. He shared how it has been exciting to sit with different audiences in different countries and hear how they respond to the same things. This was something that Nur Umairah binte Abdul Rahim, who is taking Social Work with a Minor in Paramedicine and Emergency Response, enjoyed about the talk. She said, “It was inspiring to learn Director Ho's thoughts on how audiences would be able to resonate with the content.”

4_Students had questions
Students had many questions for the director. Photos courtesy of Singapore Film Society.

5_Students getting t-shirts
Two students who asked questions were the lucky recipients of limited-edition Over My Dead Body T-shirts that Director Ho had brought from Hong Kong. Photos courtesy of Singapore Film Society.

6_guests pose w bags
Left to right: Mr Kenneth Tan (Chairman of the Singapore Film Society); Director Ho Cheuk Tin; Ms Sally Wu (Head of Partnerships, Singapore Film Society); Mr Jude Cheung, Senior Programme Manager for the Asian Film Awards Academy, which presents the Hong Kong Gala Film Presentation; and Ms Khoo Sim Eng (HoP, Film Studies).

7_group photo
The Film Genre class took a group photo with the guests after the talk.

This is the fifth Film Studies industry talk for 2023. Learn about cinematic language, the film business, scriptwriting, smartphone filmmaking, streaming, internship and more with Film Studies at SUSS! 

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