Doing it his way

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01Jan2018_00344
01 Jan 2018 | PEOPLE
Melayu 华文

Doing it his way

// STORY Benita Teo
// PHOTOS Chai Sian Liang & Courtesy of Mr Nathan

English Melayu

Do you remember the one thing someone said to you that changed your life and set you on the path you're on today?

Mr Nathan, 38, certainly does. The writer, director, producer and movie enthusiast still fondly remembers that moment from more than two decades ago: "Mdm Liang, my Chemistry teacher in Maju Secondary School, told me: 'You should be a writer.'"

The remark ended up taking him to the New York Film Academy (NYFA) and led him to set up his own production house, which he now runs with his partner and wife, Ms Audrey Anthoney.

PNR: Why were Mdm Liang's words so memorable?

If it had been said by, say, a literature teacher, it might not have stuck with me as much. But it came from someone of a completely different discipline, so it stuck. As a kid, I had wanted to become an astronaut! But after my O Levels, I decided to follow my love for movies and storytelling; I realised I had stories to tell. I went to Ngee Ann Polytechnic and majored in film. After my National Service (NS), I pursued further studies in NYFA, Los Angeles.

What made you venture out on your own to set up Monochromatic Pictures?

People were telling me how things should be done (in the film industry) and while I appreciated their wisdom, I wanted to tell stories a certain way. I didn't want to settle. That's what made me take the leap in 2005, after about three years of freelancing. I was very lucky because I met a lot of great industry peers who supported me by word-of-mouth because back then, there was no such thing as "going viral on the Internet".

What's your philosophy when it comes to filmmaking?

It's about producing sincere works. I'm someone who believes in building a ship, and whoever wants to ride on it will come along. There will be (detractors) - as the younger people say, haters are gonna hate.

Always consider the criticism, but if you believe your work and stand by it, the audience will feed off that. When the team has put in sincerity and honesty, it will come off on screen.

You had a pretty interesting National Service experience. Tell us what it was like.

I enlisted in 1999 to the Commandos. I remember getting the enlistment letter, and it was not to Pulau Tekong like my friends, but Hendon Camp. It was something right out of a G.I. Jane or a Navy SEAL movie!

But then I had a spine injury and became an ammo technician in the Singapore Armed Forces Ammunition Command.

I took away a lot from National Service - it is where the endurance and perseverance muscles were developed. Each time you survived something that you didn't think you could, it built that muscle.

During the six to eight months I was in Hendon Camp, there were so many things I didn't think I could do, but managed to do because we were pushed to it.

I also met interesting trainers and officers, (such as) RSMs (Regimental Sergeant Majors) who were fearsome and yet treated you with dignity and respect. They're now in my file for characters down the road.

"I'm someone who believes in building a ship, and whoever wants to ride on it will come along."
- Mr Nathan on his filmmaking philosophy


You're currently working on the TV series It Will Never Happen Here about national security and terrorism. What can we expect to see?

In the series, we deal with the psychology of the perpetrators, victims and national organisations. It s not a sexy, stylised film, but something raw and gritty.

We were inspired by the footage that you would see coming from people's mobile phones and CCTVs that pick up these acts of terror. We also used graphics and visual effects to make sure the information is digestible and does not get lost.

It's not a cheat book for surviving a terror attack, but it gets you thinking and talking.

What's the one story you've always wanted to tell?

It would have to be a story of resilience, perseverance and overcoming odds. It mirrors what I ve been through and it s what got me through life. I tend to put these traits into the characters I create.

I always tell my team: if the characters have a sliver of your personality or someone you know, they will come across as being sincere.

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