Banking on all Sabahan cast works for Michelle
Published on: Friday, September 30, 2022
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Michelle admitted that there was room for improvement but she believes that this is how one will learn the craft.
Michelle admitted that there was room for improvement but she believes that this is how one will learn the craft.
Kota Kinabalu: Local filmmaker, Michelle Xin’s gamble on having an all-Sabahan cast and crew for her first feature film paid off big time.

Her film, The Rise of Lion, garnered international recognition –  winning awards from London’s Falcon International Film Festival 2022.

After securing an RM500,000 grant from the National Film Development Corporation Malaysia (Finas), Michelle looked no further than her friends in the local scene to help her shoot the film.

“It was really difficult to produce a film with such a limited budget and crew. For this film, I insisted on getting local Sabahans as my crew, which was very risky. 

“Ninety -eight  per cent of the crew were Sabahans,” she told Daily Express. 

She explained that the decision was risky because Sabahans do not have much experience or any education background in filmmaking.

Michelle said that many had advised her to hire professionals from the Peninsula instead as this was her first-ever feature film.

The all-Sabahan cast and crew of The Rise of Lion.

“But for me, if you don’t start with your own people and if everyone thinks the same way, then what is going to happen to our Sabahan talents?

“We need a chance to start. Yes, they can travel to KL or China but what for? We have a platform here so why not start with Sabahans?” she said.

Michelle admitted that there was room for improvement but she believes that this is how one will learn the craft.

Due to the success of the film, many of its cast and crew have since received opportunities to work with major studios such as Radio Televisyen Malaysia (RTM).

Michelle herself managed to secure two new telemovie projects, namely a Chinese telemovie under RTM and another under TV Sarawak (TVS).

She is currently working on a 13-episode Malay drama for RTM.

Some of the cast members have been chosen to act in an upcoming film directed by a Sarawakian and funded by a firm from China.

“I just provided the platform and they showed their talents. Now, people can see them,” said Michelle.

To her, this is a good sign as local producers might no longer have to spend money on flying people from the Peninsula for their projects in Sabah.

Even as she was pitching her script to Finas, the judges were initially not convinced with her being the director even though they were impressed with Michelle’s story.

They doubted Michelle because she had never directed a feature film before.

However, Michelle believed that if she could impress the judges with her story, what is stopping her from doing the same with her directing.

She said that all the great directors were once “first-time directors”.

She further disclosed that Finas only gave her eight months to produce the film.

“Eight months is a very short period to make a film. Normally, it would take 18 months.  But I didn’t complain because I truly appreciated this opportunity. So I just went with it,” she said.

Separately, she hoped that the Federal Government would show more support to Sabahan filmmakers.

According to Michelle, the filmmakers in the Peninsula tend to receive higher grants than those in Sabah.

She commended State Local Government and Housing Minister Datuk Seri Panglima Masidi Manjun and Luyang assemblyman Phoong Jin Zhe for going out of their way to lend their support.

The Rise of Lion tells the story of a young Sino Kadazan man who is chasing his Lion Dance dream in the big city of Kota Kinabalu.

The idea was inspired by the unique Lion Dance culture in Sabah, where its members are often comprised of people from different races.

The film won Best Drama and Best First Time Director at the Falcon International Film Festival 2022. 

The total cost of the film, which premiered in May, was RM1.2 million.

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