Kelvin Tong: 'I'm so used to being slammed'
Kelvin Tong brushes off negative reviews of his new movie, The Faith Of Anna Waters
Criticism does not bother him, as his skin is "pretty thick".
Singapore film-maker Kelvin Tong remains nonchalant when it comes to scathing reviews of his latest movie, The Faith Of Anna Waters, which opened in the US last Friday under the title The Offering.
US newspaper Los Angeles Times and Fangoria, a popular US website that specialises in horror entertainment, have criticised the 43-year-old's first English language film, calling it unoriginal and befuddled.
"I'm so used to being slammed, so negative reviews don't affect me any more," Tong told The New Paper yesterday.
"It's all right as I believe film criticism is a necessary part of the entire film process."
He added that being a former film critic himself - he was a film reviewer for The Straits Times in the mid-90s - he knew that one can learn from reviews, especially those written by good film critics.
The Faith Of Anna Waters, which opens here on Thursday, is billed as Singapore's first Hollywood horror film. It stars US actors Elizabeth Rice and Matthew Settle and local actors Adrian Pang, Jaymee Ong and Pamelyn Chee.
The story follows US reporter Jamie Waters (Rice), who flies to Singapore to investigate her suspicion that her sister Anna's death was not a suicide, but linked to multiple deaths. Jamie and Anna's ex-husband, Sam (Settle), have to defeat a demonic entity that has somehow possessed Anna's daughter Katie (played by Australian actress Adina Herz).
Tong, whose earlier films include The Maid (2005), Kidnapper (2010) and It's A Great, Great World (2011), calls The Faith Of Anna Waters an "experimental film".
"I've never done an English film before, and this started out purely as a writing exercise," said Tong, who relocated to Hong Kong four years ago.
After writing a horror story that was set in the US, he showed it to a producer friend, who in turn passed it on to US film production and distribution company Highland Film Group (HFG). Tong said he was extremely surprised that he quickly received funding to shoot the film and an offer to do it in Los Angeles.
Confessing that he freaked out soon after, he added: "I didn't write the story with the intention to shoot it. Then you are suddenly offered this much money, and then it's going to be my first US collaboration."
Tong had a budget that was "extremely high" by Singapore standards - a total of US$6 million (S$8.2 million) to make the film, a 50-50 joint production between HFG and Tong's Boku Films.
Said Tong: "In the US, it's considered a low-budget indie flick. But here, I can make six films with that kind of money."
He opted to shoot the movie in Singapore not for familiarity reasons, but because he "knew how to stretch the money further" compared to a foreign country.
"I'm at the point of my career where I don't need to break box-office records," said Tong, adding that sales of The Faith Of Anna Waters "should be healthy" as it has been bought for distribution in places such as France, Germany, Spain, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Thailand and the Philippines.
"My only so-called Hollywood dream is to be able to work with a Hollywood budget."
That dream, he said, could come true, as HFG has offered him the opportunity to make another horror film.
"I've no story for it yet," he said. "Let's see how this goes and then we can start experimenting again. Maybe this time I may shoot the film somewhere else."
I'm at the point of my career where I don't need to break box-office records. My only so-called Hollywood dream is to be able to work with a Hollywood budget.
- Local film-maker Kelvin Tong