Sarawakian engineer makes film directorial debut with ‘One Day’

‘One Day’ is an English Malaysian feature film about a doomed romance. (Anthony Tham pic)

PETALING JAYA: For many Malaysians, the thought of leaving behind the confines of everyday life to pursue a passion project is an idealistic prospect.

Anthony Tham, however, has done just that. The 33-year-old Sarawakian engineer has thrown himself into his life-long dream of directing a film, and his directorial debut, “One Day”, is being released on Vimeo.

Filmed in locations throughout Sabah and Sarawak, One Day is about the tragic romance of two lovers who meet but are constantly kept apart by unfortunate circumstances.

Tham told FMT that his love for film and the arts in general began at a very young age. “I remember being glued to the TV for hours and watching and re-watching movies such as Forest Gump, The Green Mile, Titanic, Ever After and The Matrix.

“I love observing what goes on in the scenes and imagining myself being there with the characters.”

‘One Day’ is the directorial debut of Anthony Tham, an engineer from Kuching, Sarawak. (Anthony Tham pic)

His fondness for love stories was cemented by the touching romantic stories of Titanic and Ever After.

While he was in secondary school, he gained some experience with the camera, shooting videos of band performances. And to earn himself some pocket money during his university years, he was a freelance wedding and events photographer.

So, Tham is no stranger to the art of filming and he continues to hone his skills through online tutorials and photography forums.

After graduating with an engineering degree, Tham’s filmmaking dreams were put on hold as he focused on his work and family.

But with the support of his wife and help from childhood friends, he finally decided to chase the dream he never forgot.

So, for the past two years, Tham has been building up his network as he ventures into the local filmmaking industry.

The filming of the movie took place in various locations throughout Sabah and Sarawak. (Anthony Tham pic)

As to why he finally decided to claim his seat in the director’s chair, Tham said, “I love to create from nothing, and I am passionate about visualising stories into moving frames that touch people. Having the ability to imagine and dream is an amazing gift, and it enables me to tell stories.”

He is inspired by the late Yasmin Ahmad, James Wan and Bong Joon Ho, the director of the award-winning Parasite.

“I can re-watch her movies and learn something new or be inspired every single time,” he said of Yasmin.

For Tham, nothing can be compared to the feeling of watching an idea fleshed out for people to watch and be inspired.

Tham (second from right) directing his crew and cast during the filming of a scene. (Anthony Tham pic)

The title of Tham’s movie, One Day, was chosen as it “portrays the uncertainty of the present and the future of life with hope being the fundamental drive to find happiness”.

He told FMT the story is based on the experiences of a very close friend and it depicts the struggle to find hope once again after a tumble in life.

“There is always light at the end of the tunnel to happiness, even at the bleakest moments, and to know that there are always people around who value one’s true being and that one can find trust, support and help around the corner to once again see the meaning of life.”

As to be expected, money was an issue throughout the filming as Tham and co-producer Nigel Chong financed the project entirely by themselves. With a limited budget and time, Tham had to make do with what he had, and he admits he is impressed that the cast and crew managed to make everything work.

The fact that he was juggling roles as producer, director and cinematographer also meant that Tham had his hands full throughout filming, which was stressful to say the least.

Tham hopes his film will inspire people who are down on their luck to keep trying to find happiness in their lives. (Anthony Tham pic)

“At times, I doubted myself about the choices I made, particularly scene designs … It was crazy but an invaluable experience at the same time.”

In addition, being a newcomer on the filmmaking scene means that he is faces difficulty securing distributors. But Tham remains optimistic that there is a market for local English films in Malaysia and Southeast Asia.

“I have knocked on the doors of many local distributors to little or no response,” he said. “Some said they only wanted films with A-list actors and actresses or they were only looking for horror films, which the local market loves.”

But he has no intention of stopping his filmmaking endeavours. In fact, he is starting work on yet another romance drama.

As for what audiences can expect from One Day, Tham said he hopes that those who are struggling will find the hope they need to persevere to the very end. “I do hope this film will inspire people to pursue their dreams and ambitions.”

Don’t forget to catch One Day here.