Inspired by a true story and a headline case in Hong Kong, MILLION LOVES IN ME follows the story of a wealthy mother and daughter who suffer from the psychological issues of obsessive- compulsive disorders, and their controversial private lives are exposed to the public through a charge of their animal hoarding behavior by the police. The topic of animal hoarding, to our knowledge, has not been shot into a movie in cinematic history.
Million Loves in Me has been selected and awarded in over 100 major international film festivals around the globe. It was our pleasure to speak to Kenny Chan, the producer of the film.
How did you start making films and what was the first film project you worked on?
I was born in Hong Kong and I first came to Canada with my parents in 1991 and spent my high school years in Scarborough, Ontario. After having completed my Bachelor of Commerce degree at the University of Toronto, I started my career as an associate with a U.S. Bank on Bay Street in Toronto. Through the magic of internet, I met my partner who was a practising lawyer in Hong Kong. I moved back to Hong Kong in 2005 and continued with my banking career working in the Audit and Compliance field for a number of banks. As time went by, I felt that I needed some changes in my life and career and film making has always been the biggest dreams of my partner. Therefore, after we moved back to Canada in 2014, we felt that it was the right time for both of us to challenge ourselves by stepping out of our comfort zone and start a brand new career in filmmaking. Prior to making our debut feature film “Million Loves in Me”, my company has also produced two short films, both written by my partner John and acted by him as well.
What was the inspiration behind the making of your film?
My partner John came across this interesting court case when I was in Hong Kong and he was the lawyer representing Katy the protagonist in the film. This legal case to us isn’t an ordinary case. The story itself has so much substance in it that I think not only would touch a lot of people, but also provide a wake-up call to some of the things in life that we can surely reflect upon ourselves. When John and I decided to make a feature film, this court case immediately came to our mind. To me, it is a story of love, not only a love story between the protagonist and her mother and also the man she fell for, but love to a “wider” spectrum to include our love and understanding towards each other in the society; and to John, it is a court case he truly feels for (even today!) and has extreme empathy towards the real life Katy, the protagonist in the film.
What is the most challenging aspect of being an independent filmmaker in the film industry?
I think the most challenging aspect of being an independent filmmaker is to find distribution for your film. We have had the chance to travel around the world to many different film festivals and have seen many fabulous works made by independent filmmakers. However, power houses treasure more the commercial value of a film and this is something that many independent filmmakers may not be able to fulfil, either some of the independent filmmakers are on a shoe-string budget, or they have wonderful and powerful performance by actors and actresses but they aren’t commercially known etc.
How difficult is it to fund indie films?
Frankly speaking, it is definitely not easy to find fundings for the first debut work. However, once you have got an appealing and successful piece of production, investors will start to notice you. I am the type of person who is not afraid to take a chance and my partner and I are able to fund for the most part of our first work.
Please name three of your most favorite directors. How have they been influential in your work?
Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, Christopher Nolan and Paul Thomas Anderson are the directors that have great influence to our work. I would say Chris Nolan’s “Inception” and Paul Anderson’s “Magnolia” are the two films that influence me the most. Anderson’s films are often characterized by their depiction of flawed and desperate characters, explorations of themes such as dysfunctional families, alienation, loneliness and redemption, which can be seen in “Million Loves In Me”. As for my partner John, he particularly likes Alejandro’s work such as Birdman, Babel and 21 Grams. For Alejandro’s work, he is well known for his trilogy work of death. In the first of the series 21 Grams, the distinctive stylistic elements of the film’s cinematography are the use of color casts. These techniques were used to distinguish each major character’s storyline, to describe the development of the stories and to mark changes in the character’s life balance. For those who have had the chance to see “Million Loves In Me”, they will find that the story surrounds a dysfunctional family which is common in today’s world and the cinematography technique is colour casts -- for joyful moments, we have use warm and bright colours whereas for sad and desperate moments, we use cool and simple colours.
How did your project go into production and how did you finalize the cast and the crew?
Mr. Hiro Hayama, a well known actor in Hong Kong and also the supporting actor in “Million Loves In Me”, is a personal acquaintance of my partner and he knew we were keen to produce our first film. He is kind enough to introduce the director of the film to John and myself. We travelled from Canada to Malaysia to meet up with the director in April 2016 and conveyed the ideas and messages behind the production to him. He engaged very talented local script writer, Tiong Wooi Lim for us and we began to polish the script with Tiong. John is the person who has all the first hand information in his daily communication with the two real life Katy and Mami, the protagonists in the film. During the pre-production stage, John communicated with Tiong and provided her with all the nitty-gritty details so that she was in a position to produce a polished version of the script for our consideration.
How was the film received by your audience and film festivals and what is your plan for further distribution of the film?
We are very grateful that the film was well received by a number of critics both in the East and the West. Some critics are amazed by our method of conveying the messages of love, compulsion, confinement through the not-so-ordinary relationships between the protagonists with symptoms of OCD’s. Up till now, “Million Loves In Me” has received 156 awards from more than 50 film festivals in six continents worldwide including the Best Screenplay from Montreal Independent Film Festival.
“Million Loves In Me” was first distributed in Malaysia in May 2018. Due to censorship requirements in Malaysia, certain “sensitive” scenes had to be edited in our Malaysia release. Nevertheless, we have recently secured distribution of the film in other parts of the world. This will be a different version with most of the “original” scenes included.
What do you recommend to other filmmakers regarding the making and the distribution of independent films?
Perseverance is the key. Do not feel discourage in any way. Avoid having money and finding distribution as their first goal in making a film. We believe in putting one’s heart and soul during the entire film making process. If you want audience to feel your film, you have to put the entire you in it! When people can feel your work, you will be able to receive your well-deserved recognition.
What is your next film project and what are you currently working on?
We have a few projects on our table and we have been discussing with investors about the production of these projects. Our projects will most likely originated in Canada, in the States and in Hong Kong. We are in the talk with several investors to have the major chunk of our new productions in Canada. It is our aim to promote filmmaking here at home, promote positive filmmaking culture and provide job opportunities to cast and crew locally. Due to the pandemic, we are still being held off in the initial planning stage and hopefully once all the restrictions started to ease, we can kick start our productions in full gear.
Why do you make films?
I would like to convey meaningful social messages through our productions and I sincerely hopeful the audience will be able see and feel our work with their open heart.