If you think actor-turned-film director Derek Tsang has an easy life because of his famous entertainer father Eric Tsang, you might want to reconsider.

Tsang’s solo directorial debut Soul Mate (2016) was well-received by critics and audiences. The lead actors Zhou Dongyu and Ma Sichun won Best Actress Awards at last year’s Golden Horse Awards. Tsang was also nominated for Best Director and Best New Director at this year’s Hong Kong Film Awards.

We caught up with the 37-year-old filmmaker at Jaeger-LeCoultre’s gala during the Shanghai International Film Festival.

Tsang started out in show business in 2001 as an actor and has since starred in Hong Kong films such as Men Suddenly In Black (2003), Simply Actors (2007) and Pang Ho-cheung’s Love in the Buff (2012) and Love Off the Cuff (2017).

Where did your love for films originate?

I think I’ve always been fascinated by films. In the 80s, going to the movies was a big event. I still remember people lining up for a movie with all the street food hawkers selling all sorts of food outside. Having all these people experiencing the same emotions in a dark room, was fascinating

When did you get serious about pursuing it as a career?

It was not until I was 15 years old that I started to appreciate films as an art form rather than entertainment. I watched a lot of art house films back then. Eventually I realised that it was something I really wanted to make a career out of.

How has your father influenced your career?

To this day, I’m still not sure whether my dad has had a big influence. Perhaps, to some extent, yes, because he made me more pay more attention to film. Being his son, certainly had advantages. But as a second generation actor, it was quite challenging because people look at you thinking that all the chances you had were because of your parents. There’s nothing I can do to change what other people might think. I’ve made peace with that. I’ve proved that I can do my own thing.

How did your acting help with directing films?

I think it’s very valuable experience as a whole because it taught me how to communicate with actors. Being a director, I feel there is a lot more pressure because there are more responsibilities - for myself artistically, for the investors, and the cast and crew.

What’s the biggest thing you can take away from Soul Mate’s success?

I think the most important lesson is to be true to yourself and your work. I think what’s the most important is that I really pour my heart into it. I was really happy for Zhou and Ma [when they won Best Actress Awards at Golden Horse Awards]. After the ceremony, I watched the footage again and I was so moved that I cried - those were happy tears.

Why are you so passionate about the film industry?

I don’t like the glamour part, I’m just in love with making and watching movies. There was a moment when I doubted that I would be a good film director, but there are still a lot of chances and I j try to do the best I can.

What do you make of the Chinese film industry?

We are very lucky to have China growing so rapidly. It has certainly [opened doors] for Hong Kong filmmakers. The Hong Kong market is limited - without China, the resources would only go to established directors, not so much for new filmmakers. Many established directors are making films in China so the younger generation [filmmakers] has got the opportunities to make our own films. The future is bright for new directors as there are a lot of things that we can do.

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