ROYSTON TAN IS understandably nervous. His first feature film, the controversial 15 won international acclaim, including the Special Jury Award of the Deauville Asian Film Festival, and expectations are high for his next effort, 4:30, which he's just finished shooting and is in post-production in Thailand. 'I never expected the success of 15,' says Tan. 'So, I can't predict how this one will be received. The biggest pressure is within me because I'm trying to outdo myself this time. Not just with the film, but my own directing approach,' Tan says. 'In the past I liked to put pretty pictures in my film. I focused a lot on cinematography and music to convey the mood. But this time I told my cinematographer, 'Let's take all that away. Let's do storytelling at its bare minimum, removing all the flowery and cosmetic stuff and see whether we can still challenge ourselves.'' The result is an emotionally charged film with minimal dialogue and long takes, the 28-year-old film director says - which will be a contrast to the fast-cut style of his 2003 debut. 4:30 revolves around a young boy (played by Xiao Li Yuan, last seen in Homerun by Jack Neo) and his relationship with a suicidal Korean man (played by TV heartthrob Kim Young-jun) who's renting a room at the boy's home. Told from the perspective of the boy, this story of two different characters is less about friendship than about a shared experience and appreciation of solitude. '4:30 is about two lonely people - two strangers getting connected,' Tan says. 'It's about how two different people from two different paths get acquainted with one another and find comfort in each other. It's about getting to know each other, even if in the film the two characters only have one speaking sentence. There's a very strong tinge of sadness, but also some heart-warming moments. While my first film was about hope, this film is about wishes.' Tan started working on the script of 4:30 while shooting 15, a graphic film depicting Singapore's underbelly of gang violence and drug trafficking. 'Because I was working with some young gangsters I worried they would run away during the shoot, so I had them all in the same apartment. By the time I got to sleep it was usually 4.30am. I would look out the window and see people awake and I wondered what their story was.' Originally, Tan and director Eric Khoo, whose feature film Be With Me recently had its premiere to critical acclaim at Cannes, had intended their films to come out at the same time. 'But somehow, because of the financing, we couldn't do it,' Tan says. As with 4:30, Be With Me has minimal dialogue. 'We got the idea on a plane to France,' Tan says, with a laugh. 'We'd been drinking for eight hours straight and kept on talking.' Khoo's production company, Zhao Wei Films, is co-producing 4:30 with the Singapore Film Commission and the Japanese Broadcasting Corporation (NHK). It will be premiered at the NHK Asian Film Festival in Tokyo on December 17, a bi-annual festival where Siddiq Barmak's Osama and Fruit Chan's Little Cheung also had their premieres. Shooting on 35mm film, Tan admits he faced several challenges with his new film. For one, the lack of dialogue pushed him to concentrate on body language. To keep the spontaneity of his actors' performances, he shot only one or two takes of most scenes - 'three at most'. And to give the story a continuous flow he shot unusually long scenes. 'I wanted the context of the film to be quiet,' he says. 'Any fast cut would interrupt the mood. I wanted to see how one can use camera angles to capitalise on the dark loneliness of the characters.' Tan also instructed his two actors not to speak to each other at all during the 18-day shoot, 'to keep the awkwardness between the two characters fresh'. Tan sold the 4:30 script to his Japanese backers by telling them the movie was non-commercial and that only 'people passionate about cinema' would want to finance it. However, the film has already received interest for distribution from France, Britain and Japan. Tan was, by his own admission, a late bloomer, after performing poorly at school. He says he was nearly expelled from Singapore's Temasek Design School because he was too slow to learn. Yet, by graduation he'd scored the highest marks for his year and had already won awards. Dubbed an 'Asian Hero' by Time magazine last year, Tan now has 25 short films under his belt, many of which have received critical accolades and awards. After the controversy of 15, which suffered 20 cuts at the hand of the local censor (bringing the young film director to tears), Tan reacted with a short-film titled Cut (2004), which poked fun at censors. The film was shown uncensored in Singapore, but Tan admits it took a long time finding funding for his second feature film. With 4:30, he doesn't anticipate any controversy. 'With Cut I closed the chapter,' he says. 'It was a bit like therapy. I explained my point of view. I don't want to dwell on the past and just want to move on. After Cut, I looked for a new direction and my next film will be something different again from 4:30.'