Name: Lau Wing-tai; Age: 27; Occupation: Director Young Post: How did you become a director? Lau: After I completed my degree in directing at the Hong Kong Academy for Performing Arts, I worked for RTHK. There I directed several TV programmes, such as Below the Lion Rock. I also worked as an assistant movie director. YP: Of the TV programmes you have directed, which one do you like the most? L: I have just wrapped up shooting for an RTHK series, A Real Life Story. One of the episodes charts the demise of a dai pai dong in Central. It is part nostalgic look at the fast-disappearing neighbourhood eateries, part rebuke against the government's indifferent approach to heritage conservation. It will be shown next Wednesday at 7pm on TVB Jade. YP: Which is the biggest challenge you've come across? L: Last year, I did research and casting work for Taiwanese director Ang Lee's new movie Lust, Caution. It is an espionage tale set in 1930s Shanghai, so the film needed a multitude of props from old China: rickshaws, old cigarette packets and vintage cars. Lee is meticulous, and he would not settle for props passed off as the real thing. So, we went on an exhaustive search for everyday items from the 1930s. To get vintage Marlboro cigarette packets, I visited online bidding sites like eBay to buy collectors' items. YP: Which medium do you like more - film or TV? L: I like directing movies more. Movies have more power to impress people. Many people laze on the couch and watch their favourite soap opera on TV. But watching a movie can be an intense two-hour experience. I enjoy telling my story through the language of movies - lighting, sounds and filming techniques. YP: What do you think about the local film industry? L: Low-quality films are flooding the market. The industry is a far cry from in its heyday in the 70s and 80s. Past movie moguls, such as Sir Run Run Shaw and Raymond Chow Man-wai, were bold visionaries who were willing to invest large sums of money into making movies. Today's investors only support films with tried and tested formulas that star big names. While they make a quick buck, they don't realise that the substandard films they churn out year after year are hurting the industry. YP: Has the profit-driven nature of the industry ever affected you directly? L: Yes. When making Cantonese films, it is usually the financial backers who call the shots. We have to give in to their wishes and sometimes sacrifice creativity and vision in the process. To survive in the industry, I have learned to compromise. Renowned Hollywood director Billy Wilder once said: 'If you have something important to say, wrap it in chocolate.' Wilder, the visionary director of the classic The Apartment, used comedy to get his ideas across. The highbrow ideas of film-makers may be off-putting to the general public. But, by wrapping everything up in a sugar-coated veneer, a director can maintain his artistic integrity and satisfy investors at the same time. YP: If you had the chance, what movies would you make? L: I have always felt strongly about two things in Hong Kong: the stifling education system and the loss of diversity in public housing estates. I am appalled by the rigid classification of students into different categories. Take Jupas, the central allocation system for university places, as an example. By filling out a form with their 20 choices of course, a student is forced to quantify his dream and career aspirations. I also find housing blocks in Hong Kong increasingly regimented and homogenised. The government has enforced all kinds of rules in housing estates: no smoking, no cycling and no quilt drying in public. When I was a child, a housing estate was a hive of activity. You could find all kinds of quirky people. With everyone conforming to the norms, Hong Kong has become a sanitised and boring city. RESUME 2002: Completed a degree in industrial engineering at the City University of Hong Kong 2002: Worked as a production assistant at TVB 2002: Enrolled in a TV and film production degree programme at the Hong Kong Academy for Performing Arts 2005: Completed the degree and worked in RTHK's TV section 2007: Set up his own production company, Creation Workshop How to get there Course: Bachelor of Arts (Honours) in Creative Media School: City University of Hong Kong Duration: Three years Characteristics: Students learn film-making principles and techniques. In Year Two, students have to choose a stream to specialise in: Animation Studio, Critical Intermedia Laboratory and Moving Image: Live Action Studio. Enquiries: http://www.cityu.edu.hk/cityu/prgm/index.htm Course: Bachelor of Fine Arts in Film and Television School: Hong Kong Academy for Performing Arts Duration: Three years Characteristics: Students learn about film and TV production processes. They also learn about scriptwriting, directing, camerawork and lighting. Courses on the structure and workings of the local film industry are included. In Year Three, students have to do a creative project. Enquiries: http://www.hkapa.edu/ The path Graduates can find work in the movie industry. They can work as production assistants with TV or radio stations or movie studios. They can also take up creative work like design, film editing, scriptwriting and visual effects creation and directing. They can also set up their own production companies.