'The people here really have a lot of respect for directors - wherever you go they call you, 'gamdog, gamdog',' says Benny Lau Wai-hang, as he takes a sip of his iced coffee in the lobby of Pusan's Grand Hotel. He says he has been constantly reminded of his newfound profession (gamdog means director in Korean) since he arrived at the southern port city's annual film festival to present his directorial debut, a short film entitled Mr Right. And he knows the difference it makes to be a filmmaker in South Korea: he was a radio host reporting on the film festival just three years ago, and a decade ago had never heard of the event, nor of the rise of the country's film industry. A first-time director Lau may be (he says he's flattered but still 'very unused' to being called a director by Pusan festival staff), but he's hardly a novice in the arts: he is a published author and the writer of many radio plays for Commercial Radio, where he has been a DJ for nearly a decade. Lau (centre, with Isabel Chan Yat-ning and Patrick Tam Yiu-man) is also friends with director Edmond Pang Ho-cheung - himself no stranger to the Pusan International Film Festival and set to present Trivial Matters in the Asian cinema showcase this year. And Lau is learning his new trade under veteran film producer Terence Chang Chia-chen, a longtime associate of John Woo Yu-sum and the driving force behind Stellar Entertainment, the management agency that he founded with actress Michelle Yeoh Choo Kheng. 'Terence and I were at Pusan last year for The Wooden-Man Chamber of the Shaolin Temple, my [action film] proposal that was shortlisted for the Pusan Promotion Plan,' says Lau, referring to the annual programme in which new film proposals are presented to bring filmmakers and potential investors together. 'Terence said it might be time I began learning how to make a film if I am to make that film, so I started to delve into the technical side of filmmaking. It was at the beginning of this year that I decided to try out what I'd learned, to see what my technique's like.' And Mr Right was the result: made in three days on a budget of US$20,000, the 11-minute short revolves around a man (a rare against-type turn by veteran screen villain Tam) whose head always tilts to the right - hence the film's title - and how that physical oddity brings him the attention and adoration of a young woman (Chan) who finds his slumped right shoulder a perfect place to lay her head. A quirky premise it may be (Lau says the story originated from his own experience of life with a tilted head brought about by the pain of a pulled wisdom tooth) but the story flows and the film is less slight than one might expect. The fact it was shot at Kwun Tong's Silver Theatre, one of the last old-style cinemas in Hong Kong, adds to its charm and atmosphere. Mr Right is not the experimental type of short commonly found at film festivals, but Lau is adamant that his film - which will also be shown at the Hong Kong Asian Film Festival later this month - was not made with the festival circuit in mind. 'How would you know the tastes of the jury anyway,' he says. 'A lot of people might think, 'Well, let's make something extreme'. But you also need something you are familiar with, and love stories are where my strengths lie. I have heard a lot of youngsters asking what the market needs now, and I'm uncomfortable with that. 'If it's your first attempt, why make something to suit market needs instead of being true to your own vision? It's much better to work from instinct, and you may create your own niche, your own path to pursue.' Lau's career has been dependent on his instincts. He graduated from university in the US with a degree in economics, joining a Chinese-language radio station in San Francisco out of a love of music. 'They were short of resources so they were really welcoming,' he says, laughing. 'They were, like, 'Yes come host programmes for us, and bring your own CDs to play'.' His return to Hong Kong coincided with a Commercial Radio recruitment drive for DJs, and his US experience gave him an edge. No longer on the sidelines, Lau is on Stellar Entertainment's payroll as one of its in-house screenwriter-directors, and among his colleagues is Song Hye-kyo, a South Korean actress who has also signed a management deal with the company. Lau says he's also good friends with celebrities such as actor Lee Byung-hyun and director Kim Ji-woon. With The Wooden-Man on hold for the moment because of its big budget requirements, but having begun preparations for his first feature length film - a simple, mid-budget love story - Lau is closer to attaining another of his goals. And maybe when he does, he'll no longer be fazed by being called gamdog.