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Cinema

Hong Kong filmmaker Victor Leung overcomes troubled childhood to release first micro movie

  • Victor Leung Man-kit has battled anxiety, delinquency and a strained relationship with his parents, all of which almost cost him his dream
PUBLISHED : Saturday, 19 January, 2019, 11:01am
UPDATED : Saturday, 19 January, 2019, 11:05am

Budding moviemaker Victor Leung Man-kit thought he had ruined his chances of developing a career in film production when he stopped receiving orders from his boss. Leung, 20, admits it was his fault: “I would stay up all night even when I knew I had an important assignment the following day. I would also sleep on the job.”

It would be a year before he would manage to turn his attitude around.

He joined the production company as a freelance assistant after backing out of a diploma programme in filmmaking at Baptist University. Still recovering from a turbulent final few years at secondary school, Leung quit the course because he was anxious about forming new relationships with peers.

Leung’s mother is the owner of a snack shop, and his father a delivery worker. Because of their busy schedules, Leung, for most of his childhood, was placed in the care of babysitters at his kindergarten, and, later, his grandmother. He recalls vividly how one night, his mother left him at kindergarten until almost 10pm.

“By then all the other kids had gone home with their parents. I was so lonely I was having imaginary conversations with paintings on the wall and playing with Blu-Tack. I thought my mum would never come back for me.”

When he was in Form Five, the then 17-year-old Leung began dating a girl who gave him the support and encouragement he could not find at home.

“All I’ve ever wanted is for my parents to acknowledge my successes,” he says. “But they’re always too busy with work to care.”

But during the two-year relationship with his now ex-girlfriend, Leung was frequently absent from school.

“I would fool my parents by dressing in my school uniform, but instead of going to school, I went to my girlfriend’s home.”

As a result, he lost many of his school friends. He also received a fail grade for English – one of his core subjects – in his secondary school leaving exams.

“I realised how distant I was from my peers and teachers. I felt like I had let them down. I became really afraid of establishing new relationships and becoming a disappointment again.”

After these initial setbacks, Leung turned to selling headphones and waiting tables to take his mind off the missed opportunities. He applied to the Baptist University course but never started classes, and then joined the production company, but failed to make the most of the job.

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But one year later, a door opened for Leung that would change his life: in July 2018, he joined a six-month film production course organised by the Hong Kong Jockey Club’s Career and Life Adventure Planning (CLAP) programme. On top of covering the technicalities of film production, the course, which is free of charge, also featured elements of career planning and personal development.

Leung recalls the time when he stayed up one night during the course because he was determined not to let his classmates down. His team had been tasked with producing a video advertisement, but only had access to video editing software at 3am.

“By the time I had finished editing, it was 5.30am. I relaxed for a little bit, and got ready for a full day of course activities the next day. It was very unlike me to tough it out like that.”

Leung regained confidence in working with others through CLAP, which also rekindled his passion for film production.

“I’ve learned that you have to be proactive and observant if you want to make it in this industry,” he said. “You also can’t worry too much: I used to be overly concerned about disappointing people or forgetting things, but worrying just distracts you from finding solutions.”

Leung now looks forward to returning to school to pursue further studies in film production after the premiere of his first micro film, which he directed as coursework. The Cantonese movie is about the lengths young people are willing to go to to realise their aspirations, and will premiere at the end of this month at the Hong Kong Polytechnic University, along with three other micro films produced by his peers.

“I do hope my parents take time off to come to the premiere,” he said. “I want them to see how far I’ve come, and that it is possible to make a career out of a dream.”