$250 left in savings, but Anthony Chen gets by with his iPhone 4s
Anthony Chen's name was splashed all over the newspapers and social media sites about six months ago when he became the first Singaporean to win the Camera d'Or Prize (Best First Film) at the Cannes Film Festival for his first full-feature film, Ilo Ilo.
It is about a Filipino domestic helper working in a middle-class Singaporean home during the 1997 Asian financial crisis.
The 29-year-old is constantly flying off to places, such as Tokyo, Stockholm and Sao Paulo, to attend film festivals and press events to promote his film. It will be released in the United States next March.
"I was told the promotion of the film will last till the end of next year. But I think I will stop after April next year because it is really too much," he said with a laugh.
He is based in London with his wife, Rachel, 31, who is studying for her PhD at the London School of Economics.
Ilo Ilo has won 14 awards to date, including the Sutherland Award for Best First Feature at the BFI London Film Festival and, most recently, the Molodist International Film Festival in Kiev, Ukraine, for Best Feature Film.
It has also been released in Canada, Italy, New Zealand, Russia and Switzerland.
When asked if he had expected his film to get such a huge reception, he quickly replied: "Of course not."
"Everyone in the industry was saying 'Who wants to watch a film about a Filipino maid?'" he said. But he went with his gut feeling and made the film anyway.
Chen drew on his own childhood memories of a Filipina from Iloilo province who worked for his family. His mother is an accounts executive, while his father, who worked in business development, is semi-retired. He has two brothers and he is the oldest child.
"I am a very stubborn person. The more people say 'Don't do it', the more I will do it," he said.
The growing number of accolades worries him. "I am very afraid. What if I have used up all my luck for the rest of my life?" he said.
Ilo Ilo has been selected by the Singapore Film Commission as the country's entry for Best Foreign Film in the next Academy Awards, or Oscars.
Ilo Ilo garnered for this year's Golden Horse Awards, the Oscars of the Chinese-language film industry. The awards and film festival are held in Taipei.
"I thought maybe we might be able to get one or two nominations. But to get six nominations is really a big surprise and unprecedented for a Singapore film," he said. This is a big recognition not only for his film, but also for Singapore's film industry, he said.
"The nominations show that the film is not just a Western arthouse movie, but it is also appreciated by Mandarin-speaking audiences," he said.
Chen has no expectations of winning a Golden Horse Award. Lee Ang, the acclaimed director, who heads this year's jury, is his idol, and having his idol watch his film is reward enough.
Said Chen: "Even if we don't win anything at the Golden Horse Awards, so what?