This 26-year-old went from failing N-Levels to becoming an outstanding self-taught filmmaker
Jun Ming has since come a long way, successfully making a name for himself in the local and international film scene.
For some, the third time’s still not the charm.
It took three rejections from film schools before Cho Jun Ming was finally enrolled into LASALLE in 2020, six years after he started learning filmmaking on his own.
Unlike those attending classes in school, Jun Ming picked up his filmmaking skills through YouTube tutorials, analysing movies of various genres. He even went to the extent of pestering directors with incessant questions while helping out on shoots as an extra.
Even then, the film obsessive Jun Ming felt it was never a matter of if he’ll make it in the film industry, but when he’ll get there.
As a former Mediacorp child actor, Jun Ming spent most of his formative years perpetually around production works. He naturally developed an interest in film and the process behind making one.
While he’d always enjoyed acting because of the opportunities to portray different characters – something he wouldn’t be able to do in real life – he began to grow insecure of his looks and felt like he was “not handsome enough” to be in front of the camera.
That was when he started to think of alternative ways that would allow him to remain in the scene. He eventually figured that being behind the camera would enable him to do just that, while also contributing to society by educating audiences on social issues and helping to change their perspectives – something Jun Ming cares deeply about.
However, getting to that stage was easier said than done. Rejections from film schools were a mere fraction of his woes.
Upon failing his N-Levels in 2012, Jun Ming was left at a crossroads – it was either choosing to retake the national examination or applying to the Institute of Technical Education (ITE).
The stigma ITE faced then – “A lot of people lobbied it as ‘It’s The End’”, shares Jun Ming – made him hesitant, but he eventually chose it because he wanted to “prove society wrong”.
Due to his results, he only qualified for the Nitec track, which did not offer filmmaking. He eventually settled on Social Media & Web Development where he learnt how to code websites and design social media posts.
But he continued to pursue his passion, going to the extent of secretly watching films in class, which did not appease his teachers. Ironically, his “misbehaviour” was what helped him embark on his dream to become a filmmaker.
Noting his interest in film, his teachers encouraged Jun Ming to take part in a short film competition by local director Jack Neo which was held in conjunction with the launch of the movie, Everybody’s Business.
They gave him their full support, along with the necessary equipment for him to produce the short film.
“All of us have no filmmaking experience. However, (the teachers) continued to motivate me and helped me with resources such as the borrowing of equipment, purchasing the Adobe Premiere Pro editing software, sourcing for filming locations and even getting students from other various fields of studies to help me out, such as with the composing of music for the film.”
He emerged first runner-up in the competition and was invited to the premiere of Everybody’s Business, marking his first step into the film industry. ITE also awarded him a certificate of recognition for his efforts.
It proved to be the turning point for Jun Ming, as it fuelled his drive to achieve more.
Realising that he needed good grades to get into filmmaking, Jun Ming worked doubly hard, topped his cohort and graduated from ITE with a perfect Grade Point Average (GPA) of 4.0.
His stellar performance also allowed him to graduate a year early.
However, tragedy hit soon after. His father and grandmother passed away and that impacted him deeply. Jun Ming, who had been particularly close to his dad, “felt very lost in life”.
He battled depression for a few years while juggling his further studies at Temasek Polytechnic, spending the little free time he had working as a part-time actor. During this dark period of his life, it was his passion for filmmaking and his desire to make his dad proud that kept him going.
When asked if these constant setbacks ever threw him off, Jun Ming claims he has never doubted himself and his aspirations.
“I have never once looked back because that’s how much I love and enjoy filmmaking.”
After his three-year course, in August 2018, Jun Ming was named as a Ten Outstanding Young Persons Of The World Singapore Merit honoree for his cultural achievements by the Junior Chamber International. He was also the youngest awardee among the recipients.
The following year, Jun Ming made Special Jimmy, a film on Schizophrenia, a psychotic condition whereby a sufferer experiences fragmented mental processes.
Beyond the roles of scriptwriter, producer and director, Jun Ming also personally starred in the film as the main character Jimmy, a troubled teenager who hears voices and believes that others are plotting to harm him.
The film made it into the top 10 finalists of Singapore Mental Health Film Festival 2020 and subsequently, Jun Ming sent it to film festivals around the globe such as in Toronto, New York and Taipei.
His efforts paid off as one of the lecturers at the National Taiwan University of Arts took notice of his short film entry and reached out to have a look at his portfolio. Thinking this would finally be his big break into the film industry, that he could finally attain a degree in filmmaking, he took the chance and flew to Taiwan for a campus tour.
Upon returning to Singapore, COVID-19 hit, as life threw him another curveball. Luckily, he’d been offered a place in LASALLE’s Puttnam School of Film & Animation and he accepted the offer as he knew it “made more sense financially”.
“I felt disappointed at first but I thought to myself that I have to stay positive about it and look for alternatives to continue upgrading my skills in terms of filmmaking.
“At that point of time, I told myself that everything happens for a reason.
“It doesn’t matter where you go, that your mindset is what matters,” he stresses.
His time at LASALLE helped him significantly in terms of teaching him the “proper way of developing film”. He picked up technical skills like crafting story structures, cinematography and equipment usage.
Now 26, Jun Ming has several accolades under his belt and has made a name for himself in the local and international film scene.
His most recent film Propagate was nominated as one of Asia’s top eight best short films in the 27th Asian Television Awards, which will be held at Resorts World Sentosa on Dec 8.
“To be recognised along with other big names in the industry feels so surreal to me because I think I still have so much more to learn in terms of filmmaking,” he shares.
While he is extremely thankful towards everyone who has been supporting and helping him along his journey, he admits that he can’t help but feel a sense of apprehension about the final results.
“I really hope I can bring the award back to all my team members, friends, family and benefactors and share with them the good news.”
Heavily inspired by Bong Joon-ho’s Parasite, Propagate tells the story of Xiao Yu, a teenage girl faced with family issues and toxic friends who are obsessed with social media influencers. The film aims to expose the false realities of social media, pretentious friendships and feelings of closeness that do not actually exist.
He’d planned for Propagate to be a two-hour long feature film but due to financial constraints and manpower shortage, he had to adapt it into a short.
“We didn’t have much funding and I didn’t want to crowdsource because (if I were to do so), I’d feel this pressure to live up to people’s expectations and make them proud. I don’t want to disappoint them and feel guilty for taking their money,” he shares, adding that there are plans to eventually turn it into a feature film in the future.
Jun Ming is also firm about expressing his gratitude to not just the viewers but also his crew, his benefactors and most importantly, his late father.
“I want to wait for an opportunity when I can properly thank these people.”
To all those with big dreams, Jun Ming shares: “It’s going to be a tough journey but it’s about how you can change your obstacles into opportunities.”