Malaysian writer/director Liew Seng Tat enjoyed a festival hit with his debut feature, Flower In The Pocket, which won the New Currents award and audience award at Pusan 2007 and a Tiger award at Rotterdam 2008.
With his second feature, In What City Does It Live', he wants to make sure the film has a bigger life outside of festivals too. 'With (Flower) we didn't think of the business side of the film, of getting distribution, when we were making it,' he notes. 'So for the next project we need to also concentrate on that part of the film and plan to get a print, not just a digital release.'
The new film has a bigger budget - still less than $627,000 (EUR500,000) - and has already won Rotterdam CineMart 2008's Prince Claus Fund grant of $18,800 (EUR15,000). Da Huang Pictures, the production company he set up in 2004 with Tan Chui Mui, Amir Muhammad and James Lee, is on board. Michelle Lo, who produced Flower In The Pocket, has family commitments, so Liew is likely to be looking for a new lead producer.
The story follows an elderly man who wants to give an old abandoned house to his daughter as a wedding present. But an African immigrant is hiding in the house and locals mistake him for a ghost.
'It's a mixture of comedy and tragedy,' Liew says. 'The story is based on a real story I read in a Malaysian newspaper.'
Liew has been working on the script at his Cannes Cinefondation Residence in Paris since October 2008. Most of the other five international directors came with draft screenplays to polish but Liew came in with just an idea so he has had a busy five months. 'My screenplay has nothing to do with French culture, it's only Malaysian, so writing a screenplay away from home is good. It's away from my world and that is kind of stimulating.'
He has since met French film-makers such as Bruno Dumont and has found inspiration living in a house with his fellow participants. 'The idea of putting a few directors together is good because everyone has the same mission and everyone is inspired by each other. And we can all be friends,' he says, before adding: 'And living together, you get to see everyone's bad habits.'
While in France, he has also met potential European investors. He says: 'If I'm making a film in Asia, it might not make sense. If I do a French co-production, I'd need to use French crew and that would cost so much more to get them to Malaysia.'
But to rely on the Malaysian government is not an option. 'We could only get a loan for the film, but I'd rather make the film in peace - you'd have to please some other people to get the money.'
He adds with a laugh: 'I want to have the freedom now before I succumb to working for studios.'