Podcast

Novella Lian and The Story of Taximan

Cartoons Underground, Southeast Asia’s largest animation festival, was held online last December 9-13, 2020. The event was a celebration of the region’s animated works with a sprinkle of international films as well!

Photo courtesy of Pinpoint PR Singapore

I was browsing through my emails one day and was surprised to receive a letter from the LASALLE College of The Arts from Singapore. Through the help of Pinpoint PR, we were able to ask creator Novella Lian a few questions about her her short film called Taximan.

Lian’s short film gives viewers a glimpse into what life must be like for that taxi driver, or even Uber/Grab driver, transporting a wide variety of customers from one point to another. We had the chance to ask Novella a few questions regarding the inspiration behind the short film and more:

Q: What was your inspiration behind Taximan?

Novella: The story is an adaptation of Felix Cheong’s short story The Taxi Uncle Song. I liked how it talks about simple things in our daily life. The original text was about a passenger’s experience of meeting different taxi drivers. However, in my animation, I switched the point of view from that of the passenger’s to the Taximan’s. I was also really interested in films with still framing, how it shows the passing of time in one setting, and thus also experimented with it.

Q: Was there a personal connection you share with the story?

Novella: During my semester break, I was working as a waitress, serving different kinds of people for long hours. There were nice customers but there were also customers who were rude and impatient. Yet in that moment, no matter how the customer behaved, I would have to still be professional and attend to their requests. It was really tough! 

That experience made me realised how I was not paying attention to those working in the service industry. When I read Felix Cheong’s story about taxi drivers, it made me wonder about what they had to endure from passengers. I wanted to tell a story about their lives and experiences, and thus Taximan was created.

Q: How does the taxi man’s daily route reflect Singaporean society today?

Novella: I’m actually not Singaporean but from a foreigner’s point of view, I would say that Singaporeans are very practical. Every action very efficient because the people in the city are very focused on fulfilling their needs and obtaining their goals. This tunnel-vision often times mean that less attention is paid towards ordinary people around us. Taximan highlights these ordinary people we encounter but never personally connect with – the uncles, aunties and everyday people who support us in our daily life. 

Q: How long did the animation take to create?

Novella: It took me around 14 weeks but it wasn’t full time as I had to juggle other assignments in school. In the beginning, I was already certain the film would be shown in one angle so I spent the first week figuring out the best angle to frame the action. Then I started creating storyboards, character designs and environment designs. After that, I began animating and painting the animation frame by frame.

This was my first animated film and I was having difficulties animating the movements. Though the film is stylistically simple, I just could not visualise the actions so I had to act them out. This was really awkward but thankfully throughout the process, I received a lot of guidance from my mentor Raul Garcia. I also had a lot of fun exaggerating the shapes of the taxi uncle! 

Q: What other experiences has the taxi man gone through?
Novella:
In earlier developments, I had a number different storyboards where the taxi man was stuck in traffic, or had to speed up like a racer, or even having to endure a couple making out in his backseat. There were a lot of different kinds of stories I explored with that were inspired from real life events. 

Q: Will we see further adventures of the taxi man?

Novella: Currently, I have not planned for a sequel yet… 

We would like to thank Novella and the folks from Pinpoint PR: Theodore, Illka and Sarasvathiy for the opportunity to discuss the story behind the film. You can view the full Taximan film below:

Taximan by Novella Lian

You can find more of Novella’s work on her Instagram & her website.

Steven Tan is an e-commerce employee by day and blogger/podcaster by night. He’s a huge fan of the Anaheim Ducks hockey team, comic books and an enthusiast of the Moomin franchise. You can find him on Twitter & Instagram: @steviesaidyup

A Filipino Geek Podcast. Founded on April 2018 by Steven Tan, Jude Cruz & Von Adrias. The Geeky Juans is a space for ourselves to share our geeky thoughts and promote the local artists who are under the radar. Besides Wordpress, we can be found on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Spotify and, Twitch. Just look for The Geeky Juans!

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