How do you sum up the life of Kassandra Lim? Well, you could start with the facts. She first started as an architecture student — whose initial interest was using speculative fiction to develop a design proposition. But as time passed, she realised her interest in storytelling and cinematography, which unknowingly brought her to where she is today: an award-winning filmmaker at La Jolla Fashion Film Festival 2020

Now, not many can say that they’ve obtained the title of an award-winning filmmaker at the age of 28, but Kassandra Lim proves that anything is possible as long as you set your mind to it. Having a strong pull towards design and creating something with her hands, Kassandra studied architecture in the United Kingdom for six years — which led her to her day job as a professional architect. But only after an academic trip to India, did she find inspiration for her short film, titled ‘Season of Aeon’ which gained her international recognition at the film festival. 

In our recent interview with Kassandra, she also shared about the challenges of being a filmmaker in Singapore, how it’s like juggling two different careers, her relationship with fashion, and what lies ahead of her. 

Challenges as a filmmaker in Singapore

While it may seem like very few filmmakers have made it big in Singapore, Kassandra shares about the trials and tribulations of navigating her way through the local film industry. “Season of Aeon is my first short film, and a big part of it was filmed and produced in India and London, hence I have not experienced enough as a filmmaker in Singapore. But in terms of my perspective on the challenges of being a filmmaker in Singapore, I would say finding an open-minded audience. What would make people watch a ‘very chim’ local film over a Hollywood blockbuster movie? Relatable social issues? Award-winning? ‘My friends all say it’s nice’? Then I wonder if it’s better to remember or forget that a film needs an audience.”

Winning the Best Picture award at La Jolla Fashion Film Festival 2020

Though Singaporeans can be quite pragmatic and view arts as a non-sustainable industry to be in, Kassandra’s story of how she deliberately took a step to venture into filmmaking is a fine one to recount. She shares that “it was a huge surprise to be nominated in 6 categories for the festival and a bonus to be able to attend the awards ceremony” this year. The acclaimed annual international film festival, La Jolla Fashion Film Festival 2020, has been commonly dubbed as The Cannes of the fashion film world. This year, the film festival was held online because of the Covid-19 pandemic. 

Here, Kassandra’s short film, Season of Aeon, is focused on the transience of fast fashion juxtaposed against the craft villages in India that are quickly becoming outpaced by the former. It was also previously nominated for *SCAPE’s National Youth Film Awards (NYFA) 2020 as well. “I never dreamt that I would be presenting my film for the first time to an international audience made up of film professionals and fashion enthusiasts, and that to me is the most precious part of this experience,” she explains, emphasising how she was honoured to be a part of such a surreal journey. 

As part of her thank you speech over the live conference, she also ended off saying, “I am 28 this year. I hope this is just the beginning of a lifelong journey. I am going to keep working on my craft.”

Difficulties she faced while making the film 

With any major projects like making a film, there’s bound to be some challenges. And with Kassandra, she had a lot of hurdles to overcome during the production process. One of the biggest challenges she had to face, in this case, would have to be the production and how it had to speak for the value of the handcraft. “It’s not just in the story and visual representation. The spirit of the film including its production techniques had to echo the values. And that was why instead of going for computed-generated imagery (CGI), I chose live filming of physical dioramas with some stop motion scenes.

One scene of lifting a container at the shipping port took me about 20 takes because my hand would shake or jerk when ordinarily it could have been done in an animated sequence in 2 keyframes. There were also underwater scenes where I filmed in a big fish tank. I had to do that in one take, otherwise, I would have had to change the water of the whole tank using just pails.”

She also paints, bakes and does photography in her free time

“I will always find time to have fun! Take for instance the Great Architectural Bake-off, I am no expert in baking but the fun of it is in finding creative ways to make a totally edible and ideally yummy building! The first year the competition came to Singapore, I got together with a group of friends including professional bakers to create a stacking kueh lapis interlace and for the second year we upped the game and challenged the fully glass cladded Prada Aoyama!” 

Teaming up with a qipao designer for the Taobao Maker Festival

Notably, Kassandra was also a part of Taobao Maker Festival (TMF)’s debut in Singapore in 2020. Having been selected by SCAPE to collaborate with modern qipao designer, 金文聪, who was releasing her new collection at TMF, Kassandra actually curated a photoshoot to juxtapose the brand’s traditional designs against the backdrops in Singapore. 

Juggling two different careers

Despite having a lot on her plate, Kassandra still manages to juggle her two careers. She says, “It has been crazy, yet it keeps me sane! I don’t see this as juggling 2 different passions. This to me is work-life balance. My job as a full-time architect with a specialisation in urban design requires me to bring to the table workable solutions to very real problems. It entails matters and solutions that affect people’s lives, and it is this sense of duty that keeps me grounded. But it is precisely because of this that I know that I then need to safeguard a space for me to just drift and dream. And so, I set up a virtual creative studio called Kraftsmanship. You can imagine it as a nomadic workspace on a ship drifting in the sea. When I am on it, I literally forget the world.”

Her future plans

In the pursuit of her goals, Kassandra doesn’t seem like she’s slowing down anytime soon. In fact, she’s already started working on her next film! 

“I’m excited and can’t wait to experience what lies ahead!” Coming from a passionate and determined woman like her, it’s clear that Kassandra is a shining beacon of hope for the film industry today.

Check out her trailer for her short film here.