The Reel Deal

The actor-director is no stranger to the teaching scene, having taught film at the SAE Institute for 10 years. PHOTO: BRENDAN TAN

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Associate Professor Ian Dixon’s passion for acting and cinema goes all the way back to his childhood when he was 11. “When my parents were asleep, I would wake up and put on the old black and white TV to watch horror films all night,” he said.

His love for films continued into his adult life. After college, he went to law school as per his parents’ wishes, but quickly realised that it was not the place he wanted to be. He dropped out of law school and has never regretted that decision. “I decided then, that I wanted to be an actor,” he said.

With more than 25 years of experience as an actor-director under his belt, he joined the Wee Kim Wee School of Communication and Information in November last year. The former senior lecturer for film at the School of Audio Engineering Institute in United Kingdom now teaches WKWSCI undergraduates CS4024: Screenwriting and CS2300: Acting and Directing for Television and Film.

Through these modules, Assoc Prof. Dixon hopes to let students who plan to major in broadcast have a taste of the various roles in the film industry — screenwriting, acting and directing.

“My screenwriting students will be pushed psychologically — not only towards excellence, but to find something in themselves that they didn’t expect,” he said.

“WKWSCI looks like the future, and I think it is the future. This school is embracing the future of communications and I love being a part of it.”

Assoc. Prof. Ian Dixon

Assoc. Prof. Dixon received formal acting training for four years at Flinders University Drama Centre, graduating with a Humanities Bachelor Degree with Honours in 1988. Over the years, he was cast in renowned productions such as West Side Story (1994) and a Midsummer Night’s Dream (1996), both of which were staged in Sydney. Most notably, he took over Hollywood A-Lister Guy Pearce as the main lead in Grease in 1995.

At the age of 31, Assoc. Prof. Dixon decided to focus more on film. He studied film directing in the Victorian College of the Arts (VCA), University of Melbourne and earned his PhD there when he was 44.

He then went into film and television directing. His works include Crushed (2008) — his debut feature film which was screened at the world’s largest arthouse chain Cinema Nova, and television series Wee Jimmy (2000), which won a gold award at the Australian Cinematographers Society Awards.

Assoc. Prof. Dixon, 52, continues to produce original work for the screens. He is currently directing The Perimeter, a low-budget sci-fi horror feature film written by his friend, and Australian Writers’ Guild award winner Stephen Mitchell.

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While low-budget films are mostly thought to be less significant when compared to high budget films, Assoc. Prof. Dixon believes that it is the low-budget ones that offer a future for film industries.

“Most of the high budget stuff that I have done as a director is nowhere near as rewarding artistically and nowhere near as fun to do,” he said.

Assoc. Prof. Dixon intends to impart his knowledge of low-budget films to students through his classes. He said that these films are especially relevant to Singapore, due to the restrictive nature and small size of the local film industry.

However, he believes that the film scene in Singapore has a lot of potential ahead. He is heartened by the inventive ideas of WKWSCI students, describing their works as high quality and “intelligent stuff”.

“You could shoot an entire sci-fi film on campus and not have to go anywhere else,” he said. “It looks like the future, and I think it is the future. This school is embracing the future of communications and I love being a part of it.”

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