Firsthand: Local filmmaker, 48, poured savings & 10 years into making S'pore's 1st car-racing film

"Oversteer" was made with "0.01%" of the budget of most Hollywood car films.

Emily Williams | February 21, 2024, 12:34 PM



Singapore is an unlikely place for a community of car-racing enthusiasts to thrive.

Wannabe drivers in the world's most expensive place to own a car need to fork out an average of S$100,000 to purchase a vehicle, excluding the Certificate of Entitlement (COE).

That and the fact that racing is illegal in Singapore unless you happen to be a Formula One racing driver who can bring in those tourism dollars.

It’s a hobby that the average Singaporean could not imagine partaking in.

Yet one local filmmaker poured out his savings and 10 years of his life to make Singapore's very first car-racing film: a reflection of his own unlikely passion, and a love letter to the tight-knit little community.


Despite having directed a car-racing film, Derrick Lui is surprisingly down-to-earth in a T-shirt and jeans.

His only concession to flashiness is his trademark red hair — a feature which made him easy to spot at our meeting place. (Rounding, a car-themed café in Balestier. His suggestion, of course.)

Entering the large warehouse, it was hard not to notice the car paraphernalia plastered everywhere.

Apart from posters, signage, and the screenings of car races, the cafe's tables were made of engines and its cutlery resembled spanners.

Notably, there was a sports car parked in the middle with a large decal sticker promoting Lui’s feature film and labour of love, “Oversteer”.

Derrick Lui on set of the film looking at a monitor Lui on set of "Oversteer". Image from Oversteer's Instagram page.

Released at the end of January at select Golden Village cinemas, "Oversteer" follows protagonist Wind as he navigates an estranged family, perseverance, and car racing in Singapore.

It's inspired by a true story, which he came across in a car workshop.

A regular of the shop, he became friends with mechanics and tuners whilst modifying his first drift car, a Nissan S13.

That was when he learnt the backstory of one of the people he'd befriended. The passionate car enthusiast had, against his parents' advice, pursued this love into adulthood.

As a result, his father kicked him out of the family home and stopped speaking to him for several years.

The 48-year-old told me:

"One day, his dad turned up at his workshop and I witnessed a very touching scene, that made me tear [up].

I knew then that one day I hope[d] to bring this story to a wide audience."

10 years after Lui first put pen to paper, the film hit Singapore cinemas.

It’s probably a good time to point out that I’m not a car enthusiast — like, not at all.

Damn, people love cars

People can’t seem to get enough of cars.

Shows like "Top Gear" and "Fast & Furious" continue to make their mark on the global media landscape.

And in Singapore — despite a modest Toyota costing enough to buy half a three-room HDB flat — people continue to purchase them.

I didn't get it. So as a non-car lover, I asked Lui what it is that people love so much about cars.

Lui is cognisant that his passion is not necessarily welcome in a country that aspires to be a car-lite society.

But the visceral feelings evoked from being behind the wheel, and the sense of freedom it invokes, are an irresistible attraction.

"Of course [in] Singapore is difficult, there's so many traffic rules and stuff like that, but when we go on the track... it's just a great form of release from stress.

It just gets our blood flowing and stuff like that.

Like, you know when you're a kid [and] you play with bicycles, skateboards and stuff like that?

It's the same."

A love for cars is not just about having cash to burn and an aversion to public transport, either.

For the (more) average Singaporean, Lui tells me it comes down to — pardon the pun— the drive.

In Lui's case, 70 per cent of his salary went towards financing his first car.

Derrick Lui and Ong Pang Yang cheers-ing beers with thumbs up at Roundings Derrick Lui (left) with Ong Pang Yang. Image by Emily Williams.

Ong Pang Yang, the owner of Rounding who joined in the interview, told me a similar story.

For four years, Ong left home at 7am and returned around midnight every single day so that he could work towards purchasing a car.

He said:

“Yes, the government put us in a position where [owning a car] is so expensive that if we don't work towards it, I'm just going to maybe take public transport for all my life.

But the car was the inspiration for me to actually work hard and be on my own.”

A "small but united" community

Outside of his own desire to tell the story, it was the support he received from the "small but united" community of car enthusiasts that kept him going.

To make the film, Lui had to sell his beloved Subaru Tecnica International car, which he says would have been one of the fastest in Singapore at the time.

He has also been essentially working five jobs full-time to film, edit, and promote this film using "0.01 per cent of Hollywood's racing films' budgets".

Clearly, it has taken a lot from him and at this stage, “Oversteer” is unlikely to break even.

But the community has been extraordinarily supportive.

Enthusiasts have showed up to his events and spread the word about the film to others; Lui initially printed 50 decals for his supporters to stick on their cars as advertisement, but ended up having to print 50 more due to demand.

Furthermore, Lui reckons about 70 per cent of the film's viewers so far came from the car community.

A green sports car inside Rounding with an Oversteer decal on its side. There are 100 cars driving around the island with this sticker. Image by Emily Williams.

Ong, who saw the movie recently, said that he was “really touched” by the story and how “special” it was to see his passion depicted up on the big screen, calling the message a "universal story".

Lui was humble as Ong sang his praises, but afterwards I noticed he was chuffed.

And why wouldn't he be? It's exactly the response he hopes to illicit from audiences.

With no expected monetary reward, compliments like Ong's, I imagine, make the struggle to get this film out of the gates worthwhile.

Big dreams, small budget

After our meeting, Lui offered to drive me back to the office in his modified Suzuki — and how could I refuse?

With a loud rev of the engine, the small mint-coloured car with a black bonnet pulled up in front of me, and I jumped in.

The seats were black leather and, as I buckled my seatbelt, I noticed a sticker on the glovebox in front of me.


Then we zoomed off.

Derrick Lui sitting in his car. Lui prefers Japanese cars. Photo by Emily Williams.

During our drive, Derrick told me he has been attending each screening of his film (bar over the Chinese New Year period) to thank the audiences for choosing to spend their evening listening to the words he wrote 10 years ago.

On Valentine’s Day, it meant even more, he told me. As a gesture of his appreciation, Lui gave out chocolates and roses to audiences at the Feb. 14 screenings.

Pictured with a couple in the audience is actor Hanrey Low (left) who plays Fu in "Oversteer".

Actor Hanrey Low (extreme left) who plays Fu in "Oversteer" and director Lui (extreme right) with screening attendees.

Despite all he's put of himself into the 86-minute film, when I asked Lui if it was worth it, he said, “Totally.”

Any profit would be a “bonus”, he added, explaining that the aim wasn’t to make money.

Rather, what he'd set out to do was to make a car-racing film grounded in familial love — the bond Lui believes to be the strongest of all. As a father of three himself, he knows firsthand how "unconditional" the love of a parent is.

He told me:

"Yes, we'd be angry if they do something really, really bad... but the love is unconditional.

"From the day they're born until the day we leave this world it doesn't change."

And for all anyone can say about his film and his decisions, he did just that.

FYI, I still don’t get it

Last week, a few days after my conversation with Lui, I met some friends for dinner; some of whom are car-loving expats.

Even after my conversation with Lui, I was struggling to wrap my head around the fascination with cars, and asked for their help.

One of them likened it to a “romantic connection” or “a friendship”, another said it was “the thrill of it”.

But the most interesting response was, “You either get it, or you don’t.”

He was right. I still don't get it.

But I don’t have to love cars to see how passionate Lui is; it’s evident in the way he speaks about them, in the way he takes his children go-karting, and in the way he perks up when I mention the brand Subaru.

His love for cars is so deep that he dedicated 10 years of his life and much of his savings towards making a film from which he is “still bleeding”.

And although I don't know I could ever justify spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on a car, I can't help but respect him — for chasing his dreams, and not letting anything get in the way.

Just like the protagonist from his film.

"Oversteer" is showing at select Golden Village cinemas until Feb. 28. You can buy tickets here.

Top images from Oversteer's Facebook page.