Experiencing Life Through His Unique Lens-Meet with Derek Yee (爾冬陞), Renowned Director and Screenwriter

Time Auction
6 min readJul 3, 2020


Meeting with Derek has raised 226 volunteer hours! 🧡

Sometimes the most meaningful and inspiring conversations happen over casual meals. The Time Auction Blog is a snippet of our meetings with people who have found passion in their lives and career.

As we slowly begin to resume our daily lives after months of social distancing, we finally hosted our first in-person meeting since we had to switch to Zoom meetings. At Time Auction Hong Kong, we were honored to have Derek Yee (爾冬陞), Renowned Director and Screenwriter, as our guest, who graced us with his humor and candidness when sharing his journey in the movie industry from being an actor to a director.

Meet Derek Yee!

Derek Yee’s reputation doesn’t require much introduction, chances are, you have seen some of the movies he was involved in. Derek is the award-winning director and screenwriter behind blockbusters such as C’est la vie, mon chéri (新不了情), Full Throttle (烈火戰車), One Nite in Mongkok (旺角黑夜), Protégé (門徒) and many more!

Derek’s career began when he embarked on becoming an actor at the Shaw Brothers Studio at the age of 17. Between 1975 and 1986, he has starred in over 40 movies in Hong Kong. In particular, his leading role in Death Duel (三少爺的劍) in 1977 has made him a household name.

When the Shaw Brothers Studio suspended film production, he switched careers and became a director. His director debut The Lunatics (癲佬正傳) was nominated for three awards at the Hong Kong Film Awards in 1986. Subsequently, Derek won the awards for Best Director and Best Screenplay at the Hong Kong Film Awards in 2005 with One Night in Mongkok (旺角黑夜).

🙊 The Honest Truth

“Everyone has different interests or careers.”

Director Yee made this very clear throughout the meeting. He insisted that while he was glad to share his personal experiences with us, remember that everyone’s lives are different, lessons from his life won’t necessarily be applicable to our lives. His candidness was exactly what made the meeting so interesting and rewarding.

Derek did not shy away from sharing his realizations when he first became an actor. He said that his 10-year actor career was some of the duller years of his life. Although he did cool flying stunts and played a sword-wielding knight, his life felt lacking because he was confined within the Shaw Brothers Studio, literally lived at the studio. It wasn’t until he became a director and screenwriter that he began to experience the world, such as through mediocre chores like buying food and vegetables from the market.

“I only officially experienced and entered society when I became a director. That was when I knew how much a can of coke is.”

📚 Books, Books, Books, and Books

Of course, Derek’s life realizations are more than knowing the price of groceries. He further shared how he enriches his life. Derek believes that books or any sort of reading material are important for people to grow and broaden their horizons. When aspiring directors or actors asked for his advice on advancing their careers, Derek told them that everything they need to know or learn can be found inside a bookstore.

“Everything you need to know or anything you want to learn is within a bookstore.”

Derek made a very valid point when he said that we can’t possibly experience everything. Therefore, one way to expand your horizons is to live through other people’s narratives, such as biographies and autobiographies.

Derek has a quirk when it comes to books: he starts reading multiple books at a time. He chooses what to read based on his mood, but he always manages to finish them all. The list of books he recommends would be extremely long, but he encourages everyone to pick up the habit to read. The diverse array of books available allows us to actively absorb information, and it informs us about the many difficulties and situations around the world.

“I know it’s difficult to read many books, but it is something I encourage people to do.”

⭕️❌ Pick and Choose

Apart from books, Derek also spends time reading the newspaper and watching movies, but his busy schedule forces him to make wise decisions about time and content. While he generally receive social news through his mobile phone, he pays particular attention to the editorial section in the newspaper. He chooses interesting editorial pieces to read, and if he doesn’t enjoy it, he simply skips them.

Derek maintains the same attitude when it comes to movies. He used to sit through all movies out of respect. However, if he doesn’t enjoy a movie nowadays, he will simply stand up and leave; he simply does not have the time.

“Movies, I used to tolerate it towards the end, but nowadays I just don’t have the time.”

⏳ A Blast from the Past

While Derek can pick and choose his entertainment, there is something he can’t do the same to — his past. He recalled about 10 years ago when he had to move offices, he found old news clippings from interviews he did. He was about to throw them away, but he decided to spend an afternoon reading through all of them. When he was a few news clippings in, he thought, “What was I thinking back then? Why did I say all those things?”

Although Derek may have certain regrets about his past interviews, his passion for books and continued effort to learn has allowed him to be better and wiser. Our attendees benefitted greatly from his advice about taking directing or screenwriting courses or picking up reading habits. In short, keep an open mind, and keep learning!

Thank you, Derek, for raising 226 volunteer hours and all the volunteers who dedicated their time to Feeding Hong Kong, Build and Wish Volunteer Team and more! We would also like to thank our photographer Kevin from Kachick and our Impact Supporter K11 Atelier!

For our upcoming experiences, visit Time Auction Hong Kong to volunteer and meet inspiring mentors!



Time Auction

Time Auction is a charity that advocates volunteerism. We encourage volunteering with inspiring experiences, while connecting skilled-volunteers with NGOs.