Reborn Singapore International Film Festival to offer training workshops

Associate Professor Stephen Teo from Nanyang Technological University’s Wee Kim Wee School of Communication and Information speaking to budding film writers in the Youth Jury Programme. -- PHOTO: SGIFF
Associate Professor Stephen Teo from Nanyang Technological University’s Wee Kim Wee School of Communication and Information speaking to budding film writers in the Youth Jury Programme. -- PHOTO: SGIFF

Singapore film festival will launch programmes for film-makers and film journalists and critics

The reborn Singapore International Film Festival is not just coming back from its two-year hiatus with entertainment for film fans.

It has also launched two new training programmes, one for film-makers and another for film journalists and critics.

Ten participants from the region aged between 18 and 35 have been picked to attend the first South-east Asia Film Lab, a six-day writing workshop that shows how ideas become feature-length screenplays.

The Lab will take place from Dec 8 to 13 during the run of the film festival. It will take place under the guidance of three mentors: producer Fran Borgia (Mister John, 2013), film-maker Tan Chui Mui (The Year Without Summer, 2010) and film-maker Eric Khoo (Tatsumi, 2011), who heads the team. The Lab will emphasise writing that projects a South-east Asian identity.

Festival director Zhang Wenjie says that "it's all really about developing the next generation of film-makers".

"In the past, the festival had ad-hoc workshops, working with film schools. But now, we want to establish the Lab as a regular event," he adds.

Representatives from Cambodia, Vietnam, Indonesia, the Philippines, Malaysia and Thailand as well as two from Singapore have been picked.

They will attend classes and screenings, and each will get a chance to pitch his best idea to an industry panel.

Participants receive $200 in travel subsidies and the work named Most Promising Project gets $5,000, a prize sponsored by production firm mm2 Entertainment.

Lai Weijie, project manager with the festival and also a film-maker, says that the Lab will emphasise both the creative as well as the practical, such as writing within budget constraints.

"In film school, they tell you that you should write without compromising artistic vision. But after you graduate, you have to write films that can actually get made," he says.

Another series of workshops to be launched at the festival is the Youth Jury Programme, to nurture budding film writers and critics.

Thirteen students have been picked for the programme based on writing samples and experience in film knowledge and writing. They come from a range of local tertiary institutions such as Singapore Polytechnic, Tampines Junior College and the National Institute of Education and the School of the Arts.

The series of weekend activities kicked off on Sunday and will end early next month. Participants will learn about South-east Asian film history, culture and theory and interviewing techniques. Among other activities, students will produce a daily online newsletter covering the festival's South-east Asian Film Competition section of the festival, to be posted on the festival's website.

The 10 mentors for the Youth Jury Programme range from academics to writers for newspapers and film magazines.

They include critic and writer Kong Rithdee from Thailand's Bangkok Post; Yong Shu Hoong, who writes about film and the arts for The Straits Times and other publications; and Stephen Teo, associate professor at the Wee Kim Wee School of Communication and Information at the Nanyang Technological University, who teaches cinema studies and has authored several books on Asian cinema.

Festival director Zhang says that the health of independent cinema in any country depends a great deal on writers and critics creating a climate of lively intellectual exchange so important to a thriving film culture.

"Film-makers don't make films in a vacuum - they and the writers are forces pushing each other."

johnlui@sph.com.sg