Writers lab participant karl
Karl’s passion for storytelling flows from his fascination with life and what it means to be uniquely human. The way we’re born and raised, coupled with the experiences we have been through, makes each of us special. “One way to deal with issues in society is to understand things from different perspectives - by seeing the lives and behaviours of people who are in completely different situations from us, we can learn how to cope and manage with our own problems.”

It is with this capacity for observing and identifying the subtle nuances of the human condition that his hopes of becoming a scriptwriter for TV are hinged upon.

Having written theatre and stage plays in secondary school and JC, writing for TV is still a fairly recent undertaking. In fact, Karl spent a fair number of years exploring what’s out there before deciding to chase his true passion. Armed with a business management degree and having studied advertising and communications at SMU, he went on to work in event and sports management companies and has even sunk his teeth into magazine writing. However, “there was always this calling to write for TV”.

So when his chance came along in the form of WritersLab, he seized it and enrolled in the inaugural intensive scriptwriting programme by the Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA)’s Story Lab initiative, and organized by LASALLE College of the Arts (LASALLE).

Classes are spearheaded by Shari Goodhartz, an Emmy-nominated writer from L.A., and so far “it’s been a real eye-opener”, Karl says. The quality of Shari’s work and the way she weaves stories is something he’s never seen before, and it’s made him re-think the way he approaches the craft. At 25, he’s also the youngest of the group, and is quick to point out the collaborative and supportive environment fostered by his peers and the visiting experts; a place where everyone readily offers help and assistance.

One thing that’s played to his advantage despite the lack of experience, is his hunger for watching TV. From a young age, he’d spend countless hours in front of the screen, devouring anything from drama, to comedy, and even horror. It’s given him a huge edge, in that he can visualize a script more naturally than many of his peers.

Acknowledging the chasm between our local entertainment and that of Hollywood’s, Karl hopes to pick up on the differences and apply them to our context. He feels that the quality of our English programmes have declined since the era of Phua Chu Kang, Under One Roof and Mr. Kiasu, and is aggrieved that kids of this generation are missing out on what he had growing up, like Mr. Kiasu books.

However, he’s optimistic that Singapore will catch up and one day compete on a global platform, and we need to do it by creating new universes and franchises for the next generation. According to him, another important factor on our march towards storytelling brilliance would be honesty – to be more truthful in the stories we tell and characters we create. “What’s the most important quality that I look out for in the programmes I watch? It’s honesty. It’s truth. In my personal opinion, the reason why we don’t expect much quality from our shows is that we try too hard to be something that we’re not”.

As part of the writerslab programme, he has developed a pilot script for a series that could be produced on online platform Toggle.It’s a moment of anticipation, as a young writer threading the line between what makes us Singaporean, and what makes us sell on an Asian or global platform tries to make his mark. Overall, things are looking good for him, with an increasing awareness of the importance of good writers and the media industry growing as a whole faster than ever before.

Like Karl, Adeline Foo is another aspiring TV writer who underwent WritersLab, an intensive scriptwriting programme. She’s an experienced writer who has authored several books. You can read her article here.

WritersLab is an inaugural programme of the Story Lab initiative by the Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA). Organised by LASALLE College of the Arts (LASALLE), this intensive scriptwriting programme aims to push the boundaries of scriptwriting and storytelling for television and online platforms by nurturing and developing the skills of committed Singaporean film and television writers.