WritersLab 2019 participant Priscilla Goh at Viddsee
Browsing through some of Priscilla Goh’s earliest films on Viddsee, one might be forgiven for thinking she has a fascination with the “crappy” things in life. From bird droppings to toilet paper, her works bring a fresh perspective to the mundane, with good humour thrown into the mix.

Her short film Ah Gong’s Toilet Paper, which tells the story of an elderly man trying desperately to find his favourite brand of loo roll, won ‘Best Screenplay’ in the Open Category of ciNE65 2017, a competition for aspiring filmmakers to tell their Singapore story and what Singapore means to them. This was an impressive result, considering it was the first time she had ever written a fictional script.

Seeking to improve her scriptwriting skills further, Priscilla enrolled herself into the Infocomm Media Development Authority’s (IMDA) WritersLab programme in 2018. The 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 writers. Even with her prior writing experience and the ciNE65 award under her belt, Priscilla found that the programme widened her perspective on what made a good script.

Inspired by life

Sharing about the script for Newton’s Laws of Life which she wrote under IMDA’s WritersLab programme, Priscilla called her work “a coming-of-age dramedy”.

“The story is about a young punk who, by some stroke of luck, gets into a parody of Singapore’s Gifted Education Programme alongside a classmate with undiagnosed Asperger’s syndrome that he used to bully. The punk now gets bullied by another student, who does it as her way of coping with the stress of being hot-housed by her parents,” she says, noting that parts of the story were inspired by real life.

“When I was pregnant, my mother-in-law warned me that I had to look out for signs of autism as my baby grew up so that we could get early intervention if needed,” she explains. Sharing the comment with her husband, she learnt that her husband’s teacher had once commented to his mum: “I think your boy’s head something wrong”, alluding to learning difficulties.

“My husband is now an astrophysics lecturer,” Priscilla says, adding that she hopes to produce Newton’s Laws of Life one day as a conversation starter about special needs education.

Room for growth

The most important lesson that Priscilla learnt through WritersLab was to write about things from a deeply personal perspective. “Everyone has their own unique experiences and ‘insider knowledge’ to share, and this helps to really give stories their own character,” she says.

“Before WritersLab, I did not have much success in writing any full-length drama series—none of my full-length drama pitches got commissioned before WritersLab. [This was because] I treated my scripts much like essays, or in the case of pre-school shows, exercises in pedagogy. However, WritersLab gave me a way to visualize the structure of fiction-like essays, as well as useful practice in implementing that structure in a self-created concept. I do believe this skill is very transferable between different mediums, whether it’s for a play, a novel, or TV.”

Asked about her latest project, Priscilla highlights Soul Food, which was recently produced and released by Viddsee. “The series is based on a concept that I came up with after applying the things I learnt from WritersLab. It’s about a psychologist-turned-chef who recreates final meals for those who want to meet their deceased loved ones again. Of course, the chef herself desires to see a deceased love one once more.”

Some of Priscilla’s collaborators on Soul Food were fellow WritersLab participants, demonstrating that the WritersLab programme goes beyond sharpening scriptwriters’ technical skills to help them build networks for future projects. All eight episodes of Soul Food can be found at https://www.viddsee.com/series/soulfood.

The series encapsulates her view that good scriptwriting is a fine balance between realism and escapism, logic and suspension of disbelief, entertainment and education. “Hopefully there will be a Soul Food season two!” she quips.
WritersLab 2019 participant - Priscilla Goh - BTS Soul Food
WritersLab is a programme under the Story Lab initiative. Organised by 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 writers.

Source: This article was originally published on IMPact News