By Gina Peh
While a profession in Singapore’s burgeoning film industry is still fairly niche, two individuals have gone against the grain to pursue the road less travelled.
One is a budding film critic with an appetite for films from different corners of the world, while the other is a noted veteran who produces films that impact people’s lives. Both fell in love with film in their younger years, and now see it as a powerful medium to reimagine stories and experiences.
Ms G. Nanthinee Shree and Ms Low Ser En have been breaking new ground in their individual pursuits, as present and former recipients of the Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA)’s Singapore Digital (SG:D) Scholarship respectively. Delving into their aspirations and projects, IMPact News uncovers how they’ve turned their passion for film into a career of compelling storytelling.
Making her mark, one film at a time
A fourth-year student pursuing a Bachelor of Communication Studies at Nanyang Technological University (NTU) and 2020 recipient of the SG:D Undergraduate Scholarship, Ms Shree enjoys watching films from around the world to understand the shared human experience they portray.
“It was the occasional trips to the movie theatre with my family and the weekly Tamil movies on Vasantham that were my gateway to the world of films,” she shared.” To further immerse herself in the entertainment industry and cultivate a growing interest in social media marketing, Ms Shree pursued an internship at a local media corporation. “The internship perfectly combined my two interests,” she explained. “It allowed me to see how Singaporeans responded to various tropes and content that films and dramas portrayed.”
This first-hand experience motivated Ms Shree to apply for the SG:D Scholarship, in hopes of contributing to Singapore’s vibrant film industry at a larger level. Applying for the scholarship was a novel experience especially in light of COVID-19, according to Ms Shree. “The initial stages of the application were all online,” she shared. “I had never done an interview where I had to record my responses live for submission.”
One highlight of Ms Shree’s experience as a communications undergraduate is her stint as Co-festival Director of the 2020 edition of Perspectives Film Festival—Singapore’s first and longest student-run film festival. Held virtually for the first time in 13 years, this year’s theme “Truth” spotlights international films that unearth alternative perspectives of familiar narratives. By co-directing the festival, Ms Shree had the pleasure of watching a plethora of films to handpick the ones best-suited to the theme.
Ms Shree professed: “As an avid filmgoer, it is truly an honour to contribute to the film scene in Singapore!”
Bringing attention to untold stories
With her films screened and awarded at over 80 international film festivals to date, Ms Low is no stranger to the art of storytelling. Over the years, she’s used film to spotlight themes like injustice and society’s underdogs, among others. Her efforts have not gone unnoticed—in 2018, Ms Low became the first Singaporean to win a British Academy of Film and Television Arts (BAFTA) award and an Annie Award for producing Poles Apart, a short animated film on climate change.
“When I was a kid, I wanted to capture the beautiful moments that I observed of my family and friends,” shared Ms Low. “I soon realised that a device called a video camera could help me with that. I decided to pursue a career in filmmaking because I wanted to use film as a medium to make a change in people’s lives, whether big or small.”
Under the former Media Education Scholarship (MES)—now subsumed under the SG:D Scholarship—Ms Low completed her Masters in Producing from the National Film and Television School (NFTS) in 2017 with the support of mm2 Entertainment. She then served her bond there as an Associate Producer soon after graduation.
Humbled by the opportunities she has received in the industry, Ms Low remarked: “I have been blessed to have a network of scholars that I could meet and learn from.”
Pushing the boundaries of storytelling, Ms Low has since ventured into television and even entrepreneurship, having recently co-founded Sendjoy, a platform where noted personalities can be booked to send a personalised video message to loved ones. Sendjoy was birthed from her mission to democratise filmmaking by helping people work with creative talents to create meaningful content for the people they care about. In this regard, Ms Low envisions her Sendjoyers to be “missionaries who help people express what they want to say.”
Challenging the status quo
For many, film is a form of escapism—a fictional world that temporarily distracts from life’s troubles. According to Ms Shree and Ms Low, films are much more nuanced than that. “Films are not a passive medium. They are influenced by society and have an influence on society,” said Ms Shree. Meanwhile, Ms Low challenges conventional narratives through her films, inviting her audience to partake in these shifting paradigms themselves.
It’s a philosophy that has served Ms Low well over the course of her career. Speaking to current and future recipients of the SG:D Scholarship, she advised, “Many people see success as a measure of meaning in life, but it is through failure that we truly learn. Don’t be afraid of choosing difficult paths and trying something new!”
Find out more about how you can pursue your passion in film and other exciting careers in infocomm media career through the SG:D Scholarship at http://www.go.gov.sg/SGDScholarships