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Reimagining genres in film

Reimagining genres in film

Striving for originality by pushing traditional media genres to the extreme doesn’t always make the end-product better or more novel, says film industry veteran Sophia Wellington.

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Ms Sophia Wellington shared about classic genres and ways around them at a WritersLab event on 26 January. (Photo credit: LASALLE)

By Annabelle Liang

What's a Western film without a gun fight; an action flick lacking a car chase or a romantic comedy that doesn't have the main characters sharing a kiss? Even as filmmakers strive for originality, there are some conventions that they may have to adhere to for a genre movie to hit the mark with their audiences.

So, in the making of a feature film, “there are so many things you want to change, but some things you have to hold on to,” said Sophia Wellington, a veteran script consultant, writer and teacher with over 20 years of experience in the film industry.

At an hour-long seminar held at LASALLE College of the Arts on 26 January, the UK-based lecturer who has taught screenwriting at films schools such as New York University and the London Film School, encouraged attendees to give classic film genres a rethink. The seminar was held in conjunction with the inaugural WritersLab, a 10-week scriptwriting programme for aspiring film and television writers.

WritersLab is a Story Lab initiative by the Infocomm Media Development Authority, which aims to bring together talents to tell compelling stories across various platforms. Organised by LASALLE, it features consultations, tutorials and workshops with local and international visiting experts.

During the session, Sophia warned that attempting to push the boundaries of genre by "making it more extreme, sexual or vulgar" does not necessarily translate into better or more original stories.

A genre that has worked well for Singapore films are family dramas that explore larger societal issues. "As a genre, family drama is quite broad. At its best, people use the genre to explore other things because the family is a private version of public life. I think Singapore has found it to be a safe and entertaining form of public commentary," remarked Sophia, who has worked on local productions such as Our Sister Mambo.

On the flip side, a locally-made science fiction movie might not go down well with audiences here, she argued. "Science fiction relies so much on the fear of knowledge, that there are things that people are not supposed to know. Singapore doesn't have that fear. Singapore embraces it."

Meanwhile, filmmakers at the seminar appreciated the insightful exchanges they had with the seasoned script doctor.

“I like the idea of knowing the conventions of each genre, before thinking about how we can subvert it,” shared audience member Ms Wee Li Lin, a filmmaker, writer and teacher. “Because at the end of the day, the audience will (get) it, but they actually want something different. They want to be surprised,” the 43-year-old explained.

Filmmaker Yee Chang Kang, 44, was inspired by the seminar to relook the genre of his feature film script. “I wrote it as a dark comedy. Not everybody understands the genre, but everyone knows the expectations of a romantic comedy. Maybe I will market it as such,” he said.

While many of the attendees were already in the film industry, media producer Wayne Xu is looking to enter it. “I am keen on learning about what makes up a genre. The session distinguished between similar ones such as romantic drama and romantic comedy. That was really helpful,” the 33-year-old said.


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