Essentials For The Modern Filmmaker: Takeaways From The National Youth Film Award Conference4 min readReading Time: 3 minutes
At the recently concluded National Youth Film Award (NYFA) Conference, its panels of industry experts shared a wide range of key insights for the modern filmmaker.
Here are a few takeaways from the conference:
To the screenwriters – or any writer: You need to be seen!
It is easy for screenwriters to be stuck in a cycle. You draft a story, pitch it. It gets rejected. You feel disheartened. And, you give up.
Here’s what Kane Wheatley-Holder, Vice President, Screenwriters Association (Singapore), has to say: “Half of being a screenwriter, or any writer in general, is trying to be the last man standing, and just keep going. And if you keep going, producing, creating, and experimenting, you will find your niche and audience. But it takes time. Don’t not expect it to be immediate.”
He also encouraged writers to leverage technology in order to be seen in the digital space.
“It is important to tell people who you are and what you do. In today’s world, if people can’t find you, if people can’t search your name, if people can’t isolate your stories from a sea of content, you don’t exist.”
To newcomers of the industry: Humility, creativity, and initiative are qualities the industry values
For youths looking to join the film industry, your attitude matters – not your education. This was a message stressed by Kimberly James, VP of Production, Original Productions Department, HBO Asia.
“It is so important to be ready to tackle anything. It is about humility – we understand that you paid for your education, and there is great respect for that. But, when you are learning the ropes, be ready for anything that comes your way. When you work with good people, they will bring you up with them. They will craft your career; they will guide and mentor you. If they see that you will work hard for them, they will do anything to help you grow.”
She also highlighted that it is important to be a creator, not a technician.
“If you’re handling the camera or running the cables, everything you do is in service to the film. You need to think creatively about the decisions that are being made for the film, and make sure that you are making the right decisions with what you are doing such that it is also in favour of the film. Do not just wait for someone to tell you what to do.”
Indeed, it is important to have the initiative to think creatively on set.
To aspiring film students: Let go of validation
Yes, external validation is important. However, hard work and internal motivation will sustain.
Low Ser En, Independent Producer and Media Education Scholarship (MES) Scholar advises:
“You cannot structure your life around being validated by others. Winning the British Academy of Film and Television Arts (BAFTA) Film Awards or getting into the National Film and Television School (NFTS) did not change my life very much, especially in Singapore. There are people who do not know what BAFTA or NFTS is. These achievements did not help me get more chances of being funded for a film that I like… Going to film school is not the answer. You still have to work hard and keep going because of that passion.”
A completed film is the end of the beginning. What is next is finding the best places to screen it and get recognised. Here’s what Huang Ruilin, Consultant of Honour SG shared about approaching platforms:
“Sometimes, you can tell if a filmmaker has done their homework and research. Filmmakers need to find the right fit, understand what the platform is about, and assess whether it is the right platform for you and your film… When filmmakers come for pitches, you may have a story that is close to your heart but be open to input and feedback.”
Essentially, platforms such as Viddsee, SGIFF, and Honour SG seek to enable filmmakers to tell their stories. For filmmakers, it is important to understand the type of films that resonate with the platform’s audience.
And… for the introverts
Put yourself out there, the community will accept you. Here’s what Jerrold and Shoki, both who consider themselves introverts, have to say:
“The film industry involves a lot of networking, events, pitching of ideas, and convincing others that your film is worthy of being made or shown. It is something that I have learnt to be more opened to. After a while, it starts to be fun. People become your friends. There is a community that is connected by love of cinemas or stories. Very quickly, this glass or façade melts away.” – Jerrold Chong, Director of “Piece of Meat”
“You have to put yourself out there, because ultimately, film is not something you can fund or make alone. You have to meet people and get out of your comfort zone. But this is not to discourage introverts from entering the film industry. At the end, it is about the craft, and people will accept you for who you are.” – Shoki Lin, Director of “ADAM”