Film Writing Takes Centre Stage at All In! 2017

By Sharlene Ferry & Nurhuda Mohamed Halim, Diploma in Mass Communication | Republic Polytechnic

Film writing took centre stage at All In! Young Writers’ Festival 2017 with several prominent directors and producers sharing their personal stories of how they started and tips.

Mr Christian Lee and Mr Jason Chan, the founders of BananaMana Films, told the audience at *Scape they started the company with the goal of creating premium aspirational content on YouTube. They began making corporate videos before moving on to feature films, but stayed away from creating content such as “pants down humour” to attract views and clicks.

THE MEN BEHIND BANANAMANA FILMS: Mr Jason Chan (middle) and Mr Christian Lee (right) shared with the audience how they started from scratch and founded their company. (PHOTO: Sharlene Jazel Ferry)

The company shot to fame last year when their English production Perfect Girl was acquired by major international platforms such as Netflix, Viki and Naver TVcast. Made with a budget of $1,000 and a production crew of four, the 10-part Web series picked up five awards, including for Outstanding Drama Series, at the Los Angeles Web Series Festival in 2015.

But when they first pitched the idea to a broadcaster here, they were told that the idea would not fly.

“I think the only way to create is you have got to create what you love,” said Mr Chan. “Otherwise, it’s so hard that you’ll never do it.”

When creating films, Mr Lee and Mr Chan would ask themselves a simple question: “If I were to pay for that, would I?”

The duo said YouTube also helped to provide almost instant audience feedback on their content. “Start making stuff and you will find your target audience,” said Mr Chan. Besides a talk and showcasing their projects, BananaMana Films also held a workshop for participants about how to write comedies and TV series for the Web.

Other filmmakers who conducted workshops were top-billed by seasoned screenwriter/filmmakers Ms Wee Li Lin, Ms Jaclyn Chan and Ms Ng Swee San.   

FILM FUNDAMENTALS: Ms Wee Li Lin (left) and Ms Jaclyn Chua (right) sharing a joke during a session on creating compelling stories in film and television at the All In! Young Writers’ Festival 2017. (PHOTO: Nurhuda Mohamed Halim)

Ms Wee, one of Singapore’s pioneer female filmmakers, urged young writers to create stories that were authentic and true to their own experiences. She showed one of her short films The Perm, which was inspired by her childhood. Personal experiences make a more believable and convincing story as it does not break the audience’s suspension of disbelief, Ms Wee said.

“Before I even start writing, I always think ‘What are the themes I’m interested in?’ because in this phase in life, there are current themes that we’ll be thinking about,” she added.

There was a showcase of short films at the Festival as well, featuring seven films selected for the inaugural All In! Young Shortfilmmakers Exhibition.