Words In A Picture Format

by Feng Yuan Yi, Cedar Girls' Secondary School

She would work 100 hours, 6 days a week as an investment banker until she took decisive action and quit her job. Jaclyn Chan went into screenwriting after she thought hard about what she actually wanted to do in life and has stayed in the screenwriting scene for 15 years. We all watch films and television shows, but have you ever wondered what goes into screenwriting?

Screenwriters Wee Li Lin (Left) and Jaclyn Chan (Right) during the seminar at All in! 2017
(PHOTO: Nurhuda Mohamed Halim)

“Think about the themes first,” advised Wee Li Lin amidst jokes and witty humour shared between the two veterans in the field of screenwriting and film-making. Though the two had differing views on the aspects of screenwriting to begin with, one believing that we should begin with theme and the other preferring to start off with their characters, both agreed unanimously on these factors; having an universal theme and a strong point of view are absolutely paramount to an impactful story.

One key point that was heavily emphasised during the spellbinding sharing was the element of visual storytelling. There is nothing more wonderful than watching a film told in a first person perspective that can truly move you. It is the fact that you are able to understand and feel what the character is going through that makes a well-written script stand out from the crowd. “Write about the characters you understand,” said Wee Li Lin, “Think about what you want, not what you think the audience wants.” 

However, the pièce de résistance of the all too short 50 minute session was a screening of a short-film directed by Wee Li Lin, ‘The Perm’. It featured a young girl that was simply in the wrong place at the wrong time; she had gone with her grandmother to her old salon and wanted a perm like those of her Korean idols, but instead got a perm that came straight out of the 20th century. Watching how upset the girl became, one could understand how terrible it would be for her in a new school with hair looking like that and this is what is so impactful about the short film: the audience could relate and understand.

Continuing on, we have the proverbial cherry on top of that. Director Wee Li Lin later revealed that ‘The Perm’ was inspired by her own childhood experience! With her points reinforced, both Jaclyn Chan and Wee Li Lin urged us to write from our experiences, for there is nothing more genuine, personal and impactful.

A picture speaks a thousand words and a film no more than many moving pictures. A film can have a lot of depth and show authenticity, it is just another form of storytelling; and like any story, it can really tug on our heartstrings.