Make Your Passion Your Profession: an Interview with Jaclyn Chan, Screenwriter

by Rachel Lim Jia Sing, Victoria Junior College

“Being able to do what you love is the happiest thing in life.”

This quote, from a video clip shared, was one of the two things I had left SCAPE with on that day. The other was tremendous respect for professionals in the local arts scene.

It turned out to be a really pleasant experience as the speakers, all professionals in their own field, made conscious effort to make it an interactive session, even going to the lengths of preparing interesting videos to entertain us. I ended up attending a plethora of sessions, all of which turned out to be very enjoyable and educational experiences.

Rudiments of Writing for Digital Film was headed by Mdm Chan and her partner, Mdm Wee.

Throughout the session, Mdm Chan shared her views about the screenwriting industry, advice to budding screenwriters as well as her chronological approach to writing a screenplay or script. For example Mdm Chan said she prefers to define the character biography first. Another thing she fervently preached about is to create stories that reveal something about themselves, best if you can inject personal experiences into the stories to make the story stand out. She also touched on the difference between an internal goal (intangible) and an external goal (tangible). An external goal would be the explicit goal of the main  leads in the movie whereas the internal goal would revolve around the character development .The involvement of an internal goal is then paramount in giving the story more depth.

I did get to know more about Mdm Chan as I got to interview her. My partner then interviewed Mdm Wee. I was really intrigued by Mdm Chan’s career history and thus asked her more about it. This is because, during the session, she shared that she started out as an investment banker and then switched career paths midway to pursue screenwriting. She has always loved telling stories, but studied economics and got into the financial sector in the end. She shared that everyone has different priorities in life and not everyone has that luxury and liberty to make a similar choice to hers, as they are tied down to their current circumstances. All she wanted was to make her passion her profession. It did take courage to shift away from financial stability and it definitely didn’t start out easy. “However,if you keep trying hard enough, you will pull through it.”

I felt that the example set by Mdm Chan is indeed very inspiring and very relatable to teens in Singapore. People tend to follow the flow and may neglect their personal interests and desires just to achieve an ideal image set by standards of society. Many youths today do have an inclination towards the arts but don’t have the courage to pursue it. Some are fed the idea of the sensitive term “starving artists” and thus afraid to pursue the idea of getting a career in the arts scene. This is further worsened by the fact, even in our education system, science is much more strongly emphasised on than arts.

Thus, I feel we need to wake up to the idea that having a thriving local art scene is just as vital as developing the science-related sectors. We need to recognise that professionals working in the art scene also put in substantial effort in their work and are a valuable asset to our society. We also need to stop avoiding the taboo term”starving artist”, instead face it directly and analyse the reasons that lead to this situation. Only in this way, art-inclined talents feel free to pursue their career and can make their passion their profession.

In the end, I feel Mdm Chan is an excellent example who has made her passion her profession and has turned out well. She is passionate about their craft and possess the element of grit. As youths, I feel that we should emulate these values she possess and use those values to succeed in our future endeavours.