Published on 24 March 2017

What does it take to succeed in the local film industry? Four film industry veterans, who are also judges for the upcoming National Youth Film Awards 2017, share streetwise snippets of advice for those interested in a career in film.

By Melanie Lee


Photo: Alan Yap

“Always do each job with an open heart.”


What’s your job like?

My job is to bring the vision of a film director to the screen. It’s not just about pointing and shooting, a lot of consideration also goes into the props, lighting, visual effects, location and budget. I have to work very closely with the rest of the production and art direction teams to make each scene look its best.

How did you get where you are today?

I started out being a driver and production assistant for 3 years. Sometimes, I’d get opportunities to do other roles such as lighting grip. I saw firsthand the sheer amount of work and different skills required for filmmaking. In my mid-20s, I felt I needed to further my skills. I went overseas and understudied a cinematographer, being his apprentice for 4.5 years. I started doing commercial work before working on short and feature films with directors such as Roystan Tan and Warren Klass.

What advice would you give to young people who want to work in film?

Don’t think too much about the money, but how much hard work you want to put in. Don’t have an ego because it’s all about team work. Respecting your crew and having a good team spirit can make or break a film.


Photo: Ervin Han

“Talent isn’t everything. I rate work ethic and professionalism just as high.”


What’s your job like?

I run Robot Playground Media with a group of artists and animators. I develop new projects, and often write, direct and produce them. We’re one of the few local studios producing original animated content for TV, web, and streaming platforms. Over the years, we have produced several animated short films, most of which were commissioned. There isn’t really an animated film industry in this region, so we’re hoping to change that. By telling the right stories to tell with this medium, we hope to create unique animation that is relevant to a regional audience.

How did you get where you are today?

I have always loved animation and cartoons since childhood. I studied media and film at university and did a postgraduate degree in telecommunications. I actually entered the workforce as a certified network engineer but I decided to return to my first love. I spent some years at IMDA (before it was called that) helping to grow the local animation industry before working in an animation studio for nearly six years, producing animated kids series for overseas broadcasters.

What advice would you give to young people who want to work in film?

Try to find opportunities in local studios to gain experience in animation, even if it’s just on a freelancer basis. A love for animation isn’t enough. To get somewhere requires a mastery of certain techniques, and that’s what will eventually set you apart.


Photo: Zhaowei films

“You need to create the next opportunity for yourself by doing your best in everything that you do.”


What’s your job like?

Being a producer is like being a Swiss Army knife: you have to be quick on your feet to pull out the right tools to resolve any situation that arises during production. One of the most enjoyable aspects of my job is meeting people, but it’s also one of the most challenging ones too, as sometimes, I’ll have to manage the difficult ones.

How did you get where you are today?

I find a lot of it has to do with timing, seizing (or creating) the right opportunities, and hard work. Since I’ve started in this industry, I’ve been told that you are only as good as your last job. This mantra has kept me on my toes.

What is your advice for young people wanting to work in the film industry?

Be ready for the long road ahead, and learn to enjoy the journey!


“Spend as much time as possible on stories and their characters.”


What’s your job like?

I run Yellow Box Studios and my work encompasses all aspects of sound when a film comes in.

How did you get where you are today?

I started doing audio for TV and radio commercials for major advertising agencies in Asia. One day, Eric Khoo approached me to help him on his first film – Mee Pok Man – and that’s when I started working with films. I have also worked with Royston Tan for several of his films such as 15. I’ve also had the opportunity to work with well-known advertising guru David Droga, Emmy award-winning American cinematographer Robert Chappell, and of late, some incredible talents from HBO Asia and Netflix. It is hard not to get inspired working with these people.

What is your advice for young people wanting to work in the film industry?

No matter how advanced technology is these days in film, it’s still always about good storytelling and compelling actors. Also, never stinge on sound – it can sometimes make or break a film.

This year’s National Youth Film Awards (NYFA) includes a new competition category for non-media students. The submission deadline for NYFA is 15 April 2017. For more information, click here.

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