A warded by the Media Development Authority (MDA), the Media Education Scholarship (MES) is one of the few scholarships that cater exclusively to those who want to join the media industry. The media industry of today is in the midst of exciting times, having had opportunities to innovate and break old boundaries in this internet age.
This industry dynamism is what attracted MES recipients Gwyneth Teo and Koh Zhi Hao to the scholarship. Gwyneth is currently a Writer / Producer at a local television company, while Zhi Hao is a liberal arts undergraduate at Yale-NUS, with a keen interest in producing films. They share their reasons for choosing the MES, as well as how their interests have been strengthened by their experiences.
Koh Zhi Hao
Media Education Scholar (Film)
Why did you choose to apply for the MES?
Gwyneth Teo: I knew I wanted to work in the creative industry, so I narrowed my search to just a few options therein. I particularly liked that I would serve my bond with a local media company, and not necessarily with MDA itself – it only meant that MDA was truly interested in improving the media industry at large.
Koh Zhi Hao: It was the scholarship that best met my needs. The opportunities provided by this scholarship to be attached to MDA-funded programmes were particularly attractive, because they gave me the chance to observe and work under professional filmmakers. This allowed me to receive an education on set that cannot be obtained in school. I would also have the freedom to choose to work on self-sourced film projects.
Tell us about your undergraduate experience.
Gwyneth: I did my bachelor’s degree in communications and new media at the National University of Singapore (NUS). I liked that the programme focused on new media, which opened our eyes to how networked technologies are so integrated in our lives – in the things we use and wear, in art, and in our common spaces. Furthermore, social media is now pervasive and even mundane, so it seemed important to understand it as a tool of engagement and also a space to start trends.
I was also part of the NUS University Scholars Programme (USP), which is a multi-disciplinary programme designed to expose students to a wider range of discourse. While I was a student of the social sciences, my classmates in USP classes were studying modules in engineering, the sciences, philosophy, architecture and other fields. Everybody brought a different perspective on what we were studying together to the table, thereby broadening our views and imaginations.
Tell us about your roles at work (Gwyneth) and your participation in extra-curricular activities (Zhi Hao).
Gwyneth: I work as a Writer / Producer at a local television production company. I conduct research on content for programmes – this encompasses collecting information about people and places to build stories, as well as checking out visual elements to make screen images engaging. These story elements are then organised into a structure that ensures a story flows and the audience is brought on a narrative journey. I would say that at least 75 per cent of script writing work is about research and structure – the last 25 per cent is putting it all together and crafting words that will be heard as dialogue or read as text on the screen.
Zhi Hao: I am very involved in the Filmmakers’ club in school. The club’s structure allows us to assemble a team, pitch our own projects, and receive funding to pursue said projects. It gives me freedom to develop my own projects, allowing me to hone my skills at a comfortable pace. Additionally, working on the projects of my peers allows me to refine my knowledge of the different aspects of filmmaking, many of which I would not normally handle in my own projects.
Media Education Scholar
Writer / Producer
What have you found empowering over the past couple of years?
Gwyneth: MDA scholars are given the opportunity to attend industry events such as the annual Asia TV Forum. This is a chance to see what’s happening in Singapore and the region, and to keep pace with developments in viewing habits and preferences, as well as technological changes. Apart from that, the support from and ease of communication with MDA officers is something I greatly appreciate.
Zhi Hao: The film ‘Short Term 12’ by Destin Daniel Cretton left a profound impact on the way I viewed cinema. It is a delightful little indie production about the travails of the caretakers and children living in a halfway house. Its emotional immediacy and honesty touched me the way truly special works of art do. It showed me the transformative, cathartic power of great cinema. It showed me that beyond being just a window to entertainment, cinema can act as a glimpse into the soul of another. My only wish is to one day be part of a film that leaves an impact as profound as this one on someone.
What advice do you have for those exploring their scholarship options?
Gwyneth: Identify what it is that you see yourself doing for the first four to six years of your working life, and also some of the values that you don’t mind serving. When that direction and those values match the objectives of the scholarship provider, you will be able to look forward to a fulfilling career after graduation.
Zhi Hao: Beyond having just passion for your area of media expertise, be keenly aware of what you wish to communicate with your medium. Constantly question yourself on these issues that you wish to communicate in order to reaffirm them even more strongly. Find your voice and burnish it – I think having a strong voice counts for so much more than mere knowledge in your area (not that the latter is not important). Last but not least, be genuine in your actions, interactions and all your pursuits.