S ingapore’s small population evokes misconceptions surrounding our talent base and growth potential in the media sector. However, notable artistes such as Anthony Chen, director of ‘Ilo Ilo’ and founder of Giraffe Pictures, Wong Hock Hian, involved in Dreamworks Animation’s ‘How to Train your Dragon’, and Adeline Foo, author of series ‘The Diary of Amos Lee’ have challenged these misconceptions and efficaciously produced award-winning content. These individuals are testament to the notion that career opportunities in the industry are worth seizing – if only you dare to dream.
In fact, opportunities in the sector are growing in numbers and capacity. With the convergence of media and infocomm functions to form Infocommunications Media Development Authority of Singapore (IMDA), the Government’s forward-looking plan to groom a skilled media workforce through the Infocomm Media 2025 Plan will strengthen our competitiveness in the global media environment. There truly is no better time than now to make advancements in the media industry, and in effect help to shape Singapore’s progressive media landscape.
Two Media Education Scholarship (MES) recipients hope to do just that. They are Wendy Wong, Political Science student at the National University of Singapore (NUS), and Shanmuga Sundaram, a full-time filmmaker. They share what they hope to see in Singapore’s future media scene, and the opportunities they have received as MES recipients.
Tell us a bit about what you’re currently doing.
Wendy: I’m currently studying Political Science at NUS. While I was on my polytechnic internship at Channel NewsAsia (CNA), then Managing Director of CNA, Debra Soon, had suggested that I take up Political Science in university. Over the past three years or so, I’ve learnt a lot about politics, governance, international relations and current affairs, which will be useful to me in the future as a journalist.
Media Education Scholar
Political Science student at the National University of Singapore
Shanmuga: I hold two jobs. Firstly, I am a film producer. The producer’s job is to manage the film from the inception of concept, throughout its execution and to the exhibition of the film. I have to deal with every aspect of the filmmaking process such as fund raising, hiring, managing the creative team, overseeing production, marketing and then finally delivering it to the audience.
Secondly, I do camera work in-between producing work. I love being behind the camera as it keeps me grounded to the craft and creates an opportunity for me to learn from other filmmakers.
What opportunities have you been given as a Media Education Scholar?
Wendy: I’ve had the opportunity to try my hand at being a broadcast reporter for local news, production assistant for a current affairs programme, an editor and producer for international news, a producer for a financial show, and a digital reporter for local news.
I suppose one of my biggest takeaways would be the fact that there is a lot of hard work and detail that goes into making what we see on television every day. There are all kinds of people working to deliver the daily news—from reporters and producers, to cameramen and photographers, to anchors and editors, to graphic designers and studio technicians. It is amazing to witness and be a part of that process.
Shanmuga: It gave me an opportunity to purse a bachelor’s degree in ‘Hollywood’ California, the capital of filmmaking. Furthermore, being an MES recipient has given me the sense of direction and motivation to push myself to explore and venture into international markets such as the US and India.
Media Education Scholar
Share with us some of the more memorable episodes you’ve had throughout your career / scholarship journey.
Wendy: One of the earliest memorable experiences was being on the ground during one of SMRT’s earliest breakdowns. The moment I arrived, there were people pouring out from the station, some of whom were open to being interviewed. Given the impact of this major disruption, this was one of the most exciting moments for me as an intern!
Shanmuga: Last September, our horror film “Unakkenna Venum Sollu” (What Do You Want?) secured a distribution deal and was screened in about 200 screens in India, Sri Lanka and Singapore. This was the first Tamil film which received the MDA Development Assistance grant to be screened internationally. It was also one in which key roles of the production team consisted of Singaporeans. It was a proud moment for me to see our hard work displayed on the big screen and enjoyed by movie goers.
What do you hope to see in Singapore’s future media scene?
Wendy: I hope there would be more press freedom for journalists, which I believe is already starting to happen.
It is good to see more independent and alternative newsmakers online, but I believe that Singapore’s news industry can be a lot more vibrant in pursuing more hard-hitting and critical stories—not for the sake of being critical, but to have a deeper and more analytic look at current affairs and issues surrounding us.
Shanmuga: I hope to see more independent filmmakers active in both the local market and international platforms. This would create a fan-base for Singaporean-made films and more opportunities for local talent.
What advice would you have for those who are exploring their scholarship options?
Wendy: Do your research, know what you want, and just go for it! Adopt this mindset and you won’t have regrets after trying, regardless of the outcome. Your passion (and experience) will shine through. I remember writing in my diary the day I applied for the MES, “I’ll probably not get this scholarship, but who knows?” So just go for it!
Shanmuga: The Media Education Scholarship is the best thing that has ever happened to me – it gave me direction. If anyone is passionate about media and wants to pursue a career in this field, MES is a great starting point.