Insights on Film and Television

By Darrius Tan

The Discovery+ Series is a series of events, delivered through online digital solutions, which give students the chance to speak directly with working professionals, and learn about careers they aspire to enter. Given the developments in the COVID-19 situation, Advisory is keen to provide support to the many students who are experiencing woes in this time of disruptions, by digitalising professional mentorship.

On 15 December 2020, Advisory organised its 24th Discovery+ online panel: Discovery+: Film and Television. On our panel that evening, we were privileged to have experienced professionals from a variety of media organisations. The panel consisted of Julius Toh, Vice President, Distribution and Networks (Southeast Asia) from Sony Pictures Television; Charlyn Ng, Executive Producer from IFA Media; Kenny Tan, Executive Producer & Head of Studios from Viddsee Studios; and Vienna Wong, News Studio Director from Channel Newsasia in Mediacorp. Our registered participants comprised students from various education levels and institutions with a common curiosity in the prospects of the film and television industry, and what they can do to better stead themselves in entering and staying relevant as a player.

The local film and television industry is set to become more vibrant, for various reasons. First, there has been an increase in avenues for content distribution options in Singapore, especially because many large media companies have based their regional operations here. Second, local content creators are more willing to delve into different genres previously not explored, and to preserve local perspectives by featuring authentic Singaporean voices.

Nonetheless, the film and television industry will also continue to face disruptions and evolve. For instance, digital readership of news will continue to increase, and the media industry will need to adapt continuously. The cost of production in Singapore is also higher compared to other countries, resulting in a slight reduction in growth of the media industry.

There are many roles to play in the Film and Television industry. Studios may produce original content created through commissioning opportunities with independent filmmakers or via in-house productions, such as short films, social documentaries or short-form series. They may also produce branded content and co-productions with external partners such as foreign studios. As an Executive Producer, one may be involved in liaising with broadcasters, analysing market trends to ensure that the original content produced is marketable, budgeting, production planning, client management, creative development and post-production matters, among others. Creating original content involves a lot of hard work and planning to ensure that unplanned situations during the production process, such as poor weather conditions and logistical issues, are taken into account.

In the news industry, the Director works with other producers and script writers to come up with a cohesive news presentation. It can be hectic and nerve-wrecking on set, especially for live news coverage.

Firstly, as extra precautionary measures need to be put in place to prevent any spread of COVID-19 cases on set, extra production costs may be incurred at times. Some productions are also delayed as a result of the pandemic. Moreover, box office attendance has sharply decreased because of COVID-19. More people are also shifting to online platforms to watch content, in part because of the “work-from-home” trends brought about by COVID-19. Furthermore, because of the poorer economic outlook, commissioning, advertising and sponsorship dollars may not be as plentiful in the industry.

However, the economic outlook for the industry has improved in the last few months. For instance, COVID-19 has sped up the adoption of automation, which has created new opportunities in the market. For instance, in the news industry, specific jobs have been created to improve digital outreach and to enhance video presentation.

As long as one is willing to learn and adapt to the industry, he or she would not be at a disadvantage, even if he or she does not have relevant certifications or prior background in the media and the arts.

Securing an apprenticeship is important to gain hands-on experience in the industry, and many media organisations do offer paid internships via tertiary education institutions. There is an industry mentorship network for the Film and Television industry to provide long-term guidance to interested students. Agencies like the Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA) also offer scholarships to deserving students who have a background in media and film. Qualities such as the passion for the media and stories, adaptability, humility to learn and grit are essential characteristics for anyone interested in joining the industry.

Actively look out for incubation programmes, which can help to secure funding for one’s media projects. Forming a sound marketing strategy and understanding one’s audience when creating original content is useful too. To fund film and media projects, the Singapore Film Commission has a short film grant that grants up to $10,000 or 70% of the production budget. Production houses may also fund these projects if they see sufficient potential in it.

Watch a variety of content, including those that you may not normally view, to gather inspiration about the film product you may create. For instance, apart from Hollywood films, it would be good to watch Asian content as well to learn about diverse perspectives and stories from around the world. This will allow you to better understand the market and hence be able to cater to a wider range of production houses and clients in Singapore.