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SPOTLIGHT: See through the lens with Jeanine Lim

This article is part of a series of SPOTLIGHTS showcasing our Community Partners, their ideologies, methodologies, challenges and triumphs. For more, click here.

As one of the few female filmmakers in the local scene, Jeanine Lim, our filmmaking expert for Skillseed’s Film for Good Programme, has over ten years of experience in film production, both in Singapore and overseas. She loves films and its power to touch audiences and create social impact.

With a strong empathy for others, Jeanine and her mother, Monique have been bringing donations of clothes and necessities to the poor in Vietnam since 1993. Over the years, her efforts have benefitted many poor families in Vietnam and this led her to initiate Project Give Pray Love.

Project Give Pray Love has been working with Project Skillseed to develop our very first programme focusing on film-making and next week (early December 2014), Jeanine will be leading a team of aspiring filmmakers on their Film For Good adventure in the Mekong Delta region of Vietnam. In this month’s Spotlight, Jeanine shares with us her filmmaking journey and how she brings together her passion for film and philanthropy. 


1.     What inspired you to become a filmmaker?

It started with my love for television. I grew up watching a lot of TV and knew that in the future, I wanted to work in that field. I ended up studying TV production in university in Australia and made my first film there, shot on 16 mm. That’s when my passion became film and I decided to take it further by doing a Masters in Film in the US. 

2.     What do you love about filmmaking?

I love films because film is a universal language and has the power to touch people to the extent of having social impact. I also like the idea how films immortalise their makers, actors and stories. My favourite filmmakers are David Fincher, Peter Weir, Majid Majidi, amongst many others.

3.     Has filmmaking impacted your life in a big way? If so, how?

Film has opened my eyes to life in different parts of the world, different life situations…Most of us won’t be able to travel the whole world in our lifetimes, so film is a platform to expose us to different cultures and experiences.

Personally as a filmmaker, having the traits and skills needed to be a director more than prepares you for a range of jobs and capabilities. Some of these qualities include a good work ethic, attention to detail, creativity, versatility, communication/interpersonal skills and strength in both the arts (soft skills needed in filmmaking) and sciences (physics and technical skills needed in the craft).

 4.     What are your favourite film types/genres etc. and why?

I enjoy dramas, comedies and thrillers. I don’t like horror of sci-fi. So basically, I prefer genres that are realistic and not those that are fantasy, abstract and which won’t happen to us in real life. Some people will argue that these are the entertaining films and that real-life films are boring, but I relate more to these films and can learn more from them. I am drawn to stories about the human condition and this is why I like documentaries as well.

5.     What are some themes you like to portray in your works? And what are the different genres/themes/methods of filming that you would like to explore in the future?

I am quite experimental in terms of trying different genres in my work. So far, I have done drama, thriller, comedy, sci-fi for my narrative work. For documentaries, I have done human-interest stories and my current project is an ideological piece on Singapore and its identity. My dream would be to do a feature film set in Vietnam, based on the stories of my grandfather and mother. This will be a very personal film which I hope I can make sometime in the future.

 6.     Could you share with us a particularly memorable time in your filmmaking career?

It’s hard for me to pick a single experience as each film I made came with ups and downs and its own unique learning points. I guess if I had to pick one, it would be my thesis film shot in Boston, where I challenged myself to shoot a film about 3 people stuck overnight in an elevator. It was difficult as the whole film is set in 1 location and the audience is stuck with the same 3 actors. If the characters were not compelling and if the script failed, the whole film would have tanked. It was also the first and only time I worked with a built set which was fun and also challenging (the elevator was completely constructed as it was too difficult to shoot so many hours in a real elevator).

7.     In your perspective, what are some of the upcoming trends in the industry?

With new technologies, cheaper equipment and the internet/social media, anyone can be a filmmaker/citizen journalist. Film, no longer a viable medium, is now being replaced by digital media. The change in medium has made ‘film’ more accessible, and the change in technology has simplified a lot of the workflows which used to be very complicated with film. But what has remain unchanged is the craft itself…all the elements needed for a good film are the same today as they were 100 years ago at the birth of cinema. Also, all the film practices from that time more or less apply today (e.g. the dos and don’ts of filmmaking). So in this sense, film is very much alive, even if not in a physical form.

8.     What are the challenges you face as a filmmaker?

There are numerous challenges, especially as an Asian female director, which is still a rare breed. You will know these challenges just by looking at how many female directors have won the Oscar, let alone an Asian director, whether male or female.

 Film, like art, is still not considered a viable career choice in most countries, so filmmakers have to continuously struggle just to make a living. There’s not much money in it unless you make it to the big time. Hours are long and hard and very demanding/unstable for filmmakers, especially those with families.

 Filmmakers in Singapore struggle with lack of funding and support (especially for non-MDA-supported projects) and a small market base to sell their films after production.

9.     You will be playing dual roles as our subject matter expert for Film for Good, where you’ll be mentoring a group of aspiring young documentary filmmakers; as well as the main coordinator of our partner organization for the program, Project Give Pray Love. Can you tell us a little bit about PGPL?

Since 1993, my mother, Monique, and I have been bringing donations of clothes and other necessities to the poor in Vietnam. Over the years, we have also financially supported the building of 3 houses for poor families in Vị Thủy and Sóc Trăng in the Mekong Delta region of Vietnam. These efforts in past years were all made in our personal capacity, but in 2013, I initiated Project Give Pray Love to further our cause and help the poor in Vietnam through greater outreach.

Through the project, annual trips are made to Vietnam to donate bicycles, clothes, school supplies, and food to poor children and families in the Mekong Delta. As we believe education is a way out of poverty, giving children a shot at a better future, our focus is to keep children in school. Towards this goal, we offer tuition fees support to relieve their financial burdens, provide bicycles to ease their long journeys to school, and provide school supplies (books and stationery) so they have what they need for their studies

10.  How do you hope Film for Good’s young documentary filmmakers can contribute to the mission of PGPL?

I just want to raise awareness about the life situation of the poor in Vietnam as many people are not aware that to this day, people still live in such poverty in developing countries. So if the films made by the participants on this trip can raise awareness and encourage more people to come forward to help, I would say mission accomplished.

11.   Any other words of advice to youths who aspire to be filmmakers?

Film has to be done out of passion. If you’re in it for money or fame, then you’re not in it for the right reasons and won’t be likely to survive in the industry. And because the money and fame only comes if you ever make it big, it is a constant struggle, which is why you need passion to keep going and to tide you through.

Also, filmmakers have to learn to wear many hats. Making a film is so physically, mentally and emotionally challenging that you really have to be tough, smart, have a heart for film and a head for business. As an art form, it is one of the most demanding, if not the most, because film has so many facets – camerawork, lighting, sound, music, effects etc. Before production, you wear the hats of producer, researcher, project manager etc. During production, you wear the artistic hat of director which is all encompassing. After production, you put on your business hat to get your film exhibited or distributed. The work never ends and you just learn to alternate between all these different hats.

Finally, use your films for social impact. Make films that will challenge people to improve themselves and do good for the world. Don’t make meaningless films that just waste everyone’s time and money. This is why documentary-making is good because it has the power to effect change and make a difference in the world.

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SPOTLIGHT: The World We Live In (Part 2 of 2)

This article is part of a series of SPOTLIGHTS showcasing our Community Partners, their ideologies, methodologies, challenges and triumphs. For more, click here.

Education has a crucial part to play in shaping our minds, from attaining knowledge to how we apply what we have learnt. In this second part of our feature with Professor Tay Kheng Soon, the renown local architect and industrial expert for our recently concluded Urban Sustainability and Architecture program shares with us his thoughts on how education has influenced the field of architecture in Singapore and how students should “sail the seven Cs” to break out of the current mould.

Singapore as an Industrialised City

The year 2015 marks Singapore’s 50th year of independence and also Prof Tay’s 50th year in his architecture career. He is passionate about pushing the boundaries of Singapore’s architecture and continues to churn out innovative ideas and actively participates in experimenting for better technologies for urban and rural economies. Prof Tay laments that local architects have a “lack of self-confidence” and are too engrossed with progress, which leaves little time for imagination and creativity. “They all think that progress, to be progressive and to progress, you must be like the west. They cannot define what their future ought to be. They define their future as the western future. Industralisation involves machinery, lack of human feelings. Machines eliminate humans.”

Industrialisation can permeate through every aspect of our lives and has greatly influenced education. Prof Tay explains,“ School education is turning students into robots, trained to conform to the industry, trained to listen to instructions. This affects your imagination. [Leading students to think that] conformation is the way to survive.”

However, Prof Tay believes that the younger generation of architect students can be the change makers that break free from the shackles of industrialisation-influenced architecture. “Young people are the future. But you can only be the future if you are not a problem. Right now, you are a problem. You have been made into a problem because of education, because of the way you are motivated. Be creative and learn to change the world. But before you change the world, you must change yourself.” 

Professor Tay’s 7Cs to see life

To Prof Tay, this change can only come from the 7Cs:

1.     Competence

2.     Confidence

3.     Courage

4.     Curiosity

5.     Creativity

6.     Compassion

7.     Collaboration

“ The first C is competence. Be competent in what you do. If you are good at something, be good at it. Mastery is important. Once you have competence, you will have confidence. And when you have confidence, you will have courage. When you have courage, then you can ask difficult questions, you can exercise your curiosity. When you are curious, you will find out a lot of things. When you find out a lot of things, then you can be creative. Without all these you cannot be creative, you can only be a copycat. However, creativity alone is not enough, you must have passion. You must feel for your fellowmen, you must feel for the environment (the plants, animals etc.) [This is] compassion. When you have compassion and creativity, then you can be a great collaborator.”

The role of architecture to mould the society is apparent in Prof Tay’s beliefs. “The kind of architecture for the future… is competent: you understand nature, environment, climate; compassionate: understand people’s needs; creative: invents a new ways of how humans should live with each others and the environment and be able to involve people in the making of the place. That is participation and you create a creative society. That is the role of architecture.”

 

Reason behind starting Kampung Temasek

Kampung Temasek (KT), situated near Sungei Tiram, Johor, Malaysia, is one of the innovative projects by Prof Tay to educate and equip the future leaders with these 7Cs.

“Sometimes, it is necessary to get people out of their usual environment. By putting yourself in a different environment, it allows you to see things in a different light.” he says. KT gives their visitors a chance to live in a different environment, bringing visitors back to the olden days where they get to enjoy the culture and ambience of kampung living. The ‘kampung’ culture is considered endangered with the development of cities.

“Changing the environment would change the minds of people. By that, you change yourself and how you interact with the world. If one keeps living in their comfort zones, they are simply repeating and reinforcing the same old habits. When nothing changes, there will be no improvements.”

Prof Tay encourages the future generations to challenge themselves, “Give yourself a jolt and challenge yourself to face unfamiliar circumstances. That is the way you learn to get confidence. Be daring to do it!”

Indeed, KT has served as a fantastic educational platform for Skillseed’s Urban Sustainability and Architecture program, where our participants from Beijing learnt basic architecture and construction skills from Architecture facilitators. In KT’s unfamiliar Kampung environment, we hope that our young urbanite participants were thoroughly challenged and gained the confidence to dare to dream big for their futures!

(Click here to see more exciting moments built during the program!)

With Love,
Brenda

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SPOTLIGHT: The World We Live In (Part 1 of 2)

This article is part of a series of SPOTLIGHTS showcasing our Community Partners, their ideologies, methodologies, challenges and triumphs. For more, click here.

This month, Project Skillseed would like to introduce to you our new section, "SPOTLIGHT", where we speak to industrial experts, hear about their personal experiences, and tap into their expertise. 

We have invited renowned local architect, Professor Tay Kheng Soon, as our first "SPOTLIGHT" expert to share his insights into the industry and sustainable architecture.

(This is the first of a two part series featuring Prof Tay.)


Has it ever crossed your mind that architecture plays an all-important role in your life? It determines how you interact with your family at home, your friends at school and your colleagues at your workplace. 

Professor Tay Kheng Soon

Professor Tay Kheng Soon

I had a very simplistic idea of what architecture was and what architects do (design and build, what else?) until I met Professor Tay Kheng Soon. 

Prof Tay is the founder of Akitek Tenggara and adjunct professor at the National University of Singapore’s School of Architecture. With more than 40 years of experience, Prof Tay is a treasure trove of architectural wisdom. His unique and innovative ideas have  earned him numerous accolades, such as the 2010 Singapore Institute of Architects Gold Medal. 

We had the honour of being introduced to Prof Tay through Skillseed’s advisor and visionary educator Mrs Carmee Lim. Prof Tay co-founded Kampung Temasek, an educational and recreational destination in Johor with a mission to bring back the kampung days to visitors, and a highlight of our upcoming Sustainable Architecture Program in November. The site integrates exciting curriculum and programmes with nature and sustainable technologies. 

Image from  Kampung Temasek  Facebook Page

Image from Kampung Temasek Facebook Page

Clad in just a plain shirt and pants, Prof Tay, a pioneer of Singapore’s architectural scene, shared his thoughts on the changing future of local architecture and how architecture can influence and change the lives of people. 


What is the architecture scene in Singapore like today?

Prof Tay: Singapore is plugged into the global scene. It emulates the style of its main patrons. The success of the modern western culture is because of industrialisation and the industrial revolution that created the big cities (like Singapore).

 

What is industrialisation and how does it affect Singapore's architecture?

Industrialisation was built on the wealth and power of colonial rule. The architecture that arose from the process emphasised manufactured building products. Handicraft is completely ignored by industrial processes. Instead, the celebration of industrialism (as an aesthetic) emphasises flat planes (e.g. glass panes and wooden planks).

This aesthetic is deeply embedded into our consciousness and we are totally victimised into thinking that this is what it means to be modern. All of our modern architecture is actually an industrial aesthetic. To be modern is to be industrialised. Meanwhile, traditional architecture is regarded as not modern and backwards. That is the way our minds have been shaped. 

The education system is also part of the industrial system; the school is like a production factory.

 

How do you define the term 'ideal architecture'?

Ideal architecture can only come from an authentic society. This requires a great deal of self-confidence, which we don’t have it yet.

 

Is Singapore’s architecture considered ideal?

No, it is a copy and they are proud of it. Architects are making a name by being good copyist in the peoples’ eyes with their current state of mind.

 

How do you think we can change the situation?

By daring to invent the future; a future based on who we really are and where we are – the poetics of people and place. 

 

What is architecture to you?

A stage set for the enactment of authentic life, and not what it is now, i.e. aping the west.

 

Skillseed will be sending some students to Kampung Temasek in November for our Sustainable Architecture Program. Could you share with us why you and your friends Jack Sim of World Toilet Association and Stephen Loh of Brandtology decided to build Kampung Temasek?

Architecture of the future comes from the 7Cs: competence (mastery), confidence, courage, curiosity, creativity, compassion and collaboration.  

Kampung Temasek was created to get people out of their usual environment and change their mind-set. We are the victims of the environment; the environment changes your relationship with the world. 


If you think that architecture should be about designing something facinating to the eye, you are wrong! Prof Tay frowns upon architecture students with that perspective. " Architecture should be authentic and practical. It should collaborate with the people and the environment", he emphasised.

Kampung Temasek is founded so that it connects people with nature. We hope that our upcoming Sustainable Architecture Program will be able to rekindle our participants' biophilia or innate love for the nature and hopefully, inspire more original architectural designs for the Skillseed Challenge! 

It is hard to visualise in words how enriching the environment of Kampung Temasek is. Drop by their Facebook page and you will see why we love that place!

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