Taking A Bow
As the 29th edition of The Singapore International Film Festival rolls around, we meet the power players of our film industry who are shaping, moulding and steering the visual language of cinema with their behindthe-scenes bravado
Meet the women transforming the film industry here and abroad
The Festival Flourisher Nicole Ong, 40, Marketing & Partnerships Director, Singapore International Film Festival (SGIFF)
While filmmakers bring life, culture and art to our daily lives, it is film festivals that help spread these stories to audiences around the world. Enter Nicole, the newly minted Marketing & Partnerships Director for SGIFF, who oversees the propagation of high-quality creative films to the masses.
“There are all these filmmakers in the industry but they’re only as good as it gets right? You need to be able to actually spread the good word about these filmmakers and their personal stories so that’s where I come in. I make sure that the festival gets heard,” says Nicole, who moonlights as a photographer on the side.
“It’s also my role to look at how we are able to change perceptions about SGIFF. A lot of people tend to think that the films being shown here are very inaccessible, very indie, and a little bit niche, but one of our objectives this year is to get people who are not very into film to just come and be open to what we’ll show at the festival and come and see the diversity of the talents that we have in the region.”
In Nicole, the festival has found a fresh pair of eyes to take the SGIFF in a new direction. She comes from a different industry altogether – advertising – where she spent more than a decade in brand management.
“After 13 years working with clients, I needed a break just to reset. So, I did some freelancing and concentrated on photography work for a while before meeting with SGIFF. I was very honest about myself being very new to the film industry,” reveals Nicole, who joined SGIFF last March.
“It really was different from what
I was used to. In advertising I was used to big budgets so coming from that into this non-profit organisation where people are here because of their passionate love for films, that really touched me. They really just want to nurture filmmakers and the filmmaking industry in Singapore. The whole team is very small and it’s very tight-knit.”
What’s Your Feel-Good Film: “I really like the Before Sunrise and Before Sunset series because not only is the storyline beautiful, but they also took nine years to film the sequel. They have these really long, uncut shots so the whole series really feels like a passage of time. There’s also Reality Bites, which isn’t entirely my favourite film, but it was relevant to me during my pivotal years growing up.”
The New Kid On The Block Low Ser En, 28, BAFTA-winning Producer, mm2 Entertainment
The Kallang-born producer was the name on everyone’s lips after picking up an award at the British Academy of Film and Television Arts (BAFTA) last February for her 12-minute stop-motion short film Poles Apart – and she’s gone from strength to strength since returning to her native soil.
“When Poles Apart won at the BAFTAs, I was speechless and in shock. I couldn’t believe it. I had worked on it as a graduation project and had a hand in the script’s direction and its editing process as well as handling the budgeting and film’s schedule over a period of 15 months,” shares Ser En, who has a Bachelor in Fine Arts from Nanyang Technological University.
“We were inspired by a newspaper article about climate change and how it affected polar bears in the north and grizzly bears in the south, so we decided to take that and turn it into a love story about these bears meeting as a result of their natural habitats being eroded.”
Since then, Ser En has worked on horror flick Zombiepura as an associate producer for mm2 Entertainment. The film made its debut in October to favourable reviews. “As a film producer I oversee everything from script development to the shoot itself to postproduction, and editing to marketing. We often have a role in the creative process and the business aspect of a film and we juggle multiple films at one go,” Ser En explains, adding that her career choice did receive some pushback from her conservative parents.
“When I won the BAFTA, I told my mum and she said, ‘Did you really win? I didn’t see you on TV’, which gave me a good laugh. Deep down I think they are secretly proud of me but it was tough for them to accept my job because sometimes there are no monetary rewards to show for it.
“I was all right pursuing film producing and spending all my time on set because of my passion, but for my parents, they felt that I could have chosen an easier path to success.”
What’s Your Feel-Good Film: “Gattaca, which is an odd choice but whenever someone asks me what movie I would make if I had $100 million, I always say Gattaca. It’s a sci-fi movie but it has a very human story behind it and it acts as a metaphor for society by looking at what will happen to the human condition if we take the sciences too seriously.”
NICOLE WEARS T-SHIRT AND JACKET FROM SANDRO; SKIRT FROM MAX MARA; BOOTS FROM JIMMY CHOO; AND RING FROM ATELIER SWAROVSKI.