Study Filmmaking - A Necessity or Ruse?

By Nur Hafiza Abu Bakar | Last modified 28 Nov 2019
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(L-R) Andrew Soh, Creative Producer at MGAG, Low Ngai Yuen, filmmaker and president of Kakiseni, Marc Lourdes, Vice President, Indian Content Business at Astro and Indrani Kopal, filmmaker and Taylor's educator

Subang Jaya, 26 November 2019 – At a recently hosted a panel discussion in Taylor’s University, industry experts differed on their opinions of whether a technical degree is needed in the age of digital content creation, but agree that the university experience is necessary.

Titled ‘Content Evolution: The Game Changer of Filmmaking’, the session shed light on the evolution of filmmaking in Malaysia as well as the importance of experiencing the journey towards gaining a degree. Moderated by award-winning filmmaker and Taylor’s educator Indrani Kopal, the session featured industry experts Low Ngai Yuen, filmmaker and president of Kakiseni; Andrew Soh, Creative Producer at MGAG; and Marc Lourdes, Vice President, Indian Content Business at Astro.

Soh, better known as ‘Uncle Siu Mai’ in MGAG videos, opined that a filmmaking degree was unlike a law or medical degree where the subject matter was very specific and that many in the industry came from different backgrounds. Furthermore, with the ease of access to knowledge, platforms and equipment, anyone could be a filmmaker. “I believe that knowledge is so available online, especially for this field, but the most important thing for those who want to enter this industry is a passion,” he said.

Taking a different approach was Low, who felt that the theoretical knowledge garnered was important and that part of what is taught is learning to work in teams, and building networks are what will guide students as they eventually move into the industry. 

“There is a misconception about how you don’t really need to study it,” said Low. “Society is part of the reason why you get in. If you make use of your university years, it will be the best years in terms of how you develop. It is amassing people who agree with you, building allies that will help you in the future.” 

She emphasised that students need to understand the reasoning and application of what they were taught, and to use their time in university wisely. “The university provides a space for students to think about this critically and grow themselves from it. The process of trying and failing and succeeding is especially crucial in university because it is when you have enough time,” added Low.

The panellists also discussed critical factors impacting the filmmaking industry, such as the democratization of access to platforms such as YouTube, Facebook, Instagram and TikTok. Low remarked that everyone had the autonomy and power to create content that could be viewed by millions, making this the golden age of filmmaking.

This sentiment was echoed by Marc Lourdes – who has managed digital content portfolios in Yahoo, CNN, and presently, Astro. “The cost of equipment to shoot films back in the day were prohibitive and people simply could not afford it. Today, all you need is your phone – and it does not even have to be a great phone,” said Marc. 

“Lower costs and technological advances have completely revolutionised the industry. All you need now is a great idea and a few basic steps on how to do it and you could be on your way to your first big show,” he enthused. 

Amidst the flood of content on various platforms as a result of the digital revolution, the panel also discussed the challenges content creators face in standing out from the crowd. With the number of mobile phone users is forecast to reach 4.68 billion, the competition will only keep increasing.

“As things get more digitalized, competition becomes rife. To capture the audience attention, we need to constantly keep coming out with content that resonates with them. That is the one that that has not changed in content creation – the power is still in the hands of the audience,” said Soh.

With the ease of access to platforms and equipment, seemingly anyone can be a filmmaker. Does this make a degree redundant? The panellists held different opinions as they bantered.

Andrew opined that a filmmaking degree was unlike a law or medical degree where the subject matter was very specific and that many in the industry came from different backgrounds. “I believe that knowledge is so available online, especially for this field, but the most important thing for those who want to enter this industry is a passion,” he said.

Taking a different approach was Yuen who felt that the theoretical knowledge garnered was important and that part of what is taught is learning to work in teams, and building networks are what will guide students as they eventually move into the industry. These are considered to be real experiences that will qualify them to work.

“There is a misconception about how you don’t really need to study it,” said Yuen. “Society is part of the reason why you get in. If you make use of your university years, it will be the best years in terms of how you develop. It is amassing people who agree with you, building allies that will help you in the future.” 

Students need to understand not just what is taught, but also how and why it is being taught and how they can then apply it. “The university provides a space for students to think about this critically and grow themselves from it. The process of trying and failing and succeeding is especially crucial in university because it is when you have enough time. University is not about just the knowledge, but what you’re doing with the knowledge,” added Yuen.

Similarly, Marc indicated that students should not simply go to university to just get a degree. “The degree is the ultimate result of going to university. It is the knowledge that you accumulate within that space of the university, that cohesive atmosphere, that will be the most useful to your future. But it does not end there as lifelong learning is a must,” he stated.

Taylor's University 'Digital Media Production' Program

Given the rise in interest among the current generation, Taylor’s University recently introduced its revamped Digital Media Production program as part of their efforts to cater to the evolution of the global filmmaking industry. Under the Digital Media programme by Taylor’s, students will get exposure and opportunities to work with industry experts across the ecosystem. 

“The filmmaking industry has undergone many changes and recently, developments such as digitalisation and streaming content has disrupted the industry. With this in mind, we decided to revamp our Digital Media Production programme so that it is in line with the current state of the filmmaking industry globally. Our syllabus will train them for the real-life industry which will enable them to hit the ground running once they graduate,” added Dr Latiffah Pawanteh, Head of School of Media and Communication, Taylor’s University. 

For more information regarding Taylor’s University Film Festival 2019, visit the official website here.

Posted on 28 Nov 2019
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