Have a cup of humour, siu dai

Blind Date

25 April 2019

When writer Felix Cheong approached LASALLE's Puttnam School of Film & Animation with the idea for students to adapt his short stories from Singapore Siu Dai into animated films and enter them in a competition, he wasn’t sure what to expect, but wound up being impressed with the results.

“It’s been an eye-opener seeing the creative ways students took my flash fiction pieces on a tangent I had not thought of!” says Felix, who awarded the top three students prize money for their innovative work.

This first of its kind collaboration marks the first time a Singaporean author has collaborated directly with students to animate his works. Animation lecturer Ang Qing Sheng recounts, “We thought this [was] really suitable for what we do with the Level 2 students from the BA(Hons) Animation Art Programme, where one of the modules - Studio Practice - is to adapt and recontextualise short fables and folk tales into animation.”

For most students, this was their first attempt at creating an animated short film and they were encouraged to respond to the text in more imaginative ways. First prize winner Kimberlyn Kew adapted the short story Exam Fever by distilling the central theme of Singapore being “exam-mad”, but spun it in her own way. Her script was written in the style of a sports commentary, about an exam apocalypse with a black alien force eating up exam papers.

Exam Fever
A still from the animated short film adaptation Exam Fever by Kimberlyn Kew, which won first prize.

Felix felt that she “not only captured the gist of [his] piece, but did it in her own inimitable way, which is the essence of adaptation – to deconstruct the original and own it by finding your own angle on it” while Kimberlyn appreciated that this project pushed her to grow as an animator. “It challenged me to be faithful to the essence of [the] source material and yet gave me enough creative freedom to make decisions around what aspects of a story to portray.”

“I believe it has been a challenging and fruitful experience for the students,” says Qing Sheng. “Even though some of the students were working on the same text, they produced results that were diverse, personal and interesting.”

OB Marker
A still from a Level 2 BA(Hons) Animation Art student short film adaptation, OB Marker.

Over 13 weeks, the students undertook guided research mentored by ex-Disney animator Raul Garcia, to stretch their imagination and seek out more creative ways of expression. Kimberlyn especially took delight in doing “a fun deep dive into pre-production research”, in order to do justice to the relevant social issues brought out in Felix’s story.

Judged by a panel comprising of Felix, Qing Sheng, and Chris Shaw, Head, Puttnam School of Film & Animation, the top three films will be screened during The LASALLE Show 2019.

Thinking ahead, Felix shares, “we’ve discussed taking this collaboration further with a poetry writing workshop for students next semester. Adapting what they have written in the workshop with me, they then create their own animated short film.”

“This will allow our students to challenge conventional storytelling structures and create new and strong works of animation art,” Qing Sheng adds.

Cover image: A still from Blind Date, a short film adapted by a Level 2 BA(Hons) Animation Art student.