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Conversation with *Scape Chairman David Chua on National Youth Film Awards!

By Say Peng  /  17 Apr 2018 (Tuesday)

In 2015, former SAF Colonel David Chua was appointed chairman of Scape, the popular youth hang-out near Cineleisure Orchard. One of the programmes under Scape’s purview, and therefore, Mr Chua’s, is the National Youth Film Awards (NYFA).

Founded in 2015, NYFA is a national short film awards platform for youth and student filmmakers. Since its founding, it has received over 700 submissions and nominated close to 400 short films to be considered for more than 10 awards. It’s an annual event that media students in Singapore mark on their calendar, a rare chance for the national spotlight to shine on their works.

When Mr Chua joined Scape in 2015, NYFA was the first event he attended in his new official capacity. At that time, what struck Mr Chua first and foremost from attending NYFA, who openly admitted his rudimentary knowledge of film production, was the complexity of the filmmaking machinery. NYFA’s awards for the different disciplines of filmmaking, from directing, producing, cinematography to editing, sound mixing, and visual effects made him realise that there are many areas in which one can choose to specialise and, as a result, many opportunities for young talents to develop themselves.

For Mr Chua, that’s what NYFA is about -- the development of youth talents. Upon watching the nominated films, Mr Chua was surprised at the level of talent on display. Images from some of the animation films he’s seen are still etched in his mind and some of the live action and documentary films that deal with death, mental health, and race have made him empathise more and think deeper about such difficult issues. One of the films that left an inedible impression was Ngee Ann Polytechnic student Sulaiman Razak’s The Day Before. Nominated for Best Performance in 2016, it is a hard-hitting drama set a day before a wedding that explores an interracial relationship between a Malay guy and a Chinese girl. It left Mr Chua wondering how he would feel as a parent if his child was involved in such a relationship.  

Film still from 2017 Best Film winner, Changi

Despite NYFA’s apparently central focus on awards, it would be remiss, said Mr Chua, if NYFA became just another “snazzy” awards platform. The real aim of NYFA, which is one of the many programmes under Scape, Mr Chua said, is to “champion and support youth aspirations”. To that end, NYFA has introduced a new category this year, the Open Youth category, allowing youths who are not media students to enter their films, thereby broadening NYFA's spotlight on young filmmaking talent. But more than shining a spotlight on youth talent, NYFA should also provide post-NYFA support to the filmmakers, which, Mr Chua candidly admitted, is still lacking.

Thus, for this year and the near future, Mr Chua aims to expand the level of recognition that NYFA receives from not just the local industry but also from the region. He hopes that this will lead to more tangible opportunities for NYFA’s winners and nominees, such as showcasing the winning films on online distribution platforms such as HOOQ, Asia’s first VOD streaming service, as well as providing financial support for filmmakers such as 2017 Best Film winner Shoki Lin and 2016 Best Film winner Jonathan Choo, whose films have been selected for overseas film festivals, to travel there. In the long run, Mr Chua envisions NYFA as not just an awards platform but a comprehensive ecosystem, involving not just Scape but also the local film industry, to support and spotlight youth filmmakers as they continue to develop their craft and contribute to Singapore's growing media landscape.
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