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​Award-winning local media scholar chose producing over directing because she likes to be in control

Published on: 14-Jul-2017

Ms Low Ser En intends to further develop her award-winning graduation project about two bears with a dysfunctional bond. Producers perform an important role in film projects. They find good screenplays, assemble the team and keep everyone focused and on budget. It is why the Best Picture prize - considered the top achievement at the Academy Awards - goes to the producers. However, most young people dream of going into film as directors, writers or actors, rarely as producers. Not so for Ms Low Ser En.

"Producing allows me to to have an all-round experience overseeing a project. It suits my personality because I am a control freak," says the graduate of the United Kingdom's National Film and Television School (NFTS) in an e-mail interview with The Straits Times.One of Ms Low's graduation projects at the NFTS, the stopmotion work Poles Apart, won the McLaren Award for Best British Animation at the Edinburgh International Film Festival, which ended last week. Her work beat 25 other animated films. Launched in 1990, the McLaren Award is decided by audience votes.

Ms Low, 26, who went to the NFTS on a scholarship from the Info-communications Development Authority of Singapore, graduated in February this year with a Master of Arts in producing. Poles Apart, directed and written by her fellow student Paloma Baeza, tells the story of two bears, a polar bear and a grizzly, who develop a comically dysfunctional bond. The film's premise came from news stories about how global warming is creating odd animal pairings. "Grizzlies and polar bears are increasingly coming across each other and have even produced hybrids known as pizzlies or grolars," says Ms Low, now working as an associate producer at production house mm2 Entertainment. Although it has a humorous tone, Poles Apart sends a serious environmental message without preaching, she says. The bears are voiced by two-time Oscar nominee Helena Bonham Carter and actor Joseph May. Ms Low says: "We created these two characters who are literally polar opposites. The film is about how they learn to work together to survive." The 12-minute film took 15 months to make because hours of preparation are needed to shoot a few seconds of stop-motion animation. "Planning is the key in animation as we did not have the luxury to do reshoots or multiple takes," say Ms Low, who has a Bachelor in Fine Arts from the Nanyang Technological University's School of Art, Design and Media.

As producer, her job was to draw up a detailed schedule and a plan to spend the film budget, which was allocated by the school. She declines to reveal the budget because every student work receives a different amount. "It was a very collaborative effort with the director Paloma. I had the chance to be creatively involved, from script development all the way to the edit," she says. She plans to submit the film to festivals in Singapore. "Paloma and I hope to see a life beyond the short film for these two lovable characters, so we are working on further development of the story. It's an exciting year."

Straits Times
Published Jul 13, 2017, 5:00 am SGT

John Lui​
Film Correspondent​



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