Adding A Personal Touch to Scriptwriting

Kim Bora, the South Korean director of the award-winning film “House of Hummingbird,” shares her tips on scriptwriting with final-year filmmaking students from WKWSCI.
 

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Learning to weave personal experiences into scriptwriting was a key theme of the two-hour workshop conducted by South Korean film director, Kim Bora, at the School of Art, Design and Media on Sept. 13. The award-winning director spoke to final-year film students from ADM and the Wee Kim Wee School of Communication and Information.

A collaborative effort between the Singapore-based Asian Film Archive and independent film distribution company Anticipate Pictures, this is the first time the South Korean director has held a workshop in Singapore.

Kim recently released her debut feature, “House of Hummingbird”, in 2018. The well-received film won many awards this year, among which the more notable ones are The Grand Prix for best feature film at the 69th Berlin Film Festival and best international narrative feature at the Tribeca Film Festival.

 

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Addressing a group of around 60 students, the 38-year-old director shared that a good script is the most important step to making a film.

“Be vulnerable and write what breaks your heart, because what breaks your heart can touch the hearts of others.”

Kim Bora,  South Korean director of award-winning film “House of Hummingbird”

Kim, who holds a Master of Fine Arts degree in film directing from Columbia University, also encouraged students to start from a deeply personal story because it can be relatable and touching.

“Be vulnerable and write what breaks your heart,” said Kim, “Because what breaks your heart can touch the hearts of others.”

Scriptwriters can form an emotional connection with the audience by using traumatic childhood experiences, or the mundane details of everyday life. It is also the best way to avoid clichés, she added.

To help students tap their personal stories, they were tasked with a 10-minute free writing exercise and asked to share their thoughts during the workshop.

“It was an uncomfortable and vulnerable process,” said Ms Esther Rim (CS’20), a WKWSCI final-year broadcast major. But the 22-year-old said it was also beautiful to experience so much depth and honesty in a room full of strangers.

To Kim, writing is also a therapeutic process.

“What breaks your heart, mends your heart,” she said. Writing her screenplays has been a transformative experience because she was able to make peace with her past, she added.

But Kim also warned students against becoming overly emotional in their writing. She added that being an observer to the story and maintaining a healthy distance will allow for fair writing.

For Barnabas Chua (CS’20), the workshop was an eye-opening experience.

The 24-year-old aspiring filmmaker said that through the workshop, he realised that writing can also be a personal and introspective process.

The workshop was also enlightening to documentary film students such as Tang Wei Quan (CS’20). On his group’s Final Year Project, a documentary about social class in Singapore, the 24-year-old said: “We may not use our personal stories, but it will also be interesting to see how we can use the stories of others to ask questions about the effects of existing social policies on Singaporeans.”

Kim advised WKWSCI final-year broadcast majors to put in their utmost effort to write a good screenplay.

“Only when you are satisfied with your script can you move on to the next step.”

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