When Chinese current affairs producer Tiffany Goh (CS’16) was assigned last year to produce an episode on the French community in Singapore for Mediacorp’s documentary series “Home Away From Home”, she knew she was in for a lot of groundwork.
“At that time, I had never been to Serangoon Gardens. I didn't even know that there were a lot of French people living there,” the 28-year-old said, adding that the International French School is near the estate.
Goh then dived into a two-week-long preparation before filming the Channel 8 programme, which aired its first episode in November last year. She familiarised herself with the area, met the newsmakers all around their neighbourhood, and built rapport with the families to be featured.
Goh and her team’s efforts paid off. Earlier this May, it was awarded the Intermedia-Globe Silver Award at the World Media Festivals Television & Corporate Media Awards, under its documentaries category.
Owing the achievement to her team and profiles, she said: “We don’t produce shows for awards. More than the award, it's also about knowing more about my country and the place we live in. Singapore is bigger than we think it is.”
From Photojournalist to Producer
While Goh enjoys the opportunity to learn something new with each production, she had not
always aspired to be a producer. In fact, she had barely taken any broadcast-focused modules in the Wee Kim Wee School of Communication and Information during her years there.
She instead specialised in journalism, cultivating her interest in storytelling through photojournalism modules and CS4090: Going Overseas For Advanced Reporting (GO-FAR) in Myanmar. She was also a sub-editor for the Chinese section of The Nanyang Chronicle.
“We don’t produce shows for awards. More than the award, it's also about knowing more about my country and the place we live in. Singapore is bigger than we think it is.”
Tiffany Goh (CS’16)
“I wanted to be a photojournalist. In class I had people like Neo Xiaobin (CS’07) and Kevin Lim (CS’09) come to talk to us and they were like these great figures that I looked up to,” she said. Neo is a senior executive photojournalist and Lim an executive photojournalist, both at The Straits Times.
And a photojournalist she became. After an internship at The Straits Times in this role, Goh freelanced for the publication for close to two years after graduation, before she realised she wanted a full-time job for stability.
With little broadcast experience, she took a leap of faith in 2017 and applied to be a current affairs producer at Mediacorp. She has since produced shows for Frontline and Be My Guest and is currently working on Tuesday Report, which focuses on human-interest stories.
“(There) was such a steep learning curve at first. There’s the visual aspect and also the content. I had to find people, learn how to script, learn how editing works and how to work in a team. It was all learning on the job,” she said.
Despite facing initial difficulties, Goh was able to apply her photography knowledge through looking at the episodes she needed to produce as “moving long-form photo essays”.
Producing in the Pandemic
While this is her fifth year on the job, Goh admits that she still has much about the job to learn, such as choosing the best pieces of music to accompany her videos. However, the challenges she must overcome now go beyond the traditional job scope in the face of the pandemic.
During the circuit breaker, Goh produced her first documentary for Tuesday Report titled “One Metre Apart - Away From Home”, featuring the impact restricted borders had on Malaysian migrant workers in Singapore. As her crew was unable to head down to certain locations to film due to COVID-19 restrictions, she had no choice but to ask the profiles to shoot the videos themselves.
She said: “We had to come up with creative solutions and taught them how to film vlogs and record themselves saying a few things every day. I had to ask them to get different shot sizes because they aren’t trained and won’t know how to frame (the shots).”
“It's about learning how to adapt, it can be very frustrating but everyone's facing the same problems,” she said, adding that up until now, she has yet to meet one of her profiles face-to-face as they communicated only over Zoom.
The episode has since been nominated as a Finalist under the New York Festivals TV and Film Awards this October.
Learning life Through The Job
This line of work has helped Goh realise how much she relies on her newsmakers to be able to do her job.
“You need to have your own realisation of what life is and what it is to enjoy life before you can portray the lives of other people.”
Tiffany Goh (CS’16)
“We are relying on the gratitude and kindness of other people because we can’t pay people to do things in journalism,” she said, adding that her positive past experiences with profiles have helped her to stay motivated when searching for the most ideal newsmakers.
After two years of producing for the Tuesday Report and being on the constant lookout for gripping stories, Goh often finds her life revolving around work. She has been trying to develop hobbies in her free time, such as interacting with community cats and embroidery as a means of relaxation.
“I'm starting to think in another way. To do stories like these, you have to have your own life too. You need to have your own realisation of what life is and what it is to enjoy life before you can portray the lives of other people,” she said.
Goh’s newest programme aired earlier this October. Titled “Where the Tides Meet”, it features Singapore’s local sea coastal and ecological changes and fish-rearing activities. She has also just begun filming for another upcoming show.
While Goh has yet to produce a series on a topic she is personally passionate about, she appreciates the interesting content she gets to work on every day and enjoys that her job is far from a “regular one”.
At the moment, she hopes to continue honing her skills in seeking out the special qualities of her profiles. She wants to build trust with her newsmakers, to help them open up and allow her to enter their personal and intimate spaces.
“It’s really my job to find out what is unique about these people beyond the surface,” she said.
“This is something I really want to work on.”