The money of history

Six million dollars.

That was the amount a certain British company was paid for making a 3 hour documentary on the history of Singapore. I, on the other hand, am making an 8 hour series on various aspects of Singapore history (and this is tougher mind you, since we are not going chrono with the stories) with slightly more than 2.5 percent of that. Do your math.

This entire production has been an eye-opener for many involved. It showed many with industrial experience what demands documentaries make and a reaffirmation in others of the dearth of talent in Singapore. A quick word with colleagues only ascertains the suspicion – that generally there is a lack of story crafting and depth in thought-process when sewing pieces together.

So will $6 million dollars give the room and capacity to any producers to churn the best out of the best? Did that $6 million documentary knock the hell out of other Singapore history docus with that big a budget?

I saw an hour of the docu and I was already irritated with the repeat archived stills, too many topshots of Shenton Way, various angles of PSA-corporate video materials (read: containers being lifted left, right and centre) and a rather, chubby and flabby Raffles in the reenactments.The VO script was content-packed, but only for a cursory chrono view of what happened from the year Raffles landed. They had good interviews with Tim Barnard, Mary Turnbull and Wang Gungwu but it was Lim Chong Yah who stole the show with his very Singaporean accent. Who else would be most interested in the history of Singapore if it is not for the Singaporeans. Everyone else would have an agenda.

Documentaries are point of views. Only this time, it is one that chips away at six million dollars. I reserve my most critical comments for my own learning journeys in producing the best.

Watch ‘JALAN’. It is on 15 January now.

One comment

  1. Congrats on the airing of Jalan! Hope you’ll get good ratings eh! Cheers to more and more from Uja & Gang!

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