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Be The Best Film-maker / Producer

This is the personal opinion of IACT College’s Bachelor of Media, Culture and Communication (BMCC) lecturer Mien.ly, whose short film was a finalist in 2017 BMW Shorties and recently produced the Chinese New Year video commercial about senior citizen’s housing issue for Mah Sing Group.

As a media lecturer and practicing filmmaker, these are the questions that have been frequently posed to me by interested students and parents. May it be of use to you.

  1. What is the difference between broadcasting and filmmaking?

Broadcasting actually refers to the process of transmitting a message to a large number of audiences simultaneously.  The message transmitted can either be in audio form (eg. Radio) or in video form (eg. Television). This is usually a one-way process where the audience is the final recipient of the message.

Filmmaking is the process of making ‘film’. The word ‘film’ originally refers to film reels, but used interchangeably nowadays with ‘video’ as film reels made way for digitalized formats that are used by video cameras today. Films can be transmitted through TV, screened in cinemas or shared through the internet.

  1. What skills do you need to be successful in broadcasting?

Mien.ly IACT College Lor Yew Mien

With the kind of smart phones available today, most students would already have basic skills in shooting and editing videos before coming into the programme. So what do you need to learn to get ahead?

Before that, please answer 2 simple questions:

  1. Do you want make videos of yourself in the hope of attaining fame and fortune? or
  1. Do you want to make tell messages and stories in the hope of affecting people?

For those that answer yes to question 1, and are motivated to become a social media influencer; I would sincerely encourage them to explore studying performing arts instead. I believe that videos for such purposes are more about the performance of the ‘influencer’ rather than the ability to craft stories through the video format.

For those answering yes to question 2, these are what you need to learn, on top of the basic video production skills:

  1. Learn how broadcasting of television and radio works, and all the key components involved in the process.
  2. Keep up with developments in communication technology and learn about the latest online publishing and distribution methods.
  3. Most importantly, take up courses that enhance creative and critical thinking.

From discussion with peers from the media industry, common understanding about communication graduates are that they have the basic practical and technical skills for broadcasting but majority fail to grasps concepts and issues; which leads to dull and shallow content clothed in glossy delivery style.

We can see this lack of depth in many of our local video commercials, TV shows or feature films. With this in mind, you should strive to ensure the degree program you pick includes generous amount of media and cultural theoretical courses, which can widen your understanding of societies, relationship between media and culture; and sharpen your capacity to be critical and consequently, be more creative in the communication of the messages and stories.

  1. What are the career opportunities here and how does IACT help?

Mien.ly Lor Yew Mien IACT CollegeWhile it is no longer the entire population that is being wrapped around the finger of the television, it is still safe to assume that careers in broadcasting will still be relevant because the process where a message is transmitted to a large number of audiences will continue to be needed, be it streamed through the internet today or packed in personalized virtual reality services in the future.

Due to the convenience of sharing video content using social media platforms like Facebook and messaging apps like Whatsapp; the video production business has boomed but also has become more saturated for the same reason. Small production houses founded by fresh graduates have mushroomed, providing cheaper alternatives for clients wanting to create creative content formerly reserved for big and established corporate clients.

This disruption in the industry encourages competition and increases work opportunities, but also at the same time, drives down the income potential. Just over 10 years ago, a video commercial would cost at least half a million ringgit to produce; whereas now, it could go as low as RM25, 000.

Fortunately, clients are gradually acknowledging the difference in quality between a video production delivered by an experienced and an inexperienced filmmaker. This realization is slow and painful for the media industry, as many clients still insist on keeping their cost low to maximize profit, but those that invest more eventually see the returns.

This means that even though there are plentiful jobs in broadcasting and filmmaking, the starting salaries are quite low. It is comparable to an employee in a fast food restaurant or the local cafe. However, with strong work ethics, critical thinking abilities and insatiable desire to learn; you will find yourself involved in creative content that stands apart from the rest. Then you will be recognized and rewarded accordingly in the industry. It is such values and skills that IACT’s broadcasting programmes hope to inculcate in its students, to prepare them for the increasingly competitive and exciting media industry.

To conclude, here is a statement by the American media theorist Marshall McLuhan, which described the power of TV back then, but also applies to how audience would be enchanted by viral videos today:

“It was the funeral of President Kennedy that most strongly proved the power of television to invest an occasion with the character of corporate participation. It involved an entire population in a ritual process…. In television, images are projected at you. You are the screen. The images wrap around you. You are the vanishing point.”