In this feature, we showcase three short films by students enrolled in FLM362 Smartphone Filmmaking for Meaningful Storytelling, a course offered by the School of Humanities and Behavioural Science in SUSS.

FLM362 Smartphone Filmmaking for Meaningful Storytelling is an elective course where students learn how to use their smartphones to create a short film from start to finish. Students come up with their own script and learn to storyboard their film before shooting it.  Using readily available equipment and software, students edit their footages into the final film. One important requirement of this course is that the short films must tell a meaningful story with a social message, in keeping with the university’s emphasis on community, social consciousness, and inclusivity.  The course is highly practical and is taught by an experienced filmmaker.

The assignment

Students were tasked to make a 3-5-minute film on any topic close to their heart, with the end result a story that is worth telling. The time limit is challenging, as it requires discipline and precision to convey a story effectively in such a short time. The students also had to work with many restrictions because of the pandemic; among other things, they had to minimise the number of actors and were advised to work with as few locations as possible.  They were assessed on their storyboard, their storytelling, their creativity, and their films’ technical and artistic aspects.

These three short films are featured here because they tell interesting stories about society and have a strong personal voice.

Syafiq was a swab assistant at the airport and heard how people had been careful and had endured the grind of being indoors day in and day out—but still got sick.

Unsurprisingly, COVID-19 looms large over the films, and Posi+ive captures the way life became a sort of dystopian grind during the height of the pandemic. The film captures the effect on a person’s well-being as they endure the tediousness of being indoors day after day, and then the precautions they take when they are finally able to get out—to no avail.

Tim was homeschooled and his film touches on how this affected his trajectory in life.

Who I Am is a howl of protest by a Singaporean who was homeschooled and treated differently because he was not part of the regular education system. The film begins with a line from a beloved National Day song, “This is where I know I belong”, and proceeds to interrogate the impact of education and the meaning of belonging and identity. 

Ying Xuan’s lyrical film captures two households as they prepare and eat a meal while separated.

In Rice, an elderly woman and her adult daughter live in separate households, yet as each prepares a meal in her own home, we see that they share a bond. In the storyboard, you can see how the women’s actions are mirrored. And when they eat their rice, they are shot in a way that makes it seem as if they are sitting across from each other. Families may be physically apart, but they are connected through the simple act of having a meal.

Storyboard of Rice
Storyboard of Rice