By Foo Ming Li
Creativity, expressed through the pens of scriptwriters and screenwriters, becomes a source of wonder for an audience that seeks entertainment.
Scriptwriters are responsible for writing dialogues of the characters involved. On the other hand, screenwriting is a crucial component in filmmaking that dictates the flow, characterisation and what is staged in the frames of the video-camera.
Chan Yoke Yeng is a well-known local screenwriter who has written screenplays for several movies as well as teleseries. Her talent is recognised not only in Malaysia but also in other countries like Singapore, where she has won the Best Screenplay in the 25th Singapore Star Awards for Mightiest Mother-in-Law. Besides, she has also won the Best Screenplay in the NTV7 Golden Awards 2014 for The Descendant, and the Best Malaysia Screenplay for The Promise 2020 in the Asian Academy Creative Awards.
After graduating from her high school, Chan considered furthering her studies. She also wanted a job with flexible hours.
“I’ve seen how my mother, an office employee, seems tied to a rigid schedule. Therefore, I chose to enrol for broadcasting studies,” Chan explained her decision on taking a Diploma in Broadcasting at Oneworld Hanxin College.
After completion of her diploma studies, she worked in a television production company. Though there were challenges and hardships, Chan found that her colleagues were supportive.
Despite her interest in broadcasting, Chan noticed that she was lagging behind her colleagues in her understanding of the broadcasting field. She decided to gain a novel perspective of the broadcasting industry by going abroad to further her studies in Taiwan.
“I had not experienced what life could be like overseas. I felt that it was important that I expose myself to different ways of living in my pursuit to be a great screenwriter in the broadcasting industry,” she said.
Taking into consideration the financial situation her family was facing, Chan chose to pursue a Bachelor’s Degree of Techniques in Script Writing at the National Taiwan University of Arts. Armed with a degree from Taiwan, she returned to Malaysia and worked in a production company briefly before applying for a screenwriter vacancy at Mediacorp Malaysia. Chan had felt unsure about her ability to produce a good screenplay. But she took the chance to apply for the vacancy and managed to ace the interview.
Today, Chan is certain that her screenwriting experience at Mediacorp Malaysia has been an excellent opportunity to translate her theoretical knowledge into practice.
Chan draws from her own life experiences when it comes to writing a movie or television screenplay. She says that her understanding of the world, her family and herself is reflected in her writing.
As for screenplay themes, Chan aims to step out from her comfort zone of writing family based screenplays and explore new themes. During the process of screenwriting, Chan discusses the plot of the story with respective crew members to brainstorm new ideas.
“I am an indecisive person. I have a hard time choosing the best screenplay for a story, as I tend write multiple versions and drafts of a single story,” says Chan.
Chan also has the habit of procrastinating, and she begins the actual work of writing only when a deadline is around the corner. However, she is taking steps to improve her time management as this habit may create the bad impression that she takes too much time to finish a screenplay.
For those who want to pursue their dream of screenwriting for a living, Chan emphasises the need to strengthen one’s language proficiency as screenwriters rely heavily on words to tell stories.
In addition, Chan maintains that it is important to build resilience in light of the Covid-19 pandemic that has brought the broadcasting industry to a halt.