Enjoying the Journey of Creation

Is there life after writing Singapore's highest-rated Channel 8 television drama? For Ang Eng Tee, the answer is yes. His tireless journey has afforded him insights into writing scripts that work for local viewers.

Besides the Little Nyonya, Ang also wrote the 1940s post-war drama Tofu Street (1996); family drama Holland V (2003); the Tiong Bahru-set sitcom 118 (2014—2015); and heartland drama Hero (2016—2017).

In light of the launch of the Asia TV Forum’s new scriptwriting pitch for theatrical movie, online movie and online drama series, iNSiGHTS magazine spoke with Ang to capture a glimmer of inspiration, as this new platform – called Mystic Asia or 魅影传说 – begins its search for the next script success.

Mystic Asia (魅影传说))
ATF Chinese Pitch 2018

While Ang does not deny that Singapore is a small country, and thus only offers a small market with limited growth potential, there are immeasurable possibilities with the internet.

“Chinese scriptwriters should not limit themselves to the home market, but to overseas markets such as China as well,” said Ang. “As long as one has the ability and talent to face the fierce competition outside, one should not just be thinking about making a living as a scriptwriter in Singapore alone.”

Recent revelations of the Little Nyonya (New Edition)being the first major production to take off for this pitch’s global partner, Perfect World Pictures (Singapore) in 2018, where it will run as a 45-episode TV series budgeted at around S$25—30 million, across China and Chinese-speaking territories, has injected a second life into Ang’s own career.

“I am happy that the Little Nyonya is able to travel out of Singapore; gain recognition from overseas audience. But for me, the adaptation is not simply for the sake of trying to please the foreign audience. I am more focused on writing a story with that human touch, one that will resonate with audiences all over. Thus, I always tell myself in the process of creation, to never forget why I started,” Ang divulged.

As a creator, Ang admits to being “very observant to the surrounding”. He will take note of what’s happening and listen to people’s stories. Folks who know that he is a scriptwriter will come to him to tell their stories, and of course, he never rejects the opportunity to listen. Ang declares that he does not write just to fulfil his job scope, but more so out of inspiration, when he experiences a moment of sudden eureka.

No doubt it shows in his works, as to be inspired reaps greater value than banal functions of obligation.

Ang Eng Tee
Award-winning Scriptwriter

With the changing scene of media and entertainment, how does Ang see writing evolving to match new platforms and consumption styles? “Once again, the Internet knows no boundaries. Viewers now have more choices. With a click of a button they can go online and see whatever content they want to.

“The competition is fierce, so as a creator you must know how to be better than others and not just be a follower. This means that you must have creativity and guts to do things as a writer. For example, when I wanted to do Little Nyonya, everyone warned me against it, saying that this was something nobody had done before.

“But I felt that Little Nyonya was an exclusive material to our region. I had confidence in my work and I knew I would be able to execute it.”

He did and it was a success.

It made Ang the first person to write a Nyonya-themed Chinese drama in Singapore.

What about the younger generation today? Are they better storytellers? Or has today’s generation dwindled in that area?

Ang believes that every generation will have their great writers. While there are no “better” writers, storytellers nowadays, says Ang, enjoy the advantage of technology:

“They have more resources; they are able to see more and receive much more.”

However, he feels that the most important thing is to have a good understanding of human nature, to “have your own thoughts and to be a good creator”.

Ang will be the first to tell you how tough it is to be a scriptwriter. Outside of talent, you need to have the dedication and passion. “This is a profession that will require time; time for you to grow and results are not so immediate. At the end of the day, don’t take it as a laborious task, but enjoy the journey of creation.”

There is indeed a future for creative writing, but success is largely based on one’s own creativity. “You need to have an idea that will rise above all.”

And don’t forget, the world is your oyster.