Singapore film internship hones storytelling skills

Filming the latest episode of a programme documenting the renovation of Singapore's famous Raffles hotel was one of the highlights of Jenny Gao's internship with film production company Beach House Pictures. She describes the experience as a creative's dream that honed her storytelling skills.
Two photos: one of a corridor at the famous Raffles hotel, the other of a woman with a video camera to her eye

Jenny: "Working at Beach House Pictures, I learned how to carve grand concepts into punchy structures."

Arriving in Singapore, I probably seemed like just another local coming home, until I spoke – my hard to place, not-quite-Australian accent giving me away.

Production moves quickly, especially at the production hub of Asia. Beach House wasted no time and a round of warm introductions later I was shooting act four of Raffles: Remaking an Icon, a follow-up to the beloved first episode, which gave a behind-the-scenes look at the restoration of Singapore’s most historic hotels.

Production standards were similar to that of UK broadcasters and learnings came thick and fast, which I sponged up as quickly as I could.

My producer was a charismatic flurry of juggling multiple Whatsapp groups and deftly made decisions, all the while showing the patience of a saint as I came up to speed.

While Raffles’ lobby on opening day was peppered with several production companies, Beach House had been covering the renovation since 2017, and none of the hotel staff batted an eye at us roaming the halls. The rapport the team built with staff had evolved into an easy friendship and I’m honoured to have played a part.

Beach House also has first dibs on pitching to Netflix, Apple TV, Nat Geo and other major global broadcasters. Between shoot days I would research and write pitches, edit trailers and conceptualise new shows that spanned from natural history to food to artivism (art activism).

Jenny with a colleague interviewing a man

Interviewing in the field with a Beach House Pictures colleague

Factual industry (documentaries and non-fiction programmes) is where I'm carving out a career, and renewed audience interest in documentaries in the last few years has produced some interesting industry responses.

Platforms are hungry for genre-bending content with fresh, original perspectives - music to any creative’s ears.

Working at Beach House Pictures, I learned how to carve grand concepts into punchy structures. I trained my eye to recognise and piece together the essential components of a great story: compelling characters, their struggle, and how they overcome it.

There was a recurring theme: packaging Eastern culture into accessible content for the West; Singapore itself being a metaphor for this.

Bridging this gap respectfully requires deep knowledge and understanding of both worlds, and bringing my personal experiences to this has made my time at Beach House exciting and dynamic.

Making documentaries continually asks us to remain inquisitive and open minded, and being able to create from that head space everyday has gifted me clarity on my current projects as well as stories for the coming years.

At Beach House, gender parity wasn’t a mere buzzword – it was standard. Over half the creatives were women, including many HODs, and my assigned projects saw me exclusively working with female self-shooting producers.

They were gear-hauling, premier-wrestling, diplomatic wunderkinds that blew my subconscious preconceptions of what a filmmaker looked like and what I could be.

I can’t wait to take everything I’ve learned and apply it within the factual industry at home.