SINGAPORE – As the economy slowly chugs into gear and Singapore prepares to open its borders once more, it is easy to forget the country was gripped with fear and uncertainty as it struggled to cope with the effects of the pandemic. Yet, through it all, countless public officers and individuals toiled tirelessly behind the scenes as they tried to solve problems brought about by an unprecedented global public health crisis.
Video platform Viddsee, in collaboration with Gov.sg, has launched the ‘As One’ initiative during Public Service Week 2020. The initiative is led by a series of four docudramas that features how public officers and individuals worked together as one to help communities and businesses during the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The idea for the series was born when Derek Tan, co-founder of Viddsee, found himself inspired by stories of public officers and Singaporeans alike banded together earlier this year. He reached out to the Ministry of Communications and Information to see if they could collaborate and make sure these stories did not go untold.
At a virtual launch of the initiative, Tan said, “A lot of [the] work done by our public officers often goes unnoticed, but has contributed much to our lives in many ways.” Tan was joined by Soffy Hariyanti, Director of Campaigns & Productions of MCI’s Public Communications Division at the launch, who pointed out that the short films were directly inspired by real public officers.
Hariyanti shared: “What's important about this is that [the films] spotlight the extensive work done by our public officers in the last eight months or so dealing with the crisis...but [they] also highlight the support from Singaporeans, businesses, as well as other groups, which are equally critical as we continue with efforts to overcome this unprecedented adversity together as one Singapore.”
The initiative brought together some of Singapore’s most talented filmmakers — Tariq Mansor, Jonathan Choo, award-winning director Ellie Ngim and veteran filmmaker K Rajagopal — to show four very different sides of what transpired during the government’s efforts to deal with the pandemic.
Mansor’s short, ‘Enjoy Your Stay’, focuses on a Singapore Tourism Board officer who worked against the clock to make sure spouses could be reunited at the same hotel to serve out their Stay-Home-Notices. He shared that talking to people who had gone through their Stay-Home-Notice was an eyeopener for him as many found spending 14 days in a room very difficult, and made him realise that everyone was struggling with the situation in one way or another.
He said: “We wanted to portray [the experiences of the volunteers and personnel] in a manner that was lighthearted, heartfelt, but most importantly very authentic. Through this, I think we are able to feel a very strong sense of hope, and our character serves as a reminder that we are only stronger when we are together.”
Meanwhile, Rajagopal’s ‘In Safe Hands’ is a peek at the efforts that went into caring for the wellbeing of thousands of migrant workers living in dormitories. He explained: “I approached it very carefully because I wanted to represent the story accurately. We all know the stories of the migrant workers and their plight...but at the same time, I wanted to balance it in this film...For both sides, it was very painful because you are isolated, away from your regular life, and I wanted to ensure that that balance was kept.”
No less moving were the sacrifices of the public officers featured in Choo’s ‘Making The Call’, or the actions of everyday Singaporeans in Ngim’s ‘Open For Business’. Choo said he hoped that audiences who watch the films realises that everyone needs care and concern, even those who might be providing care for others, while Ngim hoped that audiences would find all the films relatable. She said: “The fact that we are not alone in this, we should come together and work together, for both the economy and the welfare of everyone.”
Kenny Tan, Head of Viddsee Studios and executive producer of the ‘As One’ series, acknowledged that the cast and crew experienced sleepless nights and many obstacles. He said: “If anything, working through these project hours and sometimes uncertainties gave us all some perspective about the sleepless nights and long working hours that the people featured in the docudramas...and the many others had to go through in playing their own part in the COVID-19 fight.”
He added that he came away from the project with a sense of gratitude for everyone who had played their part in keeping the country safe, and hoped that audiences would be similarly inspired after watching the films.
Viddsee’s upcoming projects ‘As One People’ and ‘Through Your Lens’ will also feature on Singaporeans and public officers experiences during the pandemic, with the latter accompanied with a social media drive that encourages the public to nominate and show appreciation for those who helped them in 2020.
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