Never too late to achieve your dreams
When Mr Chang Swee Wah was just a small kid, he enjoyed watching movies with his parents and aspired to produce his own films. However, he chose to study Civil Engineering in university despite his avid interest in film-making as back then, there weren’t any available courses related to film-making. In terms of career prospects, engineering also seemed to be the right choice.
After years of working in engineering and banking, it was six years ago after retirement that Mr Chang thought it was the perfect time for him to finally pursue his childhood dream. With just a video camera in hand, he filmed his first short film and submitted it for a competition. The film was one of the top 15 shortlisted films into the finals. Albeit the achievement, Mr Chang realized that there was still a long way for him to truly achieve his dream as a film-maker. He felt that he lacked professional knowledge in film-making after viewing film entries submitted by others.
With a determination to produce higher quality short films, Mr Chang attended courses to improve on his film-making skills such as the National Silver Academy (NSA) course “Video Stories”, by Singapore Association for Continuing Education. Mr Chang felt that he had benefitted tremendously from the course as his filming style became very different from his first film "Botanic Memory". After the course, he filmed “The Cat Story”, which talks about the Singapore future from a perspective of 4 cats. Using a creative method to portray the story, the film was shortlisted for Best Microfilm and Most Creative Microfilm from a local competition.
Be with you
When Mr Chang’s wife suffered from a stroke, he had to take on the role of a caregiver. Being a caregiver, and knowing other fellow caregivers and stroke survivors' never giving up journeys, inspired Mr Chang to produce the documentary-style microfilm “Be With You” (与你同行). Even though the film is only 10 minutes long, it took Mr Chang a month to write, film, direct, edit, and produce it. The microfilm showcased how stroke survivors and their caregivers maintained a positive attitude despite the adversities they faced.
Mr Chang submitted this film for My Singapore Style - Microfilm Competition 2018 organised by Lianhe Zaobao. His film was awarded with Most Popular Microfilm – Gold Award and he attended the awards ceremony in May 2019. It was his third submission for this competition and he had finally earned his recognition as amateur film-maker. Mr Chang was especially thankful to the stroke survivors and caregivers for participating in the film. Through this film, Mr Chang hopes that their never-give-up attitude can inspire others whom are facing similar challenges to remain a positive attitude too.
Building friendships with the younger generation
Mr Chang has also participated in many NSA Intergenerational Learning Programmes (ILP). Throughout the ILP classes, he gained new friendships not only with seniors, but also the students. He had worked with students whom he had known through ILP to act and participate in one of his films. Some of the students (now already graduated and working) whom he knew during ILP, also showed their support for Mr Chang by attending the recent awards ceremony. The ILP courses he attended may be short, but the friendships made were everlasting.
Mr Chang also recommends others to attend NSA courses to keep active. “Seniors should leave their houses as much as they can so they are not confined to the four walls. They should take the opportunity to connect to the society. Lifelong learning allows us to step out of our comfort zones, make new friends, share experiences with others and make ourselves feel valued,” Mr Chang said.
He added, “Based on your likes, you have to find something to do. After retirement, we should motivate ourselves to spend time to fulfil our dreams as our generation may not have the opportunity in the past.”
Finally, he urged the seniors, "If you have a dream, please pursue your dream! If I can do it, you can do it too!"
65-year-old Mr Chang’s film-making journey wasn’t easy but his determination and perseverance paid off in the end. To Mr Chang, learning is a never-ending journey and he intends to continue producing films that are related to social realism.
**Special thanks to Mr Chang Swee Wah who accepted our interview, we wish him all the very best in his lifelong learning journey.
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