Backpack Filmmaking: Stories for Social Change

This is the first and only film course in South East Asia offering students the chance to create films that help make the world a better place, while using their own phones and equipment that fits in a small backpack.

The course will focus on using a narrative filmmaking approach to tell stories about issues that are important to a new generation of socially and environmentally aware students, while also teaching them to be lean, adaptable and savvy rather than reliant on expensive equipment and gadgetry.

In short, it is the first ever phone based filmmaking course in the region, and it’s the only film course that highlights the immense potential of telling visual stories to do good. The course will be designed, taught and run by me, with significant input from guest lecturers in the industry, site visits to film studios and both classroom learning and interactive elements, including an entire week of mentored filmmaking, resulting in a completed film for every team.


Date: 31 July to 11 August 2017 
Venue: IDEAS Hub Dover and Various Sites
Time : Monday to Friday (10am to 6pm)
Ages: 14 – 18 years of age
Fees: $1560 (An initial deposit of $200 is required.
You will be reminded to pay the remaining amount by June 15)
This course will require a minimum number of 8 students for it to proceed.

By being part of this course, you will be supporting 2 deserving scholars selected by UWCSEA to participate in this course as well.

Lead Organisations 

What will Participants Learn?
This is an innovative course covering lean and adaptive phone-based filmmaking, with an emphasis on positive stories that will affect social change. Students will learn all aspects of filmmaking, from screenwriting to cinematography to production to editing. Students will also learn how to tell compelling stories that help change minds and foster positive outcomes. All participants will take part in writing, producing, filming editing and screening a completed short film, and will learn how to promote their film and pursue filmmaking in the future.

  1. Every student will learn how to tell good stories that change people’s minds and actions for the better, about issues they care about
  2. Every student will learn the basics of narrative filmmaking including writing, planning, film techniques, sound and editing
  3. Every student will learn these techniques with a focus on using their own phone or tablet and a small amount of additional equipment that will fit in a small backpack
  4. Every student will be part of a team that completes a short film during the two week course and learn how to work as a team

What do the Fees include?
This course covers everything students need to make a great film. All equipment will be provided, and students will get a course kit including learning materials, and a keepsake to remember the course. The fees include food, transportation and a lead instructor as well as guest lecturers and mentors. Students will create their own short films in teams and the course instructor will also document the course in the form of a short film covering the process.

How will Participants Learn?

The course is based on exciting, fast-paced classroom learning as well as extensive group activities, learning-by-doing, outdoor filming, site visits and guest lectures. The highlight of the learning process is an intensive mentored filmmaking process where students will actively create, shoot and edit a short film with the assistance of mentors and full supervision by the instructor.


What will they get at the end of it?

Participants will learn all the skills they need to make their own films, and everyone will play a significant role in the creation of an original short film during the course. This film can be used as part of a portfolio, and the course will include instruction and advice on how to promote and distribute their short film, and how to continue their filmmaking work and education in the future. In short, this is a crash course in filmmaking by doing!


Course Outline

Day One: Stories for Good

Day one will be all about using communications and storytelling theory to turn ideas about issues that the students care about into compelling narratives with both fictional and factual elements. This day will combine learning across the concepts of scriptwriting, psychology and communications to help students shape their own story idea and script.

Guest Lecturer: Lillian Wang, head writer of Tanglin, Mediacorp

Site Visit: Mediacorp


Day Two: From Script to Screen

Today students will finish their short film script and learn about the practicalities and creative considerations that are important when turning a story idea and script into a plan for a film. The day will start with an overview of film theory and the main concepts of visual storytelling and will then move on to storyboarding, budgeting, teamwork and roles, and lessons on how to combine ambition with realistic outcomes.

Guest Lecturer: Nicholas Chee, Founder of the 48 Hour Film Project Singapore

Site Visit: LucasArts


Day Three: Phone Filmmaking

An intense but incredibly fun day of learning about how to turn your phone or tablet into a filmmaking powerhouse. Today will cover the basic building blocks of a film, camera angles, shot selection, equipment, lenses, filmmaking software for phones, sound recording, acting and directing actors. Today will also involve a three hour outdoor team activity, where each team films a 90 second short.

Guest Lecturer: K Rajagopal, Director

Site Visit: Apple


Day Four: Finishing Touches

This is all about editing, sound effects and music. Students will learn the basic principles of postproduction, editing theory and how sound and music can elevate a film from the mundane to the sublime. Students will learn using Final Cut Pro on MacBook computers. The students will be able to work in pairs to edit their footage from the previous day into 90 second films.

Guest Lecturer: Wong Kin Chang, Editor

Site Visit: Objectifs Singapore

Day Five: So You’ve Made a Film

The day will start with students showing their 90 second films for group feedback and learning. The session will then focus on the fun and challenges that come with having a completed film. What do you do with it, what festivals could it be submitted to, and should you put it online? Finally, today’s session will conclude with a session on pitching. Students will learn the art of pitching an idea or a completed film. The day will conclude with each student pitching their short film idea for next week’s mentored filmmaking and dividing into teams and roles for next week.

Guest Lecturer: Sanif Olek, Director

Site Visit: Film Set



As of Friday, students will have teams, scripts and roles and will understand that next week is an intensive interactive mentored filming week. The weekend should be spent finalising the script, planning and rehearsing with teammates so that the following week can be productive and enjoyable.


Days Six to Eight: Mentored Filming

Students will be working in groups of 3-5 to complete their chosen films on UWC campus or within walking distance. Each team will have a dedicated mentor with filmmaking experience who will be able to guide them and give them tips and advice about how to complete their film.


Days Nine and Ten: Mentored Post Production

Teams will work at the Ideas Hub, with their mentors, to edit and complete sound effects and music for their films. Students will have access to advice on editing, where to find free sound effects and music and how to put it all into a complete package. At the end of day ten, each team will have a completed film of at least three minutes in length! Each team will show their film to the instructor and their mentor for feedback.


Screening Party

The course will officially finish on Friday, but the Sunday evening directly after the course finishes, there will be a screening party at UWCSEA for the friends and families of the students, where the films will be shown on a big screen, and there will be food and drinks to celebrate.



Who are the people involved?


Ewing Communications – Partner

Ewing Communications is a training company founded by Iain Ewing in Singapore in 1990, and now run by Tejas Ewing. Iain Ewing was a renowned authority on communication skills training, a former filmmaker and actor. The company has created numerous tailored education and training programs for schools, universities, media outlets, chief executive officers, cabinet ministers, members of parliament, ambassadors, senior civil servants, executives and professionals in more than 400 companies, NGOs and educational institutions in over 50 countries, with a strong commitment to giving back to the community.


Tejas Ewing – Creator and Lead Instructor

Tejas Ewing is a Journalist and Author covering social justice issues, and a filmmaker and CEO of Ewing Communications. He specialises in creating innovative learning programmes for NGOs, Academia, Government and the wider non-profit sector. As a filmmaker, he studied at Prague Film School, and has worked on over 15 short films, including both Award-Winning and Award-Nominated films. His passion is in telling compelling stories that encourage audiences to think about social and environmental issues. His goal is to inspire the next generation of filmmakers to get out there and make films with the tools they already have: a phone, an idea and the commitment to work hard and have fun!

What do Parents need to know?

Parents are welcome to drop by and visit their children during the classroom sessions, and are also encouraged to visit to observe or help their children during the mentored filmmaking sessions.