Mr Peter Seah, Chairman,

Professor Steve Dixon, President, LASALLE College of the Arts,

Board Members,

Parents, Family Members, Ladies and Gentlemen,

And the Graduating Class of 2019,

           I am delighted to join you today to celebrate this milestone in your life journey.  My wife and I had the pleasure of visiting LASALLE in April this year and we were most impressed by the graduation musical Aida. The quality of the production, the talents, and the passion and exuberance of the cast and crew left an indelible impression on us.  That same enthusiasm and energy is palpable in this hall here today, as you graduate with a quality education and rich memories of friendships and shared experiences that you will carry with you through life. So I want to congratulate all of you on your achievements, and wish you the very best as you embark on the next stage of your education and your careers. Congratulations.

Vibrant and Flourishing Arts Scene

2          You graduate at a time when our arts and media scene is flourishing.  More people are enjoying and supporting the arts.  The latest data that is available shows that more than 11 million people attended non-ticketed arts and cultural events in 2017 – the most recent year for which we have complete data.  This is a nearly 20% increase from the year before and the highest in seven years.

3          Furthermore, Singapore’s creative talent has been gaining recognition well beyond our shores.  One example is artist and LASALLE alumna Shubigi Rao who made headlines in May when she was selected to curate the Kochi-Muziris Biennale 2020.  The Biennale is South Asia’s biggest visual art event and Shubigi was the unanimous choice "for her exceptional acumen and inventive sensibilities".  Another example is actress Millicent Wong, LASALLE’s valedictorian from three years ago, who recently made her London debut starring in the Royal Court Theatre’s Pah-La, and garnered praise from many renowned critics from international publications.

4          I also understand that many of today’s graduands have already started to make their mark even before graduation.  Singer Shai Othman, Diploma in Music, came in tops for the iSing Singapore competition and represented Singapore at the iSing World Championships in Paris, where she was placed in the top 15.  In addition, BA (Hons) Fashion Design and Textiles graduates Ng Jia Min and Rena Kok were shortlisted for the top 12 of Harper’s Bazaar NewGen Fashion Award, with Rena just being announced as the winner.  Come October, she will be representing Singapore in the regional competition. We wish her the best of luck and we will all be cheering you on.

Importance of a Creative Education

5          Creative education and all of you – as artists, designers, filmmakers, arts managers and the many other professions that Professor Dixon described – play an important role in Singapore.  You are graduating into a world and an economy vastly different from that of past generations, or even from just a few years ago.  That’s how fast things are changing.

6          You would have heard many of us talk about the digital economy, and how it is changing the workforce and the way we live, work and play. This disruption is affecting all sectors. So those of you who are pursuing a career in music and the arts, and are passionate about these domains, may wonder how is this relevant to you, and how does it affect you. The reality is that it has a deep impact on all sectors, and your sectors and chosen fields are no exception. What we know is that we are seeing a convergence of sectors – the technology and creative sectors, and their platforms. So if you look at the examples set by companies like Facebook, Amazon, Netflix, Google; or the Chinese giants like Baidu, Alibaba and Tencent; they are each from different originating points but are converging because they realise that channels, technology and content are all important in realising the overall vision and value proposition of what they set out to do. And so we need the ability to come together from different strands of capabilities and backgrounds in order to deal with these new challenges, and have the skill sets to make the most of these opportunities.

7          The good news is that your solid education, and the creative arts curriculum that you have benefited from, will hold you in good stead to take on the future. Your years at LASALLE, in the company of mentors and fellow artists from diverse artistic traditions, learning to create and collaborate across different disciplines, appreciating the value of new and different perspectives, and perhaps most importantly, nurturing a natural curiosity at all times – all these attributes and skills are becoming ever more relevant and critical to success.

8          In that regard, LASALLE has a long list of alumni who are crossing disciplines and bringing their artistic sensibilities to different art forms and initiatives.  Singer-songwriter Inch Chua who received the Singapore Youth Award last year is one such example.  While she is well-known as a performer, she graduated from the Arts Management programme and parlayed that training into co-founding Invasion Singapore – a youth engagement and talent development agency that offers platforms for young music creatives to grow. In April this year, she also premiered her very first major theatrical production at TheatreWorks.

9          We need more young people like Inch and all of you, with a desire to innovate, experiment and the ability to think out of the box, no matter what discipline or field you are in.  We also want that ambition to be coupled with a strong social consciousness – a sense of self, sense of community, the vision to make a difference in the world, and a commitment to pay it forward.

Telling Singapore Stories

10          In this Bicentennial year, it is ever more important that we appreciate the importance of telling our own Singapore stories, finding our distinctive voice, and reflecting on our shared identity and our place in Asia and the world.  Some of your seniors have played a pivotal role in promoting the Singapore story.  Eric Lin and Javeus Toh, who just graduated from BA(Hons) Film last year, were nominated for the BAFTA Student Film Awards for their documentary thesis films, Mushroom Boys and Unspoken War respectively - making up two of the only three nominations from Asia.

11          As Singapore continues to strive to be a great place for the media industry and professionals, we are committed to telling even more Singapore stories and helping our local content creators reach international audiences.  The Infocomm Media and Development Authority (IMDA) has been promoting the concept of “Made-with-Singapore” to bring together the best local and international talent for quality storytelling, and to gain access to new markets and opportunities.  HBO Asia’s Invisible Stories is one example of such “Made-with-Singapore” content.  Directed by local director Ler Jiyuan, and produced by local production company Birdmandog, it features a regional cast and tells untold stories from the heartlands and a fictional neighbourhood housing estate in multi-cultural Singapore.

12          For the past three years, IMDA has also been supporting the WritersLab programme organised by LASALLE to nurture scriptwriting and storytelling skills.  And we have already seen some success.  From the first run alone, three of the projects were selected to be produced on Toggle, while other participants have had their work developed and produced by other platforms such as Viddsee and Hooq.  This year, we intend to introduce a new Script to Screen programme, to further expose writers to creative producing skills and real industry experience.  Writers will be paired to a production house and mentor from a platform partner, further enhancing their chances of getting their scripts produced into a pilot.

13          IMDA is also extending their partnership with LASALLE to enhance other core capabilities.  Next year, we will be launching the David Puttnam’s ProducersLab, which will prepare the next generation of Singaporean filmmakers with the advanced production skills necessary to be a showrunner working on largescale projects.  It will help our students create, pitch, and finance content for episodic content for TV, online, and streaming platforms.

14          This is also the first year that IMDA is collaborating with LASALLE on the Industry Preparation for Pre-Graduates Programme (iPREP) which aims to equip students from both media and infocomm courses with skillsets and overseas work experience.  It provides subsidies for fees for short-term courses and certifications, and partial funding for participation in overseas internships, overseas exchanges and immersion programmes, as well as international competitions.

15          As we hope to position Singapore as a media hub and gateway to the rest of Asia, we will continue to develop our pipeline of creative talent in Singapore with the relevant industry experience to help create better stories for audiences around the world. For those here specifically interested in the media sector, I want to announce the launch of the Story Lab Apprenticeship where partner media companies, such as Beach House Pictures, GHY Culture and Media, Mediacorp and mm2 Entertainment, will offer more than 60 apprenticeship opportunities over the next two years.  More companies such as HBO Asia are expected to be part of the programme, and today we start the open call to identify the best young media professionals, who will receive a stipend while undergoing a prestigious Apprenticeship in these companies.  They will not only be exposed to storytelling and content production, but also gain valuable experience in the business of media through this immersive and experiential programme.

16          IMDA is also partnering the British Film Institute (BFI) to level up our local students and professionals through learning from international best practices.  For example, selected media students will be enrolled in a 10-day immersive Pinewood Film Production Programme, enjoying exclusive access to live sets and productions, that will offer insights into the dynamics of prepping and shooting a film at a professional level.  Also through the Producers’ Mentorship Programme, local creative producers will have the chance to be guided by experienced BFI trainers, and paired with a renowned UK producer who will mentor them and expose them to international networks and opportunities.

Congratulations to all Graduates

17          So if I may conclude, the opportunities that we have before us in the creative industries are enormous. You are graduating at a time when there is great promise, great excitement and also significant scope for enriching and meaningful careers in the media and creative industries.

18          So to our graduates, I want to say - the world is your oyster. Exciting opportunities await you. And you have been blessed with a good education and the skills that equip you to seize the day.

19          I also want to acknowledge the role that has been played by your parents, family members, teachers and educators. No one excels on their own, and we are here today because of the opportunities afforded us by society, and the support that has been given to us by those near and dear.  So today, your accomplishments and success are shared by all of them as well.

20          I wish all of you every success as you venture forward in this exciting space, which is rich with opportunities. And I also urge you to be grateful for all that you have received and to remember to pay it forward.

21          I wish you the very best and once again, congratulations to the graduating class!