Singapore

Heroes who excel take stage in ST video series

Artist Ezra Chan stands in the art studio at Pathlight School, earphones plugged in and shuffling rhythmically as he paints a canvas he holds in his hand.

Next to him, Mr Glenn Phua sits still, head in hand as he ponders where to draw his next line.

The two could not be more different in personality and artistic style - Mr Chan, 18, with his colourful and vivid artworks, is a bundle of energy, while Mr Phua, 21, is methodical and precise with his linework of Singapore's scenery and architecture.

Both are diagnosed with autism and have a lot to be proud of. Mr Phua's drawings were presented to Chinese President Xi Jinping during his 2015 state visit here, while Mr Chan was named Most Promising Artist of the Year at United Overseas Bank's annual Painting of the Year competition in 2015.

The two artists are featured in the first episode of the second season of Heroes Among Us, an original video series by The Straits Times.

It premieres today on the ST website and social media pages. It also kicks off Singapore Press Holdings' (SPH) second year of collaboration with the Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA).

Said Straits Times editor Warren Fernandez, who is also editor-in-chief of SPH's English/Malay/ Tamil Media Group: "Our aim is to tell compelling stories across platforms. Our video series have won a following and awards, and we are glad to have the support of the IMDA to enable us to do more of these for our viewers."

Mr Shawn Lee Miller, who produced and directed the series, wanted to move away from doing stories that would only tug at viewers' heartstrings. The first season focused on people who overcame personal struggles or championed social causes. For the second, the emphasis is on those who excel in their fields.

Said the 39-year-old: "I wanted to show the public that to be a hero, you don't necessarily have to have gone through hardship or challenges."

Similarly, for the producers of two other series, Living City and ST Sessions, there was a desire to refresh things.

Mr Basil Edward Teo, who produced and directed the eight-episode Living City, said: "Singapore is not some cold, mechanical society. We have places of cultural value and there are people, communities and stories in these places."

The second season, which starts next week, focuses on Singapore's little-known spaces and communities, whereas the first covered places that were either in danger of being demolished or were in flux.

"The communities are very Singaporean in spirit and character and the people had a lot of stories to share, which I felt people should know about too," said Mr Teo, 29.

In ST Sessions, which is in its fourth season, viewers will see the more vulnerable side of musicians just before a live show. It is a more visceral experience compared with the previous seasons, said producer-director Bryan de Silva, 37, with everything hinging on one take.

The previous seasons were filmed either in studios or in a set-up where retakes could always be done.

"It's live and raw; it's the capturing of that essence that you can't get in a controlled setting," he added.

The first of eight episodes, which follows local singer-songwriter Joie Tan during the launch of her debut album at an intimate gig at the Esplanade, premieres next Thursday.

The three series highlight the strength of the SPH-IMDA tie-up. There will also be three new video series by ST, also made in partnership with IMDA: Made In Singapore, A Day In The Kitchen and Singapore Works.