After getting her degree in literature from the National University of Singapore, Yen Yen taught English in a high school and worked as an instructional designer at an educational software firm before flying off to New York to earn her doctorate in education from Columbia University’s prestigious Teachers College. She’s now an associate professor at the School of Education at Long Island University, where she teaches curriculum history, theory and design. Her work has been published in journals such as Educational Researcher, Discourse, and the Asia-Pacific Journal of Education.
Meanwhile, Colin, despite being a professional cartoonist from the age of 17 with a daily strip in the newspapers, did the good little Asian boy thing and ignored all his artistic impulses by going to study law at University College London, after which he was admitted to to the English bar as a barrister-at-law, followed by the Singapore bar as an advocate and solicitor of the Supreme Court. He then worked for several years doing shipping and international trade litigation at a major law firm, before going off to get his Masters in Law from Columbia University’s School of Law, who awarded him the title of Harlan Fiske Stone scholar. But after passing the New York bar exams and being admitted as an attorney at law in the State of New York, he chucked the law altogether and joined an internet startup in New York that promptly went belly up. While wallowing in self-pity, he created a very silly website satirizing Singaporean current events, TalkingCock.com, which rather unexpectedly became very popular, garnering millions of page views, tens of thousands of subscribers, and coverage by Time Magazine, Wired, The Economist, the BBC. It was even debated in Singapore’s parliament.
Together, we then decided to try our hand at making movies, beginning with ‘eAhLong.com’, a short film about a loanshark’s son who tries to dot-com his dad’s business, which somehow went on to win the Special Achievement Award at the 2001 Singapore International Film Festival. In a fit of enthusiasm and, in hindsight, utter madness, we went on to write, produce and direct TalkingCock The Movie, a feature film based on the website, which premiered at the Singapore International Film Festival 2002 before going on to a commercial theatrical run in Singapore. The movie has also been screened at numerous festivals in Asia and Europe, including the Festival du Film Asiatique de Deauville in France. At the Far East Film Festival in Italy, Film Journal critic Adam Hartzell wrote that it was the single film that “stayed with me most beyond the festival… it has a joy more sincere than (films) with many more production techniques at its disposal. …it is truly the film that left the biggest impact on me.” In line with the movie, we also published The Coxford Singlish Dictionary, a bestselling lexicon of Singaporean vernacular English that the Times of London pronounced “invaluable”.
After proving we could be silly, we then decided to aim a little higher artistically. Our 2nd feature, ‘SINGAPORE DREAMING’, opened to rave reviews, played at numerous festivals and got acquired for distribution in numerous territories. It also won the Montblanc New Screenwriters Award at the 54th San Sebastian International Film Festival, the Audience Award for Narrative Feature at the 30th Asian-American International Film Festival and the Best Asian/Middle Eastern Film Award at the 20th Tokyo International Film Festival.
And then the asteroid struck – the asteroid named ‘parenthood’. When our daughter arrived, almost three whole months early, we knew we had to put all our scripts and movie projects on hold to care for this wonderful, magical, precious little thing. Over the ensuing years, she made us re-examine our priorities as well as furnished us with fresh inspiration.
Yumcha Studios is the result. It combines everything we’ve learned in the disciplines of cartooning, movies, education, interactive content and parenting in a multicultural, multilingual world. It’s also a very personal experiment – to see what can be achieved in a world where the media landscape is changing profoundly.
But above all, it’s our little gift to our little girl, and we hope you’ll share in it too.
– Yen Yen Woo & Colin Goh