May 2019 Alumni E-News Spotlight: Alumni and Students Find Collaboration through TAS Film Program
Connie Ma, Alumni and Community Outreach Officer

In spring 2019, upper school film production students had the chance to create short creative videos, mini-documentaries, and video advertisements by working with real-life clients. Upper school faculty Film Production Coordinator Brett Barrus set up three collaborations for his advanced students to exercise their own creative vision. Two of those projects were with alumni companies, providing alumni Brenda Lin ’94 and Jay Cheng ’97 with a unique chance to give back to TAS students.

Jay Cheng ’97 is the CTO of WeMo Scooter, the electric scooter-sharing company which was founded by four TAS alumni in 2015. To start with, “Jay gave the students a lot of creative license and met with them at school. The students were able to take the lead on pitching ideas during a presentation, and then adapting it to the feedback they received,” says Brett. With the help of WeMo Scooter’s marketing team as well as Jay himself, the team of two students shot footage at 6 different locations in Taipei over the span of twelve hours, aiming to create a video that describes a day in the life of a WeMo scooter. Now they are editing the footage down to a 90-second promotional video and a shorter promo for use on social media.

TAS upper school students shoot a promotional video for WeMo Scooter in downtown Taipei. (Photo credit: Jay Cheng)

For Brenda Lin ’94, alumna and parent, les enphants is a family business.  Founded by her father in 1971, the company is one of the largest children’s wear and accessories retailers in Taiwan. One group of students is creating a micro-documentary of 2-3 minutes on the les enphants textiles, an exhibition of children’s textiles and maternal handicrafts collected by Brenda’s mother on display at the Beitou Museum. Another group of students is creating a 16 second Instagram ad to showcase the spring and summer collection for les enphants. Of the collaboration, Brenda comments, “My task for them was to use ‘their’ language – Instagram and video – to tell the story of my family business's brand value.”

Applying their skills toward a very specific purpose was a new challenge for students. “These companies invest a lot of time and effort into their branding and design, so wrapping your mind around all of that is very important,” explains Brett. “Our students had to do a lot of research to get up to date on that. Brenda helped our students zero in on the mission statement and vision of the company, so we really felt like we got a real client, not someone who simply let the students do whatever they want.”

Students work in the TAS Film Studio to create a video on les enphants

Jay also saw that as being a valuable lesson for the students. “Working with a business is very different, because businesses are a lot more directed,” remarks Jay. “Our marketing team knows what we need or don’t need, so we can point them in that specific direction. For example, we were looking at three different color palettes for the video, and two of them did not work with our logo, so that really shaped their decision on it. They get to see that it’s really different to shoot for a client versus doing a purely artistic or creative project.”

For both alumni, these projects gave them the chance to see their companies and brands from a different point of view. “We’re used to working with local college students who like to shoot videos for WeMo, but we found that TAS students really have a different, more international perspective,” says Jay. Brenda agrees with Jay as well, saying, “I've been incredibly impressed with the students' professionalism and independent thinking.  Our company is almost 50 years old, so for me, it was a really fun way to get a fresh take on a traditional business.”

Adrian Town ’13, who is joining the TAS faculty as a Film Studies teacher next year, sees special value for students in working with alumni. “While working with real-life clients can be a daunting task, doing that with someone who shares common values and a common background makes it easier for the students. They get to work on it in a more controlled environment, but the alumni still expect quality results, so they are real clients.”

WeMo Scooter is an alumni company working with TAS students (Photo credit: Jay Cheng)

Both videos are still in production, as is the third collaboration, a 45-second promotion for Saffron 46, a restaurant which recently opened in downtown Taipei. Next year, the film program will continue looking for collaborations with alumni and other brands. In its fifth year, the program now has 60 students in the Upper School. “There is a lot of value to these collaborations – it’s a win-win for everyone, from the students to the program to the community,” says Brett.  Adrian also has his own reasons for supporting these collaborations. “Our alumni collaborators have been able to model life after graduation for our students,” explains Adrian. “When I was a student, I had no idea who our alumni were, so it’s helpful for the students to see our alumni as working professionals, who have followed different paths in life and made different choices.”