It was everywhere. Coarse and black, raining mercilessly down on my body. All around me, people were staring. Nervous laughter escaped someone’s lips. It’s not like it was my first time; I knew it would be over soon. But in that moment, the shards lodged down my shirt, in my pants, and on the ground beneath my feet, overwhelmed me. It was everywhere.
And then it was the next soldier's turn to have his head shaved.
I began my two year service-term in the Singapore Armed Forces on December 2012. Part of my initiation into the Army was losing my individuality. During the first few months of training, we weren’t just told what to wear or say. We were told who to be. Shaving our heads was the final step in our transformation into anonymous soldiers. To get through training, we were expected to let go of our identities and act as a unified platoon of solders.
After each confinement period, I felt as if the sentiments that I had repressed in camp came flooding out when I left. Needing an outlet, I turned to film. Films such as Saving Private Ryan and The Bridge on the River Kwai helped me perceive my combat training as not mere suffering, but rather part of a grander purpose. Like it does for many, these films helped me to reconcile my physical environment.
However, I suddenly found that watching films wasn't enough. I wanted to express my creativity in a tangible way. That's when I turned to screenwriting: the perfect way to understand my world was to create my own.
Over the next year, I devoted myself to self-study. My lessons came from online forums and books I ordered from Amazon. By no means a replacement for a formal education, these hard copy and digital professors helped me to piece together my script and turn my inspiration into words.
This new experience of self-study was at times frustrating, but for the most part exhilarating. As I had not yet intended to study film in University, I was pouring myself into a project based on nothing more than my own desire to explore the art.
Finally, after a year of studying how to write a script, my work began to take form. The initial entrapment I was experiencing translated into my themes. My characters voiced the grief and triumph I felt in camp. When my training was finished, so was the first draft of my script The Escapist.
Ultimately, what I discovered was that I didn't need an environment conducive to creativity to spark inspiration. This goes for anyone pursuing a creative endeavor (if you're reading this on Moviepilot, I'm going to assume this somewhat applies to you), don't let your physical environment affect your creative process. If the world around you is stunning and exhilarating, great. If it isn't, that's fine.
If you're meant to create, you're meant to create. And you will.
I never thought the army would give me anything else other than bruises and bad memories. In truth, it gave me a group of friends I consider family, a confidence I didn't know I had, and a love of film. And to think...
It all started with a haircut.