A little girl rides a rocking horse as her father sits nearby, reading a newspaper. A few years later they walk together, he to work and she to school. In his hand, again, is a newspaper. These scenes are part of a short film called Pa’s Expressions produced by Lianhe Zaobao, the Chinese flagship newspaper of Singapore Press Holdings (SPH).

The 10-minute film centres on the relationship between a father and his daughter, where the newspaper plays a subtle role. It is part of a series of events aimed at creating brand awareness, following Zaobao’s revamp in 2016.

How did the idea of making a micro-film come about? For 93 years, Zaobao has been committed to news reporting using the Chinese language, which has become a second language in the country since 1970s — even though 80% of the population is Chinese. As the largest Chinese language newspaper in Singapore, we have been fighting an uphill battle over the years while facing this drop in Chinese literacy and print readership.

When planning a campaign for the newspapers rebranding last year, Han Yong May, associate editor at Zaobao, suggested reaching out to the younger generation through a micro-film about the newspaper. Han is also the digital editor of Chinese Media Group, helming the digital arm of Zaobao, and the idea was supported by chief editor Goh Sin Teck. Both editors shared a mutual understanding that the film should not be a hard sell advertisement, but rather adopt a subtle approach.

Pa's Expressions is a short film that follows a father and daughter, with subtle hints of the newspapers role through the years.
Pa's Expressions is a short film that follows a father and daughter, with subtle hints of the newspapers role through the years.

A team of four from Zaobao worked with local production company Smallshop to create the film. They chose Wayne Peng, a Taiwanese commercial film director, to direct. Wayne was the perfect fit as he has been a columnist with Zaobao for several years. He had a big collection of scrapbooks with newspaper cuttings, and these scrapbooks were used as props in the film, to showcase the newspapers transformations through the decades.

Pas Expressions premiered on October 10, 2016, concurrently on Singapore’s paid TV station StarHub Channels and online on zaobao.sg. A 90-second trailer was also posted on zaobao.sg and Facebook — where it received more than 18,000 views. 

A readers engagement session was conducted four days after the premiere at the Gallery Theatre of the Singapore National Museum. After the screening of Pas Expressions, director Wayne Peng, along with Lianhe Zaobao editor and associate editor, gave a talk and interacted with the audience.

After watching the film, one of the readers, commented, “The exquisiteness of the film brought out the depth of the paper and appealed to both readers and non-readers.”

Director Wayne Peng and Associate Editor Han Yong May (right) answer questions from the audience at a sharing session.
Director Wayne Peng and Associate Editor Han Yong May (right) answer questions from the audience at a sharing session.

More than 200 readers attended the session. At subsequent Lianhe Zaobao outreach events, commemorative USB cards on the film were also given to readers.

The film received six awards in the Singapore Creative Circle Awards. Chief Editor Goh said that Pas Expressions successfully portrayed the strong affiliation between our newspaper and its readers.