Fifteen years into her career as a Mediacorp artiste, Joanne Peh has yet to show any signs of slowing down. The 35-year-old actress has been busy over the past 18 months launching two new ventures: her directorial debut and an enrichment startup that focuses on storytelling for young children.
“Maybe it’s my personality, I like to take on things harder than I can manage,” she said on the sidelines of a media conference for ‘Fresh Takes!’, a new Channel U initiative that aims to support artistes who are keen on venturing into film production.
Along with other actors such as Shane Pow and Romeo Tan, Peh was approached to give directing and scriptwriting a go in ‘Fresh Takes!’. The series of 30-minute films will be screened from March till April.
“The beautiful thing about being a director is the fact that you can piece a story together in a way that touches the audience, and that’s quite an amazing feeling.”
Joanne Peh (CS'06), Mediacorp actress and director
Under the Tree, written and directed by Peh, tells the poignant love story of two childhood playmates who had lost contact with each other. They reunite in an unexpected twist of fate, but the male protagonist is hesitant to reconnect as he feels ashamed of his job as a hawker.
The film’s cast features prominent names such as Austrian-Hong Kongese model Fiona Fussi and Singapore Slingers player Chase Tan.
However, it was a surprise to many that Peh offered the male lead role in her film to someone who had no background in show business - Pang CC.
According to Peh, it was Pang, a Mediacorp cameraman, who inspired her film. She called Pang to offer him the leading role immediately after accepting the offer to direct her first film.
Pang, who had never been in front of a camera, was nervous that he would not do justice to the film as this was his first time acting. However, he said it was Peh’s patience and constant encouragement that gave him the confidence to convey the very emotions expected of him.
“She (Peh) told us not to act, but to just be ourselves, and always reassured me that who I am would be enough,” Pang said.
Peh said she had no regrets jumping on board as a director with the other featured actor-turned-directors, and was thankful for the chance to learn.
Initially, what she found most difficult as a director was communicating her ideas effectively with the crew members. This was something she never had to do much of as an actress. Directing was different though, as the onus was on her to deliver clear instructions to her team.
“As an actress you just have to focus on yourself. You deliver the lines, and you take care of your own role. But as a director, you have to manage a lot of things” Peh said.
Peh also shared the numerous difficulties she had to overcome as a director, including issues such as a lack of funding, the unpredictable weather during shoots and even vying for a space to shoot in public places.
Despite all the challenges, taking on the director’s chair has been a rewarding experience. “The beautiful thing about being a director is the fact that you can piece a story together in a way that touches the audience, and that’s quite an amazing feeling,” she said.
A Budding Entrepreneur
Following her directorial debut, the mother of two children, aged two and four, has been focusing on her enrichment startup, The Dimple Loft.
Founded by Peh in February 2018, The Dimple Loft organises workshops and camps for children, encouraging them to learn and appreciate the arts through various modes of fun and interactive hands-on activities such as painting, writing, acting, singing and dancing.
She has since conducted numerous workshops and camps that focus on storytelling through filmic arts for young children.
Peh said that the inspiration behind the business hit her while she was researching for the childlike and innocent role she played in the drama series Pillow Talk. She started revisiting her memories from childhood and remembering what made her most happy – stories and role-play.
“(As a director), I need to tell my story effectively, so the audience understands what I’m trying to say. I think that’s what the school has taught us.”
Joanne Peh (CS'06), Mediacorp actress and director
Good old days in WKWSCI
This fascination with stories, she shared, blossomed when she was in the Wee Kim Wee School of Communication and Information, where Peh graduated in 2006 with a major in journalism and a minor in Drama and Theatre Performance. This was also the birthplace of her acting career, which she started in her first year.
Her big break came when she won the titles of Miss Elegant and Miss Personality in Miss Singapore Universe 2002. After the pageant, Peh signed on as an actress with Mediacorp and has since enjoyed a plethora of accomplishments, bagging more than 19 trophies to date at the annual Star Awards.
One of Peh’s career milestones include her role as Yuzhu, the ill-fated girl with a heart of gold in the Channel 8 drama series The Little Nyonya, which earned her a Best Actress title at the Star Awards 2009.
Peh said that the school was a training ground which prepared her for a future in show business.
“You’re allowed to make mistakes in school, and you learn from them. But in the real world, mistakes are frowned upon. The stakes are a lot higher,” Peh said.
“(As a director), I need to tell my story effectively, so the audience understands what I’m trying to say. I think that’s what the school has taught us,” she added.