Supporting local arts with a storytellers’ masterclass

The United States (US) Embassy is to support the local creative arts scene in Brunei with the promotion of arts and culture remaining an important objective, Public Affairs Officer at the US Embassy in Brunei Darussalam Jeff Barrus said.

“We also want to make aspiring filmmakers, animators and other creative artists aware of the incredible range of digital studies available via higher education institutes in the United States,” he said.

Barrus made these comments at an exclusive storytelling masterclass hosted by the Embassy of the United States of America in Brunei Darussalam and Mahakarya Institute of the Arts Asia (MIAA) ahead of the release of Disney’s newest animated feature film Raya and the Last Dragon on March 2.

The virtual masterclass was led by screenwriters Qui Nguyen and Adele Lim, and Head of Story for Raya and the Last Dragon Fawn Veerasunthorn. The masterclass focus was on how writers and story artists’ work together to create an animated films and how the filmmakers’ connections to Southeast Asia deeply inspired the fantasy adventure feature.

“As future filmmakers and story artists, you have the ability to educate, inspire, create awareness, shape the cultural narrative, and perhaps call attention to history too. The US Embassy has consistently supported Bruneians telling their own stories in their own voices, and I am glad that our friends from Play Naturally are here today too. They are recipients of a YSEALI Seeds for Future grant,” Barrus said.

Public Affairs Officer at the US Embassy in Brunei Darussalam Jeff Barrus with local filmmakers and animators. PHOTO: US EMBASSY

He added that the Embassy Small Grants Program provides funding opportunity for individuals and non-profit organisations.

Film students at MIAA, as well as local filmmakers and animators, took a behind-the-scene look at the making of Raya and the Last Dragon.

The US Embassy hosted the event to promote storytelling and the creative arts in Brunei as an emerging industry for economic diversification. The event also provided an opportunity for students and filmmakers to consider university-level digital studies, including filmmaking and animation, in the US.

Dean of MIAA Dr Alex Fischer said Mahakarya is the first step towards a career in the
creative industry. “We are pleased to collaborate with the US Embassy, Disney and the University of Southern California’s School of Cinematic Arts to provide rare opportunities such as this for students to interact with leading industry professionals,” he said.

The masterclass was coordinated by the US Embassy and MIAA in conjunction with Walt Disney Animation Studios and the USC School of Cinematic Arts.