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Video series on Instagram-worthy S'pore spots to air online

Nessa Anwar, the 26-year-old producer-presenter of InstaScram, says filming the series based on the most picturesque Instagram shots found online has taken her and her production team to parts of Singapore off the beaten track, where they have found beauty in everyday places.


AS any avid social media buff would know, Singapore has no lack of "Instagram-able" spots. And behind each spot that appears on the online photo and video-sharing Instagram platform is a slice of Singapore history crying out to be told.

A story-teller has emerged - in the form of a new video series produced by Singapore Press Holdings (SPH) in partnership with the Info-communications Media Development Authority (IMDA).

Called InstaScram, the series of clips will run every fortnight across SPH's various digital platforms, starting from Friday.

A play on the words "Instagram" and "scramblers", InstaScram has a simple-enough premise: its production team scours Instagram for location ideas in Singapore, and sends producer-presenter Nessa Anwar out to explore those places on various motorcycles to deliver the stories behind them.

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The 26-year-old said: "We try to find the social-media pictures that are the most recent, first of all, and we try as much as possible to pick ones by Singaporeans.

"It's really something else to see our fellow locals finding beauty in everyday places, rather than in the mostly-generic shots taken by tourists."

The video series is the first in a range of 10 programmes - six in English and four in Chinese - by the SPH-IMDA partnership, which is part of a pilot public service broadcast initiative. Other anchor series are AskST, a programme produced in conjunction with The Straits Times, and Why It Matters, a Chinese-language animation series that explains major global issues and trends.

In InstaScram, each episode will feature two locations based on a pair of criteria: The place has to be photogenic, and be full of history, culture and heritage as well - better if the stories behind them are relatively unknown and can pique the curiosity of Singaporeans.

Ms Nessa said of the 24-episode series: "It's about communities. We tapped the biker community in Singapore, and who knew the biker community had anything to do with the local photography community? InstaScram is that link."

She added that the series helps local communities get to know more about each other and to share their love for Singapore - bringing out the kampung spirit, so to speak.

"Some of these places, even I've never been to or heard of them before we started doing InstaScram. Even my crew will admit sometimes that they've never been to these places, and I find, as the producer, a little pride in that. We're learning more about Singapore and its different kinds of people, together."

Each episode is given "its own flavour - from the visuals to the music to the mood", she said.

In the first episode, she explores Everton Road and Little India.

To spice things up, some episodes will feature guest presenters like Zaihan the Biker Boy (from "The Biker Boy" column in The New Paper), and members of various groups of motorbike enthusiasts such as the Harley riders and women riders.

Ms Nessa said the series attempts various methods of shooting, including using drones to capture footage.

Capturing her on film, zipping off on a motorbike, posed technical challenges.

Lead videographer and video editor Isaac Netto, 26, said: "Keeping shots in focus and stable while tracking Nessa on her motorcycle is no easy task.

"It requires a skilled driver, good navigator and a cameraman who is not afraid to get in on the action. The weather is also going to be a killer, as we move into months like December. It is either scorching hot or pouring."

The InstaScram crew comprises former members of online television service SPHRazor - namely Ms Nessa, Mr Netto, executive producer Jonathan Ng, an intern Caleb Tay and second camera operator Mahmod Anis.

Except for Mr Mahmod, the others now make up The Business Times' in-house video team.

Mr Ng, now editor of BT Video, said: "Apart from our regular production of InstaScram, the BT video team are excited to increase the video content of The Business Times newsroom. We intend to focus on editorial and content-marketing initiatives, which will give more depth to the stories on BT's digital platforms.

"With SPHRazor's recent silver award from Wan-Ifra's Asian Digital Media Awards 2016 for Canon's best Digital Advertising Campaign, we bring our expertise in video content marketing to the BT newsroom. This will give our partners and clients wider range of opportunities to engage our audience, with video as a powerful storytelling tool."

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