My years at UWCSEA had given me sensitivity to cross-cultural issues and a unique first-hand exposure to the world of international relations.
Risa Okamoto (SEA 91-96) is a documentary film maker in Singapore. Risa was born in Japan and lived in Hong Kong from the age of four until she came to Singapore with her parents in 1991. After graduating from the IB programme at UWCSEA, she went on to complete a degree in International Relations and Drama at Stanford University. Risa returned to UWCSEA in 2003 and taught for two years, before changing direction to become a documentary film director.
“I have so many special memories from my days at UWCSEA that I don’t know where to begin. Some of my fondest memories are of the drama teacher Mick MacManus, (“MacDaddy”). He loved his work and his students, and his passing a year after our graduation devastated us all. For a few months after I came back to teach, I couldn’t go into the drama studio. One day, I found in my pigeon hole a poster that our cast of As You Like It had made for Mr MacManus in 95. Everyone had written a message in it and nearly ten years later the poster fell into my hands and is still with me now!”
“I studied International Relations and Drama at Stanford. When deciding on a major, I considered my years at UWCSEA which had given me sensitivity to cross-cultural issues and a unique first-hand exposure to the world of international relations. I realised that most of the courses I’d taken so far at Stanford gravitated towards international relations and politics. Choosing Drama as my other major was also a natural choice that stemmed from the influence of my wonderful adventures in theatre at UWCSEA. I ended up with a double major degree that somehow married the different passions in my life, which were certainly nurtured during my years at UWCSEA”.
“What prompted me to return to Singapore was the fact that I had been away from my parents for 6 years, and I missed satay that didn’t cost $15! I knew I wanted to teach at least once in my life. It’s an incredibly humbling and wondrous experience which I think everyone should experience. The Head, Andrew Bennett, was kind enough to put me in the hands of the world’s greatest boss, Mark Beverley, who still heads the English department. I grew to accept that The College was a different place, and along with the changes, the students now have different opportunities than we had. As a teacher I built up a different set of memories and experiences that are equally precious and formative as those of my teenage years at UWCSEA”.
"My interest and involvement in documentary film directing and producing stemmed from my holidays as a teacher when I worked on an independent documentary. The documentary was about a Japanese man who wanted to become a professional rodeo bull-rider in the US. I followed him for two years on my term breaks, with the intention of putting it together for a film-festival release. After I finished teaching, a sample clip of it landed in the hands of a production executive at a production company, who wanted to partner with me and pitch it to National Geographic. The documentary was chosen out of several hundred pitches to get commissioned with a grant from National Geographic and Singapore’s EDB, and I produced, directed and wrote the hour-long programme for international broadcast.
"My other projects have involved producing a one hour documentary called “True Asian Horror” for The Discovery Channel which was aired worldwide in March this year. I have also produced, directed, and wrote the Bali episodes for a series called Style Asia, broad cast on various channels internationally. Currently I am directing, producing, and writing a series for The Discovery Travel on The Seven Wonders of China which I’ll be shooting in China.