If I asked you to explain the connection between looking in a mirror and a landfill site, you might be left scratching your head. Next week, a thought-provoking new film premieres at The Projector which sets out to explore that exact association.
Changing Room, an independent film funded by the National Geographic Society and with its premiere funded by the SG Eco Fund, explores the profound connection between self-image, our fashion choices and the pressing issue of climate change through the captivating medium of dance.
We caught up with producer Thammika Songkaeo to learn more about the story behind the project, her personal experiences during the filmmaking process, and valuable insights into reshaping our relationships with our bodies and clothing choices.
Can you describe what led you to conceptualising Changing Room?
Sure. It all started over a coffee chat with Ahilya Kaul, a fellow dancer. We were both at The Dance Place in Singapore, where she taught a few classes, and I attended regularly. I mentioned to her my interest in using dance to raise awareness about climate change. Dance representations of climate issues hadn’t quite resonated with me, and I felt like we could fill a void.
Ahilya and my friend Adelene Stanley, a dancer who has experience performing on world-class stages, took up the challenge. In our first iteration, I wasn’t satisfied with the results, and I soon came to realise it was my initial prompt, ‘give me a dance about climate change,’ that was the problem. I needed the dance, and our message, to express something deeper than they were giving me.
That’s when I asked them to dance about how they felt about their bodies. This simple shift revealed a profound connection between body image and clothing. I finally asked, “What do you think your physical insecurities have to do with how you buy clothes?” The dancers began to talk about how they sometimes bought clothes endlessly, hoping to fill some kind of void, and I threw in my knowledge about how consumer behaviour feeds the growth of the fashion industry, which is a large contributor to climate change.” That’s how Changing Room was born.
What was your experience like filming this, and what were your biggest learnings?
Filming was just a part of the entire project. The real work was in handling funding, making sure the team were paid, managing sponsors, ensuring we followed all the necessary film regulations, and collaborating with artist colleagues who came from different backgrounds but shared the same vision. Marketing and filling up theatre seats were additional challenges, as well as responding to individuals who genuinely cared about our project. For instance, when students told me they couldn’t afford tickets, I reached out to their universities to explore student subsidies.
This journey has been demanding and sometimes lonely. I’ve made the choice to financially support my team while compensating myself least and last. It’s challenging, but it’s worth it when I see the impact Changing Room is having.
The film conveys the importance of a healthier body image. How do you feel people transform their relationship with their bodies?
That’s a great question. I believe it starts with self-love and gratitude for your body. Understand that it carries your essential humanity. Your body isn’t just a shell; it’s a vessel for something much deeper. Once you grasp this, you’ll realise that what you wear doesn’t define your worth. You are already enough, and your clothing should be seen as an expression of your unique self, not as a means to fill an emotional void.
What have you learned about yourself through making this film?
Making this film has been a transformative journey for me. Despite my small physical stature, I’ve realised that my impact and the decisions I make define my true size. Bodies don’t tell the whole story, and judgments based on appearances are often misguided.
What have you observed about people’s perceptions of sustainable fashion in Singapore?
In Singapore, there’s a prevailing ‘buy-now-donate-later’ mindset when it comes to sustainable fashion. People often integrate donation into their idea of sustainability without critically examining the flaws in this approach.
What are your plans for Changing Room post-screening?
Following the screenings, we plan to host Movement Therapy sessions every two months in Singapore, led by our Creative Director, Adelene Stanley. This will provide a space for our original audiences to reconnect with us, deepen our sense of community, and check in on the impact Changing Room has had on their lives. We are also looking to expand our screenings abroad, replicating the same format as in Singapore, including film screening, Q&A, and Movement Therapy.
Anything else you’d like to share?
I invite everyone to come to our screenings just as they are. We believe that the journey starts with being yourself. We’ll take it from there together.
Changing Room screens at The Projector on the 23rd and 30th of September. Tickets are available to purchase here.
Comment ‘self-love’ on our ongoing Instagram giveaway to win a pair of tickets for yourself and a friend!
Susannah believes better design can help create a brighter future. A former magazine editor, she now runs ZERRIN and works at the intersection of consumers, brands and sustainability advocacy.