Films; without it, how would we have imagined what other realms and creatures look like? Or have shown the people of Cannes and Venice what local fire-eaters (My Magic), Kampongs (Homerun) and Singlish (any Singaporean film) are? With films becoming indispensable to our lives and a pool of Singaporean filmmakers growing, it’s only timely that a stage to showcase the sweat, dedication and talent that went into making stories and images come to life has emerged. Introducing Viddsee, a website created by NUS alumni Ho Jia Jian and Derek Tan that screens short films from around the region; films that would otherwise be overlooked and never given the acclaim they deserve. We speak to the two budding entrepreneurs-cum-filmmakers about their bold step into breathing life to the undiscovered and underground.
As graduates of NUS, how do you feel your time at the university built your love for film and TV?
We were both part of a student film group under Centre for the Arts (CFA), called nuSTUDIOS Film Productions. Having the privilege and opportunity to run nuSTUDIOS, we ran filmmaking workshops, film screenings and also made several short films ourselves under nuSTUDIOS. Some parts of Viddsee today has been inspired by the way we ran nuSTUDIOS.
When did you realise you wanted to pursue your passion for film?
We both had passion for film and production even before entering university, and during university, meeting like-minded people grew our passion for film. Where our passion lies is at the cross junction of film and technology. It has always been a conscious effort to ensure we are in a position where it involves the both.
As filmmakers yourself, what are some of the things you have learnt making films?
The process of filmmaking is like starting up a new business. Every film that is produced starts from scratch; it is conceptualised, built, marketed, its reception measured and its techniques reiterated or translated in the next film.
Also, we learnt how important teamwork is. A film is not made by just a director but very importantly the various crews and cast that make up the film too. This translate to our vision for Viddsee as well; it’s about building the community of filmmakers, audience and brands that grows the micro-cinema industry.
Personally, what do you look out for when watching films and curating Viddsee?
We look at the stories when curating Viddsee.
How did the idea of creating such a specific platform for Southeast Asian short films come about?
We had one of our short film, Cashless, tour numerous film festivals and we were planning to release it up online. Some of the options were to have it up on YouTube or Vimeo. However, we realised that our content would be drowning in the midst of a sea of user-generated content, including cat videos. At the same time, we had watched many good short films around Southeast Asia, but we found it hard to find them online. This led us to conceptualise a place that could allow all to easily find a collection of good short films to watch.
It’s pretty risky to dive into a new venture, especially film, known in Singapore to be a difficult area to thrive in. How did you guys pucker up the courage to do so!
Having being in the TV and mobile business, we saw opportunities between content and technology and how short films are the movies of the Internet today. I guess the marriage of both our passions in technology and film also gave us courage to take the leap of faith into this journey of Viddsee. Rather than watching others make things happen, we wanted to be the ones making things happen too!
You guys seem to be pretty successful not just in Singapore, but in other parts of SEA too. What are some of the encouraging words the industry leaders have said so far?
They had seen the gap where upcoming and also award-winning short films were shot but couldn’t be publicly featured, so it further encouraged us when well known directors and producers validated that our platform was an essential one.
What are some of the feedback you’ve gotten from your audience so far?
Films that our audience have been waiting for years to watch can finally be easily accessed. We have heard various exciting stories of how Viddsee has been used. For instance, we heard that teachers are using our films as a resource to reach out and discuss culture and also social issues. Another example is seeing our friends’ parents who previously had no access to short films discovering a whole new dimension of local content and filmmakers.