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Kallang Roar: Financing [Interview with Cheng Ding An – Part 2]

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It is no secret that few Singaporean features, especially independents, ever recoup the investments pumped into its production. As artful as film can ever be, the industry is still an industry no less, and like it or not, money is the only giant cog sustaining its existence.

Continuing on our series of articles that charts the production of local film Kallang Roar from idea to screen, we return this week with a second part to our interview with the film’s director, Chen Ding An, who talks about the financing and distribution of Kallang Roar, and hear what tips he has to dispense as he helps us make cents of his film.

kroar1.jpgBenjamin Tan (BT): A word about financing Kallang Roar?

Ding An (DA): Right now (and its not just me but for everyone in Singapore) – you must find a way to market the film, and ways to recuperate the costs. For a newcomer, it is very difficult to step into the market of feature filmmaking. The money that you put in – you’ll never know if its ever going to come back – in the first stages, you don’t know if it’ll even screen in a cinema.

BT: Did you face such problems of distribution with the short?

DA: I was lucky with the short. I sent it in to the Singapore International Film Festival, and it made it to the top seven. The problem with the feature is that you’re expected to make it first, and then show the completed film to a cinema distributor. Only then will they decide if they’d want to take it. It’s more risky; its actually very, very high risk! The returns are almost not promised because you’d have to finish it first, without knowing how well it is going to do. As long as people support the cause of local films (and of course the films must be good), the industry would be able to sustain itself. And better things will be made. It has to be supported.

BT: Did your sponsors approach you after having watched the short, or did you go out to them to finance the feature blind?

DA: This is one of the most difficult things about making a feature: to find financing and then make enough to put the money back afterwards. We had to go out and look for our sponsors; we had to really open our mouths and ask. And out of ten we would asked, only three would come back to us. Usually they’re hardcore local soccer fans who really believed in the cause. We thanked them endlessly because these people didn’t have to trust us; they didn’t have to believe in us, but they did. They gave us endless sponsorships, such as Milo, who provided all the drinks, and Canon with the HD camera. 1516 also gave us some very strong funding. They really came through!

BT: So we know how you financed the feature, what about the short?

DA: I used it as a pitching tool so it was self financed. It definitely cost me much less to make.

BT: What was the hardest thing about having to convince your financiers?

DA: We had to try our best to sell the film. The sponsors that came on board, thankfully, were already believers of the cause, which is of a nationalistic Singaporean film that was light-hearted, albeit like a family drama, and held a lot of meaning in it. It contained all the values they stood for, and this was the strength of the film that helped convince the financiers. Otherwise, if they didn’t believe in any of these, then there wouldn’t have been anything to begin with. For filmmakers out there – learn how to source for financing. That should be the first step of any film that’s to be made.

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