100 SECONDS ON THE RED SOFA: Not Safe For TV
Not Safe For TV (NSFTV) describes themselves as an “online visual magazine for experimental content”, which may sound confusing and complex to the average person—but looking further, they have been producing boundary-pushing content that fully takes advantage of the versatility of social media. Be it telling stories through Spotify playlists, to shows produced via various forms, dynamic videos replace traditional static articles and pictures typically found in a magazine.
NSFTV was relaunched earlier this year with the independent web series One Take, spearheading a new direction for The Hummingbird Co.’s online channel for original content. “We wanted to create a platform where we could kind of go crazy with our ideas,” says Tan Hui Er, who, along with Ben Yeo, is one of its showrunners.
One Take, their latest and most buzzed about endeavour, is a series of nine episodes, each done in a single take, chronicling the coming-of-age story of three Singaporean youths over a period of ten years. To Ben and Hui Er, the story came from an incredibly personal place.“It’s very reflective of our lives and the stories we’ve found from the people around us,” says Ben. The idea for One Take was rooted on the basis of their conversations, reflecting on how a single decision can shape someone’s whole life. This is very much reflected in the various character arcs, which they hope are relatable for the viewer, or at the very least reminiscent of someone they know.
This ambitious concept of having each episode be shot in one take wasn’t just an artistic choice, they explain—it was also a technique they felt best showcases how moments unfold in real-time, and a challenge in itself to explore different unventured forms of storytelling. As with all kinds of experimental content, filming the show in a single take came with its own set of unexpected difficulties. What may work in theory often turned out to be quite the opposite. It was very much of a trial and error process for them, with camera techniques and storylines having to be frequently tweaked.
Hui Er cites the second episode Our Spaces In Between, which tracks the character climbing out of a window and running down a flight of stairs, as her favourite and one of the more challenging episodes to film. “We really could see how One Take could play with the architecture [of the HDB flat] and with the camera movement,” she says.
In addition to being writers and directors on the show, Ben and Hui Er also wear many hats—Ben helms multiple aspects of post-production, while Hui Er stars as the titular character, Claire. They say that this undertaking of various roles helped supplement their training as editors and producers respectively, and gave them much needed different perspectives to elevate the show.
According to them, One Take serves as a vehicle to spark organic conversations online about social issues they were “subtly pushing through”. “Essentially, the main point was not so much about the specifics,” says Ben. The viewer’s intrinsic connection to the characters was prioritised, as they believe that doing so will allow empathising with the characters and their issues to come naturally. Special consideration was further made to destigmatise these overarching themes and topics through non-stereotypical portrayals of growing up.
NSFTV had previously hosted the meta-comedy mockumentary series, The Average Guys, which raked up over 131,000 views on its pilot episode, effectively rendering it a sleeper hit. “The creators really set a precedent for what online content could be,” says Hui Er. Its success further proved to them, and Singapore, that there’s a space for this kind of offbeat content locally.
For now, NSFTV has been slowly releasing episodes from their new regional micro-documentary show UNDONE, a series that “gives a glimpse into the present and future, bringing us a step closer to unravelling the human condition”. Venturing beyond Singapore, the people profiled—a Filipino man with a restaurant that creates “mood healing food” and a Vietnamese hip hop collective—hail from all corners of Southeast Asia. This continues on their path of telling stories through various forms, utilising an eclectic editing style to reflect the various off-kilter personalities.
They also tease an upcoming project that further pushes the boundaries and storytelling potential of social media, launching in October.
Hui Er admits: “We didn’t know how the content was going to fly… so the really exciting part is hearing what people have to say, and hearing that they enjoy it.” Following the overwhelmingly positive reception for their shows, NSFTV hopes to continue carving out a niche to explore hard-hitting topics that not only entertain, but also challenges perspectives and acts a voice for modern social issues. Ultimately, they believe that stories can be found everywhere—and we really don’t have to look too hard to find them.
Read our review of One Take here.
And follow NSFTV here.
About 100 Seconds On The Red Sofa
100 Seconds On The Red Sofa shines the spotlight on movers and shakers in the Singapore film and media scene, with each episode featuring people that are making waves and contributing to the industry’s growth and enrichment.
The Red Sofa has come a long way and has a rich history, dating all the way back to Sinema Old School in 2007. It’s seen a generation of young local filmmakers come into their own; now we’re dusting it off for another round.