NYFA Interviews: Francis ‘Kitaro’ Tan, Director of Iceberg Design
Francis ‘Kitaro’ Tan is a veteran of the local media industry with more than 30 years experience spanning almost the entire moving media spectrum, with a successful track record to match. He is presently the director of Iceberg Design Pte Ltd, a 4K post-production facility and Iceberg X Pte Ltd, an interactive installation production company.
I spoke with Francis about his thoughts on the key differences the National Youth Films Awards (NYFA) has in comparison with other film competitions in Singapore.
1. What do you think differentiates NYFA from other film competitions in Singapore?
It pits IHL (Institute of Higher Learning) to IHL and hopefully this will spur some competitive spirit in participants to want to have their talents recognized beyond their school’s creative premise.
Above all, with industry stakeholders as partners and *SCAPE being the conduit, NYFA is impartial with no commercial agenda but a social agenda – The youth.
Honestly, if you look at the Cathay Motion Picture Awards, the value of their cash prizes is a lot higher, the first prize being $20,000. However, if the students submit their films to the National Youth Film Awards just because they have already had short films made as part of school curriculum, and are aiming for large cash prizes, I think they have not understood the purpose of NYFA.
NYFA is industry-driven, and the judging panel is comprised of industry stakeholders with backgrounds spreading across different areas of expertise in filmmaking. The films submitted for NYFA will be assessed in a more holistic manner, from every angle of craft in the filmmaking process.
The film industry wants to spot young filmmaking talents through NYFA, and the experienced panel of judges will provide guidance for them to further develop their talents.
2. The award categories of NYFA spread out across a wide range of film production roles, and besides the usual cash prizes, award winners will also have apprenticeship opportunities with industry forerunners. What are your thoughts about the way this film awards is designed/structured?
This is opportune as we see more and more emphasis being placed on executive functions (such as directors and cast members), and lesser emphasis on the marginalized yet equally critical roles in film production, such as camerawork, lighting, set design, editing, colorization, visual effects and most of all, sound.
NYFA is important to get people to recognize that filmmaking constitutes many crafts. This is why people of different backgrounds in filmmaking have come on board the NYFA jury to be the judge of the category involving their specific area of expertise.
You have Jack Neo assessing the storytelling aspect, someone else assessing the scripting, someone else assessing the editing and so on and so forth.
3. Do you think the judging process of NYFA will be stricter than other film awards?
It definitely will be. I think the weightage of each category in the scoring matrix will be quite evenly distributed, so it will be a very critical way of assessing the films submitted.
A film which does not attain box office success could be well-executed in some particular technical aspects. NYFA places a lot of importance on awarding the many individual crafts of filmmaking, and we hope to identify and support young filmmaking talents to develop their particular skills and have their talents recognized on a wider scale, so they can continue receiving support from the film community upon graduation.
4. How will the awards benefit the industry as a whole?
Hopefully, it will motivate filmmaking students to constantly improve on their skills.
Some students may have made short films for the sake of completing their coursework and getting a pass grade. If some of the films submitted were made for that purpose only, without any extra effort being put into the crafts of the filmmaking process, those films will not be part of the list of nominees for this Awards.
The NYFA team has received film submissions from 13 Institutes of Higher Learning (IHLs), so there is participation from schools on a national level. Films that make it into the list of nominees are clearly of a higher standard than others, and it will be an indication that some of the school standards are not acceptable in the industry per se.
I hope that this will lead media students and schools to aim to be better, upon seeing the best student films out of the whole cohort on a national level. Standards will be set upon critical assessment by industry stakeholders, and hopefully schools and students will start to set higher standards for their own works as well, to match up to industry-level expectations. This will certainly help to ease the transition when students graduate and seek employment in the film industry.
5. Are there any key attributes that you look for particularly in potential apprentices?
Passion comes first. If you don’t have passion for what you do, this industry is the last one you should join.
6. Finally, in your opinion, how will NYFA change the media landscape for young and emerging film production talents in Singapore?
I hope NYFA will be an eye-opener for the participants in terms of showing them the standard of films that media students of all IHLs are producing. If it inspires them to be on par with the most talented students from all over Singapore, then we have a very good start for this inaugural round of the Film Awards.
My hope is that the students will hunger for excellence in pursuing the craft of filmmaking, because filmmaking is a process that requires real dedication.