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NYFA Interviews: Sebastian Tan, Group Managing Director of Shooting Gallery Asia

12 June 2015

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NYFA Interviews: Sebastian Tan, Group Managing Director of Shooting Gallery Asia

Sebastian Tan founded Shooting Gallery in 1987 in hopes of establishing a strong production agency in Singapore, which has now expanded across nine countries. He has been awarded the Spirit of Enterprise award, Most Promising Entrepreneurship award, as well as the Successful Entrepreneur Award. He is a board member of the Singapore International Film Festival and on the Advisory Committee of the Singapore Film Commission. He is often invited to be a judge at various award shows.

I spoke with Sebastian about his thoughts on how the National Youth Film Awards (NYFA) can be a platform for young filmmaking talents to gain more recognition.

Q: What do you think differentiates NYFA from other film competitions in Singapore?

The scope of NYFA is very focused and recognizes the work of each specific talent in the film production process, and not the film itself only.

Q: Indeed, the award categories of NYFA spread out across a wide range of film production roles. 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?

I think it is a very good idea to provide apprenticeship opportunities because students need guidance.

Secondly, I don’t think any other film awards has judging criteria based on the various departments of film production, such as art direction, performance etc. It is rare to have a film awards that provides recognition of aspects of a film which are normally overlooked, because most other local film awards assess films from more generic angles instead of looking at each specific stage of film production.

Different films have different merits, and the fact that this Awards will give recognition to various roles in film production will hopefully give light to certain talents that normally may have been overshadowed in the wider scheme of things. Being awarded “Best Film” for example doesn’t say a lot about the contributions made by the set designer in particular. NYFA provides an opportunity to spot talents in specific areas of film production.

Q: How do you think the Awards will benefit the industry as a whole?

Hopefully, such Awards can motivate students to relook at their own works and think of how they can improve on the standard of their projects, when they see the quality of short films being done by media students in other schools.

If you don’t have a yardstick to measure against, you won’t know where you stand. So, this is a good opportunity for students to gauge where they stand among their peers, and also inspire them to be better.

It is great for the industry because the industry needs people who are really passionate about film production, and who constantly want to learn and improve themselves.

Q: Are there any key attributes you look for particularly in potential apprentices?

The most important criteria for me is, attitude. If they have the right attitude, they can be trained.

Skills can easily be passed on through teaching, but if you do not have the right attitude or the drive to work hard to achieve something tangible, nobody can push you to learn if you do not have any real interest in it.

Whenever we look for people to hire, the most important factor is whether they have the right attitude and the potential to go as far as they can go. Sometimes I come across talents whom I feel have a lot of potential, but when you push them, they may not see your well-meaning intention to realize their potential. They may take it as you’re picking on them. Sometimes people don’t appreciate the tough bosses who push them, but eventually when they are successful they start to realize that if not for the fact that they went through those tough times and were pushed to achieve excellence, they probably would not have made it.

Sometimes people do have potential, but they are too young to see it themselves. That’s when we have to not just look at what the person is today, but also what the person can be tomorrow.

When we feel that certain people have the potential, we invest in them. It’s an investment in their future.

Q: How do you sense if a person has the right attitude and potential? 

Through talking to them, you look at what they do, and you look at their attitudes, often you can get a good sense of the chances of them being able to go far or not.

Over the years I’ve seen a lot of people through, and I’ve seen them growing to become really successful. Quite often, you can see it when they are young.

Q6. Finally, in your opinion, how will NYFA change the media landscape for young and emerging film production talents in Singapore? 

I suppose any platform for students to showcase their talents and get visibility is an opportunity for them to get support. If there are no eyeballs for their talents to be recognized, chances of the students achieving their full potential will be lost.

I think NYFA provides an opportunity for film and media students to step forward and show what they are capable of, so that people in the film industry will recognize their potential and can readily connect with the available pool of talent in schools. Students can then receive mentorship and guidance from industry personnel and be better prepared to enter the film industry themselves.

The network of people you know can add value to what you do. As Asians, we tend to have an inhibited nature. Young and talented filmmaking students may feel shy or embarrassed about having to approach people for support. But when you have a platform where they can showcase their work, especially with a Jury of experienced industry stakeholders, these young talents have a good chance of being recognized and approached by industry professionals who can help them further develop their potential.