100 SECONDS ON THE RED SOFA: Anticipate Pictures5 min readReading Time: 3 minutes
It was 2016 and Vincent Quek, then 27, realised that there was a gap in the market with a lack of arthouse films shown in the cinema – he wanted to fill the void. He explains with a warm smile, “I thought it was then or never, so I wrote a business plan, I reached out to investors, and thankfully I got one. So now we have Anticipate.”
Anticipate Pictures is an independent film distribution company that specialises in independent art house and documentary films, acquiring for Singapore and Thailand.
In a nutshell, what Anticipate Pictures does is to source for films at film festivals around the world and decide which would work in their market, before reaching an agreement for the exclusive rights to distribute to this market. Anticipate Pictures will then speak with exhibitors to try and release the films, before working together with them for the publicity and marketing of the screenings.
It goes without saying that Vincent’s ambitious project was met with several setbacks. One of which was fundraising especially in its initial years. Vincent explains, “We don’t have a lot of culturally-minded patrons, and if they are out there they usually donate to large institutions for fine arts, theatres and music.” Furthermore, with cinema always “sort of straddling the weird ground between commerce and art,” it was difficult to convince investors that there is art in cinema.
As an avid cinephile, Vincent felt that another key challenge starting up Anticipate Pictures was himself. He says, “When you have a new company with a blank cheque book with capital to spend on films, you tend to go a little crazy. Those had to be tempered over time by very natural shortfalls in the first few months.”
In its three years, Anticipate Pictures have brought in and screened award-winning features from all corners of the world, including Syrian documentary For Sama and Palme d’Or winner The Square. Yet in Anticipate’s early days, there weren’t any cinemas that were willing to screen their films, leading to the company doubling down on costs by renting cinemas. Vincent, however, chooses to see the bright side of the challenge. He explains, “The good thing about that is we got really close to our audience; we started seeing some regulars.”
After a few years, Anticipate Pictures started gaining traction amongst exhibitors and started renting their films to places such as The Projector, Asian Film Archive and Oldham Theatre to show their films. However, the company soon realised that they were “losing a little bit of that intimate touch that they had.” He says. “I think that there is a lot more we can do to enhance your movie-going experience and one of that is to have a personable face before the film, and to tell you a little about it before we start. This is quite important for our films which may not be as accessible as more commercial fare.”
On this endless pursuit to enhance the audience’s experience, Vincent set up the Anticipatron program to “reclaim a little bit of the intimate space” that had faded from its early years and to reconnect with the consumers. As a trial, for S$36, members of the program will have the opportunity to watch a new AP film during the first weekend of the first three months of 2020. Vincent explains, “The Anticipatron screenings are meant to reconnect directly with the audience, which we don’t necessarily see because we don’t run our own screenings anymore. Hopefully, the program will make it a little more personable and intimate for the patrons that come to see our films.”
Vincent’s life as a film distributor leads him to watch an average of 300 movies a year and there were bound to be films that he would love to bring to Singapore but is unable to due to clashes with censorship. One of these films is French-Japanese film Caniba by Véréna Paravel and Lucien Castaing-Taylor, about a Japanese cannibal who manages to escape custody and is now living freely in Japan. He says, “It has a very provocative subject but as soon as I watched it, I knew that there was no chance in hell that this could ever be shown in or brought into Singapore.”
Vincent continues, “It is not because I don’t think Singapore audiences would appreciate it but more because of the regulations here. Yet films like this jolt us out of our comfort zones. They make us think about what is the true nature of the human condition. That is really what I hope Anticipate pictures will espouse in the films that we bring in.”
Find out how you can be a part of the Anticipatron programme 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.