Interview with Sharon Tan, Manager of The Projector

Ng Yi-Sheng

June 24, 2015

The OPEN Films are all showing at a single venue: the six-month old Singaporean independent cinema, The Projector. I figured it'd be cool to talk to one of the folks behind this awesome little institution. So let's have a chat with  the Manager,  Sharon Tan:

NYS: How have you found the OPEN so far?

ST: Stressful! The thing is, I haven’t been to any of the other events, and I’ve only watched a couple of the films: The Act of Killing, also a bit of The Tribe … the last 25 minutes. I’ve had a look at The Look of Silence , just bits and pieces, as well as This Is Not a Film . This is what I want to see, because we’re also showing Jafar Panahi’s latest film, Taxi Teheran .

NYS: Why haven’t you been able to watched the other films you’ve screened?

ST: There’s just no time. That’s the tragic irony of running a cinema: I used to watch films every other weeks, but now I don’t get to watch anything! Our manpower is very limited, because there’s only four of us, including the projectionist, running everything. So watching a film is basically a luxury.

But we do watch a couple of films on our off days. We try and expose ourselves to mainstream cinema to see what’s out there, and we’re greatly disappointed – like Jerome just went to watch Jurassic World , and Michelle went to watch Fast and the Furious at D-Box. 

[Here ensued an off-the-cuff explanation about what D-Box was. It seems to be a kind of cinema experience where you’re shaken about in your seat to match the actions on screen. I’d thought this was exclusive to theme park rides.]

We’ve taken to seeing films at our own venue, things we screen, just to get up to speed, and because a lot of people are shocked to find we don’t have time to watch all the films we’ve seen. So now it’s company policy.

NYS: You’ve mentioned you find the film programme of the OPEN very exciting. Why?

ST: I guess it’s because it’s a fairly good mix of films around the world, not like only Southeast Asian films. This one you feel like you might have traveled across the world through a lens.  But it also excites what I see in [the rest of] the OPEN.  The Imagination of the Future , and  The Role of Tomorrow’s Architects …. It’s got Toyo Ito! And  The Syndicate … No time! Have to be here! Very sad!

NYS: Last of all, I’m wondering if you’ve got an update t hat ad you show during the trailers, about how The Projector needs donations to buy projection equipment. Because obviously you now have projectors already…

ST: That thing is still relevant, because we still need money. Although we have no time to edit the video, it’s still really relevant. We’ve changed a lot since Day One when we opened with SGIFF when we opened the Green Room. So people who’ve come in December and seen us evolve are saying, “You’ve doing really well now,” but the sustainability is n our minds: being able to pay rent and continue buying films, basically being a viable independent business, not having any government grants, is something that keeps us awake every night. Yet it motivates us to do it properly, ‘cos that’s what we set out to do. 

NYS: What should people do, then?

ST: It could be as simple as telling more people about us. Awareness and patronage: that we still need to continue to build up – we’ve only been around six months, we can’t have too many patrons. So we’re trying to get more people to know we’re here. Weall do distribution: we cycle out and throw flyers at shops.  But I think in this age, with social media, it’s a conundrum: those people who know about it can’t stop hearing about it, and those people who haven’t heard about it haven’t heard about it. 

We’re trying to build up our pool of volunteers as well.  And we're also selling gift packs: ten tickets for a hundred dollars - quite a good deal. And tote bags.  And if you're generous, you can make  a straight donation. We've continued  some of the stuff fro m our crowdfunding days:  we can still put your name on a seat.

But I think people really feel like they are part of this project, which is great. Everybody wants to try and make it work, to stake a claim. So that’s really touching to us. We never thought that people would feel this way. Now that we’re here they’re really scared we’re going to go away…

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  • 2015