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Friday, October 28, 2016

Exploring the Arts & Culture Industry

26th October 2016 - organised by National Trade Union Congress (NTUC) U-Creative, at One Marina Boulevard, Singapore.

Speakers: Mr Jeremiah Choy, trained lawyer turned creative director, producer and curator; Mr Mathialagan, Asian TV Awards winner; Mr Juan Foo, a veteran film producer; and Ms Som Binte Mohamed Said, a dancer, diplomat and designer

Some of the things I learn from the talk:

  • Appreciation of Art: That we should teach the young to appreciate art, so that they will not grow up like a robot.
  • Volume to Value: In the commercial world of acting, we first work on volume (of work), then value. When we start out, we take any gig thrown at us. It is a learning period and a time to establish ourselves in the market. But we can't just continue on 'volume'. At some point, we have to decide what value we bring to the project - a value that clients are willing to pay more for. It is harder to jump straight into 'value', skipping the 'volume' stage as clients look for the three 'X'es - Experience, Expertise and X-Factor. Newcomers rarely have all three, if at all, though some may have an X-Factor so big it compensates the lack of Experience
  • A Discerning and Educated Audience: At the moment, we do not have a discerning audience in Singapore. We need an audience that can engage in constructive criticism, not just saying whether they like a piece of work, or not, but being able to say why. We have lost this ability, because we started emphasising less on literature in school, and soon the students lose their ability to think. (I think the autocratic political system has something to do to stifle this, in my opinion.)
  • Acting in India: What is natural acting, or not, has changed over the years. What was natural acting 15 years ago, is now considered over-the-top (exaggerated) acting. Mathialagan also related to us his experience working in India, where he had to start from the bottom, as nobody knew him there. Whilst in Singapore, he had already 15 years of experience and won awards when he went to India. But nobody cares about that in a new place. That was a humbling experience. It was nothing to do with the acting craft, as the craft is universal.
  • Let art be the reason and not the excuse: That means an artist create and when asked to explain, he must be able to articulate what his art is about. If he cannot, and use art as an excuse, then it doesn't work. Eg. "It is too difficult to explain, this is art."
Personally, I am convinced that it is easier to get into art today, than 30 years ago, as the smart phone and the Internet are great vehicles to organise, access information, network and learn. However, I was astonished to meet a group of university students who feel that it is harder today, giving themselves reasons, such as that the obstacles they face today are different from 30 years ago. 

Being born with the Internet and mobile telephony technologies,they have taken everything for granted. I told them that if they were to switch off the Internet and mobile phones, they will learn very quickly how handicapped they would be, and then will realised that they have not leveraged on them enough to gain access to the market.

Those days, we need a committee to organise a simple event. When we call someone, we call them at home and if they are out of the house, we had to wait 12 to 24 hours to be able to contact them. We had to pay to learn almost everything, and even then, less effectively. Now, one can learn almost everything through Youtube and connect with like-minded people online. Finding out audition and shoot locations is a breeze with Google Maps, We can record our rehearsals at home or anywhere using our phones. We can cast people on the streets without going on the streets... we can look for new gigs from the phone.... , buses were packed to the brim and had no aircon, during the rain, they usually leak,..., streets were not as safe,..., the market was also smaller than it is now,... the list is endless. Come on young people, wake up to the reality that you are not hungry enough and not trying hard enough. 

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