Dreaming our own dreams.

When I chose to pursue documentary film making, I knew I wasn’t going to have it easy. Especially coming from a traditional Asian culture where parents dream for their kids to become doctors and lawyers. An environment where I was often told not to spend so much of my time on art because “maths and science is more important”. A place where uncles and aunts frown in skepticism upon hearing my dreams because such careers “have no future”. And a country where locally produced content has played second fiddle to the supposedly better content from overseas for years.

I’ve heard the testimonials. “If your goal is to get rich, then film making isn’t the path you should take.”  I’ve heard the warnings. “How’re you going to put food on the table?” I’ve heard the attempts to persuade me to try something else. “Earn a stable income with a proper job first. You can always use your extra funds to do whatever you like later!”

But i stand by what Jacqueline Novogratz says in her book, The Blue Sweater:

“I argued that you had to start early, understand how change happens, and build relationships and credibility over a long period… I had to be who I was, not someone else until I made enough money to come home to myself.”

Yep, I’m stubborn. And I’m paying the price. I’m sitting here as a recent grad from one of the best colleges in the country, and I am struggling to make ends meet. I thought that I’d just have to work really hard, impress my bosses, and everything would take care of itself. I succeeded with the working hard. My bosses love me and want me to carry on working with them. It’s the getting paid part that isn’t quite happening.

So what do you do then? What happens when you love what you do, and love the mission and values that your content represents, but it won’t pay the rent? If this is what I’m facing here in America, the birthplace of cinema, what will my future hold when I return to Singapore, where the film industry is still in its infancy?

Well, I’ve been told that to predict the future, you’ve gotta create it. It’s a scary and unpredictable road ahead, but I fear not, for I’m blessed to have the support of family and friends. A few bumps on the road ain’t gonna stop me now. Positive social change through film can happen in Singapore. I’ll make it work, somehow.

And when I need a little dose of inspiration, I take in the words of Singapore’s pioneers in film and hope to speak among them one day. Will I have your support?

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Creative Commons… revolutionize protection.

Whether you’re a writer, painter, filmmaker, musician or just someone who enjoys creating art, I’m sure you’ve run into the stifling barrier of copyright protection. Think the indie band that has an awesome idea for a cover of a Bon Jovi tune but with a jazz twist, or the student who needs that ten-second scene from a movie to demonstrate his point more effectively, or the filmmaker who has to remove an entire scene that was crucial to his documentary because a radio in the room was playing a piece of copyrighted music in the background.

There’s now a silent version of my RTVF380 final project, Messages, on YouTube. YouTube removed the audio because we used a copyrighted song in our class project. Didn’t matter that we weren’t going to make money off it. What were we supposed to do? None of us were musically inclined enough to write an orchestral masterpiece to suit the mood of our film… and none of us had money to pay a composer to do it for us.

Truth is, whether we like it or not, anything tangible we create, any expression of an idea, is automatically copyright protected. That’s right… that doodle on your writing pad… that’s copyright protected.  No need for any registration, no need to print a little circle with a letter c in it. But what if you don’t want to keep your work all to yourself? What if you want to enable people to enhance their work by making use of yours? What if we can build a rich culture of creative sharing and a vibrant exchange of ideas?

Creative Commons

I first came across Creative Commons 3 years ago in my Media Law class (thank you Mr Sabnani!) and was instantly swept away. I got so excited about this door-opener that my partner Rachel Fun and I did a news piece on it for broadcast on Radio Singapore International. We went all out for that radio journalism assignment… even made a phonecall to Germany to speak to the Executive Director of Creative Commons International at that time, Christiane Henckel von Donnersmarck. This was her take on it:

I think originally copyright was invented to foster creativity and to have artists get reimbursed for their work. But this was before the digital age. Now the artists and the users of the internet and digital media have such great and powerful new possibilities to be creative …And it just became obvious that the international copyright system is not sufficient at the moment.

Where copyright is all rights reserved, Creative Commons is some rights reserved. CC works with copyright to let you, the copyright owner decide how you want to share your work. So instead of leaving your work completely untouchable by others when it’s automatically copyrighted, simply tag on options to your free CC license to decide things like whether people:

  • by-nc can/cannot make money off the work they’ve used your stuff for

  • by need to credit you for your work in their piece

  • by-sa need to pass on the kindness by sharing their piece with others too

  • by-nd can modify your work or if they need to use it whole

Let this video explain it to you in 2 minutes.

I love what CC is trying to achieve. When more people are aware of their ability to share, it becomes a huge community of exchange. Witness the power of collaboration. Spread the word. Help save the world from failed sharing.