Singapore Filmmaker Tan Pin Pin Finds Global Reach With Vimeo

To Singapore With Love Banned Tin
Courtesy of Tan Pin Pin

SINGAPORE — Vimeo has become the global distribution platform of choice for Singaporean filmmaker Tan Pin Pin.

Three of her documentaries, “To Singapore, With Love”, “Singapore GaGa” and “Invisible City” are available on the U.S.-based platform, but the first one is not available in Singapore. It is banned in its home country due to its politically-sensitive content.

Vimeo takes a 10% cut on all rentals and purchases, while intermediary payment services like PayPal take their fees, averaging some 4% of the price, leaving the filmmaker with some 86% of revenues.

“It is still the best split you can get,” says Peter Gerard, Vimeo’s director of audience development and content operations. Gerard says that the pricing of each of the 30,000 films on Vimeo on Demand is arrived at after discussion with the filmmakers, and the films themselves are chosen after a curation process by experts who are often festival programmers.

Gerard is currently on a round the world mission to educate international filmmakers about the platform.

Tan also explored rival platforms like iTunes and Netflix, but was put off by the upfront format conversion fees they charge, ranging from $500-$800. Netflix usually pays filmmakers a flat fee while iTunes relies on content aggregators in different countries who take a substantial cut, reducing the filmmakers’ share in the process.

“I knew who my audience was and I knew how to reach them. I really didn’t need their algorithms at that point,” says Tan. The filmmaker used Vimeo and YouTube in tandem to promote her films. She would upload fragments of her features on YouTube that would encourage audiences to pay for the whole films on Vimeo.

However, Tan isn’t just relying on digital platforms. “To Singapore, With Love,” which saw Tan interview a dozen exiled former political activists, played at a number of high profile festivals, but was denied a release in Singapore on the grounds of that it represented threat to national security. However, it is achieving brisk DVD sales internationally via U.S. portal Gumroad.

Tan and Gerard were among the participants in a panel discussion on digital distribution at the ongoing Singapore International Film Festival, alongside Malaysian digital pioneer James Lee and Christian Lee and Jason Chan of Bananamana Films whose “Perfect Girl,” a 10-episode digital series, won awards for outstanding drama series, directing, writing, editing, and lead actress at the L.A. Web Fest 2015.

Gerard has a keen eye on the vast Indian market, but is well aware of the challenges in a country where broadband connections are scarce and where buying online and paying for digital content is still in its infancy.

“We have made a start by successfully targeting the Indian diaspora,” says Gerard.

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