The Southeast Asia film industry is rich with talent (for example, look at Thai horror cinema’s growing fan base), but independent filmmakers have very few opportunities to reach a global audience. Viddsee wants to change that by giving Southeast Asian short films an online video platform. The site, which launched earlier this year and now has over 200 titles, just unveiled its Channels program, which are collections of films curated by content partners like the Singapore Short Film Awards and the Hong Kong Arts Centre. Though Viddsee’s films were made in languages like Chinese, Tagalog and Thai, all have English subtitles and the site’s discovery features are also in English to help it reach a wider audience.
Founders Ho Jia Jian and Derek Tan are filmmakers/engineers who previously built online platforms for local TV operators. While participating in regional film festivals, they realized that many of the things they watched would never get wider distribution.
“Everyone said put your film on YouTube to reach a global audience, but there are tens of millions of videos on YouTube. It’s really hard to find good quality content if you don’t know the filmmaker’s name,” says Ho. “So we began experimenting with ideas. We started a Facebook page to see if we could find a network of filmmakers around the idea of micro-cinema and build an audience.”
Support from respected filmmakers like Singaporean director Anthony Chen, who won the Camera d’Or award at this year’s Cannes Film Festival, helped Viddsee gain legitimacy within the Southeast Asian film industry. About a third of the films on Viddsee made their online debut there.
Viddsee’s founders position it as a complementary product instead of a competitor to Southeast Asia’s film festival circuit. It has already partnered with events including Tropfest SEA (Malaysia), Chaktomuk Short Film Contest (Cambodia) and the National Museum of Singapore’s Singapore Short Cuts to find content.
“We let them build a branded experience around the festival and issue a call-to-action for audience members,” says Ho. Content partners can use their channels and Viddsee’s social engine to run online contests, enabling viewers to select their favorite films. For example, the Tokyo Broadcasting System (TBS) DigiCon6 Singapore Channel introduced its first Viewers Choice Award on Viddsee, allowing viewers to vote for their favorite digital animations.
The site includes a wide range of genres, but Ho says it focuses on films that have a strong storytelling element. The next four short films scheduled to premiere on Viddsee include “The Rapist,” (Philippines) which made the Most Popular Film and Best Short Film shortlists at the International Film Festival Manhattan; “Hajat” (Malaysia), “Echo” (Thailand/Singapore) and “Paper Boxes” (Singapore).
Ho says that Viddsee, which received $50,000 SGD (about $40,000 USD) seed funding from ACE, a startup incubator run by the Singaporean government, is currently focused on building an audience for its shorts, but hopes to start adding feature-length films soon. Potential revenue models include pay-per-view for certain titles or site subscriptions.