This story appears in the December 2020 issue of Television Asia Plus.

Singapore-based online video platform Viddsee is more than just short films. Its identity lies in empowering Asian filmmaking talent through the stories they tell. From supporting young filmmakers to spearheading meaningful initiatives that benefit others, here’s how Viddsee is making an indelible mark in the industry today. Viddsee co-founder and COO Derek Tan talked to Television Asia Plus on the company’s growth, presence, projects, and what’s in store for 2021.

Television Asia Plus (TVA): Looking back on 2020, has Viddsee seen significant growth this year? If so, what are these?

Derek Tan (DT): The year has definitely been a challenging one for the entire media industry. Despite the setbacks in early 2020, we’ve managed to grow our reach and influence across the region. From an audience perspective, for countries harder hit by the pandemic like Indonesia, we have seen a growth of over 40% in our monthly active users. 

The company’s fundamental growth continues to be on track, with more original content, initiatives, and partnerships with broadcasters and media companies across the region. Viddsee Studios, our content creation, and marketing arm has created new Viddsee Original content, with 80 titles comprising short films, documentaries, and seriestogether with over 70 media companies in Singapore. 

TVA: Viddsee has launched many initiatives and partnerships, such as the ‘As One’ initiative with Singapore and Indonesia’s RCTI+, how do these boost Viddsee’s presence in Southeast Asia?

DT: We made several significant partnerships this year, notably with Singapore’s Mediacorp as the first local content partner under its Lights.Camera.Singapore initiative, and content partnerships with Indonesia’s major broadcasters MNC and Emtek with their streaming platforms RCTI+ and Vidio, respectively, which now features dozens of short films under a Viddsee channel. All three work in several ways in raising the profile and perception of short-form content across the region, the awareness of local filmmakers, and Viddsee’s brand as a whole. 

From an audience and Viddsee’s perspective, being available on these streaming platforms bring short-form content to masses across Indonesia and Singapore, and it gives people the chance to appreciate the craft of local filmmakers. 

From an industry perspective, having our films across multiple platforms improves the visibility of short-form content as a way to discover under-the-radar filmmakers and test-out new IPs across different market segments.

viddsee stories together
StoriesTogether started in early 2020 and aims to bring hope during the challenging times brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic. Courtesy of Viddsee.

Beyond just being a platform for short-form entertainment, our StoriesTogether initiative is our way of showing that films can also be a force for good, and galvanise people to help others. The initiative started earlier this year as a response to the pandemic to bring a sense of togetherness through watch parties and providing opportunities for filmmakers to carry on during times of crisis.

In November, we rolled out StoriesTogether Originals, which comprises short films, series, and documentaries that were made through the Infocomm Media Development Authority’s Public Service Content Fund. The initiative allowed us to commission projects to 21 media companies, providing opportunities to hundreds of freelancers in the Singaporean filmmaking industry.

Apart from that, the StoriesTogether Originals are also used to drive donations to Community Chest, which supports over 80 social agencies in helping vulnerable communities in Singapore. We’re also excited that Rock Entertainment is also on board with the initiative, and have partnered with us to feature and promote these original productions on two channels: Blue Ant Entertainment and Blue Ant Extreme, starting January 2021.

TVA: Viddsee has been active in promoting and uplifting filmmaking talent in short films from Singapore, Indonesia, and the Philippines through the Viddsee Juree Awards. What factors do you look for when selecting winners and what do you expect to see in terms of submission moving forward?

DT: Selecting the winners is never an easy process, which is why we leave it in the hands of a panel of three judges from the local and international filmmaking industry. We do, however, pick the 10 final films that will be judged, and those typically take into account the four pillars in our curation guideline: story, production value, accessibility, ‘shareability’. Most importantly, the story has to impress us at the core of it. 

The Juree competitions have been a mainstay activity for Viddsee since 2016, and it’s our way of expanding our reach and influence within local filmmaking communities. Each year, hundreds of films are submitted to our platform, adding to our list of filmmakers who can be discovered and potentially work with us in creating new films. Last year’s Juree Indonesia Awards winners Bani Nasution and Muhamad Bagas Satrio for instance, have gone on two produce two Viddsee Original short films which will make their debuts in the coming months. 

TVA: What other areas of content is Viddsee exploring in the future?
DT: We want to explore diverse content formats, keeping us relevant and adaptable as the media landscape changes. We want to be known in the industry as an effective platform where new IPs can be discovered, developed, and test-bedded across our network.

viddsee juree awards mental health stories
Viddsee chose TikTok as the Social Community Partner for Viddsee’s Juree Awards Singapore 2020 and supported the event with two livestreams of films focusing on mental health awareness. Courtesy of Viddsee.

Our recent partnerships with TikTok as our Social Community Partner for our Juree Awards in the Philippines and Singapore are just the start of us working with new platforms and formats to engage with our younger audiences. Our collaborations to livestream Juree short filmsparticularly around themes of mental health awarenesshave proven to be quite fruitful, and we’re looking to see how we can further expand our collaboration. 

We’re also looking forward to further developing short-form content to long-form series with other media companies across the region. This “Shorts To Series” route we’re taking will see us earmarking short-form content IPs that have been successful on our platform, and developing them into long-form series or films. In the past, we’ve seen how successful short films such as Guang (an award-winning Malaysian drama short) and Makmum (a horror short in Indonesia) became viral hits that were eventually developed into full films; with over 4,500 films, documentaries, and series on Viddsee, we’ve got a library of thousands of IPs that have the potential to develop beyond their current format. 

TVA: What is your outlook for Viddsee’s business in 2021?

DT: While this year has been by no means an easy one, we’ve managed to grow and expand our reputation and reach in the region. There are reasons for us to be cautiously optimistic for the coming year: We’re on track to create even more new IPs through our Viddsee Originals, exploring the development of our current IPs into different formats, and new collaborations across Asia and beyond.

Of course, 2021 will be no cakewalk; the media industry will continue to find a huge number of challenges. But I think Viddsee holds several advantages, among them being short-form content’s ability in adapting to and exploring new topics according to market demands, and new collaborations in gaming, and e-commerce for example. 

Being a digital-first distribution platform that engages our viewers across different channels, be it on Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, or TikTok, also puts us in a good place in reaching out to a new generation of viewers who consume content on different platforms. Underlying our optimism is the rising demand for local content, which plays into our strengths as a platform that already works with thousands of local filmmakers. 

In December and January, we’re looking forward to the premiere of a few StoriesTogether short-form series: The Distance Between Us, produced by Akanga Film Asia and directed by the award-winning K Rajagopal, and 1000 Cups To Midnight produced by Taipan Films, which is also behind Circle Line the first monster movie ever produced in Singapore. We’re also in the midst of producing a Singaporean version of a Korean love drama that’s due to premiere in February.