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Daniel Yun is the CEO of Raintree Pictures, the movie making division of MediaCorp, the multifaceted media conglomerate owned by the Singapore government. Raintree began operating in 1998 and steadily produced two or three movies each year until 2007, when the company released five movies; it produced five films again this year. Despite Raintree’s state-owned status, Yun insisted that it’s an “indie” operation and went on to say that if the situation calls for it, he won’t cut scenes to get a lower rating from Singapore’s censors.
The Hollywood Reporter: What is the significance of Raintree in the Singapore film industry?
Daniel Yun: Raintree was the only so-called full-fledged film company for a while. We are seen as a studio, but it’s laughable because we’re not. We live from hand to mouth and we’re as indie as can be. But we’re the entity that has been doing it full time for the last ten years, so because of that we have a higher profile in the Singapore context. In the last few years, directors like Eric Khoo, Jack Neo and Kelvin Tong have set up their own companies to do what we were doing early on. We’re at the next level now, though we still work with them.
THR: As the Singapore industry grows, how is Raintree evolving?
Yun: Our upcoming smaller films are more experimental. We’re exploring new genres, and we’re looking at some bigger budget projects than we’re used to. We’re looking at foreign companies to invest in our movies and having a big international star to frontline a film as well.
THR: How serious is censorship in Singapore in your view?
Yun: I don’t want to overdramatize or underestimate it. I just deal with it as objectively, impartially and impersonally as possible. If I quibble with the censors at all it’s because the censors are sensitive to sex and sexuality, like explicit gay sex scenes or heterosexual sex scenes, rather than something like, say, violence.
THR: Would you urge a director to take out a racy scene if it meant the film could get a lower rating?
Yun: If I try to censor the material then no one is going to take us seriously. For example, with “Lust Caution,” the distributor shortened it, and the controversy in Singapore had nothing to do with the censors, but with the distributor who didn’t want an R21 rating and cut it. If there’s a gay character in a movie and it’s important and it’s integral to the story, I will fight for it. In “Chinese Rose,” the subject matter is striptease; you can self-censor to the point where you shouldn’t make it at all. We want to make it as explicit or as raunchy as “Lust Caution.” If younger audiences don’t get to see it, we’ll live with it.
THR: What would you say to a foreign company that wants to make a film in Singapore?
Yun: The filmmakers of Singapore really have very global sensibility, and there’s a lot to be said about mind-set. In Singapore, the mind-set is that there’s no choice but for us to open up. So I think the chances are that a foreign filmmaker can keep close to the material and find cooperative people in Singapore more than in any other part of Asia. We speak English and are very keen to find a way to work with filmmakers because it’s the only way we can survive. In markets where it’s big enough, like in Korea, Japan and China, if a film travels, it’s a bonus. In Singapore, the markets are too small, so we have to be more open and flexible.
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