Interview With Media Entrepreneur Ryan Tan

Founder and Cinematographer of Night Owl Cinematics

I got to know Ryan early 2013. That was when I first came across fascinating YouTube channels such as nigahiga and Smosh.

It was such refreshing content from the boring stuff you get on TV.

It also got me thinking if there might be such channels locally. My search brought me to Night Owl Cinematics channel.

They just released a video which became 2013 Singapore most trending Youtube:

Back then I was still running RecruitPlus and was constantly looking for new ways to get publicity and market the business.

We met up and decided in our first meeting to do two videos:

And the sequel:

Collectively they have more than 3 million views (as of 16 May 2016) which is truly amazing.

We went on to receive a marketing recognition at a subsequent recruitment award.

The campaign was so popular that it quickly got featured in various mainstream media and cemented Night Owl Cinematics (NOC) status in Singapore Youtube and media industry.

 

1. Please share a bit about what you do.

Since Dec 2012, I have been active in the youtube community, slowly transitioning from wedding production towards becoming full-time YouTubers.

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At Night Owl Cinematics, I am in charge of the cinematography and editing. I also manage NOC’s social media feeds and write our scripts. My favourite ones so far are all our skits, such as “Every Gangster movie ever.”

 

2. What were you doing before starting your business?

I was handling a restaurant business, and after that, a wedding production house for a short time.

 

3. What ignited the spark in you to start a new business venture?

I wanted to practice my cinematography to expand my wedding clientele, so I started doing skits just to make my friends and family laugh.

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I put it on youtube just to make sharing it easy, but after our third video, we suddenly went viral, and that sparked the idea in me to start producing more NOC videos.

 

4. What sacrifices have you had to make to be a successful entrepreneur?

A lot of personal time goes down the drain, and I spend a lot of my waking hours just working on the NOC product – what videos are next, how we can expand.

A lot of blood, sweat and tears go into making what people think is a pure channel on youtube.

 

5. How did you get funded?

When I first got started in cinematography, I borrowed money to purchase my first camera and practice my skills.

Initially, this was for our wedding production business, but eventually, we turned what was our fun sideline project became a full-time company that makes funny and creative content online.

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NOC was an accidental business. We started realising that we could earn a little money for our creative efforts when our first clients contacted us to help them make a video that was fun and informative for viewers at the same time.

Initially, we charged just enough to cover production costs, minimal talent fees and saved the rest to help us buy better equipment.

But as we grew, we were able to hone our skills and build our brand.

 

6. Could you describe your first sale and how it came about?

RecruitPlus was our first client, and we are grateful to them because they allowed us to produce a video that was both in line with our sense of humour, and helped them to deliver their team’s message as well.

(Adrian: I only got to know this during the interview.)

 

7. What has been your most successful form of marketing?

Online videos and Instagram.

 

8. Describe/outline your typical day?

 

It’s a seven day work week! We shoot at least twice a week and spend the rest of the time editing and in post production to deliver a final product that we are always proud of.

 

9. Who has been your greatest influence in your business?

My favourite comedians for giving the inspiration to make my stuff, such as Stephen Chow and Wes Anderson, Guy Richie and Zak Synder, Bryan Singer.

 

10. What has been your proudest moment in the history of your business and why?

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Making the Forbes 30 under 30 list. We were just contacted out of the blue from it, and we never even thought we stood a chance, so that was a real surprise!

 

11. What were some of the biggest lessons that have impacted the way that you work?

When my two restaurant businesses failed, I was at rock bottom.

But that taught me to work even harder, and to put my mind to something I liked to do, which was cinematography and editing videos to tell stories.

 

12. What was your biggest screw-up?

My biggest screw up was starting a restaurant despite not doing 100% research on the market and the people. F&B is one of the hardest industries in Singapore to survive in, I feel.

But that mistake taught me how to rely successfully on myself, and not on other people. You only have yourself to answer for.

[Tweet “..taught me how to rely successfully on myself, and not on other people. – Ryan Tan”]

 

13. If you could go back in time to speak with your 20-year-old self, what would you tell him?

The young me was always obsessed with figuring out what the key to success was, and what I could do to get it. But I slowly learnt that the secret to success is just hard work, and lots of it.

 

14. What advice would you give to aspiring entrepreneurs?

Nobody ever changed the world by doing what the world told them to do, and though someone may think of a lot of different risks and paths to take at night, in the morning, they just go their usual way.

So I guess, my advice to aspiring entrepreneurs would be:

  • Trust in yourself
  • Be prepared and be brave enough to find your way

And most importantly, don’t make any excuses, because that is the biggest obstacle between you and your goals.

An excuse sets the mindset that you “couldn’t” and “you can’t”, but an open heart and learning attitude pushes you forward and reminds you that you can 🙂

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15. What’s your business focus for this year?

To expand NOC into more videos – we are aiming to have a gaming video wing, as well as a lifestyle wing as well.

We think that the local Singaporean youtube scene is an excellent way to expose Singaporean audiences to brands and things that they don’t know about.

We also just opened back our more commercial production house line – where we could produce wedding videos, TVCs and video projects using our crew and ideas to help people and brands make a great product for themselves without needing to directly use and share the “NOC label”.

We are also opening a female apparel line, so we are right now just researching the market.

 

16. Where can people find you online?

Youtube comments! I am most easily reached there.

Otherwise, I am always playing Overwatch, so you can come and play a match against me 🙂

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