Home  /  Everything Else: Interview  /  [InC-terview] Vincent Quek, Indie Film Distributor!

[InC-terview] Vincent Quek, Indie Film Distributor!

By Say Peng  /  18 Dec 2017 (Monday)
Have you ever wondered how the films you watch in the theatres end up there? 

There is a whole other journey between the completion of a film and the film turning up in theatres for you the audience to watch. One of the many players in that journey is the distributor.

The distributor is someone who acquires films either from sales agents or from the party that holds the rights to the film, to show at commercial theatres as well as non-theatrical platforms such as VOD, cable TV, and airlines. Amongst a host of many responsibilities, the distributor is in charge of determining the release date of the film and the marketing and publicity that follows.

In Singapore, some exhibitors such as Golden Village and Shaw have their own in-house distribution arms. The major Hollywood studios such as Sony Pictures, Disney, and Warner Brothers also have their own distribution arms. Then there are a small group of independent distributors such as Clover Films and Encore Films who specialise in bringing in commercial Asian films, ranging from Korean blockbusters and romantic comedies to Japanese animation, manga adaptations, and horror films to Chinese and Hong Kong action films and comedies. 

Anticipate Pictures entered the local distribution scene a year ago, specialising in independent and art house American and European films and documentaries. Its founder is Vincent Quek, an avid cinephile.

InCinemas speaks to Vincent to find out more about his newly minted company, the struggles of running a distribution company, and the kind of films he is passionate about sharing with audiences here.    

Can you share with us more about yourself? What’s your background and how did you get involved in film?

I stole away to California after completing my National Service to study filmmaking at the USC School of Cinematic Arts. Halfway through my degree, I realised I was spending more time in the cinemas than on set making films. I decided I was going to fully explore this facet of the film industry, the business side of things, and eventually, I found myself at a couple of acquisitions internships with notable companies like IFC Films and Universal Pictures International. While I was at those internships, I conducted informational interviews with every single staff member who would grant me one. I bought a lot of people coffee and lunch, devoured even more films, and used my student cred to get accreditation at Cannes, Berlinale and Tribeca Film Festivals. It was a merry time when you weren't that concerned yet with life's responsibilities but still old enough to fully appreciate those opportunities.

When and why did you plan to start your own distribution company?
I worked at a non-profit arts centre after I returned to Singapore, running their film program which catered to local filmmakers. While trying to promote their works locally and overseas, I realised that audiences everywhere weren't naturally curious about what Singapore filmmakers were creating. Perhaps the disinterest stemmed from a stereotype of what Singapore cinema is - usually localised comedic product which doesn't travel. And filmmakers and audiences here in Singapore generally face a lack of diversity on our cinema screens, which I feel leads to a state of malnourishment and a lack of awareness towards the true power of cinema.

I left the institution in early 2016 and decided to do something about the lack of film diversity in my country. I was frustrated being unable to access fantastic films in a timely or legal manner. I wanted to be the change in our scene, and that was the catharsis for Anticipate Pictures.

Film still from GOOD TIME

What is life as a distributor like?
I can break it down into roughly three parts: the first part is the most enjoyable - when we screen films at a major festival to consider bringing them into market. This is the phase of discovery, and it is one I take the most pleasure in.

The second part is the hardest, which is when you decide which films you and your company will stand by and champion for a good two to three months on end, and to brainstorm what qualities we can market about the film that would pique and sustain our audience's interest.

The third part is also a close favourite, where I stand in front of an audience and proudly introduce the film. Usually, for the first few screenings, I allow myself to sit in the theatre, always in the front row, so I can always turn behind to observe an audience's reaction to the film. That is the moment I find the most fulfilling when I realise my place in the world - the final part in a long chain of delivery where the filmmaker's vision has reached their audience.

What are the main difficulties you face as an independent distributor in Singapore? And how, if at all, can we as audiences help?
Vincent: The hardest part of being an independent distributor is finding cinema screens to play our films on. Naturally, the films we bring in are for a niche audience, and we are realistic about that, but all cinemas, in general, would rather play a blockbuster that caters to the widest possible audience on 27 screens, for example, than play the blockbuster on 26 screens and have 1 screen for our specialty film. We also face the issue of piracy, which we try to counteract by playing the film as soon as we can, and as close to the US or UK theatrical dates as possible. 

Audiences can greatly help by buying a ticket to the films they want to see more of. For example, if you have already seen the film from not-so-legit sources, spare a thought for the distributor who took a chance and paid a hefty investment to bring the film in, and just buy a ticket. You may not want to see the film again but your S$13.50 goes a long way towards validating our work, and keeping us in business so we can all get closer to that goal of seeing good cinema on the big screen. It's as simple as that.


What films from your company can audiences look forward to?
Vincent: We are always hard at work tracking what new films and projects are on the horizon. On our slate, we have the fantastic neo-noir crime caper GOOD TIME which we are excited to share with audiences - it is one of those films which blend action and a pulsating soundtrack perfectly that also speaks to our post-millennial milieu.

We have THE KILLING OF A SACRED DEER by Greek enfant terrible Yorgos Lanthimos with a scathingly dark vision of a stranger's justice on a family.

THE SQUARE, our art-world satire which features some of this year's standout scenes (for those who've already seen this at SGIFF, I just have one thing to say: ape-man!).

HAPPY END. Our Michael Haneke is always a favourite with the arthouse crowd. He returns with yet another deconstruction of a bourgeois European family - this is high-class cinema made by a living master you can't afford to miss.

CITY OF GHOSTS - a heart-stirring documentary profiling the painful path of citizen journalists whom risk their lives to expose the atrocities of ISIS to the world... and a few others on the line-up which you will hear about very soon! We are always excited to bring great films to Singapore, and that's really why my company is called Anticipate Pictures - because you will always look forward to our next one. 

Film still from THE SQUARE

GOOD TIME, directed Josh and Ben Safdie, will premiere at the Arts House on 22 December and will run until 1 January. Tickets can be bought here

All film stills are courtesy of Anticipate Pictures.
You say

Get Showtimes