Gillian Tan started her own company with $10,000, a mini video camera and an old Macbook. Today, what was previously a one-woman-show has since evolved to be one of Singapore’s most creative and successful production companies.
Finding her way into the industry
Gillian is living proof that you just need to start doing what you want to do.
Before moving back to Singapore, she focused on producing television commercials in the broadcasting department of an agency in San Francisco called TBWA\Chiat\Day.
She explains, “I had applied to some companies when I first moved back to Singapore but didn’t get anything, so being impatient and impulsive, I decided to start my own company.”
Without a response from the companies, Gillian began producing a test pilot for her very first TV show to pitch to MediaCorp. Working out of a room in her mother’s office and equipped with an old Mac she used for editing, it was the start of her production company Munkysuperstar Pictures. The test pilot that she produced later became popular local reality dating show “Eye For A Guy”.
When one door closes, another one opens
While the shows were gaining traction, things did not sail so smoothly.
“Clicknetwork.tv started by chance. Back in 2007, we were supposed to produce season 2 of a Channel 5 show called ‘Girls Out Loud’, but it was cancelled at the last minute due to some complaints from the public,” she said.
Faced with this minor setback, Gillian and Girls Out Loud hosts Rosalyn and Wendy decided to pack up their bags and take a short road trip to Malaysia.
Recalling the events that happened after, “I shot some videos of Rosalyn and Wendy and that ended up on YouTube. Somehow it caught on and people were writing in telling us to produce more videos. I then decided to put these videos onto a website instead. The road trip videos ended up being the first videos on clicknetwork.tv.”
In just four years, clicknetwork.tv became a viral hit with audiences and garnered over 23 million video views and counting.
On being female in her line of work
Gillian explains that being a female director does come with its merits. “In terms of content, it’s easier for me to push the boundaries when it comes to working with female talents. For example, we have a show called ‘Bored in Bikinis’ which involves 2 girls doing random things in bikinis, like suntanning in Orchard Road, playing the Wii and so on. I think it’s a lot easier when the suggestions come from a female director, so the talents probably feel more comfortable.”
The vivacious entrepreneur tells us that it is harder to get people to take her seriously at times, especially in production which is dominated by men.
Her advice? Work extra hard to earn their respect. “The only way is to prove to them that you know what you’re doing and treat them with respect as well. I don’t think this is particular to gender, but I’ve always believed you should treat people the same way you’d like to be treated.”
Her role model
For Gillian, her mother possessed the qualities a woman needed for success. “She’s really smart, has great EQ, and really knows how to deal with people in a way where she’s always fair and respected, without being a pushover. Plus she’s able to balance her work and personal life really well.”
Advice for aspiring female entrepreneurs
Learning to take feedback positively and in stride is important. Gillian observed from experience that men in general are not so emotional and do not take things so personally. As a result they tend to bounce back from criticism or failure quicker then women do. “Don’t let your heart rule your head and don’t let emotions get the better of your judgement,” she says.
The most important trait is to take a different perspective. By developing their own content, clicknetwork.tv has amassed an enormously loyal audience and a true brand identity. It is precisely because of their content that sets them apart from traditional television.
Gillian firmly believes that gender should not stop a person from accomplishing what they want to do.
Her entrepreneurial experience has made her bolder and less afraid of taking risks. And it all started with just a a Macbook, $10,000 and an old video cam.
Why can’t yours?
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