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Moveable feast for moviegoers
WHEN pondering some of the most exciting things to do in Singapore, watching a movie normally doesn't make the cut. While cinemas will shelter you from the worst of the weather elements (read: the haze), they do next to nothing to enhance your sense of adventure. That's where Reelak steps in.
A series of nomadic and open-air film screenings designed to take Singaporeans outdoors, Reelak was conceptualised by four friends with a shared passion for film. The group is made up of Prima Aulia Gusta, Aqila Xiao-Qi, Putra Muskita and Elaine Neo, who all work in the creative industry.
Mr Gusta, 24, says: "I came upon the idea through my travels. In LA and other cities, they have these outdoor film screenings, and they all either had a great location or showed wonderful movies. In Singapore, while there are other outdoor film screenings, there aren't any which tie the film and the location together, so we wanted to tap into this niche."
Their debut event was held on Oct 3 at Lepark at People's Park Complex, and featured the Oscar-nominated Israeli film Footnote as well as a short Filipino movie titled After Class. The rooftop location played host to 120 film buffs, who enjoyed lounging in airmocks (hammocks which don't require securing on both ends) and snacking on Israeli nibbles.
Mr Gusta says: "It's one of our overarching concepts to bring in films that don't make it into local cinemas. Being an Indonesian myself, I've found that a lot of the good films from around the region don't make it to the Singapore market, and we want to bridge that gap."
Even with the recent surge of homegrown events on offer, Reelak sets itself apart. Ms Xiao-Qi says: "I think we're only missing a creative space outdoors where we can enjoy films. In the 1960s and 1970s, Singaporeans used to enjoy 50-cent outdoor cinema events every day, and it was a really organic way to build friendships. We want to bring that human element of being in close quarters in a place where we can have discussions about the film's ideas again."
Instead of going the traditional route and finding sponsors for their first event, the team decided to use a crowdfunding platform. Ms Neo, 26, explains: "We wanted to gauge the interest levels for an event like this, and it's a good way to spread awareness of the idea without having to go through traditional media outlets."
Mr Muskita, 25, adds: "It made sense because we'd never done anything like this before and no one knew about the idea or even who we were."
Although they raised an amount exceeding their S$3,000 goal, Reelak probably won't be returning to crowdfunding any time soon. "We now have a user base, so if we're doing similar events, we probably won't use it, but we might if we want to try out new ideas," says Mr Muskita.
As with any other grassroots organisation, they faced their share of challenges. Mr Muskita says: "I think branding is very important, so we had to make sure we targeted the right market for our first event, or it would affect our future events as well. We also have to be very vigilant about licensing, especially because film rights are involved. Other than that, we just want to strike the right balance between high-quality films and mass appeal, and I think that's all dependent on the choice of film and how we market ourselves."
Another distinguishing trait of Reelak is that they want to do more than just screen movies. Their focus is on building a community of like-minded people. To do that, their screenings are categorised into two separate entities - Reelak Nights and Reelak Sessions. Ms Xiao-Qi, 24, explains: "Reelak Nights are open to the public, while Reelak Sessions are only accessible by those who are already on our mailing list. The Sessions will be more intimate, and act as a follow-up of sorts to the Nights. Because they're smaller in scale, it'll let us get to know our community better and build relationships with them." They currently have plans to hold four Reelak Nights events a year, with Reelak Sessions in between.
The next event will be a screening of a romantic comedy on Nov 22 at rooftop bar Fresh on the second floor of the Sultan Hotel. In addition to the film, Reelak will also be introducing a crafts workshop, local bistro Benjamin Browns to provide snacks, and yoga community Urban Yogis. Mr Gusta says: "We want to partner with local companies here that share our interests. Films appeal to a lot of people and we feel that while we'll keep the core activity at watching movies, it'll be easy to tie in other activities that will also help build relationships."
The films are chosen based on the location of each event, and what kind of theme they're going for. Mr Prima, an avid movie-watcher, comes up with a list of relevant movies, and the team whittle down their choices together.
He says: "In the future, we're going to be asking our community what kind of movies they want to bring to these settings, and let them have a say. It's going to be less of a monologue and more of a dialogue between us, the curators and the audience."
For more information on Reelak, please visit their Facebook page at www.facebook.com/reelakcinema