The power of social capital
Social capital was the foundation of Cutscene. Its co-owner, Mr Muhammad Zulhairi Sri Sunjoyo, had only that, along with $9,000 in prize money that he and his business partners won in short-film competitions.
As a 21-year old polytechnic student back in 2014 — “Zul”, as his friends call him — had little more than a passion for creating stories that would stand out online. By the time he turned 19, his experiences included internships at production houses, freelance projects, and anything in between.
Still, it was the team-up with his friends Tariq Mansor, 25, and Paul Tang, 26, and entering their work in competitions such as the Anti-Drug Video Competition organised by Central Narcotics Bureau last year that finally sealed their decision to start a business together.
A great working relationship, coupled with raves for their videos, spurred them to the plunge in July last year. Today, they produce corporate videos, commercials, documentaries, even videos of corporate events.
Partners and friends
In place of a spiffy studio to work out of, Cutscene has a place blurring the lines between work and play. It feels like home more than an office, Zul says, a place where long hours spent together are not a drag.
The multi-tasking trio handles the main stages of production such as writing, directing, producing, shooting and editing.
Though each of them has specific roles — Tariq handles the writing and directing, Paul deals with the producing and budgeting, while Zul juggles the shooting and editing — they pitch in and help each other out, like the time when Zul and Tariq were away in the United Kingdom and their project required changes urgently. Paul stepped in and worked on the cut with the duo despite the time difference.
Street-smart and can-do!
To keep costs within their budgets, they rent and borrow equipment. They recruit friends in the industry for other roles such as art director, soundman, gaffer and grip. Once, they even found suitable locations in Singapore for shoots that appear to have been done overseas.
All the while, they double-hat, juggling projects from Cutscene with their own freelance assignments to make ends meet.
“We’ve had people who doubt the feasibility of a group of young 20-somethings running a video production house, but we like to let our work speak for us,” says Zul. “We enjoy telling people stories and appreciate brands and companies that see that value in our work.”
Turning the corner
Cutscene’s street-smarts and resourcefulness has been the best approach to overcoming obstacles, Zul reckons, and the effort is starting to pay off.
Just out of their first year as a business, things seem to be looking up — they have started to earn more and receive queries from various brands to produce advertisements, with a clientele list that includes prominent brands across industries including automotive, insurance, fashion and fast moving consumer goods.
“I don’t think any of us know for sure what’s ahead with Cutscene,” he says. “But as long as we continue to enjoy what we do, we’ll find a way to make sure we can do it!”