Dare To Dream

Published on 26 February 2017

For BananaMana Films’ Jason Chan and Christian Lee, a lean and mean team can achieve the impossible.


Photo: BananaMana Films

One thousand Singapore dollars — that’s how much BananaMana Films spent on making their hugely successful web series Perfect Girl. Filmed by a crew of four, this Singapore production went on to garner 17 international nominations and seven wins from web festivals around the world.

For the dynamic duo behind BananaMana, Jason Chan and Christian Lee, lean and mean is key. Even with their debut feature film Jimami Tofu — filmed in Singapore and Okinawa — they travelled as a core crew of six, with all their gear packed in a few backpacks.

“We’re always about keeping it efficient,” says Chan, revealing that they handle the whole production process themselves. He even composes the music using music-creation app, GarageBand for Mac. “We don’t have a Hollywood budget!”

“To be a storyteller is to move someone emotionally,” explains American-born Lee. “We believe there are four components to that — writing, directing, editing and music composition — so why would we want to farm any of these out?”

For these actors-turned-film-makers, it’s all a state of mind. “It’s about saying yes to creativity,” says Chan. After all, when they started BananaMana.com (a web-based company producing commercial videos) in 2008, they learnt everything from scratch. It was only after much soul-searching that they took a leap of faith and moved from being a service-provider to a content-creator company.

“If it was just about money, I might as well go back to being a doctor,” reasons Chan, a former medical doctor from Australia. “So what we did was to put every job offer through this simple filter: if you had to pay to do it, would you still do it?”

It may not be the smartest business model, but they had a clear vision: to create Asian content in English for global distribution. Perhaps fortune favours the brave as they were swiftly commissioned by MediaCorp to create 65 webisodes of What Do Men Want? for Toggle, which then became 13 half-hour episodes for Channel 5.

Four years on, it looks like they may be on the brink of cracking the distribution nut, with Perfect Girl acquired by international platforms such as Netflix, Viki and Naver TVcast, and Jimami Tofu already picked up by Korea’s iHQ, Viki and Encore Inflight.

To share their know-how, they plan to release a 12-webisode series on the making of Jimami Tofu, and a book entitled New Wave Film-making: Amateur Efforts, Professional Results in late March. Lee muses, “There’s a synergy in the way we do things. It’s unorthodox, but it works for us.”

To find out more, visit www.bananamanafilms.com.

Photos: BananaMana Films
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