Singapore Producers’ Platform: meet Jeffrey Tan

Performing Lines has formed a new strategic partnership with Singapore’s National Arts Council to deliver a skills development and exchange program for Singaporean Producers.

Commencing at the Borak Art Series, producers Jeffrey Tan and Hsia Ling Woo are working with our producers in Sydney and Perth to examine the opportunities and challenges in creating new work in our respective nations, and to deepen our understanding of and networks within Singapore, Australia and our surrounding region.

Now at the midway point of their trip to Sydney, Thom caught up with Jeffrey to find out more about what drives his work and his views on the role of the creative producer.

Into the Blue Forest

Tell us about yourself – how did you first get involved in the arts?
I have always been involved in the arts since I was in kindergarten.  First as a dancer then as an actor in church plays.  When I was 13, I climbed up Fort Canning Park to register for a Theatre Workshop by Act 3 and the Ministry of Community Development. When I was 16, I became a Stage Manager and got involved with Act 3 (Singapore’s forest professional Children’s theatre company)’s birthday parties, shopping mall shows and theatre shows.   At 19, I directed my first play for the Drama Festival 1987.  The play ‘School’ had good feedback and we restaged it several times with different casts.  I then went on to Queensland University of Technology to get my BA (Drama) in 1994!

How do you select the artists you work with and the work you produce? What do you look for?
Generally, I must like and know the person before I can work with them.  Respect gets built and we discover about each other as we work.

I am thinking of moving beyond being a transactional producer to become a people connector.  I aspire to be someone who brings interesting artists together.  I am keen to explore an international residency model to seed long term collaborative projects. Too often producers and artists are drawn to one-off tour and forget the importance of building and sustaining a relationship.

I am constantly looking for artists who are open minded, not afraid to take risks and are keen to create socially relevant work for their audience.  Like Into the Blue Forest, which was commissioned by The Artground Singapore, I had the luxury of researching with children and trying out ideas with different groups of children before presenting the interactive play at the inaugural 100 & 100 More Festival in May 2018.

The Story of Red

Describe your role in the creative process? How involved are you in the making of work?
As a Creative Producer, I see my role Identifying and articulating the who, when, where, what, why and how of the project.  Besides the context, the timeline and budget is also very important.  One must be honest and realistic about the readiness of each artist or project.  There is no point in rushing if the artist or project is not ready.

Besides assisting to realize the artists’ vision, it is also important to link the artist to different stakeholders who can help the work grow or travel.

I have spent a large of my Singapore Producers Platform experience reflecting and taking stock of the different connects I have established over the years.

I am happy to be involved in the different stages of a work – ideation, development, pitching and showcase.  Only when I am fully immersed in the creation of a work can I support and realize the vision of the production.

What have and will you be doing on your trips to Australia?
Other than OzAsia and the Sydney Festival, I’ll be visiting Perth Festival and Fringe World in Feb 19 and Dance Massive in Melbourne in Mar 19.  I hope to make contacts with festival directors, theatre venues, independent artists and producers to explore an international arts collaborative residency in 2019 and beyond.

While in Melbourne, I will also kick start a collaborative creation of The Story of RED with an Indigenous dancer and music composer involving technology for children.  I will also be making a list of directors to invite to the La Boite’s version of OPEN HOMES in October and November 2019.

What most excites you about the opportunity to visit Australia and work with Performing Lines?
I am most excited about the contacts and exposure I will gain from the different Performing Lines projects.  With in-roads from the numerous generous meeting, I hope to experiment and build bridges for future collaborative projects between Australia and Singapore.


Read Part One with fellow producer Ling here

In everything we do, we acknowledge that we live on Aboriginal land and constantly learn from the wisdom of First Peoples.

Where we are and the history that precedes us informs how we work and how we move forward.