Sitting down with the super chill couple from Night Owl Cinematics (N.O.C), we found out why this top local YouTube channel aren’t “role models, but entertainers”, and who you have to thank for all the “cleavage scenes”.
Add brash slapstick humour with English/Chinese/Hokkien/Cantonese dialogue, a uniquely Singaporean cast and mad production skills, and you’ll get top local YouTube channel, Night Owl Cinematics. And certain signature visual elements like brightly-coloured purple hair, watermelon accessories, gorgeous babes, the occasional cross-dresser (er, pardon?) and cameos by other YouTube personalities.
Speaking with Ryan and Sylvia of Night Owl Cinematics, we go behind the cameras to find out what it really takes to stay alive and relevant in this highly-competitive industry. And the weird people they’ve met along the way.
What’s a typical day for you guys?
Ryan: For me, it’s a lot of editing and I also have my part of emails – interviews, or people who want to join N.O.C, it’s with me. I edit, sometimes write scripts and sometimes we have to go to events and interviews. It really depends on the month. For example, we have the YouTube Fan Fest, so it’ll be packed with a lot of events. Last year’s YouTube Fan Fest, we were moderators and we also had a meet-and-greet.
Sylvia: My life is very boring. It’s just replying to a lot of emails and going to a lot a lot of meetings. Then being frustrated on shoot because I have a lot of obligations from clients. That’s pretty much my job (laughs).
What does it take to be part of the N.O.C crew?
Ryan: It’s actually pretty stringent. We used to kind of let fans join the production, be it help out or as an extra, but it turns out very awkwardly [most of the time], because they try to get close [to the actors], take their numbers, and don’t work very professionally. Some of the guys try impressing the girls with how much money they’re making.
Sylvia: There was a guy who came to be an extra. Franster was sending him home along with Nina, and [that guy] kept talking about how much he earned.
Ryan: He asked everyone how much they earned and he went to criticise them… Yeah he just wanted to impress the girls.
What are the other crew members up to when they’re not filming?
Sylvia: Franster does full-time logistics sales, Berlin works as a beauty wax therapist, Nina works full-time for us as an actor and also as admin.
Ryan: Nina also handles our website.
Sylvia: Michelle is in school, Aylna is a full-time events model. Everyone has their own full-time job.
Ryan: Pretty much all the full-time ones are Nina (my cousin), Sylvia and me.
Do you guys regard yourselves as celebrities?
Sylvia: No. We’re very boring, very loserish.
Ryan: Against our will, I would say some sort of ‘role model’ but that’s against our will, and not that we want it. Like Sylvia’s hair? A lot of people always asks her where she dyed it and they really dye [their hair]. Or they’ll buy a purple dye and DIY it. I remember we went to Japan, where we saw a girl with purple hair. I thought she was Japanese, so right behind her I said, “eh you see she copied your hair.” That girl turned back and she was Singaporean, and she knows Sylvia, and she dyed [her hair] purple because of her. She took a picture with us.
Sylvia: But celebrities are more glamourous.
Ryan: We’re not lah, we wear slippers everywhere we go.
Sylvia: We’re like friendly YouTubers… The thing about YouTube, you’ll find yourself very close to the person because it’s very believable, like you will see him/her any day on the streets. Unlike when you see Brad Pitt or Chris Evans.
Ryan: I really like Chris Evans (laughs). You know you might never have a chance to see them in real life, but [YouTubers] might be drinking coffee next to your table. YouTube is more personable in that sense.
How do you juggle between branded content and still making the video your own?
Sylvia: There are a lot of scripts that we have in mind. Sometimes when the client approaches us, we have to fit the client into the scripts or something that we already want to do. For example, some of the scripts were already written some time ago, and we were just waiting to see if there’s any good fit. We are able to do videos pretty fast if it’s a script that’s already planned. We reject quite a few lah.
Ryan: We also juggle [content]. On months when we have a lot of advertisers, then the alternate month will be completely our own original scripts, so that there’s a balance. Actually even producing a three minute video is really not cheap. We have equipment, sound engineers, visual effect guys, assistants… Everything costs money – we can’t just do whatever we want.
Are there any concepts that you have yet to explore?
Ryan: We’re trying something very new and special. We’re doing our first action video, but we’re not doing the typical scenes. We’re taking it from an anime and sending the actors to swordplay and Japanese class because it’s an anime. We’re trying to adapt an anime into live action and we’ll see how it goes from there.
What do you think sets you apart?
Sylvia: (Laughs) Because we are R(A). Our target audience is different, first and foremost.
Ryan: Our main demographics are the working adults, and we want to be true to ourselves. I’m not [pointing out] any other channels – they all have different target audiences. For example, Jianhao (@thejianhaotan) targets the younger audience, so he wouldn’t want to say vulgarities or show cleavage and all that [in his videos] so it’s understandable. But at our age, I don’t know anyone else our age who doesn’t speak vulgarities (laughs). We’re trying to be more true to life and relatable in that sense.
Sylvia: I think our difference is our target audience. We do very mature stuff that sometimes gets people asking, “Why are you being so sexy?” But that’s because we are this age ma!
Ryan: We know we have younger fans, but they’re not our main demographics.
Sylvia: We are very R(A), we speak a lot of Hokkien and vulgarities, we touch on topics that might be a little bit more controversial…
Ryan: I need to emphasise this. We are not role models. We are entertainers, not role models so it’s very different.
What are the differences between your younger fans and the older ones?
Ryan: The people who come to our fan meets are all the younger kids. Even when the adults come, they won’t talk to us. They’ll just watch from the outside.
Sylvia: I was talking to my best friend the other day, and she asked me, “How come a lot of uncles know you ah?” And that day, Nina and I were taking a selfie outside when a working lady came up to us. We were pretty scared, but then she was like, “Oh I watch your video(s) in the office”, and I was like, “Oh thank you.”
Ryan: They’re more reserved. If there are a lot of people, they won’t come and talk to us. But if it’s good situation, like when we’re sitting down doing absolutely nothing, they will come in and talk to us, [which is the opposite from] the younger fans. I was at Turf City, and there was a fan who waited outside for me when I was in the toilet. I was taking a shit. He saw me and I was already inside [the cubicle] when he called his friends and said, “I saw Xi Guay Ong”. They all came and waited outside for me. It was so stressful – I was trying to suck it in and it was very jialat and a horrible experience.
Read Part Two of our interview with Night Owl Cinematics. We have even more juicy deets in our June issue, so watch out for our N.O.C feature on p. 90!
Photos: Night Owl Cinematics