Ryan Tan and Sylvia Chan are both well known YouTubers in Southeast Asia. Their YouTube channel, “Night Owl Cinematics by Ryan Sylvia” (also commonly referred to as NOC) features countless of highly comedic, entertaining and well produced videos that consistently attract a huge following in Singapore and Malaysia. NOC was founded in Feb 2013, but for both Ryan and Sylvia, it initially served as a practice platform for them to improve their storytelling and videography skills. However, what was perhaps unexpected was how the channel started to rapidly attract a strong local Singaporean following and furthermore, receive immense interest from fans outside of Singapore. Little did they know that many Asians universally loved the sense of humour offered by NOC.
Ryan and Sylvia quickly focused and carefully developed their channel into an official comedy channel driven by their shared passion to entertain, and naturally as a result of their endeavours, their channel became the pioneer in Singapore’s YouTube scene as well as wider video collaborations with clients and other stakeholders.
Nevertheless NOC goes beyond just mere comedic entertainment, when watching any of their YouTube videos, it is quickly evident that NOC truly celebrates and captures the quirks and the spirit of Singaporean culture. As a foreign first-timer, you will be treated to an experience that reveals the social and cultural intricacies of Singapore (such as Singlish and Singaporean social customs) in a highly entertaining fashion.
Coupled with a strong team and a clear vision for content production, it is clear that NOC represents a bunch of passionate filmmakers who go out of their way to make a little something funny to cheer up everyone’s day.
How would you define NOC?
NOC makes films for our local Singaporean peers to laugh or cry. We believe that as life becomes more stressful and hectic, it is important to us to make someone else’s day.
While NOC is more famously known for our sense of humour, ultimately we tell compelling stories that are close to our hearts. Through our videos, we shed some light on serious issues and give a voice to our fellow Singaporeans.
How did you come up with the idea of NOC?
We started as wedding videographers and practised doing narratives to improve our skills and our shots. Initially, we made funny videos just to make our friends laugh, but then we realised fellow Singaporeans appreciate them too. In addition to clients who enquired to collaborate with us, we expanded NOC into a fully fledged video production business pioneering in YouTube branded videos.
How was YouTube viewed as a career path in Singapore at the beginning?
At the time, being online creators on YouTube was not known as a viable career in Singapore. We wanted to start something really different and it was a difficult process trying to prove that we are a legitimate advertising platform. However, our audience and clients believed in us and gave us opportunities to be pioneers in this industry.
Did you encounter any particular difficulties during the initial stages?
We started out of passion and put in a lot of hard work without actually getting paid at the start, so it was hard to get people to join us who can share our long term vision. We had a lot of financial difficulties of course, so Sylvia and I pretty much do everything ourselves – from sales, pre-production, production to post production, it was extremely tiring. Additionally, we had to take on corporate video jobs so that we can survive financially.
What is your secret to great content?
Not being afraid to try everything, and really – lots and lots of hard work. Sylvia and myself are learning everyday, just to see what’s out there, what other forms and genres and styles we can experiment with.
We are 24/7 brainstorming, sharing our ideas with other YouTubers and amongst our cast and crew. Because content reception is subjective, we work very hard to always come up with a wide variety of new things all the time.
How do you deal with negative feedback you receive with NOC?
We take it in because its good to know all sides of the story, but we will only listen to it if it’s constructive. In a way, there’s no point to trying to please everyone – because everyone will have something different to say. We just follow what’s in our hearts, and run with that. That’s what makes NOC and our voice unique.
Do you personally find that you face a lot of competition in the YouTube industry in Singapore?
It’s definitely becoming more saturated, but I wouldn’t call it competition. Our closest friends and confidants are actually people that you might call our “competition” like Jian Hao Tan and Dee Kosh. They are also both very successful Singaporean youtubers. Internationally, we are close to David Choi from L.A. and from Malaysia: Dan Khoo, Jinnyboy, Grim Film.
It’s great to be able to craft genuine friendships because we can all leverage on our different styles and ideas and create fun collaborations. This industry is quite small, sometimes people do not take YouTube seriously because “you are just on the internet”. So we believe in sticking together and creating opportunities for ourselves and sharing them with others.
Could you share some insights with us on the Singaporean YouTube industry?
It is easier to start, but harder to maintain. We know youtubers who started and then stopped because YouTube was a stepping stone to further their career, the work commitment was too tough, financing was difficult. For NOC, we are serious about being a full time YouTube channel and NOC uploads a video every Sunday – that consistency has been what has kept our fan-base going.
How has the Singaporean YouTube industry developed in the last 5 years?
Previously, there were only a couple of channels mainly for entertainment. However, seeing NOC’s ability in commercializing our content, there are many more new youtubers today. NOC also work with government agencies, MNCs and local brands and YouTube is getting more recognized by companies as a viable marketing platform. It is great to be able to see that more online creators can sustain themselves today!
Where do you think the Singaporean YouTube industry will head to in the next 5 years?
It is a growing industry and that is always very exciting. NOC is starting a specialized social media agency within this year to cope with the increasing volume of clients who see the benefits of our work. We plan to become a hub connecting brands and creators and bridge the gap to provide more knowledge to clients and also speak up for the collective of youtubers.
In your opinion, is it hard to pursue YouTube as a career in Asia?
Yes it is hard because youtube is a relatively new marketing platform and part of our job is to inform our clients what is this industry about and what we can do for them. You have to wear many hats to be a full time YouTuber. But ultimately, the hardest part of being a Youtuber in general is consistency, and being able to come up with fresh ideas all the time!
What can we come to expect of N.O.C. in the years to come?
NOC’s social media agency is one of the most exciting things we have been planning since last year. It is fun but very challenging to take on a bigger role, to be able to manage and grow a collective of talented creators in addition to our own channel. Expanding our reach on other platform apart from YouTube such as Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and Snapchat is also what we are going to do with our upcoming all-in-one one stop agency. Clients can expect a whole lot more benefits to working with us as we grow beyond our Youtube channel!
Crew wise, we are also expanding and we are now a fully fledged production house able to take on more video production work apart from YouTube. Internally, we are also working with and developing our current pool of talents to take charge of different businesses – NOC’s first extension is a fashion line. There is a crazy amount of work involved and the entire NOC team is super pumped!
What is your definition of success?
Hard work and loving what you do. You must be willing to do the hours, be consistent, and slog through the less glamorous moments.
Why did you decide to become a YouTuber?
From day 1, we have wanted to pursue our passion and to create something different. From our early days, despite having no money, no fame and no work life balance, it has never deterred us. We share a big dream and we wanted to realize it together.
In your opinion, what are the keys to entrepreneurial success?
Don’t be afraid of change, keeping an open mind is very important when you are starting a business.
Any parting words of wisdom for entrepreneurs out there from your personal experience?
When I was younger, I was desperate to figure out the secret to success. Then I realized one day, that your own hard work IS the secret to success, so put in your hours, do something you really believe in, and don’t give up.