About two and half years ago, I was investigating how can a web-based (Software-as-a-Service aka SaaS) tools aimed at facilitating production of professional video also help younger generations of film students develop confidence and resilience in a tumultuous job market. Leveraging my decade long experience building web-based tools at the BBC, and my network of media friends, I end up building a prototype which I have tested with an International high school in Hong Kong. I’ve learnt a lot, got a good feedback, even got an award at a social entrepreneurship competition. However I felt it wasn’t the right time yet to take the project further.
But one of the thing that wanted to do is to open-source the tool. I believe when one is driven by higher ideals, one cannot just be a “tool dealer”. The reality of modern society currently means that costs need to be recovered and sustenance needs to be obtained, but that’s what make Software as s Service (SaaS) a good model for skill-based toolset, fitting well into the fast and on-demand world that we have to deal with.
Open-source means knowledge and artefacts of experience are available for present and future innovators, including those not-born yet, so they can build the “right” thing, without having to start from scratch and to pay “tool dealers” of right of passage.
I’ve open-sourced the prototype I built and you can get access through my Open Source page. It’s unlikely I (or anyone for that matter) will start from the same codebase again or even same technology, but I like that my thought-process is set-in-stone into the version control commits history and that the codebase is still a model of software development professionalism for my benefits and others’ benefits.
When I’m ready to pick-up this project again, It is likely I will focus the tool squarely on assisting teenagers into making documentary video for the self-development and self-responsibility of themselves, their peers and their audiences, while at the same time being less ambitious, more to-the-point, and even more innovative technically.
Below is extract of interview I gave to Tony Yet of the Good Lab about what I was doing at the time (full version on this page):
GL: Please introduce yourself first.
Rija: I am Rija and I am a citizen of the world. I was born in Madagaskar, grown up in France and then worked in UK for nine years before coming to Hong Kong. I travelled a lot, and each time I travelled, it was like going out of my comfort zone to see the life and culture of people in the world. Many people see a barrier between themselves and other culture, but as soon as you go out and embrace it, it would be like magic that gives you a whole new interesting world.
GL: And what was the magic that brought you to Hong Kong?
Rija: I did computer science in college, after graduation, I joined a company which specialized in online streaming. But it was early days of the Internet and bandwith was quite a limit. The company failed, and I moved to UK and joined BBC. I became part of the Creative Archive team in BBC, which was an initiative to put BBC archives online for people to watch and to remix. That was before the Creativecommons. I worked there for nine years, and then I realized that I have a bigger passion for film production than distribution. In 2011, I travelled in Hong Kong and got to know a film producer here, through the conversations with her, I learned about all the difficulties they face. It inspired me to start my current project, which when realized would be a project management tool for film producers to make their life simpler. In June this year, I quit my job at BBC and moved to Hong Kong to start focusing fulltime on the development of this platform.
“Film production is too complex, let’s fix that”
GL: Are you alone for this project?
Rija: Yes, I am by myself now. But as with any software project, you could do it even if you are just one person, but the challenge is to manage all the other miscanllenous tasks which i do not like.
GL: How do you learn what film producers want?
Rija: I’ve talked to many local film producers in Hong Kong. Many of them hope that there could be a tool to help them manage the process of production better, and that is what I am tackling. The other thing is to introduce a button in the system so young producers could just click and submit their films to different film festivals. I learned about these things from participating in many different film events and talk to people who are doing it.
GL: Are there any challenges running your startup in Hong Kong?
Rija: The main challenge is to manage all this by myself, which I’ve mentioned. And language is also an issue. I learned Mandarin while I was still in UK, but I believe I need to pick up on Cantonese as well, now that I live here. Being unable to speak the local lanagueg is a huge barrier for me, because I could not attend those film workshops conducted in Cantonese. But fortunately, I could work in a space like the Good Lab and get to know people from different backgrounds and even organize my own events here.