High-school fantasy fulfilled
Fresh out of school, Michael Chan Lut-ting had neither the experience nor the capital to launch his own business but he had a definite goal – to shoot videos. With three friends and all the savings they could summon, they rented a unit in a commercial building in Mongkok. And so Still Fantasy Production was born. As in all businesses, the beginning was tough. In fact, business was so bad that Chan’s partners left the enterprise, but Chan’s own passion for video production inspired him to go on. Today, Still Fantasy yields a steady income, a fact for which Chan gives back, offering students from his former school, the Hong Kong Institute of Vocational Education (IVE), practical working experience through internships.
Why does shooting film hold such fascination for you?
Some like to use words, photos, drawings or music to express themselves. I like to use video. It is a hobby I developed when in secondary school when I would shoot videos and present them as birthday gifts to my friends. I love video-shooting so much that I forfeited the chance to be promoted to Form Six and instead got into IVE to pursue a higher diploma in multimedia web development and digital entertainment. At the time, there were not many courses in universities specialising in video production, so I turned to IVE. There, I learned the fundamentals video production and gained a lot of practical experience. The school has a great network and students were offered many chances to do projects for the government and other organisations.
Why did you start your own business when you had zero working experience?
I love to do things my way – and having my own business is the only way I can do this. Of course, with no capital and experience, the beginning was brutal. My friends and I each invested HK$10,000. Business was terrible, there was no income and we were struggling with the rent. I had to work part-time, teaching percussion just to make ends meet. Four months later, my partners quit. But I didn’t want to give up because video-shooting was really something I wanted to do. Three months after my partners left, things finally changed for the better as more clients got to know us.
How did you make things turn round?
As a small company, there was no budget for advertising. All of our promotions were through word of mouth. I understood the importance of service and long-term relationships with clients and the service I provide is customised. We have no standard package because we want to create unique videos that the clients liked.
I also provide excellent after-sales service. If clients want to make any adjustments after we have handed the video over to them, I will try my best to help. This attitude and service quality has won me long-term clients. I have learned not focus too much on returns. If there is a way to make the production better, I will do it to give my clients the best experience possible. I started out with three to four clients. Now I have 12 and they provide me with regular projects and a steady income.
How do you think video production culture has impacted your business?
The impact has been positive. Video shooting is no longer limited to television stations or production houses. Everyone can do it so long as they have a video recorder and computer. With more players in the field, there are more ideas.
Who or what inspires you?
I really want to say ‘Thank you’ to my teachers at IVE. They taught me the basics and gave me the chance to gain practical experience. I want to do the same by providing internship opportunities for IVE students. My long-time client, Four Gig Head Percussion Group, also boosts me. They have been offering me projects since my student days. They gave me much freedom with my production and had provided me with job opportunities when I needed it the most.
What is your motto?
Don’t be afraid to give more for less. Video production is not a nine-to-five job. I consider myself to work 24 hours a day, because like in all art forms, the video-maker gets inspiration from various sources. I can be on the street looking at something and be inspired.
What is your long-term goal?
I have long been working with performers such as orchestras and music groups. I hope my videos and the performers that I work with can develop together.
What is your advice for youngsters who wish to start their own business?
Don’t think too big. The beginning is tough, so stop fantasising about having a luxurious office. Budget control is important, but don’t worry too much about it. Do what you can with what you have got. Success is built on your passion and how far you are willing to go for perfection.