Phan Xi Ne Vietnam winner YCE 2013 and YCE fellows
Phan Xi Ne Vietnam winner YCE 2013 and YCE fellows

An interview with Phan Xi Ne, Vietnam’s winner of the Young Creative Entrepreneur Award (YCE) 2013 Screen and Multimedia, given by the British Council Vietnam. Phan Xi Ne has just returned from the UK tour, organised for winners of the YCE Awards 2013. 

This article uses some information from the Sports and Culture Newspaper (the Weekend Issue, ‘Phan Xi Ne: Even good films cannot escape critiques!’ by Duong Van Anh) and the Youth Newspaper (‘Phan Xi Ne wins the 2013 Young Creative Entrepreneur Award’ by Cat Khue).

The UK – “life never stops ‘running’ here”

Tell us about the moment you were named the Young Creativity Entrepreneur 2013?

Very happy, very pleased to see all of my efforts starting to pay off. 

Called YXineFF co-founder, a movie critic, a film producer, and now a creative entrepreneur, how does it feel to be called an entrepreneur?

Yes, a bit strange. Anyway, although YXineFF is a non-profit organization, it does make ‘profits,’ the social profits. 

Have you ever come to the UK? 

That was my first time. 

Then tell us more about your first-time UK experiences…

First of all, London was raining, very wet. It looked amazingly similar to what I had in my imagination. However, after a few days, the impression soon changed. 

I used to think that London was old and sad; but then, when I was there, I found the city very young, very upbeat with the rich heritage and amazing old architecture. Life never stops ‘running’ here. 

(Phan Xi Ne was coughing) It seems that you caught a cold. Is that because of the UK visit?

Yes, it’s true. When I first arrived in the UK, it was raining and I got soaked, making my way to the hotel. And it did get colder the following days. 

A creative space to let

Getting a bad cold from day one, was it hard for you to follow the programme of the UK tour? 

Not at all. Though the tour was packed with activities from dawn to dusk, the energy and new things that I learned gave me a great source of inspiration. It was absolutely fantastic to see how the British colleagues do their creative business and build a creative community. 

Have you any concrete story to share?

Oh yes. I was very impressed to visit The Hub Westminster, it’s like a ‘home’ for creative start-ups. The start-up entrepreneurs who do not afford to have their own offices can come here, hire a desk and work from this station. What’s more important is that they can enjoy the ‘creative’ surroundings where they meet and share their ideas with other creative entrepreneurs. They do create great network of creative entrepreneurs. 

Another company that also left me with a deep impression was Protein. They got an excellent idea of transforming the ground floor of their building into a social place for networking events and meetings. They do that with a belief that ‘in the creative industry, you should make friend, not enemy.’ I think it is very true, in this business, it’s important to build up a network of like-minded partners. 

But what is it about business in those examples?

It was all about business. Like, at Protein, the space they created enables people to come there, to be familiar with their brand and product offers. They also promote their brand via a journal that focuses on creativity. Amongst those who came there were certainly potential customers and business partners.

Similarly, the Hub Westminster makes money by letting the space. In their words, they are ‘incubating’ leaders in the industry and new business models. 

All of these ideas are great.

Was there any activity that directly related to film making, your main interest?

I had meeting at BRITdoc, an organization that specialises in making documentaries. They had a very innovative way of raising funds. 

Normally when it comes to money film producers would always come to investors or businesses first. But did they really ask the right questions, say, ‘Is there anyone else willing to finance this project?’

To convince the potential investors, of course, we need to understand our offer thoroughly. We also need to predict what types of people and organisations will be impacted by our project. It’s a good idea to do a mapping exercise pulling together all potentially interested investors, be they general consumers or policy makers. It is also good to invite them to the presentation about the film project. 

There’s a lot that YXineFF can learn. We have been always looking for sponsors and partners but have not done it as strategically and systematically as BRITdoc did. 

In the Cross-media Forum in London (in partnership with the London Film Festival), there were a number of presentations by experts and professionals working in the creative industry. Was there anything you wanted to take home?

Oh yes. Nuno Bernarno talked about the process of creating a series of different products just from a simple idea. From a comic book, he has developed a video game, a TV drama and a movie. He has a long-term plan and using social media to support it. It is a low-cost movie, which is quite suitable with the situation in Vietnam. I can learn a lot about pitching a film project to studios. 

Another speaker from Tribeca Film (US) said about how to gather smaller projects to create something bigger. For example, she once pulled together 15 short films about one specific topic to create a film festival. This approach is quite suitable for YXineFF. 

The film industry: Veterans, please step aside, giving way to the younger generations!

Joining the YCE2013 Award Ceremony was Lord David Puttnam, a world-renown film producer who coveted 10 Academy Awards. Have you got anything interesting to tell from this brief meeting?

When someone asked: ‘Successful as you were as a film producer, how come you decided to stop making films?’ Here is what Lord Puttnam said: ‘If I didn’t leave it behind, it would leave me behind.’ 

Lord Puttnam believes cinema is for young people, someone in the 25-35 group. So the film industry can only take off if younger people are allowed to take lead. Before an audience that included a Vietnamese senior culture authority, he sent out a strong message: let younger generations tell their own stories. The future of the film industry belongs to those in the 25-35 age as they are in the same age with the film consumers. Younger generations should be trusted and enabled by more favourable policies. 

Asked about the future of drama television series in the fierce competition of video games, multi-media and social network, David Puttnam expressed his absolute confidence in the continued growth of television. 

Amid the increasingly popular trend of big-budget films with massive use of CGI effects, television can build on its advantage which is heartwarming stories with more of a human touch. He said: ‘I believe people will never be bored by those stories.’ This is also a suitable direction for Vietnam’s fledgling film industry to compete in the box office. 

Thank you.

Photo caption: Phan Gia Nhat Linh (on the far right) in a group photo joined by winners of the 2013 YCE Awards

About Phan Xi Ne

Graduated from the University of Architecture Ho Chi Minh City

Former editor, Movies and Theatre Magazine

Former admin of Moviesboom and YXine, the two biggest movie forums in Vietnam

2006: Became the first Vietnamese person receiving the Ford Foundation Fellowship to study Film Production at the USC School of Cinematic Arts

Co-founder of annual Yxine Film Fest

Producer, Idols TV series

Behind-the-scenes director, Getting married before it’s too late

Assistant director, Beauty Queen’s Plot

2013: Winner of the Young Creative Entrepreneur Award given by the British Council Vietnam 

2013: Making a directorial debut with the Vietnamese version of Kitchen Musical, the Singaporean drama television series

Upcoming project: Cold Eyes Film, an adaptation of the novel by Phan Hon Nhien, bearing the same name.