Works of art help us to understand the artists behind them, and the National Day Parade (NDP) 2023 Show will be no exception when it is unveiled on 9 August.
Returning to the helm for the second time as the event's Creative Director is Royston Tan, a filmmaker whose creations over the last two decades, such as the well-known getai films 881 and 12 Lotus, have been expressions of his love for the Little Red Dot and fascination with its culture.
Besides being a grand celebration of Singapore's 58th year of independence, the NDP 2023 Show will also be a further exploration of the relationship between the self-described "kampong boy" and the place he calls home on the largest canvas he has been given to work with.
And while incorporating his own experiences into this year's event, the Temasek Polytechnic alumnus never lost sight of his true goal — to create an experience that all of his fellow Singaporeans could be a part of.
In the second part of Hear65's Behind NDP mini-series, Tan reveals what inspired him while he was putting together this year's NDP Show, talks about the role of an NDP Creative Director, and shares how telling stories in films differs from doing so at a national event.
Tell us how you reacted when you were approached to be the NDP’s Creative Director for the second time?
I am definitely honoured and appreciative of the team for thinking of me, but most of all, I’m very excited to create a show for Singaporeans.
What kinds of feelings were you hoping to evoke from Singaporeans while you were preparing this year’s NDP Show?
From the beginning, I’ve always wanted to evoke a feeling of closure and healing, but yet at the same time take stock of the things around us and appreciate the rich social fabric and shared experiences that we have. The feeling of moving forward, hope, and optimism is key to my direction this year.
"The feeling of moving forward, hope, and optimism is key to my direction this year."
What are some of the biggest differences between telling stories through films and a large-scale event like the NDP? What were some adjustments that you had to make when you were directing the latter?
Compared to film, NDP is a much more active and mutual experience between the show and the audience compared to film. There are a lot more partners and facets that we have to consider as everyone is participating in the NDP as a way to celebrate our nation’s independence. Hence, I really appreciate the advice and feedback from the team on the Show. We would discuss it for long hours and rehearse multiple times till we got it correct.
"Compared to film, NDP is a much more active and mutual experience between the show and the audience compared to film."
How did your experiences of growing up and living in Singapore aid you in directing the NDP 2023 Show?
Being a kampong boy and seeing the transformation of Singapore around me, I’ve always taken a keen interest in archiving our shared memories and experiences. These are ordinary sights and sounds that heartland Singaporeans know about, and I tried to incorporate them into the songs, films, and graphics. I wanted to create an NDP that Singaporeans can immediately recognise and go, “Yes, I know this because I’m a Singaporean.”
"Being a kampong boy and seeing the transformation of Singapore around me, I’ve always taken a keen interest in archiving our shared memories and experiences."
Were there any lessons that you learnt or new discoveries that you made about yourself while working on this year’s event?
I learnt that I am actually really shy when talking to a huge group of people. The whole experience so far has really humbled me a lot. I liked to quietly observe the workings and rehearsals of everyone and see how they interpreted the direction that was given. I am also very humbled as we have the best of the best in the industry coming together to create that show, from lighting to music and choreographers.
In your opinion, what are some key things that a Creative Director should pay attention to?
One of the key things that I think is important for a CD to pay attention to is really to observe the ground sentiments of Singaporeans. NDP is a show for everyone so it needs to be relatable without it being too explicit. There is a delicate balance of messages and feelings.
"NDP is a show for everyone so it needs to be relatable without it being too explicit."
What are some tips that you would give to the Creative Directors of future NDP Shows?
The NDP journey is a marathon. You have to pace yourself and learn when to take a short break to have KBBQ and recharge and persevere.