The latest addition to Shanghai’s commercial postproduction landscape, Flip, opened its doors in June 2016. SHP+ tracked the company down and headed to its freshly kitted-out new studio near Xuhui’s Red Town to meet the founders.
六位创始人中有两位来自于香港后期制作公司，他们为Flip带来了核心经验，这两个人就是Kat Leung （总经理兼调色总监）和Gavin Tam （副总经理兼特效总监）。他们此前在香港的Digit Digit工作了10年，在PO朝霆工作了9年（其中有5年是在上海），他们把这20年积累的经验带到了上海。另外一位创始人叫Henry Li，负责特效方面，他之前在PO朝霆也工作了10多年。还有一位创始人是IT总监Kam，他也是Tam和Leung的好朋友。
The experienced core of the company comes in the form of Hong Kong postproduction veterans Kat Leung (GM & DI Supervisor) and Gavin Tam (Vice GM & VFX Supervisor). Both pack 20 years of industry experience, including ten with Digit Digit in Hong Kong and nine with Post Production Office (PO), with five of those spent in Shanghai. The third founder on the VFX side is Henry Li, another former PO artist with more than ten years experience. Then there is IT Director Kam, an old friend of Tam and Leung’s from Hong Kong.
Flip总经理兼GI总监Kat Leung | Kat Leung, GM and DI Supervisor of Flip
The other two founders, both Chinese, are more unusual. Marketing Director & VFX artist Andy Zhang is a former PO artist with two years of visual effects experience while Financial Director Freddy Wei is a young psychology graduate fresh from studying in the US.
Wei does most of the talking when we sit down with him, Leung, Tam and Zhang in Flip’s cafeteria area. He explains he met Zhang while interning on a shoot set in Beijing in 2015, where Zhang told him about his idea to start a new company with the experienced Hong Kong artists.
市场总监兼特效师张钟与金融总监韦权峰 | Marketing Director & VFX artist Andy Zhang and Financial Director Freddy Wei
“[Tam and Leung] had the idea two years ago, but they didn’t have an opportunity to really do it,” explains Freddy.
So what was the opportunity now? “When we met Freddy”, laughs Tam. He says the decision to partner with relative industry newcomers was because “they have passion.”
Flip’s state-of-the-art studio, with 500m² working area, two online and two offline rooms, two general multimedia rooms and a grading suite, all decked out with brand new equipment, was funded entirely by the six founders, with no outside investment. Currently there is a staff of 20, made up of experts and young recruits.
Tam says Digital Domain’s buy out of PO earlier this year was not the catalyst to start the company. “We wanted to start our own company for a long time. The timing was just exactly the same”, he explains.
Flip is, for now at least, focused on TV commercials. So far the company has completed jobs for clients including KFC, Pepsi, BMW, Audi, Ford, Tencent and Samsung, as well as grading work for documentary films and a VR project.
From the outset of the conversation, the founders all express desire to eventually break the usual TVC mould, but Wei reins it in, “First, we want to make sure we can survive, to make enough money to run the company. From there we want to build in multiple areas. We are not sure which will make the most profit.”
It’s clear that long-term they see Flip as a production company as well. “‘Fix it in post’ is the biggest misconception around”, says Wei. “Our goal is to take TVCs to the next level, to make it more efficient, easier, elevate it. We are trying to put everything together in a big picture.”
It is too early for the founders to say which area they are most likely to explore next, though Wei rules out movie work, “You never get rich by catching a shark, you get rich by catching shrimps. [Zhang] believes that small is beautiful”.
Part of the motivation to strike out on their own was to offer a service that is more sensitive to the unique characteristics of Chinese clients. “Our concept is more Chinese management, a more Chinese way. I believe if you open a company in China, you can’t bring in the western culture. It doesn’t work,” says Wei.
He elaborates, “Here [at Flip] it is more like friendship, more of an attachment to the client. We try to do everything for you, as long as it’s in our job and it makes sense.”
Some of Flip’s clients have stuck with Tam and Leung from previous, existing relationships. “We have been based in Shanghai for five years, so we had our own clients”, says Tam, “I think they are happy that me and Kat came out and formed a new company”.
Wei interjects, “It’s not that we brought the clients over, it’s that the clients found us here. They saw that we started a company, so they followed. We didn’t tell them to come.”
What do they see as the challenges, both in establishing themselves and as they look to expand beyond TVCs? “Price”, laughs Leung. “The clients sometimes don’t care about the quality, they care about money. They just want to finish the job, not necessarily do it well. Flip is a newly established company. We obviously face a lot of challenges. These challenges force us to adapt and to be more creative.”
They cite as a particular problem the prevalence of unregistered, unofficial teams of bedroom freelancers doing jobs for cash using cracked software, undercutting prices. Wei is optimistic that this will change. “It takes time for [clients] to get a sense of the right way to do postproduction”, he says. “[Previously] China made their money on selling fake products, selling quantity… but recently I see changes, people focusing on the quality.”
As with many local post houses, Flip has had issues finding appropriate people to join the team. However, it’s not a question of talent, says Wei, it’s because young artists that are too impatient to reach top positions. “They want to make money right away”, he says. Instead, Flip is holding out for people with the right attitude, to train and develop from scratch. So far they have been taking on individual interns that sit in with Tam and Leung and learn on the job.