Felicia Yong started her creative career in 1998 when she joined a boutique offline house, Razor Edge. After that short stint as the apprentice of the top offline editors at the time, she moved on to VHQ Post (M) in 2000 and moved up the ranks to a dual role of Regional Creative Director for Animation and Design and as Head of Post Production looking after operations in the KL office.
The next 9 years spent at VHQ shaped Felicia’s creative identity and along the way, she learned the nuances of management and creatives which helped her understand her passion for creating. In 2008 after bidding farewell to the company, Felicia embarked on her freelance journey of directing and producing creative content.
Felicia’s interest in creative content started as a child. Growing up in the 80s, her mom called her a TV addict as her fascination for animation and effects stemmed from watching movies and programmes such as Jason and the Argonauts, Clash of The Titans, Land of the Giants, Metropolis, Star Wars, and the list goes on.
More than just a producer
While working at VHQ, Felicia would often stay back after work to learn more from the company’s artists and animators. Through these late night sacrifices and learning through experience, when Felicia was promoted to be the producer for the Animation and Motion Graphics department, she redefined the role.
She chose to lead her team by providing direction for client presentations, which her team fully embraced. Under Felicia’s guidance and leadership, her team at VHQ was able to pitch for full-post jobs.
According to Felicia, she entered the production scene at the tail end of the analog era. “Post-production then still involved things like hard patching wires and linear editing which had its own allure,” Felicia said. “It was a time when you could still feel and smell the film, and also feel the pain of a mistake more deeply because it would sometimes mean starting all over again.”
However, she says that like for most things in the world, evolution cannot be stopped. The progression of technology, especially in post production, meant the dreams can be bigger.
The creatives’ role in advertising
“To me, advertising represents information and benefits wrapped in aspiration,” Felicia said. “While most people from the outside may view us as just artists, we are also sales people who use art form to sell.”
In the advertising and marketing industry, creatives have also had to evolve with the changing needs of their clients. While in the recent past, commercials were mainly executed for a TV platform which would then be used on social media, the tides have turned. Now, how a shot is framed and edited has to also take into consideration which social media platform it would occupy.
“There’s no doubt that right now, social media is everything and it has made marketing content easier in many ways,” Felicia explained. “But with information overload and being at the mercy of the skip button, in order to go viral, the content we create must inspire and entertain our audience.”
Working with brands
Drawing from her experience as a Creative Director for a post house, Felicia’s direction for full and partial animation spots is highly sought after by brands and agencies as she injects her experience from live action directing into her animated spots, adding a layer of uniqueness to her work.
Last month, Felicia worked on Petronas’ fully animated festive film for Chinese New Year. As the film and VFX director for the animated film, Felicia led the production team to create a vibrant and musical film on a mythical Malaysian village of lions who flourish and dance to a constant beat of drums.
Tying in the dampening of festive spirits among Malaysians due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the film represented the situation that we all are going through – that even when the drum beats stop, life still goes on as long as we decide the way forward, and not let circumstances dictate our situation.
Felicia also possesses an interest in cars and works with clients such as Honda and Toyota, making her one of the first few female film directors who specializes in shooting cars.
“I’m lucky to have not experienced much sexism in this field because being one of the few women who shoots cars has actually worked in my favor,” Felicia said. “Being a woman in the car scene made me unique.”
Advice to creatives who want to work for themselves
With the growing number of individuals in Malaysia choosing to freelance, we asked Felicia what she would advise a creative professional who wants to work themselves.
- Be practical
“First thing first, you have to be practical and ensure you have some sort of financial security before you take the leap,” Felicia said. “Because when you take that worry away, you can focus on inventing your creative identity.”
- Get comfortable with being uncomfortable
“I think it’s really important to stay curious about everything and to get comfortable with being uncomfortable,” Felicia said. “Collaborations will open your mind and enhance your skills as a creative and your circle should be from a mixed age group and come from entirely different industries.”
- Research, research, research
“As creatives we must be all rounders and have a lot of general knowledge in order to make our creative work relatable, and this is where research plays an important role,” Felicia explained.
Personal business philosophy
Felicia reminds herself and her team that there’s more than one way to skin a cat. Although it thankfully doesn’t translate literally, this reminder shapes the way Felicia approaches a challenge – by looking at it from all possible angles.
However, most importantly, she believes that sustaining the success of any business, or just life in general, comes down to embracing the fact that when something is not a success, it is a lesson. “Maya Angelou once said, ‘do the best you can until you know better, then when you know better, do better’ ” Felicia said.
When asked what her proudest work related achievement was, Felicia said, “to have, and to be able to continue to build a career doing what I love.”