[refer to main article “Inspire#6: Out of Paper Boxes (Melinda Tan)“]

Inspire# isn’t anything less than a love-job (if it was a job at all). It was birthed out of seeing myself as a passageway, and i’ve used this phrase often with friends and colleagues: I see myself, and the projects I place my hands on as ‘conduit(s)’ for sharing, encouraging and inspiring. And I have stood apart watching its beginning steps flow. It is beautiful for I am often irrevocably touched by another’s transparent vulnerability and open-heartedness to share generously. I love it because I only have to be in the humble neutral position to facilitate, but yet I am so amazingly privileged to have first hand exchanges with these creatives, ….I learn so much from them.

It was a matter of time that I would have asked Melinda Tan if she would like to be featured. And since this project moves both ways, I was so glad to realise how timely and how wide open her heart was to share then.

The background to the article “Inspire#6: Out of Paper Boxes (Melinda Tan)” is mainly my (Juliet’s) own personal thoughts and personal thank you-s. It is also my way of documenting the process that is organic. And I stand apart, admiring and appreciating every ebb and flow.

In the month of September 2016, you might have seen a few posts and my article on 12th InDPanda Short Film Festival featuring a film ‘Seletar’ also known as ‘這一秒,你好不好’. Its international premier in Hong Kong’s MCLCinema (Telford Gardens) was a huge cause for celebration for Melinda’s crew, Studio 3b since they believed and supported in the festival and the founder, Jonathan Hung’s continuous efforts in encouraging independent film-makers and the industry itself. (see related Mandarin article) My song being the only music for the film stood on their coat-tails. I felt immensely grateful and privileged to be cheering on this project birthed out of love. Passion as you will see in Melinda’s responses in the article is often a cheap(er) word without diligence. Passion into craftsmanship is as compassion is to kindness. It drives one into following through with action, for a long long time.

But what I haven’t yet shared was the time of exchange on emails with Melinda on films for my bands, and at one point, it just became a live e-drawing board, I reckon, for the both of us, just going back and forth. I was honestly feeling a little conscious that I might just be wasting her time with all this back-and-forth, but was really enjoying the creative inputs and exchange. Then her email came in, more substantial on her ideas on ‘takeaway videos’ (what she has proposed to her team as ‘fullscreen music films’), and then, ended off with “Let’s keep this conversation going. :)” (smiley-face was hers, and now mine :)) I had her assurance that this was fun for her too.

This friendship was something spun-off completely from creative work, for we didn’t know each other any time before an artistic collaboration in 2012. (see related article here)

And for the background to her interview and her responses, I have her permission to share my email to her in response to her answers.


[Juliet’s response to Melinda on her e-interview replies]

I was very moved to read your words and surprised to realise we have some things in common in our pathways and also in our ideologies.

I will however only single 3 things out in this email. I read your letter before bed last night, and felt deeply comforted that someone out there understands this.

The first is I once held 3-4 jobs/hats at once. I blocked out the noise that told me to single out a strength and ignore the rest of my interests. At one point I was teacher, principle/business owner of music school, musical theatre practitioner and wedding singer. Actually 5, cuz I was also doing a scholarship in dance with Jitterbugs Swingapore. I was exhausted but so so so happy for want of a better word. Often as a child I had been made to feel guilty for loving the variety in arts. Like you I loved literature, and still do, but differently. Like you I was fascinated with human behaviour but unlike you I went into sociology. Studying it from above than within the individual. Just 2 years ago I revived my love for the visual arts. It was my strongest but I had to leave it behind because of streaming. Now I’m painting, singing, writing and crafting my voice, my piano skills as well as the ukulele skills. 

I will share his with you:
(Had to dig it up from my Austin Kleon archive;))

I think streaming did something to my life’s choices but not enough to make me stop seeking what makes the heart beat. 

The director’s skills are similar to the producer’s. They understand the human condition, and practically speaking they have experienced more than one form of medium or instrument, at some personal level to some degree. When I was with 海蝶音樂,I asked my producer ‘what does it take to do your job?’ (as you can see at 18 – I was anything but tactful) He took me seriously however, he said ‘at least 3 instruments, singing and able to write’ This was Billy Koh who now has left the company to set up his own. But it stuck. I cannot imagine a director, a writer or a producer help another with honesty, and with substance if he or she hadn’t gone through life, experiencing its joys, thrills and challenges.

Perhaps it is why, without formal training, the heart has led you deep and right into that mysterious forest of creativity in film. Your work has an unassuming unpretentious substance about it. It doesn’t have fancy clothes but it screams to the heart. I really appreciate it. Thank you for fiercely pursuing it despite you wanting time management! Lol

The 2nd is this:
Good taste. I hadn’t heard it ’til a certain celebrity voice coach mentioned it. I used to encourage my students who are starting out and have the potential to go further. ‘The only reason why you feel bad about your singing now is because you have a good ear; be patient, and keep going. Enjoy the journey’. This taste factor is so understated and often forgotten. I’ve learnt it spot this trait in my students over time and nurture that so they follow through. 

The 3rd:
Taking a break from the social, the shout-outs and the noise:

Melinda: “I made my first 3 short films when I was still in school and shortly after. Back then, we had a lot of conversations and activity about branding and marketing the film and getting the word out… we got a blog, a site, a facebook page. That was fun and we certainly learnt a lot. 

But. Right now, I’m at a point in my life where I just want to cut through that noise, and focus on the film itself, and developing myself to becoming a better writer and director. There is so much more to learn, and I am fortunate to be in a position where I can do this at my own pace.”

I am personally so much at this season now. In our line of work, since I do music full-time, the tearing of time between practice, Creative work and administration can be so difficult and painful. As an independent Musician, without basic business marketing skills, no matter how great you are, it is not going let the clients know you are providing a service. And until you can afford an artiste manager, you would always have to tread carefully and constantly remind to put a priority on your craft afore anything else. That is where I am. Perhaps for this reason I enjoy the little town that we are in now. The competition is in the walk towards coming closer to understanding our craft and equipping ourselves with skill and practice. And most of all, the living. I cannot write without living it. The ‘noise’ is kept to a minimum.

Our new band Mint Street doesn’t even have vocals. The latter being my first instrument. I wanted to focus on the ‘painting’ with my fingers and just getting into the zone where everything including the audience blanks out. That’s when the creativity in jazz improvisation happens. No pleasing no spectating just being there. We play for the markets and yesterday was out first Mint Street gig at the markets. I won’t even let money get in the way of it. We won’t be paid for it unless the money fell. I was there to play. And enjoy the morning that’s all. And my dear, it is magic. 19AUD all morning and I feel like the richest.

Finally, as an aside on listening out for conversations while being in the public. I didn’t mean to hear it but one day when we were eating at a Subway joint at the local Neighbourhood, one of the staff started raising his voice at his store manager, he said, “I can’t work this day I have to be in 2 places in the week…. Then a bit of muttering… (The store manager wasn’t happy) and he raised his voice and tried to explain, awkwardly…. I can’t… My parents split up so I have to be here Mon, Wed, Fri with my dad and at my mom’s place on….” My heart just broke. Something as difficult as that rolled off his tongue in 2secs… And in such awkwardness… There were customers around… [this bit is removed to protect the names of loved ones] What is it like to not have a fixed home..? His eyes had sorrow. [this bit is removed to protect the names of loved ones]

Things like that rock my life. And triggers a song, a poem and story. But often I hold back, as if to give it respect. I want it to inspire but with more positive hope in the outcome. 

For that reason Didi has spotted too that I can’t write until I have lived it through. The 3rd album doesn’t seem to be anywhere near. :)

But I would never rush it.

Perhaps your eye and ear and heart for art and life are what drew you to mine. Thank you for listening so closely. 

Your sharing is precious and you wrote wonderfully. Thank you for taking time out Melinda, truly appreciate it.


That is it. One person’s honesty vulnerability to another. And letting the ideas flow.

I had titled the article “Out of Paper Boxes” for mixed reasons. Although not her very first film project, it was as I’ve, through these many e-conversations, witnessed Melinda undergo a wonderful time of growth and discovery. With 《完美之旅》 being one of original compositions used in Paper Boxes, it was also my first collaboration with her. Before studio3b, was studiothree. Two members of the latter crew went on to join Melinda to form studio3b.

I end this article with a treat, here’s studiothree‘s Paper Boxes. Who knows the beauty and surprises that continue to come out from something as precious and close to every heart involved in this project. I watched this again as always, in a cafe, and ended up a very teary-eyed and heart-warmed little poppet on a Saturday afternoon here in Perth, Australia.

Short Film "Paper Boxes" by studiothree

Short Film “Paper Boxes” by studiothree (video link)

Thank you Melinda, it has been such a pleasure knowing you, and your generous sharing I am sure, will continue to bless many.

If you know someone needing a nudge, a good word of encouragement through another’s testimony in her own creative journey, please share this freely. :)

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