Since leaving Mediacorp last year, Sora Ma has been one busy bee. The free agent has set up her own production company Socius Realm and her own YouTube channel, Sora Ma’s Million Viewers Channel by Socius Realm. Here, she tells us how she went from “just an actress” to multi-tasking CEO of her own production company — and became a “lunatic” in the process.
8 DAYS: You recently launched your YouTube channel, Sora Ma’s Million Viewers Channel by Socius Realm.
SORA MA: I needed a free platform that didn’t require people to give any commitment or subscription fees. YouTube was the first thing that I thought of. I also thought about setting up a web portal. But that would be too hard ’cos there are still a lot of things that I don’t know. I wanted to start with YouTube to test the waters.
What if it doesn’t hit a million viewers?
That is my goal lah. It’s not possible that it won’t hit a million viewers. It’s just about how long it will take — a month, a year, two years… or 10 years. (Laughs) If it still doesn’t hit [a million viewers then], I’ll just keep trying lor. Never say never, right?
Along with your YouTube channel, you also set up your own production company Socius Realm. What’s the story behind that?
‘Socius’ is Latin for ‘friend’, and ‘realm’ means ‘kingdom’. So the term represents ‘friendship kingdom’. To carve out a career on my own, I must rely on the support of many friends. Like, four of my friends are now partners in my company. The main idea is to bring us good friends together to create our own ‘kingdom’. (Laughs) And if you notice, the phrase ‘Socius Realm’ contains [part of] my name ‘Sora’.
How does it feel to go from being an artiste and having things done for you to doing everything on your own, from scriptwriting to managing a team?
For the past three months, I’ve only been sleeping three or four hours a day. There was a period when I only went to bed at 9 or 10am ’cos there were so many things that I needed to learn. After I [started the company], I realised that I didn’t know how to do a lot of things, even simple stuff like how to post a YouTube video. Also, there are a lot of laws and regulations to things like sponsorships and buying music royalties. When I was working under Mediacorp, I just had to do my part as an artiste. But now, I even have to write my own script and source for the clothing worn by the actors in the shows. But I feel like I’m living life every second now. No matter what I’m doing, even when I’m just walking, I feel that every second is full of [possibilities]. Last time, I was only an actress — I just needed to get the script and act. But now, I’m no longer just an actress — I’m also a CEO of my own company (laughs).
How did you get the idea for your first YouTube short, My Diva Master?
It was adapted from the true story of a good friend of mine. I kept brainstorming what my first project should be. I wanted a more exciting topic. So I met up with [Malaysian rapper] Namewee ’cos he’s so popular on social media and YouTube. I asked him, “What topic do you think I should dabble in?” He said, “The easiest thing to do [to grab eyeballs] is to scold the government.” (Laughs) I said, “But I’m very happy with the Singapore government.” So he said, “Then you need to go for very extreme or very sensitive topics.” And one of the things that we brought forth was religion. I don’t want to offend anyone but I just put some things relating to religion into my first film. It’s a story about the supernatural. Whether you believe it or not, it’s up to you. But it’s based on a true event.
So you’re friends with Namewee?
You can say that [our meeting] was a planned coincidence. (Laughs) I have some friends who know him pretty well. So I knew that he would be around this area in KL, so I purposely went to that place. Am I being very honest here? (Laughs)
Besides Cavin Soh, Jin Yinji and Chase Tan, you also roped in former actor Zhang Wenxiang to take part in your films.
I wanted to find someone with a bit of talking point, like, a veteran actor who hasn’t appeared on Ch 8 for a very long time. It so happened that I saw Wenxiang on TV. And I thought, “He could be the veteran actor I’m looking for.” But no one I knew had his contact number. Then one day, I was in a shopping mall when he walked past me. I quickly ran up to him to introduce myself. But luckily, he knew who I was. So I shared with him about my film. And he saw my passion and sincerity. So we didn’t even discuss his remuneration beforehand.
Since you’re both the scriptwriter and the actress, does that influence your writing? If you want to, say, have romantic scenes with an actor, do you deliberately write it into your plot?
(Laughs) So far, I haven’t thought about that. But when writing the script, I’ll discuss with my partners, and we’ll combine our ideas, so it won’t be so biased lah. But when I started writing, I felt like I became a crazy person. I’d role-play the different characters on my own. So let’s say it’s a scenario of a family having a meal together, I’d sit in different chairs and role-play each of them. Like, I’d put on a hair pin and pretend that I’m the daughter and then say her lines. And then, I’d switch to a different chair and use another prop to pretend that I’m the father, to help myself get into the different roles. But if that whole scene was captured on CCTV, you’d think that I was a lunatic.
How much did you invest in the production company?
For now, I’m very blessed. I have support from sponsors through product placements in my films and it’s enough to cover all my expenses. Each of the three videos we’ve shot so far cost a five-figure sum to make. If you watch the films, you’ll know where all my money goes. (Laughs)
Did you have to source for sponsors yourself?
No, I’m very lucky. When I [decided to strike out on my own], there were some news reports about it. And many people from different platforms approached me about possible collaborations. So until now, things have been quite smooth-sailing.
Since you no longer have a stable income, are you more frugal now?
Actually, before I planned [to set up my own company], I’d worked out that for the next one or two years, I don’t have to worry about my finances. This is very important to me. If I didn’t have a sense of financial security, I wouldn’t pursue the things I want. Plus, I’ve been so busy. So if you’re talking about saving, I don’t intentionally save. I just don’t have the time to spend money. (Laughs)
PHOTOS: SORA MA