On a Saturday afternoon in February, around 100 Hongkongers were gathered in a dimly lit room in PMQ, scribbling in notebooks quietly, doing crossword puzzles, or lying with their eyes closed on the sandbags littering the floor. There was little talk; after all, none of those present knew anyone else. They had all come to the event alone.
An hour later, they moved to another section of the room, where they were shown a movie of which they knew nothing beforehand. It was Xavier Dolan’s Laurence Anyways, a beautifully gut-wrenching film about a decade-long relationship between a transgender woman and her lover.
The event was called Solo Cinema, and it was put on by Goooood Secrets, which has been organising screenings of “secret” movies in locations across the city for about a year now. The screenings were all built around different themes, from breakups to nostalgia. Solo Cinema wanted to encourage moviegoers to spend some quality time with themselves and get a taste of what it is like to go to movies on their own. For the next event, they’ve picked something even more challenging – orgasms.
Goooood Secrets’ brave choice of themes is not the only thing that sets them apart. The company also regular pairs up with NGOs in their screenings to give back to society. Last month, HKFP caught up with two of the brains behind Goooood Secret Movies – Tracy Wong, who is in charge of operations, and Josie Cheng, who handles the creative side of things – and chatted to them about sex, films, and how Goooood Secrets came to be.
How long has Goooood Secrets been around and how many events have you organised?
Tracy Wong: Our first event was in March 2015 and it was a screening held at a retro Shanghai-style barbershop. We collaborated with [local arthouse film channel] Movie Movie to put on an indie film called N+N, and only dozens of people attended. We don’t tell them what movie we’ll be showing but we do let them know the theme so as not to keep them completely in the dark – since we feel that those who do come are already quite brave. Our past projects and screenings have touched on topics and themes such as erotica, breakup, or nostalgia. These themes are generally experiences that a lot of people can relate to. This upcoming [Orgasmo screening] will be our eighth event.
For the breakup film screening, we showed Twelve Nights – a local film starring Cecilia Cheung and Eason Chan – on a junk in the middle of the sea, and we interviewed some of the audience. We had young people who came in groups, but also some who were actually quite old – there was a cute elderly couple who said that they wanted to check out how the younger generation viewed breakups. The solo cinema screening event was an extension of the breakup idea – you break up, and then you come see films on your own.
I see that in all of your events you always link up with NGOs. For example, 50 percent of Orgasmo’s proceeds will go to Hong Kong Aids Foundation. How did that happen?
Josie Cheng: In the beginning, the company’s idea was that we wanted to encourage people to do good in their everyday lives when they’re making purchases, but we find that it’s quite hard to do – we realise we need events to bring them together and to motivate them. We met Movie Movie and talked to them about charity work and so on, and we thought, let’s organise secret screenings. Our company has a strong belief in business models, and we feel that once we have a sustainable income we should contribute a set amount to society and share it with them. For example, with the breakup cinema project, we paired up with an NGO that works with abandoned animals, because a lot of times when breakups happen an animal gets abandoned.
With Orgasmo, we’re pairing up with an AIDS NGO, because sex is one of the many causes of AIDS. We also want to promote the idea that donating money may not necessarily be something sacred – it can be something you do in your everyday life – like watching an R rated movie, and still something good comes out of it. It’s a culture we want to encourage.
Could you tell us a little more about yourselves?
JC: We’re actually high school classmates. I studied marketing, and initially I had been in advertising for three years. The story is, I really like creativity, but when I was in advertising I felt like it was only used for making more money, and I couldn’t find value in that. I wanted to do something whereby I helped to build the core of the business, and when I learned about this company, it was what I wanted to do. So now, I still get to use my creativity, but it directly affects how many people buy tickets, how much money we earn, and in turn how much money we get to donate. There’s more pressure, but the satisfaction and motivation are also much stronger.
TW: I was a creative media student at the City University of Hong Kong. [After I graduated] I was working at a gallery, and [Cheng] asked me if I wanted to join her at Goooood. When I was at galleries, I always organised events as well, but they were always very similar in nature and it wasn’t very challenging. Ordering wine, learning how to deal with the artists and so on… but here, I manage a lot of things hands-on, and we have to learn what people’s expectations are, what we provide them with to make them come back… it’s more exciting.
What are people’s reactions like generally? Do you ever get people who decide that they don’t want to watch the film after all and leave in the middle of screenings?
TW: At every event there’s definitely people who leave – although sometimes you aren’t able to do so even if you wanted to, like when we were on the junk. [laughs] Even for the breakup event, the audience seemed generally quite happy. In the beginning we had loads of concerns – after all, we’re marketing an unknown product. But after a couple of screenings we tend to have a better idea of what kind of audience we attract. A lot of them are quite young, and female.
How do you come up with the themes for your events and movie screenings?
JC: With each theme, the starting point is that the members of our team would feel that it’s interesting and fun – that gets us motivated. We also have a message we want to tell the world, something we want to change or do differently – for the solitude cinema event, it’s because we think that watching a movie on your own shouldn’t be a big deal – in fact, we think it’s something that should be encouraged and worth experiencing. So we organised the event to persuade people to do it, and [if they’ve never done it before] hopefully it’ll inspire them to keep doing it afterwards.
What inspired you guys to arrange these “secret” movie screenings?
JC: These days, when you watch a movie, it’s the sort of experience that already has a set of rules in place. You know what the movie is from the trailer, you roughly know the storyline, you know you’re going to pick a seat and then buy popcorn, and then you sit down, you watch the movie and you go. It’s very standard. We’re not saying that is a bad way of doing things, we just think there are new ways to package this. When the atmosphere of your moviegoing experience is different, when your mood is different, the message you get from the movie may also be different.
An important element of our events is the fact that the audience only knows the theme and not the film. Sometimes we may show movies that they’ve seen a thousand times. For example, when we screened the movie Rogue, we did it at Sunbeam Theatre, which has a long history. A lot of young people may have heard of its name but they won’t suddenly go there to watch a Cantonese opera performance. We hoped that young people would hear about the event, feel interested and go. We arranged for local craft beers to have stalls there, we’d set up dress codes so that everyone would wear something vintage – it’s all part of the experience. Maybe you’re there to see Anita Mui and Leslie Cheung’s performances, but once you’ve donned the costumes – you’ll feel much more of an impact and more involved in the movie.
I feel like there are different levels to seeing a film – there’s watching a movie at home on your computer screen and constantly interrupted by phones or others walking around the room, and then there’s also going to the cinema and paying attention to nothing else but the film for two hours. This, though, seems to take the moviegoing experience to yet another level.
JC: It’s true that there are different levels. If you go to the cinema, maybe you just want to go there and watch a film and there’s minimum hassle. But our events tend to attract people who are curious and want to try new things, they’re looking for more and they want to be surprised. Maybe they want to meet someone, to have new encounters – and the chances of that happening at one of our events are much higher than say, when you go to the cinema the normal way.
Of all the event ideas you guys could do as a means to raise money, why choose movies as the thing to bring people together?
JC: I think movies have a lot of potential. Our way of appreciating a movie is quite standardised, but with what we’re doing, we add a lot of things to bring it to the next level and make the movies more enjoyable. So far the model’s worked, and a lot of people come back to our events, and come regularly, even. We’ve selling a mystery factor, and maybe in the future we could do something that would let everyone in Hong Kong know about our events, but for now we haven’t come up with what that is yet.
Have you had a lot of film fanatics attending you events, and what do you think the film culture is like in Hong Kong?
JC: There are definitely some – there are times when we’d leave clues in our Facebook posts to let people guess what films we would be showing, and people would inbox us to ask. Some of them have studied film, so they do close readings of the movies. I think with the culture, for example, say the film festival culture – it’s taken years to build, and I think it takes some time for society to get educated on and accustomed to certain art happenings, and then they become a trend. I think that will be the case with secret screenings too. We’re kind of starting from zero, because no one’s done it before. Maybe in the future, secret movies will become part of your routine and you’ll go to one every month, the same way you go to films regularly.
Can you tell us more about the upcoming Orgasmo event?
JC: Orgasmo comes from the word orgasm – the challenge is that there are different expectations with this. Are you expecting a kind of intense, breathtaking orgasm, or one that’s poetic, overwhelming? Our stance is that we hope everyone would appreciate [orgasm]. On our programme, we would have certain elements that enable everyone to enjoy this in a relaxed manner. We’re not really going the vulgar, extreme route.
Before the screening, there’s a dance performance, and it’ll be intimate but there won’t be nudity. I guess we’re more of going down the route of a “spiritual orgasm”. We want everyone to appreciate it and discuss the topic together.
TW: We interviewed some people to get an idea of what “orgasm” is to them, and we’ve had really interesting answers. For example, a local band we interviewed, ToNick – one of the members compared orgasm to cooking beef during hotpot, and he said you need to use just the right amount of time and capture the right moment in order to cook the perfect beef. Another drummer in a band said that he reaches orgasm when he’s playing the drums.
JC: I think when you hear about these experiences, you compare yours to them as well and think, do I feel this way as well? Are orgasms to me like cooking beef? A Formula One racer said that driving the cars is like supermodel sex, because not many in the world have a chance to do it. We also interviewed the owner of Sally’s Toys, a sex toy shop. She said that orgasm is also something that you give yourself, and you have to slowly explore and try things out to get to know yourself better.
What are some things that keep you motivated? Have you come across interesting incidents after all the events you’ve organised?
TW: One time, we were at an Incubator for Film & Visual Media in Asia event – they’ve invited us to speak there. And someone there told us, that she went to the event at Sunbeam Theatre, with her grandmother and her mother. She said that before the screening, the two’s relationship had been very poor, but she felt that it’s improved after the event. She told us that in the past, the two of them used to go to Cantonese operas together all the time, but after they fell out with each other they didn’t go anymore, and when they saw the movie together they both teared up, and she said she was really touched.
Orgasmo is taking place on May 14 at Southorn Stadium in Wan Chai. Find out more about the event here.