TEA Connect Blog

30 August 2018

"Everyone grows together" - TEA Member Spotlight: Juliana Tong of Christie

"PASSIONATELY CURIOUS" - Juliana Tong, Senior Director, Global Marketing, Entertainment at Christie, opens up about her career, the company and her perspective on the industry and its growth in Asia. She is based in Singapore. Christie is a valued Themed Entertainment Association (TEA) Global Partner.

Shanghai Expo 2010

You’ve been with Christie for about 15 years. Tell us about your new position there and what it involves.

Oh yes, I’m celebrating my 15 glorious years with Christie this month! It’s really wonderful to be able to document this personal career milestone with this story that will appear in the August 2018 issue of the TEA Connect. Thank you TEA!

Just as Mark Twain said, “Find a job you enjoy doing, and you will never have to work a day in your life.” Time really flies when you love what you’re doing.

I was handling Christie’s marketing in the Asia Pacific region for the last 14-plus years. During this period, I was fortunate to be part of some of the most amazing entertainment-related experiences.

With director Ang Lee, technical supervisor Ben Gervais
and others in Taiwan on the production of
"Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk"

In 2008, our Christie visual solutions were used at a major sporting event in Beijing. This event showed the world what projection mapping could do. In 2010, the Shanghai World Expo leveled up in its use of technology. The event was a tech dream that came true for me (I’m a closet geek). I love Chinese paintings, and it was an “OMG” moment when I saw the animated “Along the River during the Qing Ming Festival” content during our tech runs.

Watching Ang Lee’s 3D movie Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk at 4K resolution and 120 frames/second, projected by our Christie Mirage 4KLH RGB laser projection system was another immersive experience. All I could remember was turning to my co-worker and said: “Did you see those clouds of fine sand coming off from the screen?” The realism resulted from the resolution, and the high frame rate was unbelievable. 

Summer Olympic Games, Beijing 2008

Christie has always been in the entertainment business, including its early involvement in the exhibition business and later the themed entertainment industry. Late last year, Christie realigned its strategic focus as part of its transformation and created a brand-new entertainment team. Through this evolution, it hopes to better serve the needs of the highly-sophisticated themed entertainment and related industry. I was asked if I would like to spearhead the global marketing program for the new entertainment team. I love entertainment and technology, so it was a definite “yes” for me.

My new role still includes strategic marketing except that my focus is on the global themed entertainment and related industry. This is an extremely practical approach as most of our partners and customers are global. I hope to continue to work with my co-workers, our partners, and TEA to contribute to the further growth of this really exciting industry. I love the experience creation process.  

 

Tell us more about your background and your love of cinema technology.

Well, my mom was what you called in today’s urban language, a hipster. I was introduced to the arts, books, music and cinema at a young age. She loved going to the movies.

With Mom at the movies

We watched movies across many genres including classics such as Ben Hur and An American in Paris; Hollywood blockbusters like Dead Poets Society, E.T. and Star Wars; and even cult films such as A Clockwork Orange and Psycho. I also remembered watching almost every Disney production; and also obscure Japanese anime, European art films, Hong Kong kungfu movies, Chinese musicals and tons of documentaries with Mom.

I guessed it progressed naturally for me to decide that I would like to become a movie director too. I chose film and television as my major in college. Unfortunately, I returned to Singapore during the Asian financial crisis, so there were very few film-related opportunities then (YouTube certainly wasn’t around then).

I joined an Asia-Pacific audio trade publication as a journalist, went on to do marketing for a Singapore-based pro-sound system distributor and later did a crossover to the visual industry by joining Christie. I’ve always been in the audiovisual industry.

With members of the Christie marketing team, in Canada

After joining Christie, I discovered my true passion lies in what we describe nowadays as storytelling using technology to create an entertainment experience. I’m intrigued by how themed entertainment can be used to turn movies into immersive out-of-home experiences that can engage the audience emotionally and socially, regardless if they have watched these movies before.

Of course, this experience creation process is a complicated and collaborative effort that involves many experts such as creators, designers, producers, engineers, consultants and so many more. This is where Christie can contribute with our technology solutions and knowledge base to collaborate with all these experts globally. Our value also lies in our strong global support network through our geographical footprint and partners.  

           

2012 gathering of Christie Asia Pacific team

Asia has become a primary themed entertainment market. From your base in Singapore, what are some important trends and developments you’ve observed?

Asia has been the recent hotspot for themed entertainment. Numerous trends have emerged and shaped the landscape for themed entertainment in this part of the world.

In my opinion, there are a few significant ones. First, the growing economies in China and the surrounding countries in Southeast Asia have resulted in the rise of middle-class consumers with increased spending power who are willing to spend more of their disposable income on entertainment.

On the red carpet at the Cannes Film Festival,
where Christie is a longtime technical partner

This socio-economic factor provides a market opportunity for local and global operators to tap into the potential of this consumer base by investing in massive theme-park projects in selected Asian countries.

Second, most of these affluent consumers adopt technology with ease. They’re expecting themed attractions to also offer rides that incorporate the latest technologies. Think about the children and young teenagers who can’t live without their smart devices.

Third, consumers can now choose to spend their dollars on not only a local or global themed entertainment experience but also on a proliferation of entertainment choices which are all vying for their attention. 

The implication for the themed entertainment industry is to design innovative and unique experiences using a mix of best possible technology and story, to draw these consumers out of their homes and straight into the theme parks and attractions. 

 

Ken Wheatley

Who are some members of your team in Asia helping develop attractions business there? Where are we likely to run into them?

I’m sure most of the TEA members are familiar with Christie's Ken Wheatley and Ernest Bakenie.

Ken was focusing on the Asia Pacific market, but he has taken up a new role to help develop our attractions business globally. He’s our walking knowledge base as he has been involved in many of our vital installations. He’s also an active TEA member who is currently serving on the Asia Pacific TEA Board of Directors. It’s inspiring to hear him sharing his experiences with the rest in the industry.

Ernest Bakenie

Ernest joined us in April 2018, and he has also brought along a wealth of experience with him. He’s now responsible for all themed entertainment sales for Christie in this part of the world. Though he is based in the US, he visits Asia almost every month to ensure that he’s providing the best support to our global and local partners.

Apart from spotting Ken at most of the TEA events including the mixers, you will most likely find him on one of his wanderlust expeditions - visiting exotic places such as Sri Lanka, Myanmar, China, or even at the summit of the Himalayan mountains to uncover new possibilities where Christie solutions could be used.     

 

How does the relationship with TEA help position Christie in Asia, and globally?

Christie has always been a firm believer in sharing its tech leadership experiences. TEA provides us with a two-way communication platform to not only share but to also learn from some of the best designers, consultants, content developers, end-users and many other experts.

Volunteer teaching in Peru

This dynamic interaction allows us to crystallize some of the creative concepts and bring them to fruition using technology by working with the themed entertainment community. TEA is almost like a family where most of the members meet one another through a series of events and training programs. These programs are managed by volunteers who are willing to invest their time to turn all these social events into amazing knowledge-sharing experiences.

Apart from that, it’s great to see the success of TEA’s helicopter view on how to grow, develop and support this industry. It’s rewarding to see how it grooms the next generation of professionals through its NextGen Initiative, as well. This illustrates TEA's long-term vision that TEA is building an active and a sustainable community where everyone grows together.

 

Bryan Boehme

Christie’s people generally show themselves to be passionate about what they do and building relationships within the industries they serve. What is your passion in the context of your role at Christie?

You’re right! Christie’s folks are genuinely passionate, and some of them are really inspiring. For example, there’s Bryan Boehme and Larry Howard. They’ve been with Christie for many years and have built very close working relationships with those in the themed entertainment industry. They're highly self-motivated individuals who work with associations such as TEA to promote the growth of themed entertainment on the eastern and western coasts of the US.

Though our team is new, many of our Christie entertainment members such as Bryan, Larry, Ken and many more, have been involved in this industry in one way or another for quite some time.

Larry Howard

We are a highly motivated team who love challenging the technological boundaries and listens to the designer, contents developers, and the other experts to explore the various ways to optimize the experience.

I love being part of this process where ideas actualize into real experiences through the collaboration with a team of passionate people within and outside of Christie. To me, nothing is more fulfilling than talking to the development team and the maintenance team of a themed attraction and listening to how happy they are with the resulting experience. It also gives me great joy to work with our partners, media, end-users, and others to spread these stories through different channels to many others including those who are outside of our usual circle. Of course, it’s really magical to look at the emotions on the faces of the audience who are moved by a particular experience that I was involved in.  

What makes a great leader in this industry? As a leader yourself, can you share some important challenges and lessons learned along the way?

Being open-minded and empathetic could be some of the sought-after traits of a great leader in this industry. Open-mindedness allows a person to imagine and explore the infinite possibilities of creating the ultimate experience for a themed entertainment consumer. It is also about being able to accept and manage changes, as consumer trends are sometimes really fast-paced. It also means that you would consider the different ways of resolving a challenge. Being empathetic is extremely important as a themed attraction is a collaborative effort of many contributors. This collaboration requires the leader to listen and understand the challenges as well as how to resolve them collaboratively. It is also about motivating the other team members as pressure can build up rapidly if an attraction is due for opening under very tight timelines.

Diving at the Great Barrier Reef

I’ve been very fortunate and have been working with leaders and mentors who are incredibly open-minded and empathetic. They listen to my thoughts and give me the creative rein to develop marketing programs as well as to experiment progressively with different approaches. This allows me to validate and fine-tune specific plans accordingly with our limited pool of resources. It certainly hones my critical thinking skills as well.

Empathy allows me to put myself in the shoes of the various people and see things from their perspectives. It allows me to eliminate self-referencing bias, especially in a regional or global cultural setting. Having a passion in life is important. It helps me to enjoy the things I’m working on and appreciate the people around me. The critical thing is to keep this passion burning with a great sense of humor. Albert Einstein’s tongue-in-cheek quote really resonates with me, “I have no special talent. I am only passionately curious.”

Adventuring in the Gobi Desert, Mongolia

 

 

 

Posted by Judy Rubin

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