Dane in the Special Effects Industry in Singapore

When a Singaporean friend first told Paw Sorensen about Singapore and its potential six years ago, the Danish looked at the little red dot with much apprehension. He had a good life in Europe as the head of Lighting for a major production, Miss Saigon and another hundred over productions – why should he move and leave everything behind? Migrating was a huge risk that Paw initially did not want to take. It was only through much persuasion and encouragement from his Singaporean friend that Paw finally decided to shut him up by taking a holiday in Singapore.
During his holiday, Paw reluctantly had to agree…his friend was right. There were loads of opportunities especially for him, noticing that the Special Effects industry in the young country was nowhere near in comparison to Scandinavia’s rich history in theatrical activity of cosmetics, effects, culture and tradition.
So he made his move to Singapore and not surprisingly, with his prolific background in cosmetics and lightings, he immediately got a job with Laselle SIA as lecturer in lighting, lighting design and theatre-makeup. Within a period of two and a half years, Paw established himself within the local entertainment industry, after which he noticed an increase in demand for theatre cosmetics, specifically a brand called Grimas. There was no other source for it in the region besides Australia. So taking another risk, he left his job as a lecturer, contacted Grimas, and attained distribution rights to become the sole distributor of Grimas Professional Make-up in the whole of South-East Asia. 

So what exactly does your company Special Cosmetic Effects Pte Ltd do?
Besides distributing Grimas cosmetics, we are also involved in teaching the art of Special Effects, cosmetics and lighting. We also act as consultants, advise on make-up design and conduct workshops. Once in awhile, I would lecture as a guest at the School of Make-up at Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts.

What exactly is Grimas?
It is a product of Holland, started 30 years ago by three academically educated individuals who wanted to produce a safe cosmetic product that children could use. They then expanded into cosmetics for beauty, film, special cosmetic effects, theatre, personal usage and body art. Most people usually think cosmetics are all the same but there is a huge difference with each type of cosmetic used for various purposes.
When you made the move, was it because you saw potential in Singapore or was it an impromptu thing?
Oh, I definitely saw the potential. When I first started here in Singapore, no one knew the real difference between stage and beauty cosmetics but I understood that it was very difficult because there was no source for stage make-up in the region, let alone Singapore. This was why I started up Special Cosmetics Effects three years ago; to become the one-stop place for all cosmetics in the SEA entertainment industry.

Any challenges that you face here that you would not normally face in Denmark?
I had to get used to the different mentality of the locals here and had to constantly remind myself that the entertainment industry in Singapore was not as established as the places where I have worked before such as Europe, Scandinavia and London. However, looking around the region now, Singapore has advanced very fast compared to the other countries. Starting a business up in Singapore is also very expensive…

Who are your usual customers?
Mostly schools, theatres, theatre groups…I also supply to professional make-up artists.
Schools are a huge customer pool, with so many dance and drama performances every year. There is a huge market for hobby cosmetics as Singapore grows more westernized and also because there is a growth in the number of expatriates in Singapore who practice hobby make-up. I once had two Australian women who were so happy to find the type of cosmetics that I carry that they stood outside my shop, started clapping their hands and squealing with delight.

Were those your oddest customers?
They were considered normal. I once had a cross-dresser come in and begged me to disguise his Adam’s apple. Another time, I had a model doing a nude shoot who did not want to show any of his special bits so he asked me to remodel a whole appendage to cover his own. That was weird…why do a nude shoot in the first place?!

How does a Danish such as yourself spend his free time in Singapore?
Is there such a thing as ‘free time’ in Singapore? I am always working and if I am not working, it means I am sick. And though the food in Singapore is great, I am not a great fan of coffee shops and head to the nearest restaurant I can find. I’m not a noodle man.
Other than that, I am communing with nature. I know the nightlife in Singapore is good but no pubs and clubs for me. I would also head to the Danish church, which in my opinion is the most beautiful place at Mount Faber but I have no time to go there!

As a Scandinavian, what’s your favourite thing about Singapore?
Definitely the cleanliness and safety….in Copenhagen, you would see dog poo every ten metres. If it’s not dog poo, someone has peed on the wall…something you don’t see in Singapore.

Any advice for other Danes considering Singapore to live and work in?
Look out for the stress! It a way more stressful environment compared to Scandinavia where it’s so easy going. It is a wonderful place to stay but you need lots of income to support yourself even on an average basis. Most Scandinavians would love the warm weather, the greenery and the shopping. I am still considering where to retire though…there’s a big difference between retiring in Singapore and Denmark because Denmark is a welfare society, everything is taken care of till the day I die but in Singapore, I probably need to spend money till the day I kick the bucket.

You can visit Paw Sorenson at his shop located in 150 Orchard Rd #03-67 Orchard Plaza. You can also contact him at 6738 6209 or email him at [email protected]

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