The Projector may be the greatest indie theater in Singapore, with the best theme parties and the coolest film festivals. But ever wondered about the people who keep it ticking? You might have seen her at the venue at showtime, or when you walk back to the parking afterwards, or in that Wong Kar Wai-esque picture on Instagram. Kak Yati is one of the most hard-working people at The Projector and that “secret” bar near the carpark.
Apart from being the sole custodian of the two theaters at The Projector for the past three years, the 48-year-old widowed mother of three also takes it upon herself to help out in various roles at The Projector; from being that person who checks your ticket before entering the theatres to the person who firmly tells you to get back in line.
But there’s a lot more to her than her job. We sat down to a long chat to find out more about her life, her pet peeves and her favorite films, of course (this interview is translated from Malay).
Where were you before working at The Projector?
I worked near Dairy Farm Road as a cleaner, and moved up the ranks and finally became a supervisor after seven years. That was my first job, because before that I was a housewife. My late husband did spur me on then to work because the children were already all grown up by then. Also at that time, my mother-in-law had a stroke so we needed to pay for the bills and all the check ups.
How did you come across the job at The Projector?
I worked as an assistant supervisor in this same building! Then my manager introduced me to Sharon before The Projector even opened, because they needed a custodian for the place to help out with the cleaning.
What’s your daily routine like?
I don’t have to come here in the mornings because it’s closed. I’m only here when there are screenings from Tuesdays onwards, so I’m usually here around 5 or 6pm to clean up the bar at the back (The Great Escape) and the sitting areas out here (The Projector). Also, when I need supplies like chemicals to clean or tissue for the toilets, I’ll ask Sharon. One thing I really like about this place is that we’re like a big family; there’s no real hierarchy here. We’re all close and treat each other like family. The other day, I invited everyone to my house for Hari Raya, and cooked a feast!
Then after the screenings, I’ll clean up the theatre after everyone’s left, sweep and mop the theatre and then sometimes help to lock up the place, and then head back at about 10 or 11pm to catch the bus.
What’s the weirdest thing you’ve had to clear after screenings?
A tube top. So obscene! I found it below one of the bean bags in Redrum. Even some of the staff here didn’t believe it, so I took it out of the trash to show them. I’ve even found some rather nasty things at The Great Escape. It’s private property. They should use their brains even though there aren’t any signs or anything.
What are some of the problems you face as a custodian?
Nah, no problems really. But one of the things I don’t like is when customers stand outside the toilet at the staircase and talk very loudly. That area is very echo-y, so usually I’ll just put my finger on my lips to signal to them to keep quiet, because it’s very near the Redrum and the moviegoers can actually hear them. I’ll do it twice, before shouting at them to keep their noise down. It’s so irritating!
Have you ever been discriminated for doing what you do?
Yes. When I was younger, this is what I told my mother: “Would you prefer me to be a cleaner or a social escort, which is better?” Because back then I already had children. If I were to do the latter, do you think my children will respect me? Of course not. As a single mother, I have to be an example to my kids. No matter what, I need to find money in a halal manner. If I worked as a social escort, the money is good but it’s not halal. I had dreams of becoming a teacher, but well, that’s life, right?
Yeah, I guess.
But for anyone else, I really don’t care what they have to say about me, as long as I have a roof over my family’s head, and food on table for them, I’m happy. That’s all I need.
What’s your favorite film of all time?
Flashdance because I can relate to it. She started from the bottom and became a great dancer. I’ll never grow sick of that movie. I also like Ghost.
What do you enjoy most about the job?
The best thing is when there’s an event at The Projector, there’ll be food here so I don’t have to cook at home. I get to bring back whatever’s left too. It’s very sayang to throw them away. Sometimes I’ll take some and give to the other people working at the building too, if there’s enough.
What do you like to do in your free time?
Oh, if I’m at home, I like to spend time with my children and sing karaoke with them, or cook with them; just relax and chill. If here, I like to sit at the staircase and smoke and talk to the staff or the bar staff and just laugh. If I’m bored I’ll just go downstairs and talk to the security guards and the other cleaners.