Sri Lanka's Top 10 Emerging Influential Faces - Yasas

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Yasas R

101's List of Top 10 Emerging Influential Faces in Sri Lanka

101's List of Top 10 Emerging Influential Faces in Sri Lanka

Yasas Ratnayake - Founder of Circle 360 

Bringing the World to Sri Lanka!

Our paradise island’s delicate beauty, exclusivity, and purity can be found in every rock and pebble of the western province to the mountain landscapes of the hill country, in every grain of sand and each seashell on the beaches of Trincomalee and Arugam Bay down to the bliss that is down south, from every leaf and root of the Yala National Park to the tropical rainforest of the Sinharaja Forest Reserve. Amongst the top-most people who value the exquisiteness of our precious island and are well versed in the abundance of luxury she offers is our very own Yasas Rathnayake!

The wildlife enthusiast, Yasas (pretty obvious when scrolling down his Instagram page) is on his way to promoting Sri Lankan destinations as rich, exclusive, and luxurious hotspots for international film producers.

Yasas breathed life into Circle 360 in 2021 and ever since then, he has been levelling up in an emerging industry as an emerging face. His goal has been to make Sri Lanka a 'home' to international production crews of world-renowned roots. His time in the industry has been a roaring success of collaborations with Warner Bros., HBO, Disney – Hotstar, and many other top tiers in the industry. Paving the road ahead, he is head-on diving in to ensure that the ROAR of the proud lion on the Sri Lankan flag is heard, noticed, and acknowledged across international borders.

Hi Yasas, what was your story prior to Circle 360? Has it always been a dream to promote exotic Sri Lankan destinations to international film producers?

"My first foray into the production industry was back in 2009 when I was called up as an actor for a TV commercial. After I completed my studies in the US in 2014, I moved back to Sri Lanka with the idea of getting into documentary filmmaking. I began a company, Oceans and Continents, with a colleague, where we executed documentary videos, photography, and photo books for various local and international clients. 

This was where I first experienced working on an international production. In 2016, we were approached by a Russian TV network to film a reality TV show, the Russian version of “The Bachelor”, in Sri Lanka. Although we had no knowledge of the kind of work involved at that time, we took a risk and went ahead with it. We learned the ins and outs of this kind of production on the go and realized the potential Sri Lanka had, to be an in-demand destination for this scale of filmmaking. Unfortunately, I had to part ways with Oceans and Continents during the Covid crisis. I started Circle 360 in 2021 together with my business partner Mr. Manoj Bogoda, who is a Sri Lankan entrepreneur and venture capitalist based in Dubai. 

Travel, exploring, and being outdoors has always been a passion of mine since I was a child. It’s an amazing feeling, and a dream come true, to be able to combine that passion with work. I always believed that Sri Lanka was a special place that was hidden from the world at large. It feels great to be able to play a part in helping the world discover our country and see what treasures it has to be discovered."

How has it been to work with the best of the industry and what has this experience taught you in helping to aim higher?

"Working with the top companies in the world has taught me a lot, especially when it comes to matters such as the level of professionalism, technical knowledge, and quality of production. Rising to the standards expected by these companies requires us to really elevate our own standards, and I am happy that our team managed to rise to the challenge and exceed expectations. Seamlessly managing multiple productions with more than 300 people for an extended period of time requires a lot of patience, sacrifice, teamwork, and communication. The whole task almost seemed impossible at the outset. But we believed in ourselves and took on the challenge. I am happy to say that we succeeded in the highest stage. 

What I learned from this whole experience is that you are only as good as the limits you place on yourself. If you want to grow, you should always be welcoming new challenges and venturing outside your comfort zone. Every new opportunity presents a new possibility to expand your boundaries and strive for greater results."

2021 was just a few years ago, but in two years of time, you have reached above and beyond. When starting off, you must have set a time frame to achieve your goals, where are you currently on that frame and what is your secret to achieving high in a short period of time?

"I would be lying if I said that luck didn’t have a part to play in the relatively fast turn of events we experienced. But I always believed that luck is the distance between preparation and opportunity. We wouldn’t have been able to capitalize on the opportunities that came our way if we weren’t prepared to take them on. In that regard, I must give full credit to my team who really rose to the occasion when it came along. 

I don’t believe in strict timeframes. Yes, they are very important, but you should also be flexible and able to adapt to unforeseen circumstances. Currently, we at Circle 360 are working on a 5-year plan and goals to reach in those 5 years. But of course, our vision extends far beyond that. I would say we are still only in a very preliminary stage in comparison to where we ultimately want to reach. The secret is to make the most of every opportunity that presents itself. To strive to perform better, more efficiently, and learn new ways of doing things every day. Constantly holding yourself to high standards is crucial if you want to aim high and reach those targets."

What is your message to young Sri Lankan film production enthusiasts?

"My message to anyone passionate about filmmaking is to never stop learning, never stop watching new film productions, and always try to initiate something on your own, within your own capacity, whether it’s a short film, a screenplay, or any project for that matter. It takes honest work and diligent application to turn your idea into a reality. Read about how the great filmmakers in the world started off. Learn as much as you can, start small, and create something first. Then repeat the process, try to add something new to it and expand your horizons with every new attempt."