How Singapore is becoming an influential pan-Asian collaborator – The Hollywood Reporter

International collaborations are now the content industry’s bread and butter, helping to reach new markets and audiences directly. With the regional headquarters of studio heavyweights like Netflix, The Walt Disney Co. and HBO Asia in its backyard, Singapore has emerged as a key player in global project matchmaking with local companies and talent.

However, given the city’s relatively small population – 5.7 million – and high market saturation, Singapore’s position in the regional content industry is unique, with many studios overseas. seek cooperation with Singapore companies but do not prioritize the domestic market. In fact, most of the international partners operating in Singapore are looking for stories, eyeballs and revenue streams elsewhere – most often in the more populous countries around Southeast Asia.

To meet the complexities and challenges of such a position, the Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA) has invested heavily in local media companies through programs such as the Energy Partner Program. force. The funding and benefits provided by these government-run programs enable local SMEs to achieve parity in projects and establish themselves as influential creative collaborators. influence in the regional content industry, rather than mere facilitators.

“If we can’t bring in the funding, then we might just be a service provider. That is not our goal in the long term,” said Seng Choon Meng, CEO of Scrawl Animation of Singapore. “We want to be able to participate in projects, achieve equal status, and [benefit from the] economic returns and long tails, whether this be with sequels or spin-offs, licensing, merchandising, and even gaming.

Scrawl Animation has equity and is currently working on Alex Player series, co-produced with France-based Cyber ​​Group Studios and Italian studio Graphilm. Television stations that have participated in the project include France Télévisions and RAI. Technical expertise also enables Singapore experts to take on key roles in international partnerships. As Cyber ​​Group Studios began its global expansion and acquired majority stakes in animation studios in Italy and the UK, it chose Scrawl Animation as its partner in Asia.

“It’s a good fit because Singapore has a blend of technical expertise, openness to new technology, a culture of innovation, and schools here place a lot of emphasis on competencies and technical skills,” said Seng. magic,” said Seng. “Singapore is already in a very good position to set up the extension of Unreal Engine, a real-time production pipeline in Asia.”

Cyber ​​Group Studios received “MegaGrant” from Epic Games in 2021, allowing the company to develop a new virtual production workflow using the real-time Unreal Engine. This will help accelerate and optimize creative workflows, allowing for simultaneous production of linear animation, short-form social media, video game content, and analogous digital experiences. work.

Alex Player will be Singapore’s first feature-length animated series to be produced in real-time. Seng said that IMDA sees the value of technology as a key driver for productivity in content creation, and the government agency has provided financial support to Scrawl Animation to build infrastructure for production and training. This has allowed the company to act as a key node in Cyber ​​Group Studios’ global real-time workflow.

There is a growing maturity in the roles that Singapore studios and media professionals can negotiate for major international collaborations, with many prominent creative roles. Jeevan Nathan, secretary of the Association of Independent Manufacturers of Singapore (AIPRO), said: “It is really moving from a Made in Singapore mindset to a Made by / with Singapore mindset.

“We see it as a chicken and egg scenario. For international partners who see Singapore as a viable and exciting destination for their products or even want to consume our content, they must first know what we are,” explains Nathan. . “That is where IMDA and AIPRO members have succeeded, becoming advocates for building international relationships through grants, programs or work-for-hire.”

Nathan adds: “As the partnership grows stronger and more established, that will allow our local content and local players to be seen as more comprehensive ads across the web. world school.”

Mike Wiluan, CEO of Infinite Studios, says that IMDA grants support between 20 and 30 percent of the cost of the shows he has produced. His media producer owns sound systems in Singapore and Batam, Indonesia, and Wiluan has worked on projects like HBO’s Westworld Part 3 and Grisse. IMDA funding allows him to obtain equity in projects and thus, retain creative freedom and intellectual property rights. These conditions are a top priority for him now as a storyteller, after one of the shows he was working on for a major international network was not renewed due to sudden leadership change.

The Crazy Rich Asians The Singapore co-producer found the right project in Losmen Melati, a horror series created in partnership with Taiwan OTT streaming platform CATCHPLAY. Directed by Willuan Losmen Melati with Indonesian co-director Billy Christian. Currently in post-production, the series will be released on the platform in the first quarter of 2023, with CATCHPLAY handling distribution in Taiwan and Indonesia, and Singapore’s Clover Films distributing for the sequel. the rest of Southeast Asia.

“The opportunity for Singaporean manufacturers and innovators is opening up for everyone who wants to come to Singapore because of its organizational capacity, transparency, business openness and alignment with its dynamics,” said Wiluan. world. “There is an opportunity here to branch out and not only see Singapore as a market, but Singapore as the hub where germination, ideation, management, financing and marketing are packaged.”

Wiluan spent the early years of his career as a producer (and frequent collaborator) on indie films by renowned Singaporean filmmaker Eric Khoo, such as Stand by Me and My Magic. Acknowledging that the high cost of production in Singapore remains a major challenge, Wiluan is a big advocate for Singaporeans opening their creative networks abroad, where creativity can be unleashed and also economically profitable. finance.

“Singapore is not an easy place to make films because of the cost and resources. But that’s where Singaporean filmmakers are also willing to push the boundaries, because they have government support and a very competitive environment,” said Wiluan, who has founded Infinite Studios in both Singapore and Batam. , Indonesia said. “There is another new opportunity where Singaporeans can look beyond the shores of Singapore and [still] seek support from the Singapore government… You can make Singapore movies in Indonesia. They can make different films in Thailand, and still make the film from the point of view of the Singaporean narrator, director or producer.”

Another homegrown media company that recently pivoted to take on the lead creative role on international productions is Mocha Chai Laboratories. “From the very beginning with Mocha Chai, I have always positioned us as the host and producer for the region. We are well aware that streaming platforms in general are not looking for Singaporean content, nor are they targeting the Singapore market,” said Michelle Chang, co-founder of Mocha Chai Labs. “When we develop an idea, it is always for Asia. It’s been proven that as long as it’s a fresh and unique idea, streaming platforms will appeal to us.”

Founded in 2012 as a store post-production house – and the only Dolby Atmos and Dolby Vision certified facility in Singapore – Mocha Chai Labs has expanded into development and manufacturing content in May 2019.

Chang says the pandemic has reinforced the importance of the company stepping up its content development and diversifying its services, as Covid-19 shuts down production (and thus, post-production). Currently, Chang is the host and producer for Venus On Mars, a six-part sci-fi romantic comedy series made in partnership with South Korean entertainment giant CJ ENM’s office in Hong Kong.

Venus on Mars features Taiwanese and Singaporean actors, with Taiwanese producer Phil Tang on board and CJ ENM handling worldwide distribution. Chang says she also has a project in Thailand in development, with another being negotiated with a streaming platform.

The Mocha Chai Lab will be present at the upcoming MIPCOM (October 17-20), along with 16 other Singaporean media companies in the delegation co-led by IMDA and AIPRO. At the annual TV market in Cannes, Singapore companies will showcase more than 460 hours of storytelling from Singapore and Asia, across more than 60 titles.

For many in the Singapore delegation, this MIPCOM will be the first official publication since the pandemic and an important opportunity to reconnect with international business partners. “We need to go back to it again because this is a very tactile industry,” says Wiluan. “There are so many new strategies and so many companies have changed the way they look and how they fund. Some of them, before the pandemic, switched to higher budgets [productions] and now, post-pandemic, there are discussions about the metaverse, content creation, gamification, post-content content, monetization, and how IP moves across multiple streams. “

Chang from Mocha Chai Labs will be looking for collaborators, investors and writers at MIPCOM. “Ever since we started making original content, producers from the US and Japan have approached us to represent them,” says Chang.

Singapore will also soon host the ninth edition of the Singapore Media Festival from November 24 to December 11, which will highlight some of Asia’s best content, while providing a platform and opportunity. connections for professionals. The 18-day festival includes events such as the Singapore International Film Festival (SGIFF), the Asia Television Forum & Market (ATF) and Screen Singapore (SS).

Justin Ang, assistant managing director at IMDA, said: “Singapore has a vibrant media market that welcomes partners globally to work with our media companies to produce quality content. for an international audience. “The shows with Singapore-produced content shown at MIPCOM demonstrate our ambition and strong capacity in co-production, making us the partner of choice for platforms and MNCs (multinational corporations). We look forward to having more partners join us on this journey to create more innovation stories together.”


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