Singapore is making moves to put itself more squarely in the center of the Asia Business World. It is cohosting new weekly TV program with the BBC featuring discussions with democratic governments in the region, and ScreenSingapore, which is backed by the government's Media Development Authority, has recently attracted 700 delegates to its three-day film market, the focal point of the weeklong event (its original target was 500, it said). The western press has not covered this event as much as the Asian press except for Variety who cohosted the Winston Baker Film Financing Forum @ ScreenSingapore.
With China building more and more theaters in glitzy shopping malls it is estimated that in 5 years it will have 60,000 screens and will be the second largest market after U.S. In conjunction with its digitization, content will be needed and U.S. majors are gearing up for coproduction. At the moment only 20 "foreign" films a year are allowed into China and co-production problems include strict censorsorshipin this tough-to-crack China market, the world’s fastest growing, where box office rose 64 percent in 2010 to hit $1.5 billion.
Though they say too is changing, China and its business and government operations remain enigmatic and difficult for westerners to fathom. Hong Kong offers some mutual familiarity and certainly understands film production. And Singapore is working hard to place itself, with English language as its official language and its thoroughly modern infrastructure, as the base for Western entry into Asia. The following 4 blogs come out of the Asian press and give a very interesting picture of the issues raised at ScreenSingapore.
Winston Baker had one of its ubiquitous Film Financing Forum its inaugural Film Finance Forum @ ScreenSingapore in association with Variety on June 7, 2011 during the week of ScreenSingapore 2011. (It will also be hosting one in Moscow later this month during the time of the MIFF.) As Asian companies increasingly participate at international film markets, this conference's aim is provide strategies to bolster continued growth for this region of the world by addressing film finance, production, distribution, and digital innovation and Singapore is making a bid to be the jumping off point for western businesses working in Asia. It's clean, well organized, its phones work and it is digital.
From AsiaOne IN ORDER for Singapore's budding film industry to gain attention in the global market, film-makers here need to make movies that cater to the world, said American film producer Jon Landau.The affable film veteran, known for producing the blockbusters Titanic (1997) and Avatar (2009), said movies with relatable, universal themes are key. Landau, 50, said he saw "a couple" of Singapore films when he visited Singapore 21/2 years ago. While he does not remember their titles, what struck him was that they were "very Singapore culture-centric".
"I think film-makers in Singapore have to not just think: 'How do I make films for Singaporeans?', but 'how do I make it for a universal audience?'," Jon Landau added.
Still, he said, Singapore has a lot going for it. Its melting-pot culture, easy access to other countries, advanced technology as well as its proficiency in the English language makes it a perfect gateway to connect Western and Eastern countries in the film business.
Industry experts have already noted Asia's important position in the global film industry. But how can Singapore's film industry make itself known in Asia, and even to the juggernaut known as Hollywood? And how can it hope to one day compete against the larger movie- making machine?
Hong Kong director Gordon Chan might just have the answer. Chan, who is here to promote his in-the-works fantasy action film Mural (ISA: Golden Network), said that making movies that are different and express the Chinese culture is his way of gaining attention in Hollywood.
At a press conference, Chan – known for Painted Skin (2008) and Fist Of Legend (1994), the Jet Li movie which inspired the likes of The Matrix directors the Wachowski brothers, who subsequently hired Fist's Chinese action choreographer, Yuen Woo-ping, for the fight scenes in their 1999 movie – said Chinese films have "special characteristics which can be creatively emphasised".
That is why he decided to use special effects that simulate the look of a watercolour painting in his mythical film, Mural.
"If our opponent is Hollywood, what can we use or do in our films to compete with them and express our own culture as well?"
"(In Mural), using this watercolour-painting format is the strongest way to do so... It is a very special part of the traditional Eastern culture."
One thing's for certain – Singapore has the ambition and drive to go further.
Director Zhang Qi, who was in town to attend the gala premiere of his thriller, The Devil Inside Me, with actress Anya Wu on Sunday, said that "Singapore is not a big country, but with so many people loving film, it is highly possible that it will establish itself as a force to be reckoned with".
Still, Landau said that "you can't expect a country with a population one sixth (that of) Los Angeles to become a film capital". But, he added, you can expect great films to emerge – films which play to a broad audience.
Indeed, Singapore cinema is making inroads in the West. Director Eric Khoo's first animated movie, Tatsumi, premiered at Cannes' Un Certain Regard this year. It is his second appearance at the acclaimed festival.
Tatsumi by Eric Khoo, ISA: The Match Factory
And Boo Junfeng's Sandcastle (ISA: Fortissimo) screened at the festival's International Critics' Week in May last year.
Sandcastle by Boo Junfeng, ISA: Fortissimo
Singapore actors haven't been neglected in Hollywood, either: Gwendoline Yeo – former foreign minister George Yeo's niece – has had roles in dramas like Desperate Housewives and General Hospital, while Chin Han appeared in The Dark Knight and 2012.
Still, home-grown director Royston Tan said that, in Singapore, more can be done for local film-makers.
"We need stronger support from the Government for the local film base, just like in South Korea, which built up its film industry because it has a successful festival (the annual Busan International Film Festival) which promotes the country's own films (as well as those from the region)," he said.
The Busan film fest is known for introducing works by first- time directors, as well as new films.
Only when films from Singapore get nods on home ground will film-makers be able to prove to the world that they can go further, he added.
For more on ScreenSingapore events, visit www.screensingapore.com.sg