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Malaysia lures lensing

If you come, you will learn. That’s Malaysia’s approach to becoming a film-friendly production destination.

Dr. Leo Michael Toyad, Malaysia’s minister of tourism, led a team of his government’s officials in a fact-finding Q&A roundtable recently with Hollywood filmmakers and location managers at the Four Seasons Hotel in Los Angeles.

Malaysia’s entourage encouraged feedback on how to streamline bureaucracy and ensure security for filmmakers considering its scenic and historical landscapes.

Politically stable since its independence in 1957, Malaysia’s government is based on British law with a written Constitution to govern its multiethnic population.

As a result, filmmakers can call on Malaysian officials to facilitate problems with customs and immigration for work visas, permits and logistics — a system still in need of improvement — until a film office is established.

TV producer Mark Burnett, having shot “Eco Challenge” and “Survivor” in Malaysia, was on hand to laud and decry his experiences: He cited the great backdrops, concentration of wildlife and impressive underwater filming while expressing concern for more government guarantees regarding safety. He concluded he would gladly film there again.

Malaysia expanded its learning curve by joining the Assn. of Film Commissioners Intl. in 1998 and is looking to Australia for its film and TV incentives’ model.

Kuala Lumpur, the best laid-out city in the world, according to Burnett, is part of the Multimedia Super Corridor, a project begun in 1996 by Malaysia’s Multimedia Development Corp. to create an infrastructure for technological innovations and applications. MSC also offers exemptions from normal customs restrictions.

Censorship needn’t be a concern of the filmmaker unless his product is screened in Malaysia. Films lensed wholly or in part include “Anna and the King,” “Entrapment,” “Paradise Road” and “Police Story II.”

Malaysian officials are also taking their fact-finding tour to New York and Vancouver.

* * *

Stone Five Studios, owner of HaleStorm Entertainment, has decided to expand its Mormon-based film niche to include more general audience family fare with the building of a new Utah studio.

The studio hopes to lure filmmakers with a new incentives bill signed by Governor Huntsman that went into effect July 1. House Bill 17, a post-performance rebate returning 10% for every dollar spent in Utah, allocates $1 million for the 2006 fiscal year for filming in the state.

“The studio will have all the accommodations available to serve as a base camp for any major production,” said Dave Hunter, Stone Five Studios’ CEO and president of HaleStorm Entertainment. “We’re excited about building a studio that will not only provide local filmmakers with the necessary resources for film and video production but will also help entice out-of-state filmmakers to shoot their movies here.”

HaleStorm, founded in 2001 by entrepreneurial friends Dave Hunter, Kurt Hale and George Dayton, morphed into their newest venture, Stone Five Studios, which also boasts established distribution channels through many of the leading theater chains, DVD rental and retail outlets.

New facility, which broke ground June 6, will be an estimated 42,000-square-foot site built on three acres in the Riverwoods area of Provo, Utah. Completion is expected in November.

Complex will feature two fully equipped film and TV soundstages and a state-of-the-art recording studio featuring a Foley stage and band accommodations. Several video editing suites, including fiber-optic networked editing systems, a high-end compositing station and full HD editing capabilities, will be housed in the studio as well.

“With Stone Five’s film studio and the recent addition of the incentive fund for filmmakers, the state will have greater success enticing more filmmakers and producers to shoot in Utah than in previous years,” said Leigh Von der Esch, director of the Office of Tourism.

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