SERANGOON ROAD

City state points to factual entertainment strengths

SINGAPORE – These days film and TV rights are traded year round on and off-market. But Singapore is hoping that its producers and distributors have home field advantage at the Asia Television Forum and ScreenSingapore conventions that run through this week (Dec. 3-6, 2013).

The message from the government’s film and TV industry promo organization the Media Development Authority is that Singapore content travels well and that the city state is a facilitator at a crossroads between East and West.

The major example this year of the kind of strategic collaborations with international partners that the MDA is so proud of is “Serangoon Road,” the debut original series for HBO Asia, for which MDA provided production assistance.

It was made as a collaboration with the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, shot in Singapore and neighboring Indonesia and employed some 80 Singaporeans behind and in front of the camera. The UK’s ContentFilm International is responsible for overseas sales.

Another is the Public Service Broadcast-funded Channel U production “Lost & Found,” featuring Singapore’s Jessica Liu and popular Taiwanese child star Xiao Xiao Bin and Taiwanese idol James Wen Sheng Hao. It has been broadcast on free-to-air telecast in Taiwan and on cable TV in Taiwan and Malaysia. It has also been picked up by China Central Television (CCTV).

“What Singapore does best are documentaries and factual entertainment,” says Yeo Chun Cheng, assistant chief executive (industry) at the MDA. “And there is strength in formats, both new and adapted ones.”

While the country’s statistics department does not show data for the value of TV content imports and exports and the MDA also says it does not have relevant data either, some patterns do emerge.

“Documentaries are an international product, formats and drama are more Asian. And TV is always bigger than film,” says Yeo. “We’ve had accolades recently for films such as ‘Ilo Ilo’ and Jack Neo’s ‘Ah Boys To Men,’ but the reality is that they have taken years of work. The TV guys know how to monetize things better than film, which doesn’t get the same kind of traction.”

If the import and export data are lacking, Singapore can point to a growing role in co-productions, which anyway may not show up as cross-border trade because each party can consider the co-produced show or movie as locally made.

Singapore has five international co-production treaties — with Australia, Canada, New Zealand, China and South Korea — which have been used to underpin some 20 projects, from documentaries and animation series to feature films.

Singapore’s language skills are an asset that may come into play more as China exerts a bigger influence in future in the region.

“At the MDA we are language agnostic, and if there is more Chinese-language production going on, I doubt that it is a reflection of the government’s ‘Speak Mandarin’ campaign. Rather it may be a market-driven trend and that that producers are seeing the opportunity in the region,” says Yeo. “Many of our production companies are multilingual.”

Another ‘multi’ that fits well with the Singapore way of doing things is multimedia.

Large sums have been spent over the years turning Singapore into a center for high-tech processing industries such as oil refining of computer chip manufacturing. Developing a multimedia or transmedia entertainment sector is arguably the service-industry equivalent.

Singapore TV producers are getting better at including transmedia capabilities which extend their shows’ IP and brand value, while the massively high smart phone penetration and fast internet connections make Singapore a good test bed for interactive content.

WaWa extended some of its TV shows into DVDs and books like “Food Hometown,” “Diminishing Horizon” and “Fun Learning.” The interactive elements in Refinery Media’s “Supermodelme” reality show earned it a Digital Emmy nomination.

Singapore content to look out for at ATF 2013
“Boomtown Asia,” Beach House Pictures, Factual (science & engineering), 8 x 30 mins

“Brainstorm (Singapore Edition),” MyChinaChannel, factual (business & finance) 2 X 60 mins

“Budaya 360,” Media Reel, Info-tainment, 16 x 24 mins

“Halal Galore – China,” Monstrou Studio, food travelogue, 1 x 23 mins

“Home,” August Pictures, Documentary (architecture, housing), 10 x 30 mins

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