Their Giraffe Pictures will produce a slate including N.K. Rajagopal’s long-awaited debut feature, “A Yellow Bird,” selected at the Cannes L’Atelier in 2013; Kirsten Tan’s debut feature “Popeye,” which won the top prize at the Torino Film Lab last month; and the debut feature of Tan Shijie, another up and coming talent, whose shorts have competed in Venice and Busan.
The pair say that the new Singapore-based outfit will nurture and develop new voices in Singapore and the Southeast Asia, focusing on quality talent and content, and produce one to two films per year. Chen will serve as executive producer on all its projects. Giraffe will also be the production label for all of Chen’s own filmmaking projects in Asia.
Chen, who is based in London, is separately developing several U.K. projects and is also being actively courted for a number of Hollywood projects.
Giraffe’s first project is “Distance,” a previously announced omnibus feature with young directors from Singapore (Tan Shijie), China (Xin Yukun) and Thailand (Sivaroj Kongsakul). Starring Taiwanese actor Chen Bolin (“Blue Gate Crossing,” “The Continent”), the film will begin principal photography in January, filming in Singapore, Taiwan, China and Thailand. It is a collaboration with China’s Guangxi Film Group.
“Financing will be tailored individually to each project using sources from around Southeast Asia or perhaps China. What we are looking for is like-minded investors for each,” Chen told Variety. “My first concern is about supporting the directors and helping them to make the films they want to make. This is definitely not slate funding, which then comes with all sorts of commercial expectations.”
Chen, who previously won a prize at Cannes for his short film “Grandma,” was bruised by the difficulties he encountered in trying to make his first feature. At last year’s Asian Television Forum he gave a lecture using “Ilo Ilo” as a case study of how young filmmakers have to give up their rights in order to get into production. “Ilo Ilo” went on to win the Camera d’Or for best film at Cannes in 2013 and amassed some 40 other prizes.
“Having experienced the struggles of a young filmmaker while making my first feature, it has always been my intention to set up a home to support young visionary filmmakers in the region. Asia is brimming with exciting filmmaking talent at the moment, and we are hoping that Giraffe Pictures would provide the platform and opportunities for such emerging voices to be heard. We are stressing rigorous development on script, with a focus on quality over quantity, eventually building a brand that is synonymous to the best of Asian cinema,” Chen said in a statement.