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Singapore IMDA Chief Explains New Initiatives

After taking office in January, Tan Kiat How, CEO of Singapore’s Infocomm Media Development Authority spoke to Variety at the Singapore Media Festival. He discussed new initiatives and the performance of existing ones.

Variety: What new initiatives the IMDA has launched in the film and TV space? What is it planning to launch?

Tan Kiat How, IMDA: “We are actively working to upskill Singapore’s media talent, and open new opportunities for them to create content for global audiences and digital platforms through collaborations with industry partners such as HBO Asia and Discovery Networks Asia-Pacific. For example, two VR short films by Singapore companies have been commissioned and will be the first in Asia to premiere to international audiences on Discovery’s VR app, which has drawn over 4 million downloads and over 141 million global views to date.

“We are also stepping up efforts to harness the potential of digital platforms and new technologies to keep public service content fresh and innovative for Singaporean audiences. IMDA is supporting local filmmakers to produce original public service content delivered over local video entertainment platform Viddsee. Together with the national broadcaster Mediacorp, IMDA launched a Content Development Fund to provide seed funding for innovative pilot concepts, and to encourage experimentation with new content formats such as the use of augmented and virtual reality.

“IMDA is also working with Mediacorp to boost its pipeline of Toggle Originals.

Variety: The IMDA announced the Story Lab initiative in 2016. What has been the progress on this and what media projects have been greenlit from scripts arising from the initiative?

Tan Kiat How: “Storytelling is at the heart of all good content, and that is why IMDA set up the Story Lab initiative. One of the programs is called WritersLab, which took place in collaboration with Lasalle College of the Arts from January to March.

“Guided by Emmy-nominated project director, Shari Goodhartz, eight participants developed original story ideas, and were matched with production houses to pitch their ideas. Three of the best projects have been selected for production on Mediacorp’s Toggle. The titles are ‘The Last Madame of Temple Street’ by Adeline Foo and Ochre Pictures; ‘Senior Management’ by Mickey Lin and Sitting in Pictures; and ‘No Catalogue’ by Wong Oi Shan and Onedash 22.”

Variety: How is IMDA encouraging developing the next generation of content creators?

Tan Kiat How: “By building communities and promoting a cross-pollination of ideas and expertise.
“To do this, IMDA set up Pixel Studios which provides a place for digital content creators and media professionals to meet with like-minded people from diverse backgrounds. We work with established industry partners, such as Dailymotion, Ubisoft, Disney’s Maker Studios and Discovery to host programs to upskill talent and facilitate learning and collaboration. Also under the PIXEL umbrella, IMDA runs PIXEL labs which provides physical lab spaces for promising and innovating Singapore-based tech start-ups, individuals and companies to generate new ideas, build prototypes and test proof-of-concepts. As of the beginning of this year, PIXEL Labs has supported over 60 start-ups to build prototypes, and hosted over 1,000 tech workshops, meet-up and events.”

“IMDA also creates platforms like the Singapore Media Festival to bring together creative talent from across the region to learn about the latest trends and discover new opportunities for business and collaboration.”

Variety: New guidelines on the procurement of services from media freelancers were recently announced. What is the rationale behind this?

Tan Kiat How: “The media industry is powered by talent, and freelancers form an important part of the workforce. IMDA launched the Tripartite Standard on the Procurement of services from Media Freelancers, which outlines key practices that aims to promote a stronger working relationship between companies and media freelancers.”

“We believe this is an important step in supporting the growth of our media sector, and are making a strong push for companies to adopt the standard. As such, from 1 April 2018, companies which wish to apply for IMDA’s grants have to adopt the standard. Mediacorp will also adopt the standard and implement the same criteria in their commissioning process. Companies like regional broadcaster HBO Asia and our local production houses such as Sitting In Pictures and Weiyu Films have been very supportive of the initiative, and have pledged to adopt the standard. We hope to get more media companies on-board.”

Variety: What is your personal vision for the sector’s development?

Tan Kiat How: “The infocomm media sector is a bright spot in Singapore’s future economy, and is expected to grow at a value-added rate of 6% annually, almost twice as fast as Singapore’s overall economy. The ICM sector is also expected to create more than 13,000 new jobs by 2020.”

“The Infocomm Media (ICM) Industry Transformation Map (ITM) sets out to unlock the opportunities that technology and digitalization can bring. We are doing this through three key thrusts.”

“First, by investing and building capabilities in frontier technologies such as artificial intelligence, data analytics, cybersecurity, immersive media and Internet of things.”

“Secondly, by strengthening the core of the ICM sector and preparing the next generation of ICM professionals and companies for future job roles and business opportunities. Third, by guiding companies and the workforce from other sectors in adopting technology to improve productivity and efficiency.”

“Our goal is for every business to be a digital business, for every worker to be powered by technology, and ultimately, for Singapore to be a great place to do business and live in. The Infocomm Media Industry Transformation Map is not just about the technological advancements, but rather how we can harness them to improve our lives and businesses.”

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