Southeast Asian content commissioning powerhouses congregated at the Singapore International Film Festival to discuss the kind of content they are looking for at a panel discussion titled ‘Producing Stories in Southeast Asia’.

“Come to us with a project that you believe in and don’t worry about what the broadcaster wants,” said Garon De Silva, director of original productions at Singapore-headquartered HBO Asia.

De Silva was joined on the panel by Najwa Abu Bakar, VP at Malaysia’s Astro Shaw, and Daphne Yang, executive director at Taiwan’s Catchplay. The packed audience consisted mostly of regional content creators.

Astro Shaw recently invested in Mouly Surya’s “Marlina the Murderer in Four Acts” and Jenny Suen and Christopher Doyle’s “The White Girl”, both playing at SGIFF. Previously, it invested in Apichatpong Weerasethakul’s “Cemetery of Splendor.” HBO Asia has commissioned a slew of originals including “Halfworlds” and “Serangoon Road.” Catchplay had a stake in the Taiwanese remake of Korea’s “Miss Granny,” co-financed “Assassin’s Creed” and “The Revenant” and was a co-producer on Martin Scorsese’s Japan-set, Taiwanese-made “Silence.”

“For the past two years, we have noticed that audiences are moving beyond the action genre and looking for more challenging fare. We are looking for impactful films that are told differently. Apart from finance, we can contribute through distribution, positioning and marketing,” said Yang.

“We want to make films that have a unique voice, like ‘Cemetery’ and ‘Marlina’,” said Abu Bakar. “We are looking for Malay films that travel. The biggest domestic Malay films don’t travel, sometimes not even to Singapore. Sometimes you have to support smaller films with a message. We want to participate in good storytelling.”

The panelists said their doors are open, even to newcomers. A script or a treatment, accompanied by a plan for the film’s road map ahead, will help get meetings with the funders. So too, will a sizzle reel. “If directors approach us with funding plans, it shows how vested they are in it,” said Abu Bakar. Yang also said that pre-selling a project in the right condition, can further help, as it reduces the risk for all the involved parties.