Filmmakers’ track records and strong content are the prerequisite triggers for Southeast Asian producers to invest in regional independent cinema. That was the strong message conveyed at a panel discussion organized as part of the Singapore International Film Festival’s South East Asian Producers Network on Sunday.
Producer, Shanty Harmayn (“The Dancer”,) chief executive of Indonesia’s Base Entertainment, moderated. The panelists included fellow producers Lee Sangchul (TV’s“Clean With Passion For Now”) of C47 Investment, a Singapore-incorporated company that invests mainly in Korean content; Nathan Gunawan of Singapore-Indonesian outfit Phoenix Films (“Posesif,” “Aruna And Her Palate”); and Chayamporn Taeratanachai of Thailand’s Cinema22 (“Samui Song,” “By The Time It Gets Dark”).
“Samui Song” was directed by arthouse veteran Pen-Ek Ratanaruang. Prior to directing “By The Time It Gets Dark,” director Anocha Suwichakornpong had considerable global festival exposure and awards for her earlier films including at Cannes, Busan, the Golden Horse and Rotterdam, where she won the Tiger for “Mundane History.”
“It is much easier with Pen-Ek and Anocha,” Taeratanachai said. “One of the factors to consider while investing in films is the track record of the director. It helps quite a lot for investors to set the budget.” Taeratanachai said that “Samui Song,” had funding from Norway’s Sorfond and Berlin’s World Cinema Fund and support from Thailand’s Ministry of Culture. “By The Time It Gets Dark” had a grant from the Doha Film Institute and the Thai government support.
For emerging filmmakers, Taeratanachai suggested building a track record with short films. That is what Suwichakornpong did with her first short “Graceland,” which was a Cinefondation Award nominee at Cannes.
Phoenix has a deal with Indonesia’s Palari Films, where it provides at least 20% of the budget at an early stage, in order to get the project rolling. The percentage was more than 50% for “Posesif.”
“Our goal is always to do films that are commercial, but with quality,” said Gunawan. “People will watch it in the cinemas. They are not super independent, but still independent. If you tell a story that is compelling enough, that people relate to, people will show up.” Describing “Posesif” as a “love story with a tinge of darkness,” Gunawan said that the film had done well at the Indonesian box office and that it resonated especially with teenagers.
At C47, the focus so far has been on creating content for Korea. The company has produced several television shows and two stage plays. It also runs web-novel and web-toon contests, with a view to discovering and acquiring IP. The long-term idea is to produce content from around the region, not just Korea. Meanwhile, development is under way for a feature film, a thriller, based on a Korean novel where the title translates as “House With A Garden.” Principal photography has been penciled in for June 2019.