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Southeast Asian Companies Make Their Mark at FILMART Online 2021

Virtual market’s attendees and exhibitors finding unexpected opportunities as the world adjusts to pandemic restrictions

Courtesy of HKTDC
Courtesy of HKTDC

Even though the protracted COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted the film and TV industry all over the world in serious ways, it has also uncovered unexpected possibilities as viewers and content buyers adapt to the new normal.

One of the largest content markets in Asia, the Hong Kong International Film & TV Market (FILMART), will include exhibitors and buyers from Southeast Asian countries which have now gotten used to virtual markets and are embracing the new status quo with their presence at FILMART Online 2021, set to be held virtually from March 15 to March 18.

The Philippines’ GMA Network, one of the country’s largest free-to-air broadcasters and a frequent exhibitor at FILMART, is determined to use the online platform to its advantage.

“The network aims to establish business relationships and partnerships with content distributors and aggregators in the new normal, as well as open viewer-rich regions that are difficult to penetrate,” says Roxanne J. Barcelona, vice president for Worldwide Division of GMA Network, Inc. “We hope to further strengthen our content distribution and format sales, enter into co-production deals with international companies and bring GMA content to more countries and platforms around the world.”

GMA’s slate features several original series, including anthology “I Can See You.” The five-episode series tells four stories, all fully captured from camera-equipped devices such as drones, cellphones and surveillance cameras. This perspective emphasizes the human curiosity to observe others through lenses and shows that cameras often capture moments that our eyes fail to see. Stars include Alden Richards (“Hello, Love, Goodbye”), Jennylyn Mercado (Philippine remake of “My Love From the Star”) and Dennis Trillo (“One Great Love”).

Regarding their outlook for an impending post-pandemic world, Barcelona adds, “We expect the further phenomenal growth in streaming video services, both SVOD and AVOD, to continue in 2021, without eroding the value of linear programming in traditional free and pay TV in Asia. Also, there will be more short limited series due to restrictions in production activities under the new normal. Finally, we see more partnerships and co-production deals taking place among key players in the industry in order to produce quality content for specific platforms.”

Shierly Kosasih, representative for Indonesia’s MNC Media — which owns four free-to-air television networks in the country — has a similarly optimistic outlook about the current state of the industry. “The pandemic has actually opened up new opportunities from around the world. Thanks to market events that are being held online, we can still connect to the other side of the globe despite the inability to travel and meet physically,” says Kosasih, head of MNC’s contents and licensing. “We have seen an increase in inquiries about travel and lifestyle programs in addition to popular formats, such as drama series, movies as well as kids’ programs such as animation.”

However, the centerpiece of MNC’s slate is “Ranah 3 Warna,” a coming-of-age film based on the hugely popular novel of the same name. The film was completed in summer 2020 but its domestic theatrical release has been delayed indefinitely due to the pandemic, even though theaters are open in some regions of the country.

Branching out of Southeast Asia to Hong Kong and Taiwan, Singapore-based MM2 Entertainment will be at FILMART Online 2021 with several pan-Asian Chinese-language projects. The company’s latest slate includes “Do the Right Thing” by Taiwan’s Chen Tapu. Currently in post-production, the romance drama stars Lee Sinje (“The Garden of Evening Mists”), Kai Ko (“The Road to Mandalay”) and Lee Kang-sheng (“Days”).

In addition to individual companies, the Film Development Council of the Philippines, Content Thailand and Finas (Malaysia) will also be present at FILMART Online 2021 with virtual pavilions to promote foreign co-production opportunities as well as the latest projects by companies from their countries.

Catching up to the latest trends in the industry, the expert panels and keynote talks at Hong Kong’s FILMART Online 2021 will spotlight how content creators on various mediums should leverage the rapidly expanding streaming landscape.

  • David Simonsen, HBO GO lead and WarnerMedia Asia’s senior VP of business and digital distribution, Kuek Yu-Chuang, iQIYI’s VP for international business, and Kazufumi Nagasawa, managing director & chief content officer of Hulu Japan, will exchange insights in a discussion panel on the future of Asia’s OTT platforms, sharing their content production and acquisition strategies for respective focus markets.
  • Representatives from Asia’s documentary advocator CNEX; Canadian publicly funded cable network Knowledge Network; U.S.-based documentary production outfit Roller Coaster Road Productions; and multinational pay-TV network Discovery will discuss how documentary creators and producers can take advantage of audiences’ increasing appetite for documentaries on VOD platforms as the industry anticipates its most profitable period yet.
  • There will also be a panel discussion featuring representatives from leading content creator Fremantle Indonesia, Korea’s Munhwa Broadcasting Corporation and China’s Hunan TV on selling TV formats across borders and creating co-production opportunities.