THE local movie industry was once the market leader in the region. Malaysia produced quality content and created stars, but that was in the late 1950s to the mid-1970s.
The Malay movie scene got its first foreign recognition when the late Tan Sri Dr P. Ramlee won the Best Male Actor at the 4th Asian Film Festival in Tokyo, Japan in 1957 and Most Versatile Talent at the 10th Asian Film Festival in 1963.
The legendary Malaysian actor continued to win numerous accolades globally. Among his movies recognised on an inter-national platform were Sumpah Orang Minyak (Curse of the Oily Man), which won the Best Black and White Photography at the 5th Asian Film Festival in Manila in 1958, and Hang Tuah for its official screen-ing at the 7th Berlin International Film Festival.
Following P. Ramlee’s death, the Malaysian movie industry struggled to make an impact in the international scene.
Breaking into the international market is no easy feat. But it is not something
totally impossible as proven by KRU Studios.
Tarantella Pictures, a production company that has been around since 1995, is now following KRU’s footsteps as it attempts to market its films worldwide.
Tarantella Pictures is Malaysia’s leading entertainment film company for TV programmes and feature films.
The company is now are taking it a step further as it looks at distributing its Asian content worldwide through US-based Medient Studios.
Towards this end, Tarantella and Medient recently signed a joint venture agreement.
The five-year deal enables Tarantella and Medient Studios to jointly develop, finance, produce and distribute movies for China and the Far East Asian markets.
As part of the deal Tarantella will also act as the Southeast Asian distribution arm for Atlas International Film GmbH, which Medient acquired in 2014.
Atlas is one of the world’s oldest film distribution companies, representing more than 100 producers and 12,000 licence agreements worldwide.
Medient Studios, on the other hand, is responsible for the production and financing of more than 250 movies and has a strong regional presence in North America, Europe and India.
Tarantella is known for its local romantic drama films Ombak Rindu and Lagenda Budak Setan, which were box office hits.
The company continues to top the local box office time and time again.
“Medient has a new production facility in Effingham County, Georgia, and the 1,550-acre property is the largest production facility of its kind in the US.
“It is fully equipped with the latest technology for production and this can help raise our standards” said Tarantella Pictures managing director Sharad Sharan.
Medient Studios and Tarantella already have a number of projects in the pipeline.
Sharad said their latest project, Kilat: Tale of the Keris, is set to make an impact internationally.
“As the world turns to South-East Asia for martial arts-themed movies, we are here to cater to their needs. Kilat is a tale of brotherhood, faith and revenge that promotes silat and its philosophy,” he said.
The US$4 million project will feature some of the biggest names from Hollywood, including renowned production designer and art director Ian Bailie, who has worked in films such as Atonement, Pride & Prejudice and Reign of Fire.
Another big Hollywood name is Takamatsu Ogawa, who had composed music for motion pictures such as Back to the Future and Gothika.
Director Renu Sharan said Malaysia was blessed with an abundance of local talents.
“We worked in India and Indonesia before coming to Malaysia in 2005, and we are very happy with the talent here.
“Whether they are in front of the camera or behind it, local talents are very good. They are willing to work hard and learn,” she said.
Local talents will also benefit from Tarantella’s global expansion as Sharad recently met with Jack Waltzer, a lifetime member of the Actors Studio, and his former student, Thierry Blue-Picard.
Waltzer has trained extensively for many years with America’s foremost teachers and directors of the Stanislavsky System such as Stella Adler, Sanford Meisner, Lee Strasberg, Bobby Lewis, Uta Hagen and Elia Kazan, among others.
He has also coached veteran Hollywood professionals such as Dustin Hoffman and Roman Polanski.
Blue-Picard will also be part of Sharad’s future projects as an acting coach.
On the local front, he said, Tarantella will be releasing Lagenda Budak Setan 3 in September.
Local songstress Yuna will be singing the title number for this film. The first two movies of this series stared Farid Kamil and Maya Karin.
The Malaysian government has also been pushing for more local companies to produce quality content for worldwide audiences.
To promote this, the government provides a 30% “Film In Malaysia Incentive” for domestic and foreign works, for approved production and post-production activities, and a 30% rebate on “Qualifying Malaysian Production Expenditure” (QMPE).
Besides the financial incentives, Skim Wajib Tayang (Compulsory Screenings Scheme) was also introduced to protect and nurture the local film industry where Malaysian-made films are guaranteed space.
Hopefully, with all these incentives and local companies coming together to make better films, the Malaysian film industry will return to its glory days.