No business like showbiz

  • SME
  • Tuesday, 23 Sep 2014

Father figure: Teo (in check shirt) enjoys good rapport with his work force.

Millionaire film producer David Teo Chew Huat of Metrowealth International Group (MIG) believes in being hands-on with everything he does, be it producing film, acting, singing or writing. Little wonder then, after 14 years in the industry, he is the most successful local film producer around.

Almost all his movies have been box office hits locally, collecting over RM1mil at the box office. According to a report in 2012, the total gross takings for all movies screened in Malaysia totalled RM108mil. Of that total MIG took in 22.2% of total or RM24 mil.

Teo’s most successful movie to-date, Kongsi, made history by being the first local production to exceed RM1mil in box office takings on its first day of screening. Ngangkung chalked up RM8.4mil for its entire run — one of the biggest box office takings in Malaysia.

Yet, Teo is far from content. He aims to produce at least 20 movies a year and has big plans up his sleeve.

Big success

“Saying it may be easy, but making movies is not a piece of cake. Filmmaking is a risky and challenging business because it involves different stages, departments, artists and business people. The business aspect aside, managing and interacting with creative people is a real challenge. With creative people, even when they promise you something, it’s not 100%t sure they will commit because they are like that,” said the businessman and strategist who has produced more than 100 movies since he started in the film business in 2000 with Syukur 21.

Teo attributes his success to the great team he has. MIG is now a multi-million dollar TV and movie company with a work force of 80 full-time and 40 contract employees, all housed in Wisma Metrowealth, Petaling Jaya,which he acquired for RM3.5mil in 2010.

“We work like one big family and work hard for 10 months while the remaining two months are reserved for festive celebrations,” said MIG’s CEO, who believes in feng shui.

In fact, Teo made sure he and his team moved into Wisma Metrowealth at 10am on Oct 10 . The building is now estimated to be worth RM9mil.

Despite the apparent success, Teo admits he had his share of failures such as closing down a chain of restaurants, an electrical business and other business ventures. He also experienced big movie flops like Syukur 21, No Problem and Mendam Berahi but Teo was far from discouraged.

Syukur 21 may have been a flop, but it won the Jury Award at the 14th Malaysian Film Festival for Best Visual Effects. That inspired me to improve my marketing strategy and slowly learn the art of filmmaking.

Aside from managing MIG and its subsidiaries, Teo also is involved directly in producing films.
Aside from managing MIG and its subsidiaries, Teo also is involved directly in producing films.

“The few things I learnt from my mistakes is never indulge in a business where you have no expertise and never put hope on others to bring in the money for you because that will never happen.

“Since I was very busy with my film business, I couldn’t spend time on my other businesses. All businesses require commitment, something that I failed to see to. You must also be prepared to lose money in the first one year,” said the 49-year-old businessman.

Different genres

Teo now focuses on businesses related to TV and film making via Metrowealth Movies Production (MMP), MIG Records, MIG Sound, MIG Talent, MIG Publishing and Metrowealth Cinema.

All these subsidiaries are involved in the different aspects of movie making such as talent and transport management, leasing of film equipment, post-production (sound engineering, editing and directing) and distribution (advertising, promotions and marketing).

Metrowealth Cinema now has eight cineplexes in Kajang, Kuching and Alor Setar.

Teo (second from left) with singer Cat Farish (extreme left). They duet in Kacang, which made waves and enjoyed frequent airplays.
Teo (second from left) recorded the rap song 'Kacang' with singer Cat Farish (extreme right). The song has been enjoying frequent airplay.

“I have discovered it is better to get involved in movie-related businesses as I can save cost, time and be competitive.

“Once you concentrate on a core business, you can make faster expansion plans with higher profit. There is also better control as you can detect the weaknesses faster if all the subsidiaries are under one roof,” said Teo, who also acts and sings.

His song, Kacang, which he recorded with Cat Farish and Fiza Ibrahim, has been making waves and enjoys frequent airplay.

Since MIG produces movie in genres ranging from religious, romantic to horror, many have branded Teo’s movies as trashy, but he is far from perturbed.

“I make movies for the masses, not syok sendiri (for my on pleasure). I want to make sure my movies make money and movie fans are entertained.

“I have to think about how to sell my movies so that I can produce the next movie and not close shop. I know what the majority Malay film audience wants to watch and that’s what I give them. I don’t care if they call my movies, trashy,” said the Segamat-born entrepreneur who has eight siblings.

MIG’s most notable movies to-date are Remp-It, Kongsi, Ngangkung, Adnan Sempit, Lagenda Budak Setan, Syurga Cinta, Anak Mami The Movie, Jangan Pandang Belakang, Congkak, Mami Jarum, Santau, Hingga Hujung Nyawa, Jutawan Fakir and Cinta Kolestrol.

Movies aside, Teo is also keen on nurturing young talent to become directors, scriptwriters and artists.

Local talent

Teo believes in the saying that artistes are not born but created and has been nurturing leading Malaysian celebrities and award-winning actors such as Shaheizy Sam, Pierre Andre, Farid Kamil, Lisa Surihani, Maya Karin, Fizo Omar, Kamal Adli and Yana Samsudin.

“We groom budding talent and give them a chance to prove themselves. MIG gives them a platform to become actors, scriptwriters, directors and film crew.

“We have also created a range of creative opportunities. We now have an animation division to produce at least one animated movie a year,” said Teo, whose wife Jane handles the production side of MIG.

One of the aspects of the business that he has to deal with is artists who have left MIG on bad terms with him after he nurtured them. Teo says he is always open to discussion.

“It’s all part and parcel of learning. They are just like my kids. When they make mistakes, I try to reason with them. Young people are overzealous and very eager to try a lot of new things.

“My approach is simple. You have a problem, we can sit down and sort it out. I also pave the way for new scriptwriters and actors to try their talent,” said the father of four.

Many have likened Teo to be the next Run Run Shaw, the Hong Kong media mogul and philanthropist, who started the Malay film industry and established the Shaw Organisation in Malaysia.

Not content with his success, Teo is gearing up for expansion. He is working on plans to develop five acres of land in Cyberjaya into the biggest post-production studio in this region. The project is estimated to cost RM81mil.

“This is where all the action will be. This studio, which will be developed in three phases, will cater to all South-East Asian countries, minus Thailand, which is our competitor. It will be the biggest media hub in this region and should be completed in 2016,” said Teo.

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