Company seeks to make Malaysia a centre for media production

A film crew shooting chefs preparing yee sang in Foh San Dim Sum restaurant on Jalan Leong Sin Nam, Ipoh.

THEY say there’s no business like show business, but why has it always been attractive to investors? For one, there is the potential for great financial reward and the business is said to be recession proof.

And that is just what Greg Coote and Leon Tan are counting on.

DragonSlate Sdn Bhd, a company set by Tan and Coote, is looking to produce world-class films and television shows locally for global audiences.

They will be doing so with the help of a RM10mil investment by Malaysia Venture Capital Management Bhd (Mavcap). In return for the investment, the venture capital company holds 10% of stake in DragonSlate.

Last year, Warner Bros Entertainment Inc, the studio that gave us Man of Steel, a Superman reboot, and

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, earned US$1.9bil (RM6.23bil) in US revenue, while its overseas haul was US$3.14bil for a total US$5.04bil, up from US$4.25bil in 2012.

The Khoo Kongsi courtyard with the clanhouse on the right, was turned into an 19th century Siamese marketplace for the shooting of the Hollywood movie “Anna and the King” in 1999.

Like Warner Bros, Walt Disney Studios had an excellent year. Disney’s revenue from international markets reached US$3.01bil, bringing its total revenue to US$4.73mil, compared to US$3.6bil in 2012. The studio’s Iron Man 3, an adaptation of the comic book hero raked in US$1.2bil for Disney and was the only movie last year take in more than US$1bil at the box office.

Meanwhile, small yellow minions and fast cars helped propel Universal Studios Inc’s global revenue to US$3.67bil compared to US$3.13bil in 2012. Despicable Me 2 grossed US$918.8mil while Fast & Furious 6 earned US$788.7mil in the box office.

However, despite the massive box office numbers, there is no secret formula for success in the movie business according to Hollywood heavyweight and film financier Coote.

“We can’t say for sure which movie would be a hit. We have to look at the genre, the producer, the director and cast of the movie. That’s the equation but the gut also gets in the way,” said Coote who had decade-long career in the film business, most recently as chairman and CEO of Dune Entertainment.

“It is also important not to fall in love with the project,” he said. During his tenure, Dune Entertainment co-financed over 60 20th Century Fox movies, including

the highest grossing movie of all time James Cameron’s Avatar.

Tan’s War of the Worlds: Goliath in 3D beat out Paranorman and Madagascar 3 in LA.

“For every 400 scripts, only one movie is made,” he added. Coote says some movies that are expected to be big blockbusters, fail once the hit big screen.

A example would be Disney’s The Lone Ranger. It was a disaster for the studio, resulting in a loss of at least US$190mil despite having one the biggest names in the business starring in it while Universal’s Fast 7 has been put on hold following Paul Walker’s tragic life-ending accident.

The uncertainty is part and parcel of being in one of the most glamourous businesses in the world, though Malaysian filmmaker and producer Tan and Coote feel the rewards are worth the calculated risk.

“We are officially developing three scripts at the moment. Two will go into production this year,” said Tan, producer of Malaysia’s award-winning 3D stereoscopic animated feature War of the Worlds: Goliath directed by Joe Pearson.

The sci-fi animated feature was recognised as the best 3D animated feature film at the Los Angeles 3D Film Festival beating out stiff competition from movies like Paranorman, Madagascar 3 and Tinker Bell: Secret of the Wings.

Tan feels that Malaysia has some of the best post- production crews around.

According to Tan, Malaysia has some of the best post-production crews in the industry. “The people we have here are almost world class,” said Tan.

He added that DragonSlate will actively engage and co-develop the Malaysian ecosystem for world-class film-making with other industry players and government initiatives including Pinewood Iskandar Malaysia Studios and Film In Malaysia Incentive Rebates.

The Government offers a 30% “Film In Malaysia Incentive” for domestic and foreign works, for approved production and post production activities.

Besides this, a 30% rebate on “Qualifying Malaysian Production Expenditure” (QMPE) is also given.

“In our business, we are it always about someone giving back something to the industry. We would like to see the Malaysian film-making industry grow as there’s plenty of potential here,” said Tan.

A film crew shooting chefs preparing yee sang in Foh San Dim Sum restaurant on Jalan Leong Sin Nam, Ipoh.

Coote echoed Tan’s comments and added, “Malaysia is a very interesting place for filmmakers. We are always looking to get value-for-money and with some of the government initiatives, I believe we can see more filmmakers and studios coming to Malaysia.”

“The US market is mature but there is still room for growth in India, China and Malaysia. We might have to import a few talents first, but it is just a matter of time when we can do it all here,” said Coote.

The future of filmmaking in Malaysia looks good with the government playing a vital role in attracting investors such as Coote.

Besides the financial incentives, Skim Wajib Tayang (Compulsory Screenings Scheme) also gives confidence to local filmmakers that their movies will be picked up by cinemas. The scheme is intended to protect and nurture the local film industry by giving Malaysian-made films a guaranteed space.

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