Given its tiny market - last year's box office amounted to just $86.5m (s$131m) - co-productions have become a practical necessity for Singapore to access the wider world.
Daniel Yun's pioneering MediaCorp Raintree Pictures is leading the way when it comes to overseas partners. Yun has a long-term relationship with Hong Kong producer-director Peter Chan on films including The Eye and The Eye 2 and, more recently, Protege, which was a box-office hit during Chinese New Year in Hong Kong, China, Malaysia and Singapore.
Last year, Yun ventured further afield to collaborate with Australian companies Big and Little Films and Porchlight Films on Home Song Stories, which premiered in Berlin, and with New Zealand's Eyeworks Touchdown on horror film The Tattooist. Both are English-language productions.
Having worked on around a dozen co-productions spearheaded by foreign partners, Yun is determined to take the driver's seat. 'When we started off, we could only respond to what was available and come in as co-producer. But from now on we'll steer the directions,' he says.
'Asia is in transition. We'll find like-minded people to create a fighting space for a new generation of Asian films to travel beyond Asia.'
Raintree enjoys shower of projects
The film production arm of state-owned broadcaster MediaCorp, Raintree has also co-produced with partners such as Media Asia (Infernal Affairs II) and Warner Bros (Turn Left Turn Right).
The new projects on Raintree's slate this year originated at the company. It is set to extend Jack Neo's highly successful I Not Stupid franchise into the vast China market through a China-set installment to be co-produced by Hong Kong's Emperor Motion Pictures.
Raintree has also developed three projects for up-and-coming Singaporean directors. Lee Thean-jeen's A Bite Of Earth, a rags-to-riches epic, will be set up as a four-way co-production with Hong Kong, Malaysia and China.
Han Yew Kwang's Taller Than Yao Ming will have a co-production partner from China, while School In The Sky by Dennis Wong will be made with Bhutan outfit Chenzig.
InnoForm: 'Co-productions help reduce risk and gain exposure'
As Raintree is throwing open the doors to a world outside Singapore, riding on its coat tails is ambitious local outfit InnoForm Media. Since the appointment of general manager Lim Teck last June, the home-video distributor has boarded four projects, including Jack Neo's Just Follow Law. The local comedy sold to Hong Kong, Brunei, Malaysia, Taiwan and Thailand, and raked in more than $1.8m (s$2.7m) to become Singapore's highest-grossing film so far this year.
'As we're still relatively new in production, co-productions help reduce risk and gain exposure as long as good partners are attached,' says Lim. 'We'll seek good projects and position ourselves to be a good co-production partner in Singapore but not necessarily be the party driving the projects.'
Since late 2004, InnoForm has become a subsidiary of Singapore's publicly listed group PSC, which has a diverse business portfolio from education and healthcare to telecommunication and retail franchising.
InnoForm, the video licensee for Fortune Star in Singapore, has hooked up with the Hong Kong-based content arm of pan-Asian broadcaster Star Group to co-produce Singapore director Kelvin Tong's Rule Number One. This partnership will allow the $1m horror comedy to broadcast on Star Chinese Movies network across Asia while Fortune Star will handle worldwide distribution except Singapore and Malaysia. Filming is scheduled to start this May.
InnoForm has also teamed with Thai director Ekachai Uekrongtham on Pleasure Factory, which was shot in Singapore's red-light district.
International outlook helps attract co-producers
International producers find Singapore attractive, in large part thanks to the government's international outlook. In addition to various treaties and memorandums of understanding with Australia, Canada, Korea and New Zealand, a co-production treaty with Italy is expected to be signed by the end of the year.
Singapore's Oak3 Films has already built up relationships with Italy on Gianni Amelio's The Missing Star, which competed at Venice last year.
Other new co-productions include Armful, in development by local start-up One Ton Cinema with acclaimed Thai director Wisit Sasanatieng. US-registered Ascension Pictures is backing Aubrey Lam's Anna & Anna starring Karena Lam. The $2.2m romantic thriller is in post-production.
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