Under the banner of Singapore Media Fusion, the country’s Media Development Authority (MDA) brought its largest contingent yet (21 prodcos) to MIPTV last month. And while the government agency has been working towards turning the tiny island nation (whose total population is just 4.55 million) into a media production powerhouse for about six years now, 2007 just might be a watershed year for animation in the region.
According to CEO Dr. Christopher Chia, the MDA is devoting about one-third of its co-investment funding to international Singaporean co-productions this year. The plan is to capitalize on the country’s highly developed tech infrastructure and turn it into a creative production hub. In addition to animation, MDA has a hand in fostering film, factual TV and video game content. Chia estimates the production activity in these sectors should be contributing US$6 billion to the region’s economy by 2015.
To get there, the MDA has just announced that it’s putting up part of the cash for a slate of content being co-produced by Singapore’s ST Electronics and Nelvana. Along with new CGI series The Future is Wild and more eps of Jane and the Dragon (currently airing on Qubo in the US), two films and two direct-to-videos are in the offing. Chia estimates their market worth at around US$100 million (including production budgets and ancillary sales), and expects the ST/Nelvana partnership to generate two more TV series, four theatrical films and eight more DTVs over the next 18 months.
Corus EVP and GM of kids Scott Dyer says the MDA is steadfast in its determination to build Singaporean companies that can compete on an international level. ‘And I’ve got to tell you,’ he adds, ‘it has the money to make it happen.’
The projects on the joint slate are true 50/50 co-pros that will split distribution and ancillary rights down the middle, says Dyer. Animation and modeling is being completed in Singapore, while Nelvana takes care of scripting and post in Canada. ‘Singapore has great technical talent in CG, Flash and 2-D,’ he notes. ‘But it doesn’t have a strong creative base.’ However, an added bonus for Dyer’s team is that English is the country’s official language, so Nelvana’s new co-pro man on the ground, Derek Reeves, won’t be contending with a language barrier.
For producers looking to tap into this burgeoning resource, Chia says there are a few ways to go about it. One is to contact the MDA via the Singapore Media Fusion website (www.smf.sg) and outline the types of companies/projects you’re pursuing. The other is to approach the SMF pavilion at MIPCOM or MIPTV, or take a jaunt to Singapore in June for Broadcast Asia or in December for the Asia Media Festival. At last year’s Media Financing Forum, which is part of the latter festival, Chia says roughly US$250 million in funding was on the table, up almost US$50 million from the previous year.
In addition to the ST/Nelvana deal, the MDA has helped finance the Singaporean portion of a number of co-pros whose concepts originated outside of the region, including CGI series Master Raindrop (Big Communications/Flying Bark in Australia/New Zealand’s Flux Animation), Zigby (featured on page 16) and Nanoboy (Scrwal Studios in Singapore/Hong Kong’s Agogo).
If the MDA has its way, it won’t be long until international producers start turning to Singapore for ideas as well as technical expertise. ‘We do have a strong interest in seeing IP developed in the region,’ says Dyer. ‘Our hope is that with our co-pro partners, we can find IP in Singapore that we can develop and bring back into North America. That, to me, is the big home run.’