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Special Report: Asian Alliance

BEIJING -- Singapore's Infinite Frameworks moves beyond borders Eight years ago Mike Wiluan, the scion of a successful Chinese/Indonesian family with roots in property, oil and gas (KS Energy), decided to his family needed to diversify. But when he bought into Singapore's Infinite Frameworks digital and postproduction house eight, he knew the new venture wouldn't be easy.

"They were craft driven, cutting edge and were looking to get into feature films, but they had little capital," Wiluan says. Quickly, he grew the company from 30 people to 150, adding a campus on Batam, the Indonesian island and free trade zone just a short ferry ride from Singapore, where space and labor are cheap. "We saw we could outsource the labor intensive aspects of CGI but maintain our quality by operating close by."

Wiluan says he hopes Infinite Frameworks will help unleash Indonesia's rich culture of arts and crafts and apply it to content developed in combination with Singaporean business and managerial skills and teaching talent he hired from the West.

"In Indonesia, where poverty and politics take center stage, the arts have never had room to shine," Wiluan says. "Sure, there are arts, TV and film, but they're highly localized. Working across borders taps an arts instinct and broadens our chances at making content that can travel."

Wiluan brought over to Singapore Phil Mitchell of Vancouver-based Mainframe Entertainment, the creator of the Barbie movies and "Reboot," the first 3-D animated TV series. At the Batam campus, Wiluan and Mitchell worked with Daniel Yun of MediaCorp. Raintree to lower their costs for the children's animated feature "Sing to the Dawn."

"I was able to recruit 100 people overnight and bring in Phil to keep (costs for) our fully CGI film comfortably for $5 million," Wiluan says.

The film, based on a 1970s book by Mingfong Ho about a young village girl struggling to find her place in a patriarchal society, didn't do so well in Singapore, where, Wiluan says, "audiences didn't relate to the village story."

The plan, then, is to localize it for neighboring countries whose cultures are more closely tied to village life. Raintree and Infinite Frameworks will release "Sing to the Dawn" in Indonesia in August starring the voice of 16-year-old Bahasa language pop sensation Gita Gutawar, a Sony BMG artist from Medan.

Wiluan expects "Sing" will do well in Indonesia, where there's a passion for music, a growing youth market and an overall population of about 250 million. He's also in the process of licensing the rights for localized versions in the Philippines, Thailand and Malaysia.

"When you're giving a product to so fragmented a market it's important to make it so it can travel," Wiluan says, noting that only about 20% of the movies made each year in Singapore, Indonesia and Malaysia cross over to more than one market. "The trick," he adds, "is to capture the three."

To grow talent that appeals regionally, talent must have a platform on which to work. As such, Infinite Frameworks is central to the building of Singapore's first feature film sound stage, a project that will be finished in 2011 with help from the MDA.
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