21 BKLOT Mr. & Mrs. Single
Courtesy of ScreenSingapore

Boasting a mix of business and pleasure, this Southeast Asian film confab is making a strong first impression.

With such megawatt Hollywood names as Tom Hanks and Oliver Stone scheduled to attend the inaugural edition of ScreenSingapore, it's clear that the Asia-Pacific film confab aims to debut with a splash.

Running June 5 to 12, ScreenSingapore has arrived on the international scene with an aggressive two-pronged strategy designed to make a strong first impression -- and declare that it's here to stay. First, there's a series of high-profile red-carpet premieres, displays and awards designed to impart the glossy sheen of an established film festival. Next is a series of events dedicated to the unvarnished business of film. And running through the entire program is the distinct message that contemporary Asian cinema is an increasingly significant and profitable segment of the global film industry.

"It is not a festival in that we are not being judgmental, but it is a celebration of an Asia-Pacific product," says ScreenSingapore chairman Greg Coote. "When one separates the glitz and glamour out of the popular face of the business of filmed entertainment, it is very much a business."

The event gets off to an extravagant start on opening night with the premiere of China's The Devil Inside Me, starring Tony Leung Ka-Fai and Kelly Lin, and Hanks' Larry Crowne, a coming-of-middle-age comedy that marks his second feature directorial effort, makes its Asia Pacific premiere when it closes the fest. Stone will be on hand to judge the Asia-Pacific short-film competition, and actress Zhang Ziyi will serve as an event ambassador.

Debuting with this level of internationally recognized star power, Singapore has given itself a leg up on the global film circuit, as even many long-running fests struggle to attach such recognizable names.

Coote and other organizers often use the word "hybrid" when explaining the event's composition, describing it as an intentionally mixed bag of elements.

"There are many similar events, but there is no replica of what we have created. We'd like to say that we have borrowed from the best," Coote says. This includes a red-carpet event each night, like at the Cannes International Film Festival; a trade marketplace, like at Las Vegas' CinemaCon; and a Hollywood studio day when the majors present only to the industry, like at Amsterdam's Cinema Expo.

The city-state's status as a multi-industry hub also places it in a strong position to exploit the rapid growth of the Asian film sector as the movie business becomes increasingly global.

"Singapore is already a global and regional center for a wide range of industries, from finance to transport to biomedical sciences," says Aubeck Kam, CEO of Singapore's influential Media Development Authority. "We hope that Singapore can likewise serve as a regional and global city to serve the international media industry."

The MDA is not only the host of ScreenSingapore; it also has the task of expanding and regulating media in Singapore. To that end, the agency has organized Expo at ScreenSingapore, a trade exhibition that provides marketing and networking opportunities. Running June 7 to 9, it boasts an impressive roster of participating companies that includes Christie Digital, Distribution Workshop, Fortissimo and Hyde Park Entertainment.

The expo is complemented by closed door, invitation-only presentations to Asia-Pacific exhibitors by Disney, Fox, Universal, Paramount and Warner Bros.

"This is particularly timely given the interest of media companies in tapping the huge potential of Asia," Kam says. "At the same time, we are progressively developing the media sector in Singapore."

But ScreenSingapore isn't only about courting Hollywood. The event is also intended to support a burgeoning local film sector via a spotlight on the 3D film Bait. A thriller about hungry tiger sharks, the release is a co-production between Australia and Singapore and has been presold to 24 territories.

For Amy Baker, managing partner of marketing agency Winston Baker, which is sponsoring a financing forum, the timing of ScreenSingapore couldn't be better. "With Asian filmmakers and distributors increasingly participating in international film markets," she says, "this conference will provide strategies to bolster continued growth for this region of the world."           

June  5–12
Capella Singapore on Sentosa Island