ScreenSingapore 2012 Kicks Off in Southeast Asia

Singapore's annual film industry confab is back for a second year of screenings, sales and seminars targeting the booming markets of Asia.

Business cards are now circulating like high-frequency bond trades in Southeast Asia’s largest financial center, as ScreenSingapore 2012 officially kicked off Tuesday morning for another year of film premieres, seminars and sales-floor wheeling and dealing.

Moved from June to Dec. 4-7 this year -- a change allowing for a partnership with the established Asia TV Forum and Market (ATF), which is entering its 11th edition -- ScreenSingapore is bringing the two conferences and sales events side by side, with organizers expressing hopes of expanding the event's exposure and encouraging more cross-platform business and innovation.

“I think we’ll see more of TV, film and online events coming together like this,” said Greg Coote, chairman of the board of ScreenSingapore. “The future of filmed entertainment is going to find a home on any screen, so we have seminars spanning from Google to IMAX,” he added.

Running three days shorter than in 2011, the second edition of ScreenSingapore has made several other recalibrations following last year’s ambitious debut, which the organizers admit stretched them a little thin.

“Considering that Cannes, with all its prestige and history, has 10 nights, we were probably a little presumptuous coming out the gate with seven last year,” says Coote. “We overextended.”

The first ScreenSingapore indeed had a bit of everything: a multiday market, a festival-like competition chaired by Oliver Stone, and several afternoons of panel discussions and closed-door meetings, along with the red carpet premieres seven nights in row -- closing with an appearance by Tom Hanks.

This year, rather than trying to do it all, organizers say ScreenSingapore has regrouped for a tighter and better-organized event -- with the emphasis placed squarely on doing what the small, wildly wealthy city-state of Singapore has always done best: acting as a gateway between the West and the remarkable market potential of the surrounding Asian region. “We made a conscious decision to make this more Asian,” Coote added.

The first day of industry conferences kicks off with a keynote from Sanford Panitch, president of Fox International Productions, titled: “Asia and the Global Market -- What the Future Holds.”

The Last Tycoon, the new Chow Yun-Fat starrer from China’s Bona Film Group (which News Corp. took a 19.9 percent stake in early this year), will get a red-carpet world premiere tonight as the Southeast Asian industry confab’s opening film. Bona's founder and CEO, Yu Dong, will then kick off day two's proceedings with an opening presentation at the conference's new "Spotlight on China" section, followed by a panel discussion on the intricacies of the (currently contentious) co-production approval process in China, featuring Greg Basser, CEO of Village Roadshow, Michael Ellis, president and APAC managing director of the MPAA, and Nansun Shi, executive director of Hong Kong’s Distribution Workshop.

Further panels will present case studies of past Hollywood-China co-productions, and explore how story is or isn’t compromised in a world of ever-more co-prods across cultures and markets.

Later in the four-day event the focus will shift to the financing needs and growth opportunities in South Asian and Southeast Asian industries, along with a panel on how regional industries can access financing and co-production partners in the euro zone.

A large French delegation (100 sales agents and buyers; 60 producers) is expected to attend the event too, according to the organizers. Actress Sophie Marceau will lead the French contingent, as her Happiness Never Comes Alone gets a red-carpet rollout on the second night, as a Southeast Asian premiere. Wrapping up the festival will be local Singapore-Malaysia co-prod, The Wedding Diary II, directed by Adrian Teh and starring an ensemble cast of local stars from Singapore, Malaysia, Hong Kong and Taiwan.

“We’re expecting quite good representation from most of the major Asian territories,” says Ashok Amritraj, CEO of Hyde Park Entertainment and member of the ScreenSingapore board. “For someone from the West -- whether it’s California, New York, London -- this is a great opportunity to come meet a good variety of important Asian companies.“