Singapore Establishes Co-Production Fund as Asia TV Forum & Market Wraps

'Weatherville' Still - Publicity - H 2019
Courtesy Riki Group and Fun Union

The conclusion of the 20th edition of the event saw prizes awarded to Filipino musical comedy 'Golden' and Russian animated series 'Weatherville.'

The 20th Asia TV Forum & Market closed its doors last week and organisers say that 5,700 industry players representing 60 countries and regions made the trip to Singapore’s Marina Bay Sands for the four-day event.

Organizers claim a growth of 5 percent, overall for their 2019 edition, which ended last Friday and combined the ScreenSingapore marketplace and came under the wider umbrella of the Singapore Media Festival.

The theme this year was“Streaming the Future,” and much attention was played to the major international players in town, with keynote addresses from the likes of Gong Yu, founder and CEO of China’s video platform giants iQIYI, and Giorgio Stock, president, WarnerMedia Entertainment Networks, distribution and advertising sales (EMEA & APAC).

The presence, also, of reps from traditionals CBS Studios International, The Walt Disney Company and Viacom International Studios, alongside upstarts Netflix, Alibaba Youku and HOOQ showed just how much weight Southeast Asia now carries, given its population of around 655 million and the fact that the online video market alone across Asia has been predicted by Media Partners Asia to be worth around $50 billion by 2024.

More than 110 industry experts took to various stages, so there was always going to be plenty of talk swirling around ATF. But there was impressive action as well, in terms of initiatives launched (mostly with a help-along from Singapore’s Infocomm Media Development Authority) and of deals sealed.

There was the announcement of a $14.8 million (S$20 million) international co-production kitty launched by Singapore to kick things off. ATF bosses then came away most impressed by signings that saw 108 Media’s joint venture with B. Water Animation Studios to establish B. Water Asia with an eye on putting “a top-tier slate of children’s programming in[to} fast-track development and preproduction. HBO GO meanwhile rolled out across the Philippines as a stand-alone OTT service, IMDA and China’s Tencent initiated a talent nurturing program, and Singapore’s Mediacorp and the Hong Kong-based ViuTV inked a two-title drama deal, with the first slated for release in 2020

Pure excitement value was provided by the pitching sessions and project markets Singapore hosts as the city looks to play the role of “connector” between those with an eye on doing business in Southeast Asia, and those already toiling away.

The walk-away winners from these sections highlighted the wild diversity of content — and talent — the region boasts.

The Philippine musical-comedy-drama Golden — among the big winners from the SAFF Project Market (backed by the Southeast Asian Audio-Visual Association) with around $15,000 (S$20,000) in production funds — looks to tell the tale of a group of aging drag queens forced to take to the stage in order to save their home.

“You never know if your ideas are any good until you show them to someone,” said producer Omar Sortijas. “We think we have a great story with Golden, a story about characters who should be given a voice."

Weatherville — a series that tackles environmental themes through stories based on an enchanted land high above the clouds — was awarded $19,000 via the ATF Animation Pitch (supported by Gold Green Animation Pvt Ltd). It comes via Russian animation giants Riki Group, and their Hong Kong-Guangzhou offshoot Fun Union, whose CEO said coming to ATF with the project had given “everyone faith in what we are trying to do.”

The expanding reach of the Chinese entertainment industry — and the need for Chinese-language content — was on show throughout the week. The ATF Chinese Pitch (backed by G.H.Y Culture & Media) handed out prizes of $2,500 (S$3,500) for startup development of online drama series and films aimed at theatrical/online release.

There were 53 entries across the three sections with The Lost Phone by Ang Yee Sen (Malaysia) winning for online drama series, and Ciao, Old Hero! by Low Hui Hui (Singapore) and Absolute Sincerity by Link Sng (Singapore) for theatrical/online movie.

Guo Jingyu, Group CEO of G.H.Y Culture & Media, said the pitch sessions were designed to communicate ideas to the Chinese market and to Chinese audiences.

"We hope that more writers and producers will focus on the Chinese market and create more works that are suitable for the global audience,” Guo said.

The next edition of ATF and ScreenSingapore has been penciled in for December 1-4, 2020.