Filmmaking minus subsidy mentality

by daljit dhesi

Former Finas DG: Market forces should dictate for industry to thrive

IN Malaysia today there are more “grant entrepreneurs” than there are filmmakers.

This statement may puzzle some or may leave others with a sigh of disapproval. But coming from an industry veteran, it should carry weight.

Shedding light on his statement, former National Film Development Corp Malaysia (Finas) director-general Datuk Kamil Othman says that for the film industry to thrive and boost its creativeness, it should be left to market forces and not supported by a subsidy mentality.

“For the industry to be sustainable, it is only possible if all those involved in film production see it as a commercial and market-driven industry where risk-taking is shared. Many are producing films for the sake of getting grants from the government and not for genuine film-making reasons.

“Since there is no business agenda, most films are made in this country not really for cultural or economic reasons but just for the sake of making them because of the compulsory scheme that will guarantee the films – even if not worthy – to be screened,’’ he tells StarBizWeek.

Kamil, who is also the creative industries advisor in the Communications and Multimedia Ministry and the vice-president of the South Korea-based Asian Film Commissioners Network, adds that the previous administrators that approve grants is unfamiliar with the commercial viability of the films that are being funded.

Irrespective of how the movie fares in cinemas, he says the burden is not on the shoulder of film makers as many are interested in only getting funds for their movies. Hence, this compromises the quality of the films which are produced and impedes the creativeness in filmmaking, he adds.

Kamil, during his tenure as Finas director-general from 2015 and 2016, carried out initiatives, among others, by introducing “business” and “specialised” areas into both Finas and the industry.

He was also focused on the welfare of cast and crew, and how insurance and contracts played important parts in the film making industry. He knew Finas had too many generalists, people not really trained in corporate management to build an industry. He also saw the connection between funding and development, and focused on the product that can be exported and sold overseas as he viewed the local market was too small.

In 2015, the Malaysian Association of Advertising Filmmakers (PPFIM) in collaboration with Finas made it mandatory for advertising film production companies to become members of the association in order to apply for the MiM certificate – a requirement before a commercial can be aired in the country.

Upon being granted this privilege, PPFIM implemented a production agreement which was supported by the Association of Accredited Advertising Agents. This ensured that all parties knew their responsibilities in the production of commercials and areas such as payments and proper working hours. In September last year, without giving any clear reasons and grounds, Finas abruptly decided to withdraw this privilege, which was a major blow to the advertising industry.

Malaysian Association of Advertising Filmmakers (PPFIM) president Khoo Kay Lye agrees with Kamil that there are more grant entrepreneurs than capable filmmakers.

With the Pakatan Harapan government in power, some of the unscrupulous filmmakers who have been depending on government funds under the previous administration are still queuing up for grants to push their personal agenda, he says. Towards this end, he says only problems which the industry faces are being highlighted but not the solutions at the holistic level.

Khoo is calling for the relevant ministry to assess and evaluate the good filmmakers from the non-worthy ones and ensure only the capable ones are allowed to operate as filmmakers.

“Instead of asking what the government can do for them, filmmakers, especially producers should ask what they can do for the industry. They should be focused on helping their members, even investing in their members’ projects and not to go around making themselves look like champions when in reality they are not as they are addressing only specific components of the industry’s ecosystem,’’ he stresses.

On a different note, Khoo reiterates that currently there is no proper ecosystem to regulate the film advertising industry which could lead to its slow death.

Lack of cooperation between the relevant stakeholders in the film advertising fraternity and the absence of a production contract are the main factors affecting the film advertising ecosystem, he adds.


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