New LA-KL filmmaking venture seeks to boost local ecosystem
By A. Asohan December 10, 2013
- Tripod’s Leon Tan in partnership with Hollywood producer Greg Coote to make Malaysia movie hub
- DragonSlate intends to fill in missing pieces, including knowledge transfer, to take this dream further
MALAYSIAN film producer Leon Tan and veteran Hollywood producer and financier Greg Coote (pic) have formed a joint venture which the duo believe will fill in the missing pieces and instil the discipline that are needed to make the country a regional movie-making hub.
The company DragonSlate Media Sdn Bhd, 45%-owned by each of the two partners, has interested even government body Malaysia Venture Capital Management Bhd (Mavcap) into taking a 10% stake in it.
The company, which will be officially launched today (Dec 10), said it would produce a ‘slate’ of world-class movies and TV projects combining top Hollywood networks and expertise with local talent and resources, made here in Malaysia for global markets. It will have joint headquarters in Kuala Lumpur and Los Angeles, with representative offices in Singapore and Sydney.
“Why Malaysia? It’s the growth centre of the world,” said Coote. “Malaysia has the elements in place already – a government that is very supportive of the film industry, a private sector that is enthusiastic, the infrastructure, the talent and the relatively low cost.”
“With Pinewood Studios in Iskandar, you also have the facilities to make movies for the international market,” he told Digital News Asia (DNA) at a hotel in Kuala Lumpur, adding that “there is no reason why Malaysia cannot become a hub for the region.”
The Pinewood facility in the Iskandar Malaysia development hub in the southern state of Johor is the result of a strategic agreement between UK-based Pinewood Studios and government investment arm Khazanah Nasional Bhd, and boasts of five world-class stages; two TV studios; post-production facilities; and more.
“We already have a bundle of projects that are in the process of getting the green light – live-action feature films – and hope to be making some announcements in the next couple of months,” said Coote.
“These are movies that will be wholly – or have a significant proportion – made in Malaysia,” he added.
The idea, said Tan, is to bring in Hollywood partners, talent, crew and discipline to work with Malaysians so that the latter can learn, and in the future, have Hollywood films made by entirely local crews.
“We did this in Australia, and it doesn’t have to take long,” said Coote, who would know what he’s talking about here. He’s the co-chief executive officer of Roadshow (now Village Roadshow), the startup company that played a big part in creating Australia’s film industry, and behind movies like 1981’s Gallipoli (directed by Peter Weir and starring Mel Gibson). In 1982, he received the Order of Australia for his contribution to the development of the Australian film industry.
He is also the man who green-lighted The Matrix and Avatar, and is a member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (Oscars); the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences (Emmys), the British Academy of Film and Television Arts (BAFTA); and the Australian Academy of Cinema and Television Arts.
In an earlier email to DNA, Tan also pointed out that his partner Coote had formed a US$50-million film financing fund with Harvey Weinstein, called Catalina Capital.
Robust discipline needed
DragonSlate will initially have 10 people on board, split equally between the KL and LA offices, with its executive director Tan heading the operations here. The LA office will be run by Coote’s long-time collaborator Robert Lundberg as head of development.
Tan (pic), who is chief executive officer, cofounder and executive director of the Tripod Group of companies that are involved in animation and live-action production, post-production, visual effects, 3D stereoscopic services, and IP development/management, was also the producer of the 3D animated steampunk adventure War of the Worlds: Goliath.
Despite having not seen widespread distribution, the movie won the ‘Best 3D Animated Feature’ award at the Los Angeles 3D Film Festival 2012; ‘Best Animated Feature’ at the Boston Sci-Fi Film Festival 2013; and was an official selection at the Sitges Internacional de Cinema Fantàstic de Catalunya 2012, Brussels International Fantastic Film Festival 2013 and Sci-Fi London 2013.
“War of the Worlds: Goliath was my baptism of fire,” Tan admitted, referring to the difficulties he had seeing the project get off the ground.
In a DNA-TeAM panel discussion co-organised by DNA and the Technopreneurs Association of Malaysia (TeAM) a year ago, Tan and his fellow panellists had noted that Malaysia still lacked all the supporting industries needed for its film ecosystem.
These include insurance companies that can provide Errors & Omissions (E&O) coverage or indemnity insurance; entertainment lawyers who can protect Malaysian-made intellectual property worldwide; and a host of others.
“We need to bring Hollywood discipline here, in terms of how movies are greenlighted and developed,” he said.
He also explained that DragonSlate was not an investment fund, but more of a movie development company. When it greenlights a movie or a TV series, it would then look for the funds, and gather the technical and creative talents needed to produce it.
Coote’s connections in Hollywood would be key, Tan said. “We first met four years ago, and I got the best advice I ever did and learned so much about Hollywood and movie-making … all in a 45-minute conversation.”
The two partners believe all the pieces are in place to take the Malaysian film ecosystem to the next level, and onto the global stage. Now we just need that international blockbuster.
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