Even through the tumultuous times marked by interrupted shoot schedules and travel restrictions, the tenacity and drive to create authentic stories continues to propel Asian media far beyond any barriers.
Now, after not convening in-person for a year — in some cases, two years — media conferences and festivals are springing back to life, including the Asia TV Forum & Market and ScreenSingapore (ATF|SS), Singapore International Film Festival (SGIFF), VidCon Asia Summit and the Singapore Comic Con. Attendees will find plenty of content on the market and many new developments to talk about, including what it is like to experience in-person events, such as SGIFF, together again.
“If 2020 was the year we stepped out of our comfort zones to make SGIFF a hybrid format, I am proud to say we have come full circle, emerging stronger than ever and taking the gathering back to the cinemas, where we experience the true magic of film,” says Emily J. Hoe, SGIFF’s executive director. This year’s festival is returning as a full on-site event, an achievement made possible by collaborative efforts to ensure the safety of attendees.
These events and others fall under the umbrella of the Singapore Media Festival (SMF). Dedicated to building Singapore as a media hub, SMF has facilitated more than USD$1.89 billion in deals between local and international media companies since its inception in 2014.
“We believe that there’s a trove of incredible talent, creativity and stories in Asia, and we are thankful that we have been able to bring these into the spotlight through the SMF over the years,” says Justin Ang, assistant chief executive of media, innovation, communications and marketing at the Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA), a Singapore government agency.
Singapore Media Festival 2021 – Bringing Asian Storytelling to the World
The 2021 edition of SMF will showcase a dynamic lineup that provides Asian creators the opportunities to make waves regionally and globally. With Singapore as a gateway that connects Asia and global audiences, SMF is uniquely positioned for industry insiders to meet and discover the latest trends, talents and content in Asian film, TV and digital media.
To cultivate local media talent, several SMF events are set to include mentorship and development programs. For example, ScreenSingapore, held in tandem with the Asia TV Forum (ATF) from Dec. 1-3, will host the SEAScreen Project Market and conference. The event aims to connect promising writers, directors and producers from around the world with a variety of stakeholders within the Southeast Asian film and TV realm.
Meanwhile, the Singapore International Film Festival (SGIFF), which runs from Nov. 25 to Dec. 5, will feature mentorship programs, master classes and dialogues like the Southeast Asian Film Lab — a collaborative space for budding Southeast Asian filmmakers to receive feedback from mentors and hear from fellow artists. The Youth Jury and Critics Program, held at the same event, is meant to nurture new film critics who can contribute to Southeast Asian film culture and discourse. More than 100 films will be featured at this year’s SGIFF, with works from over 40 countries, including strong representation from Southeast Asia.
After two years’ absence, Asia’s largest celebration of online video and digital creators, the VidCon Asia Summit, will return to Singapore on Nov. 25, with informative workshops focusing on growing audiences and revenue in the fast-paced Asian online video marketplace. Themed around the “Future of Online Video,” the seven-hour multigenre conference will feature keynotes and panels by industry experts and market leaders to help creators sharpen their management and technical skills. Participants will also learn how to use their social channels to best present their vision and capture new market opportunities.
Comic fans can also rejoice as Singapore Comic Con returns after a one-year break, with the colorful conference fully online and free from Dec. 3 to Jan. 2, 2022. In line with the SMF’s overall theme, the 2021 edition of Comic Con will showcase homegrown talent and help them build the connections needed to monetize their ideas.
Paving the Way for Creatives
This year’s SMF will also focus on connecting key media players, such as showrunners, to Singapore’s creative talents. Over the years, award-winning local showrunners, like Eric Khoo of Zhao Wei Films and Fran Borgia of Akanga Film Asia, have propelled Singapore and Asia into the international spotlight.
For this iteration, SMF will work with such showrunners to promote the creation of new intellectual property (IP) and high-quality co-productions. Showrunners attending the event can also package and monetize their IP by securing funding and selling the IP to leading distribution platforms. Working hand-in-hand, homegrown showrunners and talents can bring Asian stories to an international market.
“There are a great number of inspiring stories, creators and opportunities here in Asia, and many of these have come to life because of showrunners who paved the way in connecting the myriad of factors that make quality productions possible,” says Borgia. “With the SMF as a platform for content, talent and businesses to come together, we will be able to uncover even more gems that we can share with a global audience.”
Take the Hollywood hit “Crazy Rich Asians,” which was sparked by a conversation between an executive at the Singapore Film Commission and John Penotti, a producer who attended earlier editions of SMF. The uniquely Singaporean film featured 12 local cast members acting alongside Asian American stars, as well as close to 300 local media talents in production crew roles. The film went on to gross USD$238 million — proudly showcasing Singapore and its talents on the global stage.
Another recent example of such a collaboration strengthened by SMF was co-production between Indonesian director Edwin, producers Meiske Taurisia and Muhammad Zaidy of Palari Films, Singapore producers Natalie Balakrishnan and Nathaniel P. Gunawan of Phoenix Films, and Lai Weijie of E&W Films. Their partnership led to the film “Vengeance Is Mine, All Others Pay Cash,” which secured the Golden Leopard at the Locarno Film Festival 2021 and will be the opening film for this year’s SGIFF.
For more details of the Singapore Media Festival and its partner events, visit https://www.imda.gov.sg/news-and-events/our-signature-events/Singapore-Media-Festival.