SINGAPORE: Singapore film production company mm2 Asia is pushing hard to become a bigger player in Asia, starting with an investment of US$12.9 million (S$18 million) in nine movies from Singaporean, Hong Kong, Malaysian and Taiwanese filmmakers covering a range of genres.
The titles include the fourth instalment of Singaporean director Jack Neo’s popular Ah Boys To Men franchise and Wonder Boy, the biopic and directorial debut of prominent Singaporean musician Dick Lee starring The Sam Willows’ Benjamin Kheng. Hsieh Chun Yi’s Taiwan romantic drama Take Me To The Moon starring Vivian Sung is also in the pipeline.
Mr Melvin Ang, mm2 Asia's executive chairman and CEO, told Channel NewsAsia that the company sees “huge opportunities” in Chinese speaking markets around the region.
“Given our small market environment, we have to step up efforts in developing projects that can work in all these markets,” he said. “With this strategy, ‘produced and developed by Singapore talent’ is equally important as compared to ‘produced in Singapore’. This will clearly make our presence stronger as a regional producer in the coming years.”
The development of Singapore cinema is still important to the company, which is headquartered here.
But the company’s further expansion into the region does not mean that it will be holding back on making homegrown films. In fact, mm2 is committed to producing more local movies along with their regional projects, said Mr Ang.
“As of today, in our current slate of projects, mm2 has more than 10 new Singapore movie titles in the pipeline over the next 18 months,” he revealed. “Being present in all the Chinese markets in Asia, mm2 is confident that Singapore talents, given the right opportunities and support, will stand an equal chance to produce quality films that can travel beyond our shores.”
He continued: “We have to identify homegrown talents, particularly in the area of scriptwriters, directors and production talent pool who have the capabilities to develop and execute projects for the growing regional markets. For example, successful Singapore scripts and movies can be adapted or remade in Hong Kong, Taiwan or China.”
When mm2’s extensive slate was unveiled at the Hong Kong Film Mart earlier this month, Ha Yu, veteran Hong Kong actor and executive director of mm2 Hong Kong, said that while the projects were considerably smaller than the usual big budget Chinese co-productions, the mainland audience is still seen as one of mm2’s targets.
The focus with this slate, according to mm2 Asia’s chief content officer Ng Say Yong, is about developing new talent, particularly new directors, and exposing them to work in the region. “Leveraging on our multi-market presence, we welcome companies or individuals looking for collaborative opportunities to identify projects and co-produce content that is compelling and relevant."
The company has been on an upward trajectory ever since it was listed on the Singapore stock exchange market two years ago - the first movie production company to do so - and has diversified from its roots in film production and financing.
Amongst other moves, it acquired a 51 per cent stake in Singapore 3D animation company Vividthree Productions, procured the exclusive rights to produce and broadcast a Singapore/Malaysia edition of the The Voice from Talpa Global, established its own cinema chain, mmCineplexes, through the ownership of five multiplexes in Malaysia, and most recently announced the proposed purchase of another 13 multiplexes in Malaysia from Lotus Fivestar Cinemas.
The company is best known for being behind Singapore’s most successful franchise - Ah Boys To Men - that generated a combined local box office of more than S$22 million from the first three films.
The franchise director Neo told Channel NewsAsia that the fourth instalment will commence filming in June and that it will definitely be released this year.
“Because 2017 is the 50th anniversary of Singapore’s National Service,” he explained. “This one is going to be about reservists. It’s something most of us have or had to do so many people will relate to this storyline.
"And I’ve also decided to focus on the Armour unit, like all the tanks and artillery. People always gets excited during National Day every year when they see the Armour unit on display.”