Sarawak a studio paradise for filmmakers – Abg Jo


KUCHING: The accessible and exotic, picturesque landscape and ethnic diversity in culture and religions make Sarawak a natural studio that is exceptionally ideal for film shooting.

Tourism Minister Datuk Amar Abang Johari Tun Openg yesterday encouraged filmmakers from around the world to shoot their projects in Sarawak and assured them of state support for a successful production.

“We are going to establish over a million hectares of forest, to be gazetted into national parks. This itself opens up the whole of Sarawak as location for filming,” he revealed to a press conference at the opening of the Asean-China Film and TV Co-Production Forum at the Sarawak Tourism Complex in the Old Court House here.

The forum was held in conjunction with the Asean International Film and Festival Awards (Aiffa) 2015.

From the state’s point of view, Abang Johari emphasised the need to blend diversity of cultures, heritage, traditions and way of life of the locals into the films in order to promote tourism.

“Sarawak has many facilities to offer to filmmakers. Our role is being the facilitator to smoothen the whole process,” he explained.

China-based Mulu Global Media Beijing CEO Jasmine Kho agreed that filming was not merely about finding a location to shoot anymore.

“It has to blend in the culture, the people, the religion, the way of life into the movie to introduce and capture the interest of the audience. That’s why the story and scriptwriting is very important in making this happen,” she stressed.

The movie ‘Lost in Thailand’, Kho shared, was a very good example, one which has contributed 40 per cent of tourist arrivals and tourism receipts to Chiang Mai particularly.

“After the movie was released in China, it achieved one of the highest box offices to date,” she said.

Kho pointed out that China is now the second largest film industry behind the US and by 2018, it is set to become the largest film and TV market in the world.

“We cannot deny that films and televisions are a great and fastest way to promote tourism of a location or destination. And the world is focused on the China market now,” she said.

“But the bigger question now is how we can access China market and convince them (filmmakers) to come to Sarawak or Malaysia as a whole,” she posed.

Thus, to forge a better understanding between Asean and China including Korea and Japan, Kho emphasised that this forum was extremely important for industry players to share experience, discuss ideas and explore opportunities.

“Co-production is a very important issue right now as all countries are now signing treaties that will allow foreign films to become domestic films,” she said.

“And this initiative will also expose and export local talents to China and vice-versa which is important to grow this industry,” she added.

In the next three years, Mulu Global Media will be making at least five co-productions with two local Chinese films which are to be shot in Asean, particularly Malaysia.

Earlier on, Malaysia represented by state Tourism Minister Abang Johari inked memoranda of understanding (MoUs) with China industry players, namely Mulu Global Media Beijing represented by CEO Jasmine Kho, Yunwen Picture Beijing – CEO Zeng Hui, Heyi Pictures – CEO Allen Zhu, who is China’s Youku Tudou Group senior vice president, and Air Media Group – general manager He Gan.

The MoUs secured collaborations with these industry players in establishing a Malaysia-China Film Production and theme park in Kuching.

This initiative was expected to generate job opportunities, bring more foreign direct investment, create a platform for more co-productions between China and Asean, and groom more film talents in the film and creative industry.