by Victor Yap

Pix Credit: Universal Studios Singapore
Now when can we get an attraction like that in Malaysia?
So you want to work in Hollywood eventhough none of you look like Brad Pitt or Jessica Alba or even possess the acting talent of the weird-looking Steve Buscemi. You may possess some ability with the camera and basic movie editor skills but Steven Speilberg or Martin Scorsese you are not.

Even if you do have any of the above, you still have to consider the air fare, which may go up to as much as several thousand Ringgit for a one-way ticket to Hollywood. Fret not on such challenges, you young aspiring creatives, as there be some positive activies that are occuring within the local creative industry.

Imagine, what if instead of going there, Hollywood came to Malaysia’s shores?

Unimaginable? Perhaps!

Diverse Landscape
Currently, there are many Hollywood studios allocating a significant amount of time and effort to look for better locations to deploy in - better as in an working in locations that are more cost effective and is able to offer a diverse creative landscape that possess large amounts of untapped latent potential.

Pix Credit: Hasnul
A firm believer that costs effeciencies are not the “be all, end all” for the creative sector
“That is something Malaysia is filled to the brim with. This, among other primary factors, is one of the main motivators for international studios to quickly set up in KL so they can work directly with local talents as well as generate cost-advantages for their projects from pre-conception,” said Rhythm & Hues (R&H) Senior Manager, Hasnul Hadi Samsudin.

R&H came to KL to do just that as it hunted for the best and brightest in creative talent among many Malaysian youths. Hasnul added, “R&H came here because it needed to expand its business outside of Mumbai. Malaysia was chosen as it offered several things that made it very attractive for us.”

According to Hasnul, first and foremost for R&H is the availability of a young and very passionate talent pool that has an exceptionally diverse cultural background. Coming in a close second is the cost effective capabilities and management avenues that Malaysia offers to the creative content industry.

Having joined R&H after it started up its local operations and sharing the same core beliefs, Hasnul also makes it very clear that costs effeciencies, while important, are not the “be all, end all” for the creative sector.

“As the industry advances, and with it the creative companies in Malaysia mature as well, the cost advantages will slowly but surely become moot,” he noted.

Pix Credit: Twentieth Century Fox
One of R&H Malaysia's first forays in Hollywood was to provide post-production work for X-Men: First Class.
Work Efficiencies
Maxime Villandre, co-founder of FencingFleas Studios - a local videogame production studio - believes otherwise as he reveals how foreign studios are always looking for the best options to lower production costs.

“The reason for their arrival here is motivated primarily; if not exclusively, by financial reasons and they expect quick returns to the costs and logistic pains incurred by developing in a location, which is remote to their headquarters,” he shared.

Besides tapping into a source of varied talent and culture as well as leveraging on more cost efficiencies, what else can these studios consider as opportunities to them if they open an office in Malaysia?

One such avenue is to develop the local creative talent to have skill sets that will further encourage them to consider Malaysia as an important investmen.

According to Villandre, “Work well done and past projects delivered in cost efficient manners are obviously what attracts and will continue to be the major pull-factor for these studios. When projects from other entities are successful, it quickly becomes alluring to venture further from home.”

Pix Credit: Paradox Art Cafe
Villandre: Young minds need to be taught critical thinking and know/understand blue-sky methodologies.
That means producing good work while still keeping production costs low. Ultimately, that is the balance studios - both international and local - have to define fully and properly manage.

“News of tapping into good sources (of talent) travels fast within this industry as it is ravenous for highly potent creative minds. As such, Malaysia must be wary of the danger of producing work that does not live up to the excellent quality that studios will come to expect. That news can spread equally as fast, making other studios hesitant to consider having operations here if they cannot find a ready workforce,” Villandre added.

Even so, this does not mean foreign studios are inconsiderate and will not provide training. It must remain clear that these localised branches have to remain efficient and accountable to their company practices back home. As such, training local talents can only be done in a limited capacity.

“The biggest issue we have right now is the lack of awareness among the creative talent of the opportunities within this sector and the steps that passionate artists would have to take to be able to compete on the world stage. The question is how does the industry - with the help of the government - invigorate or encourage these hidden talents to get out of the wood-works and shine,” Hasnul noted.

Focus Elements
Areas to be considered include observing how neighbouring states are developing their creative industries and studying the sort of initiatives their governments are implementing, becoming less protective of the local markets and providing for the right people as well as curriculums to teach in school are some areas to consider.

Even education, right from kindergarten to the highest levels in university, has to be taken into account.

“Consideration has to be placed on catching and nurturing talents at primary levels and not at universities. Young minds need to be taught critical thinking and know as well as understand blue-sky methodologies in order to fully unlock their creative spirit in all its extent. This needs to be done by parents and lecturers who must engage and accept youngsters who challenge pre-conceived methods or ideas,” Villandre shared.

Pix Credit:
The results of Villandre's work as he develops local talent and their latent creative potential.
Both generally agree that Malaysia still has much to do even if it has won a fair bit of attention and recognition for its efforts and advancement for its creative industry.

“It is only recently that Malaysians have begun clamouring to create their own voices. Maybe the advent of the Internet and the lowering of barriers to technology have helped - but at the end of the day, creative content is built on the experience and portfolio of artists. Our industry has to build and destroy and make mistakes before we can find the gems. Having a supportive environment for creativity to flourish will be a hard task for the government and industry to provide but it will definitely help in the long term,” Hasnul explained.

Villandre concurred as he felt that other countries have made giant strides in the same amount of time that Malaysia has put its energy into achieve its current momentum.

“In a way, it’s always the case of having the proverbial glass being half full or half empty and where you stand in regards to that. Somebody wiser than me pointed out that in either case the glass is always half full of air and as long as you don’t let it inflate your ego when you down it, then it’s all good,” he shared.

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