Streaming service provides respite for filmmakers

As for now, filmmakers need to be more creative and flexible to survive, says expert

by NUR HANANI AZMAN / pic by BLOOMBERG

WITH cinemas out of action for the foreseeable future due to coronavirus, local filmmakers have to find other platforms to earn revenue and continue their creative work.

Many have resorted to social media and over-the-top (OTT) streaming services to release their creations to cover some of the production costs of their films that cannot be released on cinema screens.

Actor, producer and entrepreneur Datuk Mohamed Noor Shamsuddin, or popularly known as Rosyam Nor, described the current predicament for filmmakers as a “slap in the face”, especially for companies that rely solely on film production for revenue.

“However, we have to realise that we now have IR4.0 technology that has changed how consumers view content. This already happened even pre-Covid-19.

“Netflix, for example, got us hooked on paying for our entertainment on a monthly basis and this is what younger generations are now used to,” he told The Malaysian Reserve (TMR).

He said previously, moviegoers went to the cinema, bought DVDs or just watched whatever was on TV.

Now, consumers can stream content instantly to any device, anywhere.

According to The New York Times, Netflix has 182.8 million subscribers, making it one of the world’s largest entertainment services.

Rosyam Nor said OTT streaming media service brings a huge opportunity for local filmmakers who had struggled to penetrate international markets before.

“Now, filmmakers have a chance. But what is most important, they have to work hard in order to create original content to attract the worldwide consumer,” he explained.

All cinemas nationwide have been temporarily shut down following the decision by the Malaysian Association of Film Exhibitors (MAFE) due to the resurgence of Covid-19.

“Closing and reopening cinemas is extremely cumbersome, costly and disruptive, not only for cinemas, but also for our landlords and customers,” MAFE VP and MBO Cinemas CEO Cheah Chun Wai said.

The closure is a cohesive decision in light of the recent Conditional Movement Control Order imposed in some states, requiring cinemas to remain closed, while movie releases are slower in the short term.

Meanwhile, the National Film Development Corp (Finas) reported that it is drawing up a targeted action plan to assist cinema exhibitors who are forced to suspend operations in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Finas deputy chairman Datuk Norman Abdul Halim said there is a need to maintain the current ecosystem, including the film production companies and cinema operators.

“This is temporary. People are still going to movie theatres. But they are waiting for blockbuster films which have been delayed and postponed due to the pandemic.

“As for now, filmmakers need to be more creative and flexible to survive. Take advantage of the online streaming platform, for example Astro First,” he told TMR.

Norman said Finas is offering a Digital Content Fund to stimulate the creative industry and economy.

“There are few companies applying for the fund and Finas is in the middle of filtering the application, and will issue the offer letter,” he added.

In addition, Finas through the Ministry of Communications and Multimedia yesterday announced that it is offering “Program Dana Mikro Khas Pelaksana Covid-19”.

The fund aims to provide opportunities to industry players individually, to produce creative content based on the theme of “Cultivation of New Norms” in the community.

“It consists of the production of videos in short film and short documentary categories, as well as content for social media channels, for example YouTube,” it said in a statement.

The content must include the components, including effectiveness of government measures in curbing the spread of Covid-19 and cultivation of new norms in society.

The work of this project will belong to the recipient of the fund and the payment amount of the fund will be channelled according to the milestone (project development).

The micro category is eligible to get financing up to RM5,000, community film (up to RM15,000) and digital media development (up to RM20,000).

Applications for participation in this programme have been opened for registration from Nov 6 until Nov 16, 2020.

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