Film In Malaysia
Since 2006, over RM800m has been invested into the local creative industries by the Malaysian government. The number of Malaysian feature films created per year has more than double from 39 in 2010 to 84 in 2014. Despite those positive numbers, less than 10 percent of Malaysian films are profitable. Government incentives have led to a system in which filmmakers earn their income through securing production grants, not through the created films. In addition, market demand is artificially manufactured through screening policies that ensure every Malaysian film at least one week in local cinemas. Both, screening policies and production funding, have created a film business that no longer attempts to make films for an audience or a market but to finance individual lifestyles. In a market economy, such systems have come to a halt at some point. And indeed, Malaysia is starting to reconsider and potentially downsize its funding for local content.
Meanwhile, a very small number of local independent filmmakers are breaking out of the government subsidy system. They are starting to use digital media to make films, build audience and monetize their work. In 2000, Amir Mohammad made Lips to Lips – the first digital feature film in Malaysia. His 2003 film The Big Durian was the first Malaysian film shown at Sundance Film Festival. Tan Chui Mui and Liew Seng Tat are two young filmmakers that are using international co-productions to finance their films and distribute them through international film festivals. James Lee has recently stopped making commercial films and started to build his own audiences through his YouTube channel – where he collaborates with young local filmmakers, exhibits his own films and runs a web show. Quek Shio Chuan was ‘discovered’ by a local production company through his YouTube video. He now makes story-driven advertisements to generate income for his first feature-length film project. A similar picture is emerging in exhibition. Admission for Malaysian films in multiplex cinemas is stagnant at best, while independent film festivals such as the KL Experimental Film Festival, the Freedom Film Festival, George Town Festival, the ASEAN International Film Festival and the newly established Johor Film Festival, are growing Malaysian audiences for alternative films.
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