IMDA’s Angeline Poh

As assistant chief executive (industry development) at IMDA, Angeline Poh is involved in a wide range of initiatives, among them talent-development workshops such as Story Lab and wide-scale events like the Singapore Media Festival. Poh talks to TV Asia about some of the IMDA’s key activities as it works to make Singapore a hub for the Asian media business.

TV ASIA: Singapore has always been very strong in animation. In what other areas are you seeing Singaporean companies gain a foothold?
POH: We have a longstanding partnership with HBO Asia in drama. It was great for us to hear the news that the content HBO is producing in Asia is now going to be shown on the U.S. OTT platform as well. So we’re very encouraged by the fact that HBO Asia is able to do good-quality dramas, to tell stories from our region, that appeal not only to Asians but to a global audience. It encourages us to do more with them and other partners on the drama front. We’ve also seen our home-grown independent companies go from strength to strength. [IFA Media] was awarded a Netflix commission out of Asia earlier this year for a Chinese-language drama. That’s the direction we think we’ll see, where Singapore plays a part in creating those stories, but it will be an ensemble effort where you have talent from different parts of Asia, stories coming from elsewhere, but really us helping to make it possible and having a role to play in delivering the stories.

TV ASIA: We’ve talked in the past about IMDA’s role in helping companies embrace digital content. Are you still involved in such initiatives?
POH: We continue to look at working with different partners. We started with Maker Studios. We’re also looking at working with different OTT partners. While we strike up different partnerships on one level, we’re also looking at doubling down on our investment in storytelling. Regardless of the platform and the medium through which the story is delivered, what really matters is having a great story told very well. A year and a half ago we created this initiative called Story Lab, and it’s really about identifying people in Singapore who have a knack for creating great concepts. We help them go through a workshop process to hone their craft and concepts.

TV ASIA: Tell us about the Singapore Media Festival.
POH: We see it as a platform for the discovery of talent and stories [from Asia]. Through our event partners we’ve created platforms like the ATF Formats Pitch with all3media international, the Southeast Asian Film Financing Project Market, and this year ATF has introduced an Animation Pitch. These are ways in which people who are less well known in the industry can come to the surface and their ideas might get a chance to be heard by commissioners and financiers.

We have a Country of Focus for the first time, Indonesia. It’s one of the most populous countries in the world. And more than that, it’s a country that is really becoming addressable. The archipelago is so vast and it’s been hard to reach everyone, but today technology is changing that. For a lot of people in Indonesia, their first experience of the internet is going to be on a cellphone. That makes content providers rethink their model of how they are going to serve that market. There’s a lot of curiosity and interest in the market, and we’re trying to do our part to demystify it. We’re going to create an opportunity for people from the Indonesian industry, producers and broadcasters, to come and share what they’re looking for and match them with people who are curious to go into the market. That’s another attempt at being a bridge. You’ll see Indonesia pop up in all our pillar events. The other common thread across all the events is VR. That’s the new digital frontier. But more than just talking about technology, we really want to explore storytelling using VR. It’s just another medium, another tool, for storytelling. So it’s not so much about the geek bits of the tech, it’s about how you create a stronger emotional connection with the audience. VR has that potential. And we’re only at the start of learning and mastering the art of using this medium.