Leading Asian Producers Talk Trends at AAAs Conference


Producers and directors of some of the titles in the running for best drama at the Asian Academy Creative Awards (AAAs) Gala Final in Singapore weighed in on the storytelling process and scripted trends at a panel today moderated by World Screen’s Mansha Daswani.

The panel at the National Winners Conference featured Redoan Rony discussing the Bangladeshi contender Jaago Bahey (Wake Up Brother), Daisuke Kusagaya for Japan’s Don’t Call it Mystery, Imillya Roslan for Malaysia’s Ganjil, Dondon for On the Job from the Philippines and Lee Thean–Jeen for Singapore’s This Land is Mine.

This Land is Mine, a Weiyu Films production for Mediacorp, was adapted from the novel The Devil’s Circle by Walter Woon. “I was particularly intrigued by it because it took place in the months after World War II,” said Lee, managing director of Weiyu and director of the show. “We had seen a lot of shows about WWII, about what Singapore went through during the Japanese occupation. This novel was unique because it covered the months after World War II, when the Japanese had surrendered and the British had come back and formed the British Military Administration.”

On the Job, from Reality MM Studios and Globe Studios for HBO GO, was inspired by a conversation about “prisoners for hire who would assassinate people,” said Dondon, executive producer. “We found out that there are really people coming out from prison and making kills and then they go back to the prison without being traced.”

Ganjil is a Viu Malaysia original from Razor’s Edge Pictures. Roslan, associate director of physical production at Viu Malaysia, said her and her team were immediately attracted to the “beautiful” romance and fantasy drama concept.

Jaago Bahey was commissioned by Bangladesh OTT service Chorki, of which Rony is the COO. It covers three seminal time periods in Bangladeshi history. “It has the potential to show younger generations about the inner feelings of the country,” he said.

Fuji Television Network’s Don’t Call it Mystery was inspired by a popular graphic novel. “We were convinced this would be a new kind of mystery drama,” said Kasugaya, the show’s executive producer.

The panelists weighed in on the challenges of accessing talent today given the volume of scripted production taking place across the region.

“Especially in Singapore, the talent pool is limited, maybe because of the size of the industry,” Lee said. “For us, it’s usually a question of scheduling. We booked our lead actress a year and a half in advance. The shoot schedule revolved around when the main cast was available.”

Dondon added, “We had to juggle from one network to the other, just trying to secure the services of each talent the director believed in. That was an obstacle. It took a lot of years to even finish the project. On the production side, the biggest challenge was looking for the right production designer. The government wouldn’t want us to shoot inside the real prison system, so we wanted a production designer that could actually emulate the scenario, with the right extras to look like real prisoners. It was a big challenge.”

Roslan noted, “In Malaysia, it’s not easy to find the right writers for our stories. For Gangil, we brought an Indonesian writer. At Viu we’re lucky because we have internal writers. It was very hard to get the cast we wanted. But we also have relationships with talent managers.”

“I call Bangladesh the land of stories,” Rony noted. “This is our opportunity. The challenge is to transform these stories into films. We need more skilled writers and technical crews. I think we can overcome those things in time.”

Kusagaya added, “With the rise of streaming platforms, many projects are being produced at the same time. As a result, each company is competing with each other for assistant directors, location coordinators and other personnel in various departments. We are suffering from a shortage of human resources. In order to secure talent offscreen, we have to train our staff from scratch. We must continue to create attractive content that will make people want to work with us.”

On managing escalating costs, Lee stated, “I think the way forward is, instead of all of us producing content on our own, maybe it’s time to team up and share resources and see if we can find projects that can cross borders.”

Dondon agreed, noting, “We’re trying to synergize projects with different companies in different countries. We’re pitching projects where we can work with other countries. We’re working with a Korean company. We did two projects with them already. We put in Korean actors and Filipino actors together. That would help us actually find funding and on costs. The streaming platforms are looking for universal concepts, targeting different countries. That’s what we’re doing to cope with the higher costs facing us.”