The Malaysian film industry seem to be oblivious of what is going around them. The current global financial crisis will impact the local film industry one way or the other - and no one, including FINAS, has not announced any measures to safeguard the industry.
When such financial crisis occur, two things may happen.
One effect that is quite serious is that funding sources may disappear. The film industry has many 'funding patrons' - both through institutions and private sources. If the financial world crashes, these funding sources would clam up and stop funding the film industry as it is, obviously, an industry that is considered non-essential. Tycoons and millionaires who previously would splash a million here and another million there (for whatever reasons), will suddenly realise that their finances are finite and therefore they cannot support their whims and fancies.
So, when this happens, the film industry will face a funding crunch and will face imminent collapse.
Furthermore, if the country's financial mechanism is also affected, payments to TV producers, who funds TV productions up front (with funding from various sources including Ahlongs and rumoured underworld funding) will find it difficult to sustain a manageable cash flow.
Currently, the average pay back time from most TV stations is between 3-6 months (you'll be lucky to get payment within 2 months). So, any more delay in payments from stations will actually cause producers (especially the small to meidum size companies) to close shop.
FINAS, who have been very quiet and non-assuming in the industry of recent, need to assist the industry - heck, that is their role anyway - to overcome this period of uncertainty.
I heard talk of the Ministry thinking about reviewing the RM50 million revolving fund made available to producers. The talk is that the fund may be turned into a grant instead of a loan.
Whilst this may seem to be heaven sent for local producers, it may also be abused. I somewhat agree to this change of funding status but only for new producers. Those who have borrowed from the fund, SHOULD STILL BE MADE TO PAY, because they went in with eyes wide opened. They cannot hope to let their loans be converted into grants.
Only the new applicants can opt for the grants.
The format of grants should also be different. Its criteria is different and its funding mechanism different. It should be given to productions skewered to certain 'ideals' or 'themes' - be it culture, nationalism, patriotism, tourism etc. However, commercial productions without any social or artistic merit should not be offered the grant. A soft-loan mechanism should still be in place for them.
Another success-based funding system can also be created - meaning if the movie that has been given a soft loan does well overseas (in terms of sales and awards at festivals), the loan could then be given some sort of incentive which could include converting the existing loan into a grant.
However, when the term grant is bandied around, a lot of opportunists will emerge.
All they need is an accountant who can prepare really 'creative accounts' that show the cost of production ballooning, but without showing the money that went out for their brand new mercedes. They also need cronies within the system. So you might still get to see untested producers and fly-by-night production houses receiving million Ringgit grants to produce movies.
The second effect is a more positive effect. Rare but it may happen.
This is that film and TV viewership may actually increase when depression or recession sets in. This is true in India's film-going scenario. Film is an escapist fare. It is still one of the cheapest forms of entertainment (this includes TV and video). Therefore during bad times sets, the need for entertainment, the need for laughter in their homes or in their free time can be paramount. Most would therefore resort to film and TV.
Therefore, in a weird way, films can actually make huge profits if this scenario happens.
In some ways, it is also a chicken and egg situation - you need funds to make movies for people to watch to make profit. You have to produce a movie in order to see if there are people out there willing to pay to watch it and be entertained.
Therefore, producers who are willing to gamble may be rewarded. Maybe.
What I know is that for most Malays, when times are hard, movies that come out of Prof Madya Razak Maidin's Line Clear factory becomes their panacea for bad times.
Now THAT is a scary thought.