Things are getting weird and critical in the TV production industry. It seems no one, or rather very few producers, is looking at RTM as a revenue source for the time being. This is because it seems that RTM has not enough funds to commission new programmes. The most recent call for tender was an eight-programme tender for the Chinese New Year programming. And that's it.
Furthermore, only Chinese producers or Chinese-owned production companies took part in this tender process as there is an unwritten law that Bumiputra producers are not allowed to pitch for Chinese programmes. The same goes for Indian-language programming too which are meant for Indian producers.
However, for normal programming in Bahasa Malaysia, everyone is allowed to tender. So much for affirmative action right?
Anyway, luckily for some Malay producers, the new TV station Al Hijrah has started to commission some programmes.
So far so good. In terms of quantum, Al Hijrah is offering much the same as Astro - averaging less than RM40k per commissioned hour (unless it's a special project and screened on Citra which currently offers the best budgets for any TV stations in the country). But Al Hijrah's payment terms is the best in the industry (if they keep to it).
For other producers, ASTRO who carried out a full blown pitching process in August, their fate will be made known this week. The results of the pitching process will be out. Those who sent in proposals will know if they would have any projects to role before the end of the year.
Media Prima? Well, not many producers have access to Media Prima projects. It's like a very close knit community with only a few producers given a look-see, and with producers that they are already comfortable with. My proposal for a secret agent series ala my father's Jefri Zain character made it to the Carcosa list (the final presentation). But alas, TV3 did not bite.
I know a couple of friends who got commissioned by Media Prima for some of the proposals they submitted at the same pitching session. Good for them.
So, for nearly 300 producers, the emails from Astro therefore becomes more and more important for their survival.
I have received my emails, and if all goes well, I can breathe easier next year. Thank you Astro.
I got ziltch from TV3 and RTM.
But I will be going into production immediately for Al Hijrah. Terima kasih Al Hijrah. Another life saver.
I only wish that RTM would get their act together and actually be the main source of revenue for top producers in the country like they once used to. If RTM doesn't invite and commission programmes by the end of this year, I believe many producers who depend solely on RTM will go bust.
It would be a sad state of affairs, especially when the Minister of Information recently said the industry is a multi-billion ringgit industry. Where the billions go to I don't know.
I know desperate producers are sending in proposals to FINAS to survive.
FINAS is paying good money for documentaries and has an ongoing request for proposals with the deadline closing on the 14th of October.
These documentaries have handsome budgets and most producers are already lobbying whoever they think can pull strings in the Ministry to approve their proposals. Worse thing is, most of these producers have never ever done documentaries before. Magazine programmes yes but documentaries - I doubt it.
I got no strings to pull but still I am submitting two proposals.
Having survived the past two years by producing documentaries for Awani Astro, I believe I have the ability to produce quality documentaries. So I hope my cv and resume will be attractive and impressive enough for FINAS.
What did I propose? Two documentaries - one on Wan Mat Saman, the Menteri Besar of Kedah in the 19th Century who built the longest canal in Malaya, and another documentary on the concept of Kapitan China in our history - with a focus on Yap Ah Loy. Who are the Kapitans? Who appointed them? What are their powers and responsibilities? Who is Yap Ah Loy? Who was the last Kapitan? Why did the post end?
That would be interesting isn't it? Even something that could be screened on History Channel.
Anyway, I do hope FINAS remains objective and study proposals on merit. (Okayyyy I'm trying to keep a straight face here and not fall off my chair laughing).
Anyway, after this week, many producers will either sigh with relief or break down and cry.
It is sad.
After ASTRO's decision to release titles they want to commission this week, they will be no other commissioning process in sight from any of the four channels anymore this year.
To my friends and fellow producers, directors, writers and filmmakers, I wish you all the best of luck. Be brave. Be positive. Kalau satu pun tak dapat, there's quite a lot of gerai stall space available at the food courts in Kota Damansara.
We Malay producers kalau tak dapat project, usually think about selling nasi lemak or tomyam.
Sad isn't it?