Most every publication have their lists on who is the most powerful people in the film industry. Hollywood Reporter, Entertainment Weekly, E! And even Fortune produce lists showing people like Oprah, Steven Spielberg, Peter Jackson, John Cameron, Jon Favreau etc.
Who are the most powerful people in the Malaysian film industry?
Below is my list based on productivity, influence, popularity, box office impact and other factors. Least of all quality of product. Yup serious. Quality is not an important factor at all. This is not my first Most Powerful list - I did it a few times before when I was a film critic and a columnist for a couple of local newspapers in the 80s.
We will start from the last in the list to the top of the list.
The indie film movement. This group of upstarts have been making waves for the past few years. Even though their films hardly make a dent in the local box office market, their movies have been attracting international acclaim and interest. Only recently, Malaysian Liew Seng Tat won an award at the high profile Sundance Film Festival in the US. Other indie filmmakers have been winning various awards at other international festivals in Rotterdam and Taiwan. A couple have already left our shores to ply their craft overseas and have been successful. A few of these indie filmmakers have also tried their hands on making mainstream movies and only James Lee seem to be making enough box office to be considered a serious mainstream filmmaker. His latest film Sini Ada Hantu opens in February 2011 and this follows his modest hit Histeria which was released in 2009.
This young director is making waves with his action movies. None of his movies have lost money for his father’s company Scope Productions. Locally, his movies have also been winning technical awards for the past few years. At 25, he is a relatively newbie but with his win as the Best Director at the Malaysian Film Awards, he has been seen by many as one of the best hopes for Malay mainstream movies.
KRU pictures and brothers. This siblings has gone far from their hiphop beginnings. Their empire has grown quite extensive including a couple of huge concessions in the corporate world. In the film industry, they have been making inroads though box office wise, their movies have not made big coins. They however made it big last year when their fairy tale musical comedy Majika won the Best Film nod at the National Film Awards.
They are also in the midst of completing their multi-million ringgit film studios in Cyberjaya and awaiting the release of their multi-million ringgit epic Merong Mahawangsa. They have also entered international production arena with the release of their animated movie Disco Worms and the box office dud Deadline starring the late Britanny Murphy.
They have not been producing much the past two years, but the ability for them to produce at a moment’s notice makes them a serious player. With Media Prima and Primeworks behind them, GB will soon be amongst the major film produces again. What to watch out for is the cinema version of TV3’s major TV hit Nur Kasih.
Line Clear Films – the company owned by the Maidin brothers. Associate Professor Razak Maidin is the creative force behind this team and has been constantly producing four to six titles a year. However, whilst they are still churning out mainstream stuff, they need to recreate the magic of five years ago when Razak’s films were making serious box office impact. His recent titles weren’t much to shout about, but nevertheless, their productivity is still something to watch. However, with Associate Professor Razak being tipped to head FACT in Uitm there might be a chance that Line Clear might not be as prolific as before.
FINAS - the National Film Development Corporation. Why are they in the list? Because they sit on a major fund for the players. This fund, both grants and loans, allow filmmakers to produce their visions. However, it is because of the grants which in effect makes FINAS into a production company that land them in the list. Once release, the grants for movies of patriotic and cultural nature will allow at least 5 producers to roll out ‘quality’ movies meant for local and international markets.
Tayangan Unggul – this Astro owned entity, managed by Gayathri, has been in the forefront of the Malaysian cinema industry for quite awhile. Many directors have been hired by TU to produce some gems over the last few years including Adflin Shauki, Kabir Bakhtiar and Mamat Khalid. Last year, their movie, Mak Limah Balik Ke Rumah, directed by Mamat Khalid, broke box office records after coining nearly RM9 million worth of tickets.
The Cinema Owners
GSC, TGV and Cathay are the two big cinema chain owners. If I’m not mistaken, GSC and Cathay are related, and TGV is partly related to Astro’s parent company. Being the three big cinema chains in the country, how they help promote local movies is crucial to a movie’s success. They actually love it when a Malay movie makes big bucks because they rake in 50 percent of the box office takings.
Ahmad Idham – this prolific filmmaker has been producing blockbusters for himself and his partner MIG. His horror movies Jangan Pandang Belakang, Congkak, Jangan Pandangan Belakang Congkak, Damping Malam, are all big box office movies. His success rate makes him a darling of producers, investors and cinema owners. He was also even rumored to have been in the running to take over the Finas DG hotseat. The fact that he is also on Finas’s Board of Directors, make him a powerful young filmmaker indeed.
David Teoh/Metrowealth – David Teoh is the most powerful man in the Malaysian film industry. He has the financial clout to produce at least 12 titles a year and what’s more, his movies – more than not – make profits. His latest horror movie released late 2010, Nangkung took in more than RM8 million. This was after his comedy Adnan Sempit made more than RM6million. David has a philosophy that irks a lot of serious filmmakers, but he is hardly apologetic. He makes hit movies, he is the darling of the Malay film press, he is loved by the people who are involved in his productions as he lavished them with expensive gifts when the movie makes serious coinage and he is respected by the powers that be. He is also on the Finas Board of Directors. He has no serious competitors or challengers in the industry and if he monopolises the screen time right up til 2012 with his many movie titles (that is already completed or in production), other producers will find it hard to survive.
An entity that deserves mention would be the pirates who whacks the movies as soon as they can get their hands on the masters or a copy of the films produced. For example Mamat Khalid’s Estet pirate copy hit the streets within a week of its release. Usually, Malay titles appear within a month but these days, the titles appear within two weeks. They take away revenue from producers who have to beg borrow and steal to produce their work, and they get away with it. In Sarawak, where there are hardly any theaters in towns like Sarikei, Mukah, Bintulu and Sibu, pirated Malay titles are sold indiscreetly and make a bundle for the pirates. It seems like a never ending problem for the local film industry.
Another entity that is as powerful as any of the producers or directors is the Malay entertainment press. These people, both the mainstream print and the magazines, have the power to make or break anyone. An artiste who falls out of favor with them will be 'blacklisted' and even hunted down til they fade away. Anyone who panders to these people with presents, events, open door policy to their productions and artistes, trips overseas, junkets and many other sweets, will be praised and promoted through their medium. A bad movie with the right words in the press can and will become a box office hit. A good movie without the backing of these people will hardly make a dent in the box office. That's how powerful these people are. Step on their toes and you'd be damned forever.