Singapore is an island state at the foot of the Malay Peninsula in South East Asia. A leading economy in the region, it is a magnet for media companies, attracting the likes of LucasFilm, Disney, HBO Asia, MTV, BBC, CNBC and Discovery to its shores.
Media strategy in the country is managed by Singapore’s Media Development Authority (MDA). While there are no flat-rate tax incentives for foreign filmmakers, the MDA has overseen a massive investment in the country’s media industry which is designed to benefit both international and domestic content creators. Key to benefiting from the Singapore system is working on projects that can help boost the local industry. This is why the MDA sets such store by co-productions, for example.
Singapore’s investment in media means it is now home to a world-class technical infrastructure. This makes it an appealing HQ for filmmakers looking to base themselves in the region. In terms of the wider infrastructure, Singapore has excellent hotels and roads as well as a major international airport.
Latest figures from the MDA put the value of the media sector at S$7.4bn. Around 74,000 people are employed in the sector.
If there is a downside it is cost. Singapore would not be the place to go if you are looking for cheap Asian locations.
Singapore has high levels of production, though most projects aren’t seen beyond the domestic or Asian market. Exceptions to this include productions like Anthony Chen’s Ilo Ilo, which won the Camera d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival, and Rob The Robot, a 3D preschool series co-produced by One Animation (Singapore) and Amberwood Entertainment (Canada). The show has been shown in around 57 territories worldwide.
Projects that showcase Singapore’s capabilities include HBO Asia/ABC Australia’s TV miniseries Serangoon Road. Set in mid-60s Singapore, the show is a crime story played out at a time when Singapore was becoming an independent republic.
In terms of other international projects, in 2014 Singapore was announced as a location for Agent 47, a 20th Century Fox movie that will star Rupert Friend (Homeland, The Young Victoria).
Singapore has a reputation for being a regulation-heavy society. But it is fairly relaxed on paperwork related to filming. The key thing is to contact the MDA so that it can advise which documents need to go where. There are, for example, paperwork requirements concerning labour and immigration. Within the MDA, there is a Singapore Film Commission, which can handle enquiries related to this part of the business.
The big story regarding studios was the 2012 launch of Infinite Studios, which is based at Mediapolis with a separate backlot at Pulau Batam (a nearby island reachable by ferry). A joint venture between Ascendas and Citramas Group, Infinite has two soundstage studios designed in consultation with Raleigh Studios. It is part of a complex that also includes a range of related services such as digital distribution, production & post-production facilities.
At the official opening of the studios, minister for communications & information Dr Yaacob Ibrahmi said: “Infinite Studios features Singapore’s largest purpose-built sound stages equipped with green screen capabilities, as well as other facilities and services that offer VFX and high-speed content transmission capabilities. The completion of Infinite Studios means Singapore is ready to take on large-scale film and TV productions for a global audience. The soundstages have already been used to shoot and produce Australian children’s TV show, Hi-5, reality TV shows, and commercials, among others. I invite international studios and production houses to look no further than Singapore for an effective, efficient and business friendly environment for your shoot.”
Scenes for Serangoon Road were shot on the backlot in Pulau Batam, which is approximately 40 minutes by ferry.
Singapore is a small country, which means most locations can be reached within an hour’s drive. It’s probably best known for its modern business district but there are other interesting spots such as Orchard Road, Bugis Junction Mall, Raffles Hotel, Chinatown and Little India. Other interesting locations include the Marina Bay Sands Hotel, Haw Par Villa theme park, Changi Airport, Singapore’s Port and Sentosa Island, where you can find a range of leisure activities and white sand beaches.
In terms of climate it is generally warm but has an issue with high humidity and rainfall. December to March and June to September are both classified as monsoon seasons.
Singaporean crews are experienced, hard working and speak good English. There’s also a good range of equipment as you’d expect in such a techy-savvy country.
To see the kind of kit available try talking to A&T Audio Visual, a rental firm that serves Singapore and the wider region. Alternatives include Cinegear and FEG, a Singapore firm offering a range of services such as equipment rental, crew hire and general production services support in Singapore and across Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia. There is also Cameraquip, which has offices in Singapore and across Australia.
Singapore has good post-production companies and is also an attractive option from the point of view of casting, mixing Chinese, Southeast Asia, Indian and European looks.