Frank: My own kids are able to filter content and they’re just 8 and 10 years-old, and way ahead of me in terms of content gathering even though I pride myself on trying to keep up with the trends. With technology and information from the digital world, there is no shortage of content – from the unfiltered but scary world of YouTube, to Netflix Kids, to the constantly growing array of ondemand suppliers.
Kids will never really know what a TV schedule is all about. Factual content be it UGC or expensive blue chip products, it’s all out there and they’re already watching them. The question remains, how do we as parents manage the experience, how do we ensure our kids get to watch what they should? We spend more time acting as filters for appropriate content than as curators guiding them to the best of what’s out there.
What are the key challenges to face in factual production and how do you overcome them?
Frank: The challenge is always about reality conquering the ambition. No matter how well plans are crafted, reality gets in the way. In the factual world, nature, people and politics tend to mess with your perfect story idea.
We’ve had a good run and were lucky with a series of great award winning, high rating shows over the years. We develop constantly and encourage the team to think beyond good ideas. We constantly ask – who are our clients, who are the audiences? These are areas even talented producers tend to forget at times. Does it have the storytelling in place and the depth and strength to move the audience? We sometimes spent hours at the conceptualisation stage.
If you’re talking about the broader challenges the market faces in Asia, then it’s about creating relationships that allow co-productions to bring content to the audience. The world of full commissioning budgets are long gone, and as clients are experimenting ways to attract and hold audiences, we are trying to persuade them to make new partnerships, co-fund projects and structure deals that fit a new landscape.
Share some of your great projects and what can the industry expect from you in 2016?
Frank: We’re incredibly excited about 2016. We’re growing fast. We’ve always been an Asian company that creates global documentaries but 2016 has big changes in store for us. We’ve just sold our first format in China and the ratings are huge. We’ve partnered with Group M on a project, working on Chinese language dramas, and that’s in addition to our normal slate of factual content. We’re working on a big history series for an international cable channel, and hoping for our first game show in Asia. We are determined to prove that Singaporean producers can deliver beyond factual to formats and dramas to a worldwide audience.