Rising and reaching beyond: Singapore Media Festival’s Top Five Highlights

SG Media Festival 2021
The 2021 Singapore Media Festival celebrated regional and global growth in Asian storytelling with new connections and business opportunities driving local content beyond the little red dot.

By Tatiyana Emylia

As Singapore closes in on two years of living with the pandemic, it has become hard to deny the role entertainment and media plays in our lives. With almost 70 percent of the population subscribed to at least one streaming service and the infocomm media industry growing by 4.8 percent despite the pandemic—now more than ever, restless individuals are escaping to the wondrous, limitless worlds that media in all forms can build.

Among these colourful universes is an increasing amount of made-with Singapore content, as the nation’s local media scene continues to grow, and creators collaborate more extensively with regional and global partners. This year, hosted by the Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA), the eighth edition of the Singapore Media Festival (SMF) aims to celebrate just that: the progression and connection of our content creators to the global stage. The festival packed a slew of content-rich events from 24 November to 5 December 2021, including the return of the highly anticipated VidCon Asia Summit (VidCon) and the ever popular Singapore International Film Festival (SGIFF).

Each event saw exciting content and new connections, but to condense it all, here are our top five highlights from the 2021 Singapore Media Festival:

1. Getting intimate with unique perspectives in film

A scene from the action-romance Vengeance is Mine, All Others Pay Cash played at the Singapore Media Festival
The festival opened with action-romance Vengeance is Mine, All Others Pay Cash by Indonesian filmmaker Mr Edwin. Since its release the film has impressed international audiences and clinched the 2021 Golden Leopard at the Locarno Film Festival. 

The country’s largest and longest-running film event, the Singapore International Film Festival (SGIFF), returned in a theatre-only format this year with cinema screenings, talks, panels, and even developmental programmes.

Beyond attracting the usual suspects of film enthusiasts and creatives, programme director Mr Thong Kay Wee’s goal for this 32nd edition was to also engage and excite new audiences. The curation of more than 100 films screened over the twelve-day festival sought to expose moviegoers to fresh perspectives in the hopes of broadening their appreciation of the new and uncomfortable.

At the festival’s 2021 Silver Screen Awards, Hit the Road by Iranian filmmaker Mr Panah Panahi clinched the honour of best film. Mr Panahi’s debut feature film, the chaotic odyssey follows the journey of an Iranian family as they flee their home without ever quite telling us why. 

Apart from the screenings, the festival also held a series of Film Academy developmental programmes including the Southeast Asian Film Lab, Southeast Asian Producers Network, and Youth Jury & Critics Programme to nurture more film talent in Singapore’s media industry and Southeast Asia. Esteemed mentors helming these programmes include award-winning Malaysian filmmaker Mr Tan Chui Mui, veteran producer Mr Fran Borgia, and eminent local playwright and poet Mr Alfian Sa’at.

2. Launching local talent to infinity and beyond

From 1 to 3 December, the Asia TV Forum and Market (ATF) this year honed in on its mission to expand the networks of local media talent across the globe through conferences, content showcases, and networking sessions among others.

Singapore Music Festival: Minister for Communications and Information Mrs Josephine Teo attends the event virtually
Attending virtually, Minister for Communications and Information Mrs Josephine Teo shared several new initiatives dedicated to developing local talent and building strong ties.  

To this end, Minister for Communications and Information Mrs Josephine Teo announced a number of new initiatives in her opening address, such as the enhanced Capability Partnership Programme which will see Singapore media companies Beach House Pictures and Clover Films expanding their global partnerships to produce made-with-Singapore creative projects. 

For instance, Beach House will create a series of premium documentaries for international platforms like CuriosityStream, while Clover Films will be partnering the platform iQIYI for several online films. These partnerships are expected to benefit over 90 local small and mid-size enterprises (SMEs) and more than 500 media talents in the process.

Meanwhile, ATF’s Production Afternoons saw key players like Amazon Studios, DITURN, and ITV Studios offering insights into evolving production capabilities and potential opportunities.

3. Fostering connections and opportunities for creative talent

ASEAN panellists share pandemic strategies for creators at Singapore Media Festival over a Zoom meeting
Streamed online over the Asia TV Forum and Market Online+ 2.0 platform, panellists from across ASEAN shared their experiences and strategies as creators working in a pandemic.

Running concurrently with ATF was ScreenSingapore—the definitive marketplace for filmmakers, producers, distributors, financiers and film buyers looking to explore collaborations in Southeast Asia.

The segment’s ASEAN Roundtable discussion delved into the intricacies of the media industry as industry experts shared personal insights as well as the ins and outs of developing creative projects in the region. Additionally, the discussion touched on the impact of COVID-19, where Mr Rachvin Narula, co-founder and CEO of Benetone Films shared the need to pivot and engage local and regional talent rather than relying on overseas shoots. 

Finally, as we step into the age of New Media, the panel discussed the evolution of media platforms and strategies to leverage such platforms to capture a younger audience—citing TikTok in particular as a content space to watch.  

4. The return of VidCon Asia

Industry leaders from Singapore's media industry come together at the VidCon Asia Summit 2021
At VidCon Asia Summit 2021, industry players and creators came together to share their experiences telling stories over new platforms like TikTok.  

The largest celebration of content creators worldwide, VidCon, fleetingly touched the hearts of Asian content creators when it arrived in Singapore for its first ever VidCon Asia Summit in 2019—only to disappear in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic.

This year however, VidCon Asia is back with the event’s signature Industry Track proving invaluable to budding and experienced content creators alike. The segment illuminated aspects of content creation including monetisation, branding and working with social media platforms during the one-day convention held on 25 November.

One spotlighted platform was TikTok. Mr Justin Keh, Head of Growth and Operations, TikTok Creator Marketing Solutions (APAC) shed light on the Creator Economy of the application, and how it reinvented storytelling, audience engagement, and storytelling.

Some of Singapore’s most celebrated creators also took to the stage during the event, including beatboxer Dharni and multi-hyphenate Annette Lee. To further build the capabilities of top creators like Dharni and Lee in useful aspects like content marketing, audience engagement and data analytics, IMDA will be partnering YouTube and other service providers to offer dedicated training and mentorship. 

5. There’s no place like Comic Con 

Regional esports teams battle it out at the DOTA 2 Community Tournament
On the first day of the event, regional esports teams began to battle it out at the DOTA 2 Community Tournament. The finals for the Community Tournaments will be held from 1 January to 2 January 2022.

Another event returning after a year-long hiatus is the highly anticipated Singapore Comic Con (SGCC). Despite the event being held entirely online, fans of all things comic, toys, and gaming enjoyed five jam-packed weeks of events from 3 December to 2 January 2022.

Continuing to create connections and grow local talent, this edition of SGCC included the Work-in-Progress (WIP) Programme Pitch Session, where participants witnessed creators directly pitching to participating publishers and media companies.

During the Meet and Greet session, fans of Singapore’s first ever creature feature film, Circle Line, had the chance to virtually meet Director JD Chua and sneak a peek at exclusive behind-the-scenes stories and special footage.

Finally, the event rings in the new year with the finals of the esports Community Tournaments as competitors face off in just about every popular video game from Pokemon Unite to Valorant. 

Hungry for more Singapore Media Festival content? Click here to find out more about each event!

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