The SAFF Project Market according to Chan Gin Kai and Justin Deimen

So you think you have a brilliant award-winning film idea, but yet have neither the connections nor the funding for it? Heard of the Southeast Asian Film Financing (SAFF) Project Market?

A partnership between the Southeast Asian Audio Visual Association (SAAVA), Ties That Bind and ScreenSingapore, the initiative aims to match promising feature-length projects with a global network of media financiers, distributors, and collaborators who can bring budding projects to fruition.

With an impressive 148 project submissions in its inaugural edition last year, SAFF is a testimony of how the Southeast Asian film industry is coming to its own. Riding on this growing momentum, SAFF 2016 will offer aspiring filmmakers more opportunities this year by increasing the number of selected projects from 10 to 15.

We chat with Justin Deimen, Executive Director, SAAVA and Group Managing Partner, Aurora Media Capital; and Chan Gin Kai, Executive Producer, Silver Media Group and President, SAAVA, who is also part of the SAFF 2016 judging panel.


Photo courtesy of Chan Gin Kai

Gin Kai
Executive Producer, Silver Media
Group and President, SAAVA


Gin Kai has created, executive produced and produced several award winning feature film projects as well as TV programmes for audiences worldwide. Some of the broadcasters he has worked with include Discovery, Animal Planet, CNBC, Modern Times Group, SVT, MediaCorp and many more.

Gin Kai co-founded and currently chairs the Southeast Asian Audio-Visual Association (SAAVA), an alliance that seeks to unify film producers from around the region to stimulate an exchange of skills and collaborations. As one of the region’s few film financing experts, Gin Kai has been invited to speak at various industry conferences, as well as educational and financial institutions about SAAVA.


Executive Director, SAAVA and Group Managing Partner, Aurora Media Capital


Photo courtesy of Justin Deimen

A film journalist by training and a true cineaste at heart, Justin has written and edited for publications based in Singapore, Amsterdam, London and New York. He is one of the few writers in the region officially accredited with the International Federation of Film Critics (FIPRESCI) after his stint in Europe covering film festivals and critiquing films.

With a varied and applied experience with the art of story and the creative business process, Justin is also one of the region’s foremost scriptwriters and script editors. He continues to work with top producers and directors in both film and television industries to create compelling commercial content.

What is some advice that you would give to budding filmmakers looking for funding for their film projects?

JD: From my experience looking for financing as a producer, one of the most important aspects that filmmakers here face is a lack of understanding on why financiers are financing and what they are looking for in the first place. Each financier type is looking for different criterions. Researching and finding out the value your project brings to the table is a big part of the pitching process. Investors are looking to you to show them the best proposition you can give them. They are investing in you.

GK: Filmmakers need to accept that all money sources come with strings attached. When they learn to accept that and differentiate between the strings, the ropes and the chains, they have better chances of getting their films financed.

What can filmmakers gain by joining the SAFF Project Market?

JD: SAFF is now the biggest content financing platform in the region and it serves as a network for producers and filmmakers to find support for their project, not just through important cash investment, but also through the contacts they make and co-producers to accelerate their project development. For the savvy filmmaker, finding funding at the SAFF is only one small objective. The SAFF is a place to learn from other filmmakers, to study market trends and to establish relationships for future collaborations.

GK: For an industry to flourish, different parts of the eco-system need to be developed. There’s a need for a platform that is designed to help filmmakers get their projects into completion, and that’s what the SAFF is about. The SAFF helps filmmakers to develop their stories, meet financiers and find collaboration partners, so that they can bring their projects from development to completion.


Film professionals benefited from the mega panel of film financiers at ScreenSingapore Conference 2015. Photo courtesy of ScreenSingapore 2015.

How have some of the previous participants in the inaugural SAFF last year benefitted from the project?

JD: Half of the projects selected last year have attached financiers and partners, while the rest made great strides in their development. We’ve seen Mattie Do’s project, The Long Walk make leaps and bounds in its creative direction and co-producing configuration. Both winners of the RED Camera package – William Lim’s documentary Happiness (R)evolution and Bront Palarae’s One Two Jaga – have started filming with a year-end completion date.

This year's SAFF Project Market is growing and will be shortlisting 15 projects instead of only 10 projects last year. Why has the number of projects increased to 15 this year?

JD: There were so many great projects submitted last year that deserved to be part of the programme. We hope to see some of the projects submitted last year be given a chance this year. The demand was also there from our financiers and distributors as they wanted to see more and meet more people. It’s truly a powerful community we’re building here, of motivated buyers and producers.

GK: The last SAFF saw an overwhelming number of entries, showing the hunger amongst Southeast Asian filmmakers for a platform to collaborate internationally. What’s even more encouraging is not just the quantity, but the quality of projects we received as well. With the increase of shortlisted project to 15 this year, more people can benefit from the SAFF.


SAFF 2015 Prize Winners were awarded with prizes sponsored by industry partners. Photo courtesy of ScreenSingapore 2015.

Beyond just accessing the regional market, SAFF also allows opportunities for film makers to collaborate internationally with its Ties That Bind (TTB) programme. Could you share more about that?

JD: In this new era of producing, co-productions are extremely valuable for independent producers and for filmmakers from small countries. TTB is a big coup for SAFF and through SAAVA’s links to the international producing community, EAVE (European Audiovisual Entrepreneurs) is now also involved, thus allowing SAFF alumni access to European filmmakers and festivals and sales entities.

GK: The trend of international collaborations is a result of globalisation and market forces. Audiences are opening up to more varied cultures and stories, and producers want to enter new markets to increase commercial viability. SAFF’s collaboration with TTB gives regional filmmakers the opportunity to meet up with European counterparts, opening up doors for international collaborations.

What attitude should film makers adopt when it comes to collaboration?

JD: An open and unassuming attitude is always key. The best collaborations tend to happen when you’re not looking for something to happen with a snap of a finger. The best producers know that a co-production is built on trust and accommodation, and that the value of a network becomes apparent when projects are shared and opinions are valued. Filmmakers chosen for SAFF and those visiting need to know that in markets like this, you take out what you put in.


Helping Southeast Asia's Independents find footing. Photo courtesy of ScreenSingapore 2015.


Mattie Do, a film director from Laos, with an investor. Photo courtesy of ScreenSingapore 2015.

From your experience, what does Southeast Asia have to offer to the wider film industry that is unique to the region?

JD: Filmmakers here are so interested and connected to the rest of the world and have a true fascination about wanting to work with everyone else, which open up so much opportunity in co-producing Southeast Asian content with international players. It’s not a closed system here, it’s a gateway to collaboration and a landing pad to filmmakers from all over world.

GK: The world is interested in Asia. The wider film industry is starting to discover Southeast Asia, which encompasses a population size of 640 million, fast growing economies, and an openness to work on international collaborations. They are starting to see that our region has incredible potential.