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Writer-Director Lee Thean-Jeen To Helm The First 'Documentary Director's Chair'

Dated: 11 December 2003

Director for double-award winning production at the 2003 Asian Television Awards clinches the Chair with the documentary project on the secret history of triads

Discovery Networks Asia (DNA), the Asian-division of leading global real-world content provider, Discovery Communications, Inc. and the Media Development Authority of Singapore (MDA) today announced the appointment of award-winning Singaporean writer-director, Lee Thean-jeen to the Documentary Director's Chair. This new, annual initiative seeks to create more quality and original Made-by-Singapore content and offers a commercial outlet for promising directorial talent from the Asian region. (Lee Thean-jeen's biodata attached.

Thean-jeen will occupy the Chair for a year from 1 January 2004 and hold key creative control, with the responsibility of overseeing the production of up to three hours of original programmes. These will be co-funded by DNA, the MDA and local production company Film Formations, where Thean-jeen is the director of production. These documentaries will be broadcast next year to an international audience on one of DNA's channels. For added exposure, Thean-jeen will also be invited to participate in DNA's First Time Film Makers workshop in China, the American Film Institute/Discovery Channel SilverDocs Documentary Film Festival in Washington D.C. in June 2004 and the MDA's Masterclass Series.

Seto Lok Yin, director (Industry Development), the MDA, said, "Documentary production is an area that we can grow, and we are determined to grow it further by committing resources and developing our talents. We want to help them take their craft to a higher level and bring their works to audiences beyond Singapore. In time to come, we see our efforts leading to an increase in talent base, skills sets and production values for documentary productions. This will be a boost to our Media 21 vision of developing Singapore as a vibrant global media city. I congratulate Thean-jeen on his selection to the Chair and we look forward to seeing his works debut on Discovery's channels."

James Gibbons, vice president, programming, DNA, said, "We were very impressed by the calibre and ideas of the individuals who had come forward for the first Documentary Director's Chair initiative. DNA has launched various initiatives that help nurture and support the region's talents, but this one was targeted at taking an established director or producer who has already built a reputation for high-quality filmmaking, and offer him or her the chance for future growth. Thean-jeen in that aspect was the perfect candidate for us. He has the experience in producing dramas but will now have the opportunity to switch over and produce documentaries. It will also be an excellent showcase of his talent to a broader audience". DNA's six
channels - Discovery Channel, Animal Planet, Discovery Travel &Adventure, Discovery Health, Discovery Science and Discovery H&L - reach a cumulative audience of over 179 million households in Asia-Pacific.

Thean-jeen submitted a proposal for a documentary project called "Triads, the Secret History". It highlights the discovery of a mysterious chest in Amsterdam which contains a collection of paraphernalia used by Chinese triads. The Singapore History Museum has managed to acquire the chest and its items from the private dealer for 50,000 Deutschmarks. Delving deeper into this truly unique find, the documentary Thean-jeen hopes to produce will examine the different artefacts to uncover the history behind the Chinese triads.

At the recent Asian Television Awards, "The Singapore Short Story Project", a dramatic series of one-hour episodes that interweaves six different storylines directed by Thean-jeen, won the Best Drama Series award as well as a technical award, the KODAK VISION Award Best Cinematography - Long Form.

The selection criteria for the Chair included the strength of the idea and the skills the individual brings to the proposed documentary project. The interested parties were invited to send in their proposals, along with their resumes and samples of their works. Shortlisted candidates then met with the 'Documentary Director's Chair' selection panel comprising representatives from DNA and the MDA. The exclusive collaboration between the two organisations marks the first time the DNA and the MDA are working together.

The Documentary Director's Chair initiative is an expression of Singapore's drive to create more original and quality Made-by-Singapore content for an international audience, tapping on the talents based in the country. It also offers the producers who are involved in creating the Made-by-Singapore content an opportunity to own rights as well as a ready commercial outlet to the rest of the world.

More information about the Documentary Director's Chair initiative can be
found at

About Discovery Networks Asia
Discovery Networks Asia (DNA), launched in 1994, reaches a cumulative subscriber base in excess of 179 million. DNA's portfolio comprises six channels across 22 countries in Asia Pacific;Discovery Channel, Animal Planet, Discovery Travel &Adventure, Discovery Science, Discovery Health and Discovery H&L. Programming is customized into eight languages and broadcast on 16 unique feeds.

DNA's parent, Discovery Communications Inc., is the leading global real-world media and entertainment company, which runs 14 unique TV brands. Launched in the US in 1985, the company now operates in 155 countries and territories with more than 950 million cumulative subscribers. DCI also consists of, Discovery Consumer Products and Discovery Channel retail stores. DCI is privately held;ownership consists of four shareholders: Liberty Media Corporation (NYSE: L), Cox Communications, Inc. (NYSE: COX), Advance/Newhouse Communications and John S. Hendricks, the Company's Founder, Chairman and CEO.

About The Media Development Authority of Singapore
The Media Development Authority (MDA) was formed on 1 January 2003. MDA's vision under its Media 21 blueprint is to develop Singapore into a vibrant global media city so as to foster a creative economy and a connected society. MDA aims to create a vibrant environment for the industry to flourish and the public to enjoy. The five strategies of Media 21 are: to establish Singapore as a Media Exchange;to export 'Made-by-Singapore' content;to internationalise local media companies;to nurture local media talents;and to develop digital media.


An award-winning writer-director, Thean-jeen's television drama and documentary work have received accolades at the Asian Television Awards, the New York Festivals and the Banff Television Festival, Canada.

He was the editor, writer and director and for two seasons of the highly-acclaimed miniseries, AlterAsians. A trilogy of telemovies adapted from short stories by Singaporean writers shot on 16mm film, the series has garnered regional and international awards: Finalist, Best Miniseries, 1999 New York Festivals;Winner, Best Single Drama or Telemovie, Asian Television Awards 2000;Hors Concours Selection, Banff Television Festival 2000.

Prior to this, Thean-jeen was a writer-director on Heritage, a documentary series exploring the origin and development of various Singaporean institutions, including Shophouses, Kopitiams (Coffee-shops) and Land Transport. Partially shot on 16mm film, the series was a Finalist for Best Documentary at the 1997 New York Festivals and the episode on Singapore Shophouses was Runner-up, Best Documentary at Asian Television Awards 1998.

He was also director, executive producer and co-writer on The Singapore Short Story Project. Described by The Straits Times as a "breathtakingly bold film experiment," The Singapore Short Story Project adapted six stories by Singapore writers but played them out concurrently with interweaving storylines that took place over a period of 72 hours. The series of six one-hour episodes was telecast over Arts Central in February 2003 and made its big-screen premiere as a feature-length special edition during the Substation's Asian Film Symposium in October 2003. The series recently won the awards for Best Drama Series, and Best Cinematography (Long-form) at the Asian Television Awards 2003. It was also Highly Commended for Best Editing (Long-form).
He was also executive producer on Restless, a supernatural drama series he co-created for MediaCorp TV's Channel 5, writing half the season and directing eleven of its thirteen episodes. Restless premiered in September 2002, enjoyed a successful run on Singapore television and will be making its US debut over satellite network Varsity TV in 2004. His other television work includes Birthday Party, a telemovie starring Andrea De Cruz, and Amnesia, a supernatural thriller.

Other television work includes the award-winning children's series, The Big Q (Winner, Gold WorldMedal, Youth Programs, 2000 New York Festivals) as well as various one-offs: Between The Ground And The Sky, a documentary on Singapore's only Olympic medallist Tan Howe Liang;The Little Orchestra That Could, the story of the Singapore Symphony Orchestra, and several other arts and culture documentaries.

Thean-jeen was also a Finals judge for the 2002 and 2003 International Emmy Awards and has conducted lectures, talks and presentations for the National Arts Council, the Media Development Authority, local polytechnics and the National University of Singapore's Centre for the Arts.

As Director of Production at Film Formations, Thean-jeen currently oversees a creative and production team in the development of drama, documentary and info-ed series for Singapore-based broadcasters while exploring co-production opportunities with broadcasters and production houses, both local and foreign.

Prior to Film Formations, Thean-jeen was Executive Producer/Director at Caldecott Productions International, where his corporate productions for clients such as POSBANK, the Singapore Police Force and Sentosa Development Corporation were commended in the Telly Awards and New York Festivals, as well as listed in Creativity, an annual of international work demonstrating creative excellence. Thean-jeen is a summa cum laude (First Class honours equivalent) graduate of Boston University's College of Communication, specializing in Broadcasting and Film.