Indonesia’s MD Pictures, Falcon, Screenplay On Their International Ambitions & Working With The Streamers – APOS

Three of Indonesia’s leading studios – MD Pictures, Falcon and Screenplay Films – explained their plans for taking local content international and how they’re juggling between producing for streamers and theatres, in a session at APOS.

Manoj Punjabi, founder of MD Pictures, said his studio switched to producing 90% for the streamers during the pandemic, working with global players as well as Tencent-owned Chinese streamer WeTV. Tencent acquired a 14.6% stake in MD Pictures during the pandemic, which Punjabi said helped the company reach “a different level with more potential for growth”.

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However, Punjabi added that Indonesia is still a market where both studios and audiences support local movies in cinemas. Indonesian films had a record-breaking year in 2022 when cinemas reopened, taking a 60% market share, with hits including MD Pictures’ horror drama KKN Di Desa Penari, which became Indonesia’s highest-grossing film of all time.

Punjabi explained how he waited two years during the pandemic, so that he could release the film in cinemas, despite multiple offers to sell it to streaming: “I believed we had to wait – it’s a cinema movie and was not meant to premiere on OTT. It’s not that the streamers don’t pay well, but this film was meant to be seen on the big screen.”

He added that Indonesia may be suffering from an over-abundance of horror movies, because they’re cheap and easy to make – but that he invested in a bigger than average budget for KKN Di Desa Penari, which helped lift the film beyond average box office. He is now setting his sights on international markets: “We have some limitations, we could be making more genres, and we don’t have enough writers and directors, but we can take it to the next level by going international. We just have to find the right package,” Punjabi said.

H.B. Naveen, CEO of Falcon Pictures, also said that Indonesia’s film and TV industries don’t have enough writers and directors, especially as global streamers are now piling into the market and driving up demand, but agreed that the industry has huge potential.

“The streamers have been very kind to Falcon, they’ve given us the opportunity to make really big stories on big budgets. As we speak, we’re shooting one of our series in Nepal, Pakistan, Tibet, India and Indonesia. Without the support of streamers we wouldn’t be able to do that,” Naveen said.

But he agreed with Punjabi that the Indonesian market needs both theatrical and streaming content: “We can’t have one without the other, so that’s why we’ve agreed to a four month cinema window in Indonesia. Elsewhere it may be 45 days or shorter, but if four months works for everyone, that’s where the window is.”

Naveen added that he values genuine partnerships with the streamers, as theatrical releasing and streaming can work together to build each other’s businesses, and that partnership should extend beyond the production to marketing and release. “Of course the streamers have control over marketing, but it’s extremely important for us to be involved. I usually see what they can do then fill in the blanks.”

One of Indonesia’s oldest studios, Falcon has produced blockbusters such as the Warkop DKI Reborn and Dilan franchises. More recently it produced the Indonesian version of Italian hit Perfect Strangers, which was acquired by Amazon Prime Video, and the company is Globalgate Entertainment’s Indonesian partner for remakes. Commenting on remakes, Naveen said: “We have a dearth of writers and directors, so remakes are a good way to train our talent”.

Speaking at a sessions with Indonesian actor Joe Taslim (The Raid, Mortal Kombat), Screenplay Films CEO Wicky Olindo said he sees action films as an effective genre to take Indonesian films international. “The way we do action in Indonesia is a bit different as all the actors perform their own stunts and that makes it unique for a global audience,” Olindo said.

Screenplay, which also produces both theatrical and streaming product, has credits including action movies such as Headshot and Netflix titles The Night Comes For Us and The Big 4, which have been well received by global audiences.

Taslim said: “Right now it’s horror, not action movies, that are the most popular genre in Indonesia, but there’s a lot of potential for action. We just have to be sure we’re not trying to be Hollywood – it’s time for us to make action movies with a strong identity that reflect who we are, our culture and our identity without being afraid that people won’t understand, because that’s going to be more interesting for the world.”

Olindo said that working with the streamers has pushed the local industry to a different level in terms of production value: “That’s really helped the Indonesian market build a continuity of quality in both series and films.”

But he also said that Indonesia should also explore producing a wider range of genres, especially on the series side, pointing to the diverse range of shows that Korea is currently producing, as well as crime dramas coming out of India.

“We’ve seen examples of how India has made some really great crime dramas that were really local but still worked in international markets. And that’s possible because the landscape has changed, people can watch content from anywhere around the world, but the shows you actually get hooked on are the ones that are not “wannabe Hollywood”, and that’s the direction we want to see Indonesian content go,” Olindo said.

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