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It takes a village

The idea for the cluster was incorporated in the three-year-old MSC Masterplan only last October. "We found more and more investors applying to do content development and entertainment projects rather than purely IT-related ventures," said Augustin.

The rationale was clear. Entertainment would be a key driving force of the digital age. The digital delivery of music, sound, films, animation and games over the Internet is an emerging trend that should not be left to chance. The MDC saw that it needed to leverage such creative endeavors to make the MSC work.

In a dramatic, no less Oscar-worthy turn, MDC now reclad its Silicon Valley intentions with Hollywood-wannabe dreams.

When 20th Century Fox was scouting around for a new location last year, after Thailand booted out the Jodie Foster-Chow Yuen Fatt vehicle "Anna and the King", MDC quickly lobbied for Malaysia.

Ultimately, the chosen locations--Penang, Perak and Langkawi--were outside the 750 sq km MSC zone, but MDC didn't mind. It played gopher in processing visas, easing custom clearance for props and equipment, and facilitated security.

More importantly, MDC even obtained a blanket tax waiver for cast and crew. Said Augustin: "The benefits to locals far outweighed any tax considerations. The job created over 1,500 positions for locals as supporting cast, extras, technical crew and craftsmen. There was also definitely an increase in tourists throughout the three-month shoot."

MDC also worked tirelessly for another 20th Century Fox production, heist thriller "Entrapment" which starred Sean Connery and Catherine Zeta-Jones. Key scenes were shot in Malacca and the capital city using the MSC's northern-most point, the 88-storey Petronas Twin Towers, as a backdrop.

Augustin said the production used three local directors as understudies to film director Jon Amiel. MDC also managed to get a real-life local SWAT team to play themselves in the climactic chase scene. The corporation also provided a telecommunications uplink to send daily rushes electronically to Britain, but the filmmakers opted to use traditional mailing means.

"The productions gave hands-on experience in technical and operational aspects and support services. It also provided much-needed networking and exposure," said Augustin.

MDC staff also learnt a trick or two in how it could mobilize itself quicker for future productions. One post-mortem note was to prepare a standard rate card for payment of local supporting actors and crew.

A third coup came in the guise of Tarzan, the animated musical, which was translated into Bahasa Malaysia, the national language, one of five versions of the Disney film. Local translation, voice talent, singers and sound engineering expertise were used--a first for Malaysia--and the final outcome premiered here even before the original did in the U.S. in June.

The three back-to-back productions won brownie points in Malaysia's favor. They also reinforced the need for the Creative Multimedia Cluster. If Mohamed can't go to Hollywood, then Hollywood has to come to Mohamed.

Augustin, in true marketing spiel, announced that since the announcement of the E-Village, MDC's phones have not stopped ringing.


Julian Matthews is the Malaysian correspondent for CNET Malaysia. Email us your comments.


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