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Not all dreams come true in Hollywood

But not everyone is welcoming Hollywood with open arms.

The local film industry, which is mostly driven by TV commercials rather than feature films, is worried that MSC's leeway for foreign filmmakers to bring in an unlimited number of foreign "knowledge workers" may eat into their end of the pie.

MDC back-pedaled on an early attempt to obtain exemptions for MSC companies from a Made-in-Malaysia (MIM) ruling, which insists on 80 percent local content and talent used in ads, after local advertising associations raised their ire.

"We genuinely feared that they were going to pull the carpet from under our feet," said Chan Moon Kien, chairman of Post Production Association of Malaysia (Postam).

He said the MIM ruling afforded protection for the local industry and was responsible for a spike in investment in recent years for post-production and animation by both locals and foreigners.

"Today, we have a range of specialized services and an industry that can cater to local and regional needs. Locals now have technical know-how and are employed in positions that only expatriates were capable of holding in the past," he said.

Chan said lifting the MIM ruling would cause a free-for-all and appealed for two more years "to consolidate the industry before we fling our doors open".

Film producers are also of the opinion that the MIM ruling should stay in place, at least until 2003 when proposed world-free market laws come into effect and open the airwaves to foreign ads.

The Malaysian Association of Advertising Film Makers (Maaf) said the MIM ruling helped spur the tremendous growth of the industry in the peak years of 1996 and 1997.

"There were over 2,500 TV commercials per year produced by local companies to the tune of RM200 million (US$52.6 million)," said Maaf representative S. Mohan. But MDC counters that industry worries of job losses of locals to foreigners are unfounded.

"From the statistics we have it is the local companies that are applying to hire foreign staff, rather than foreign companies which mostly hire one or two key expatriates," shot back Augustin.

Both Maaf and Postam members, however, are not against the E-Village concept, seeing it as a welcomed boost, particularly for the ailing feature film industry. But they are hoping that local companies can be as favored as foreign companies are by MDC to get past the bureaucratic red-tape--specifically with regards to immigration and customs.

"These departments tend to hamper our aim in bringing in foreign work into Malaysia and prevent us from becoming regional or international players," said Chan.

Maaf's Mohan also called for the setup of a Film Finance Corporation to offer loans to filmmakers under the auspice of the MDC as most local banks shy away from financing film projects.

Uncertainty also surrounds how Malaysia will handle incoming film projects given its track record on censorship. Malaysia has a snip-happy censorship board and has banned movies such as animated musical "Prince of Egypt", the Holocaust epic "Schindler's List", and most recently, "Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me", for varied reasons.

Although Malaysia guarantees non-censorship of the Internet in the MSC, it does not apply the same rule for filmmaking, animation, advertising and gaming, where the lines between the varied broadcast mediums are beginning to blur.


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


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