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A fairytale ending?
Buxton also said that Malaysia has the potential to become a viable subcontractor, like India and the Philippines, for 2D, 3D and CGI animation and post-production projects from the U.S.
He plugged the Multimedia University, which he visited in March, as a prime driver. "This is one of the best schools that I have seen in the world. I have even been suggesting to my son who is going to Art School that if he wants to go into animation, he should go to Malaysia," he said.
Located in Cyberjaya, Malaysia's Multimedia University, launched last month, offers degrees in software engineering, film, animation, game design and media innovation and boasts digital and multimedia labs, 3D modeling and animation labs, and post-production labs.
"We will play a key role in industry-academic collaboration and hands-on training for those pursuing future careers in the MSC and E-Village," said Dr Abu Hasan Ismail, the dean for the university's Creative Multimedia Faculty.
"The skill sets we are developing are in such high demand that our pioneer batch of 60 students have already found placements for four-month training stints with local companies, as well as in Japan and North America, beginning October," he said.
The faculty will produce incrementally 60 graduates in the year 2000, 100 in 2001, 180 in 2002, and 250 to 280 in 2003 and beyond.
A list of collaborations with MSC-linked companies on R&D efforts is also growing. PC giant Compaq Computer Corp and digital media solutions provider Avid Technology Inc, and Softimage Co have sponsored chairs, while SGI Inc, Motorola Inc and Autodesk Inc are doing research in animation, design and courseware development.
Even as these future E-Villagers are groomed, industry representatives hope that the MDC will get beyond its "textbook theory" of how the E-Village should work. "Unlike manufacturing where cheap labor and tax incentives attract investors, our inherent problem is that we've never had a filmmaking culture. That is something we have to develop or we will be totally dependent on foreigners," pointed out Chan.
Maaf's Mohan also noted that the focus on technology and state-of-the-art facilities alone was not enough to spur the film industry's growth. "It is the human factor that makes films happen," he said.
It is hoped that that same human factor will turn Malaysia's celluloid hopes into reality, and the E-Village into a force to reckon with on the international platform.
Julian Matthews is the Malaysian correspondent for CNET Malaysia.
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