Monday, 18 October 2010

Pushing our Malaysian Brand (from Star e-browse)

One of my wonderful fans sent me this through FB, a much more exciting look at the actual article itself. I thought I'd post this here for the record, and for posterity. Thank you Zazu Azan ;-)

Sunday, 17 October 2010

Pushing Our Malaysian Brand: Big Hits - Made In Malaysia, for the World!

The Star Online

Sunday October 17, 2010

Pushing our Malaysian brand


Under Budget 2011, the creative industry has been allocated the same amount as last year. The way forward is a new creative industry that will be able to produce ‘BIG HITS – Made in Malaysia, for the World’.

I’M glad that Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak has acknowledged in his Budget speech that “the creative industry has great potential for further development to generate national income” and that “the Government will develop a creative industry policy in an integrated manner”.

This time, RM200mil has been allocated for this industry, the same amount as last year.

It’s natural that everybody wants more for his sector and I wish the creative industry had been given more too. Nevertheless, we should accept this gracefully with thanks and work on a plan on how best to use this fund and move forward.

I suggest we follow our PM’s lead. It cannot be business as usual any more for us. In his Budget speech, he said, “Success demands drastic changes, not incremental. It requires a quantum leap.”

Just as the PM introduced the NEM (New Economic Model) as a new approach to drive national transformation, I propose that the way forward for the creative industry is a New Creative Industry Model (NCIM) or, as I referred to it during a recent Budget discussion on TV3’s Soal Jawab, Model Industri Kreatif Baru (MIKB).

The NCIM must be radical and dramatic to deliver high impact results. It must look at new ways on how we can use the same amount this year more strategically, with greater focus, to take the industry to a new level.

We need BIG HITS!

In today’s competitive global scenario, the country that wins is the one that’s able to grab world recognition and world headlines.

We need to grab the attention of the world, like India did with Lagaan and Slumdog Millionaire; or China with Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. We need TV serials that can hit the world like the Korean wave. We need our own international superstar ambassadors like Rain, Aishwarya Rai and Jackie Chan.

All of these brands heighten consciousness and awareness of the products of those nations.

Here’s my own personal experience trying to promote the stage musical version of Puteri Gunung Ledang (PGL).

In June this year, we were invited to showcase the “international” version of our show to agents and promoters at an international arts conference called Live! Singapore. This was a wonderful opportunity to promote a Malaysian cultural product to the world.

We tried, but we could not get any support from the Information, Communication and Culture Ministry.

We were told there was no special grant or funding support scheme for promotion of Malaysian products to the world. We couldn’t get any support from the private sector either. We ended up funding this venture ourselves.

Putting together a musical production incurs hefty costs, whether it is for a 15-minute or a two-hour show.

A production company has to bear the cost of writers, directors, choreographers, musicians, actors, wardrobe staff, projection design, crew, technical costs, travel, accommodation and food.

That’s a big deal for a small company like ours, especially when there is no tangible promise of any immediate returns.

Anyway, PGL shone as the most outstanding product presented throughout the event. Many commented that the story line was fresh and unique, yet the themes easily resonate with a world audience.

But here was the cruncher: It would still be a hard sell. Why? The average American or Englishman who has a choice of what show he or she would buy a ticket for doesn’t know enough about Malaysia.

Malaysia who?

We had a similar experience when the movie version of PGL was shortlisted as Malaysia’s first Academy Award nomination in the Best Foreign Language Film category.

We were invited to the Palm Springs film festival, and our film was also screened in Los Angeles with the hope that we would catch the attention, and subsequently the vote, of a few members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.

This was when PGL director Saw Teong Hin and I first realised that the world at large really knew so little about our existence, geographically, far less of our culture, to even make any sort of connection.

The Malay proverb “Tak kenal maka tak cinta (You do not know, so you do not love)” rings so true in this case.

Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon cost US$17mil to make and its returns in the United States alone in 2004 reached US$150mil, making it the most profitable foreign film ever in the US.

The film won the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film for Taiwan and three other Academy Awards. It was also nominated for six other Academy Awards, including Best Picture.

The success of Crouching Tiger is the result of a carefully marketed campaign that started with a standing ovation at the Cannes Film Festival.

It’s been said that the movie was part of a cleverly crafted tactic to sell China to an international audience – China’s answer to globalisation using mass culture as a vehicle.

And why ever not? Since then, Chinese brands like Jackie Chan, Zhang Ziyi, Ang Lee and even our own Michelle Yeoh, and even Haier, Lenovo and HuaWei are now well within the world’s consciousness, and “Made In China” no longer resonates as cheap or poor quality.

The lesson here, therefore, is to make our own big hits and get noticed by the world.

We need to focus on how a Malaysian wave can take Broadway, the West End, and Hollywood by storm. Malaysia needs to be seen, heard, smelt, felt and tasted everywhere!

Matching the best

Let’s look at musical theatre for a moment. I have watched almost every musical in London, Australia and New York and I know in my heart that whatever they can do, we can do as well, if not better.

We have produced quality films that have been sold internationally, made on budgets of between US$2.5mil and US$5mil, which is still considered extremely modest by international standards.

KRU Berhad’s upcoming epic Merong Mahawangsa, as well as U-Wei’s period film Hanyut, certainly hold a lot of promise.

We have a wealth of stories that are fresh and unique; our culture, values, music, costumes as well as our people’s pan-Asian look are our most precious unique selling points.

Imagine all these combined with the best resources in the world in terms of writing, story editing, directing, marketing and publicity; the best experts in production, set building, technical, lighting and sound design; and the latest and best audio-visual technology and expertise – Malaysia can take on the world any time!

But to do that, we need to be bold enough to make the investment. The handful of serious content providers like KRU, Tall Order Productions, U-Wei Shaari and Enfiniti cannot do this on our own.

Even in the case of the golden boys of Malaysian films today, Ahmad Idham and Mamat Khalid, imagine how much better the quality of their unique brand of films could be with additional backing.

Speaking about his latest movie Hanyut, in an article in The Star, U-Wei said he has spent RM11mil so far but “needs RM7mil more” to finish the film. “If you want to make a film of international standards, then you need a big budget to do it.”

The creative industry needs support in the form of grants and financing in order to play on a more even field.

We will need substantial investment to tap into the latest technology, work with the best experts, create original works, hire the best marketers and publicists, and engage the best talents in the world.

To achieve this, we need a joint effort and commitment by the government, private sector and the industry. Only by doing it this way can we mobilise the substantial amount and resources required.

Every bit of support will make a difference – from government policies and government to government initiatives, to high profile international networking that can open doors and make things happen.

Corporations and individuals could be given tax incentives to help fund creative initiatives.

Of course, the other possible pay-off for these corporations would be the opportunity of international branding and positioning of their products and services.

Producers, who up till now bear the biggest risks, could be encouraged by a rebate scheme or stimulus package, something that has been successfully introduced in other countries.

Creative Industries Development Agency

If we adopt the premise of the NCIM, a Creative Industries Development Agency (CIDA) should be set up to appoint a panel of experts, local and foreign, to prepare a blueprint and strategies on how this industry can make its quantum leap within the next three to five years.

One of the most important outputs of this blueprint is also the mechanism to ensure proper management and effective use of the funds, so that funds are disbursed in the most transparent and accountable manner.

This blueprint is crucial if we are to attract the private sector conglomerates, as these commercial organisations will only lend support if they see a clear plan and strategy to succeed.

CIDA doesn’t have to reinvent the wheel. We should be big and open-minded enough to study other successful models such as Korea’s and Singapore’s transformation plans, and adopt what is applicable to us.

Korea, one of the world’s top 10 cultural exporters today, through the KOCCA (Korea Culture and Contents Agency), had a business plan in 2003 titled, “Remaking Korea as the Creative Star of the World Stage”.

The phenomenal Korean wave was a product of major conglomerates, venture capital and the Korean government all coming together to play an important part in how their cultural products are financed, produced, distributed, promoted and screened to local and foreign viewers.

Singapore has a 15-year Renaissance City Plan initiated in 2000 led by the Ministry of Information, Communications and the Arts.

The Renaissance City Plan is being carried out in three phases:

> Phase 1 in 2000: Development of cultural software, capabilities and audiences.

> Phase 2 in 2005: Further developing new arts and culture capabilities, build more arts/culture-business partnerships, and to internationalise Singapore Arts.

> Phase 3 – by 2015: Singapore plans to be a vibrant magnet for international talent and be the best home to an all-inclusive and cohesive population that’s proud of its national identity.

Our neighbouring country down south has been transformed from a “barren wasteland” into an exciting and culturally vibrant, lively destination, and is internationally ranked as one of the most liveable cities. Singapore’s arts and culture are today a source of national pride.

Different times call for a different way of playing the game. Worldwide, the industrial economy is giving way to the creative economy, and corporations are having to re-think their attributes.

Digital media and convergence are the new catchwords; ideas and intellectual property are fast becoming the precious new commodities of our times; and even the giants of the world such as Sony are shifting gear from their traditional core business to entertainment and mobile games.

A re-energised creative industry can be a new source of high income for our country. Let’s be radical and dramatic. Let’s produce these “BIG HITS – Made in Malaysia, for the World”, and let’s start now while we still believe we can.

> Datin Seri Tiara Jacquelina is an award-winning producer, actress and passionate arts activist.

Sunday, 10 October 2010

One of Her World's 50 Most Inspiring Women!

I can't explain this, but every birthday presents a turn of luck and fortune for me, sometimes for the better and some years not as good as the ones before. I didn't really give much thought to the year that was for me, as this year has been dedicated to developing various projects, anyway, so I've been lying low, barely within milimetres of the radar. Something happened though, this recent "28th" birthday (LOL,yeah). I felt something was changing on a universal level, or on a level I definitely had no control over. The planets must be suddenly aligning in my favor, and everything's happening for me all of a sudden. Well, I'm gonna enjoy this ride for as long and as far as this wave will take me.

Her World has featured me as 1 of 50 most inspiring Malaysian women in their 50th anniversary issue. I'm most humbled to be mentioned alongside some of the most inspiring women I know like Dato' Dr. Mazlan Othman, Madeleine Yong and Dato' Faridah Merican. Happy 50th birthday Her World, may you continue to inspire and energize the women of our time.

MISI RAHSIA TIARA by Abie Abdullah for Metro Ahad

This journalist was right, I usually stay away from the spotlight and publicity whenever I'm not in "publicity and promotion" mode. Fortunately for me, my friends in the media understand and fully respect the way I like to do things. It hasn't been easy avoiding conversation with my media friends, especially over Hari Raya, but everyone understands my "modus operandi" by now, ha ha. Shout only when I have something substantial to shout about.

Thanks Abie for publishing my thoughts whilst not saying too much either! ;-)

You'll be hearing from me when the time is right...

Harian Metro

Misi rahsia Tiara

E-mel Artikel Cetak Artikel Tanda Artikel Besarkan Saiz Teks Kecilkan Saiz Teks Komen Artikel

AGAK lama juga Datin Seri Tiara Jacquelina ‘berdiam’ dan dia punya alasan tersendiri. Malah ketika ditanya pun, pejuang seni ini mengambil masa untuk memberi jawapan yang bukan saja tepat, malah tidak mahu ada yang terasa. Pun begitu, di kalangan rakan media, dia turut dikenali sebagai perahsia, terutama yang membabitkan perancangan seninya. Takkan akan dicakapkan kalau belum masanya.

Inilah ketegasannya tetapi wanita cantik ini pasti mengotakan janji. Dan itulah juga yang membuat pihak media menghormati ‘misi rahsia’ Tiara dalam setiap perhitungan kariernya.

Beberapa projek sedang dipertimbangkan oleh syarikatnya, Enfiniti Productions dan seringnya dinantikan pengikutnya selepas melihat hasil yang menjadi tanda aras karya seni seperti muzikal Puteri Gunung Ledang (PGL) dan P Ramlee yang dipentaskan bukan semusim dua. Pastinya ada yang mengharap lagi dan meletakkan harapan yang lebih besar.

Sedikit menggusarkan tetapi Tiara faham dengan citarasanya mempersembahkan sesuatu. SELEBRITI menghubunginya Rabu lalu untuk lebih lanjut.

Agak lama juga menyepi. Ke mana menghilang?

Bukan lama menyepi, tetapi saya mengambil masa lama untuk membuat perancangan. Berbulan-bulan hingga ia menjadi dalam keadaan yang sahih untuk dikongsikan. Insya-Allah hujung tahun ini saya umumkan projek baru. Ada beberapa dalam pelan itu, semuanya berkaitan dengan apa yang saya ingin buat. Mungkin muzikal, mungkin juga filem atau apa saja yang berkaitan dengan industri seni. Sesuatu yang saya mahu buat, sesuatu yang bagus untuk industri. Memang tidak boleh beritahu lagi. Memang ada projek tetapi belum tentu formatnya. Sepanjang Hari Raya, saya terpaksa zipkan mulut walaupun puas teman bertanya.

Mungkinkah muzikal lagi selepas PGL dan P Ramlee?

Saya sasarkan dua tahun selepas setiap pementasan tak akan ada ‘show’, pembangunan saja. Kalau nak buat, memang boleh sebab kita ada macam-macam skrip dan Istana Budaya (IB) pun sediakan slot. Tapi saya bukan begitu, mesti buat betul-betul bukannya tangkap muat. Biasanya bertahun masa diambil untuk sebuah pementasan atau sesebuah projek. Mustahil bagi saya buat sesuatu projek seni dalam masa dua tiga bulan persediaan. Bukan saya. Ramai ingat senang nak buat muzikal. Ia lain dengan pementasan biasa.

Kalau skrip saja perlu ambil masa tiga tahun, tiga tahunlah saya tunggu biar betul-betul puas. Macam PGL, dua tahun lebih selepas puluhan olahan. Selepas PGL dan P Ramlee, saya tak boleh buat sambil lewa. Perancangan struktur muzikal sebenar amat berbeza, bukan cincai sesuka hati.

Apa pandangan Tiara mengenai perkembangan muzikal tempatan sekarang?

Pada 2006, ketika awal-awal PGL bermula, ramai yang skeptikal. Kononnya siapalah nak tengok muzikal Melayu, penaja pun belum tentu berani nak masuk. Lebih lawak ketika itu ada yang tanya, nak pentaskan di mana? Mereka tidak tahu yang kita ada IB. Namun selepas PGL, ramai pula yang semakin berani untuk mementaskan muzikal.

Baguslah, dari satu sudut, lebih ramai audiens didedahkan dengan muzikal. Pelbagai peringkat umur dan bangsa mula kenal IB, apa itu teater yang pada sesetengah mereka teater itu macam tengok wayang di panggung. Untuk industri, ia satu perkembangan yang baik terutama mengajak anak muda mengenali teater dan muzikal.

Cuma dalam masa sama, penggiat yang terbabit seperti produser dan pengarah muzikal harus ada tanggungjawab untuk mengekalkan standard kualiti tertentu agar mereka yang pertama kali datang, akan kembali menonton pementasan lain pula. Jangan bunuh keinginan yang baru berputik itu dengan persembahan yang tidak setimpal dengan usaha mereka untuk ke IB. Malah, bimbang juga kalau penaja yang kecewa untuk menaja pementasan lain yang mungkin lebih baik daripada yang ditajanya itu.

Thursday, 7 October 2010

Interview with 16-year old Anesha G. Kumar for NST's Niexter


Victoria from my office emailed me a request from NST's Niexter desk, for me to give an interview to a 16-year old. I have always liked the idea of kids learning and seeing the world from different perspectives, and I definitely welcomed the idea of engaging with the younger generations to see what exactly they might find interesting about "my world". Here's the article Anesha wrote, and a photo of her and me before I changed into a slightly more traditional gear to attend NSTP's Open House right after that. (Thanks a million Anesha, I really enjoyed our chat last week!)

Tiara for a Princess

Anesha G. Kumar, 16, Petaling Jaya, Selangor
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WHEN I stepped into the room, I prepared myself for a more than an interesting interview with Tiara Jacquelina, who was Gusti Putri in 4 sold-out seasons of Puteri Gunung Ledang, The Musical including one in Singapore. I must admit I was a teensy bit nervous meeting someone like her, well-known for her fame in both the film and musical. But the moment she stepped into the room, she brought warmth and a sense of ease with her dazzling smile. It was overwhelmingly awesome!

Putting aside her unique and beautiful Burmese-Indonesian-Chinese looks, her down-to-earth personality was what shone the brightest. Now, it’s easy to understand why she stands out in the crowd, with a colourful aura surrounding her.

Tiara’s passion in the arts started during her schooling days. She was always so active as a producer, director, choreographer, dancer, singer, actor in the school annual musical productions, concerts and the cheerleading team that she said it’s a wonder she managed to get decent grades!

“We went to other schools including our rivals, promoting our plays. I spoke to the students before their class,” says Tiara who got her early education at SMK St. Mary.

“You can see how my formative years at school have definitely led me here. Students were always encouraged to explore and develop their creativity and leadership skills out of the classroom. We had a fantastic bunch of very supportive teachers, who believed that creative and artistic development of a child was just as important as scoring 17 A1s.”

Even being the captain of her cheerleading squad in school has helped build her to be who she is today. Tiara says, “Cheerleading is great. It’s all about encouraging that person across the finish line, motivating them all the way.

And in the end, it’s not only that person who is happy but the whole sports house shares the joy. She applies that same concept even today in her life.

She was very sure about one thing right from the onset in her career-to lead every project she undertook. In her mind, she had a clear idea of the outcome of every project and she could only achieve this if she was in the driver’s seat.

As a college student in KDU she started her first venture as an entrepreneur by setting up one of the country’s first talent casting and management agencies, then called Jacquie Eu Productions, with her best friend and college mate Jennifer Ong. They discovered talents like Sofia Jane, Linda Hashim, Sasha Bashir, Nasha Aziz, Maria Faridah, even Meer Habib, as well as many others, during this time.

In 1987, her agency was approached by Bustal Nawawi, Indonesia’s most well-respected film producer, to cast Malaysian actors for the first Malaysia-Indonesia joint venture movie called Irisan-irisan Hati. They auditioned everybody in the business – actors, models, singers, even TV newscasters, but the producer wasn’t happy.

“He finally asked me to audition, and I did so quite reluctantly. He apparently liked what he saw and offered me the role, but I turned him down, saying I had no intention of being an actor, that I was happier to run a business.

He then promised me that if I signed on to do four films under his company, he would teach me the business of film production as well. That did it for me – the chance to learn from the best, first hand as well. I signed on and never looked back as an actor and producer”, says Tiara.

Tiara Jacquelina was also the soulful voice behind the hit song Asmaradana from the soundtrack of Puteri Gunung Ledang. Tiara says she had always wanted to change the music landscape in Malaysia and so they tried out a more ethnic fusion. They also experimented a lot with dance form to add more funk but still keep its traditional vibe to it.

She is also a diligent (producer). She’s always on the go and wants to explore what has never been done before. She saw the opportunity for a magical story in Puteri Gunung Ledang, and even while the movie was being filmed, the version had its own parallel journey. “There wasn’t an industry as such when we first announced we wanted to put a musical version of PGL on stage”.

“To be quite honest, it seemed like the odds were dead against us – we couldn’t find performers who could act, sing AND dance, nobody had the experience to put on a large-scale production, but most worrying of all was that nobody went to the theatre in Malaysia – people didn’t even know WHERE Istana Budaya was, or that we even have one,” she says.

According to Tiara, her favourite aspect of being a part of a musical would definitely be the magic of being able to share it with the audience. “It’s an experience that money can’t buy,” she says. “You always know the applause or standing ovation at the end of it all is genuine because it comes from the heart of the audience.”

As for advice for aspiring musical actors, Tiara says that you always have to be prepared mentally and physically because nothing is going to be easy. She says, “I had to sing day and night as well as learn how to dance for the Puteri Gunung Ledang role”.

Tiara Jacquelina who is also the managing director of Enfiniti Vision Media, says that in her eyes, working with young and dynamic people is always important as you need people around you to be hungry for work. “Having the right spirit and personality is important,“ she says.

From experience, coming into the entertainment business cold, she is currently working on a variety of short courses catering to all ages; children, youths and working adults through Enfiniti Academy.

“We hope to nurture the talents early in children and youths but we also understand that there are many out there holding stable jobs and yet have a stifled love for musical theatre. Our courses will allow them to juggle their passion and responsibilities. In fact, some corporate seminars will teach them how to get the best of both worlds by incorporating musical theatre theories into their everyday lives,” she says.

And of course, I couldn’t leave without finding out her favourite musical of all time. “Oh, Miss Saigon of course, that’s my favourite,” she says with a huge smile sprawled across her face. “When I saw Lea Salonga on stage, I said, ‘If she can do it, I can do it too!’,” she says. She also admires Andrew Lloyd Webber because “he’s a genius” and I couldn’t help but agree.

I must say now that I have been very fortunate to have met someone like Tiara, who has been gracing the stage for years with her vibrant persona. To sum her up in a word would be hard because words cannot define what an amazing and remarkable individual she is. All I can say is that she is definitely a ‘Puteri’ of the musical scene.

Her last words, “Think big, think (like) Obama! Do what you’ve never dreamt of. You have to lead to determine the outcome, be it in life or in a performance”.

Read more: Tiara for a Princess