With country’s borders reopening, Film in Malaysia Incentive (Fimi) set to promote Malaysia as hub for shooting international films

·5-min read
Malay Mail
Malay Mail

KUALA LUMPUR, July 2 — The Film in Malaysia Incentive (Fimi) is aiming to make Malaysia a hub for international film production in the near future.

This follows the successful trip by the Malaysian delegation led by Communications and Multimedia Minister Tan Sri Annuar Musa along with 13 other local companies, to the Marche Du Film, the largest international gathering of professionals in the film industry, in Cannes, France last May.

They returned with great results, achieving overall sales value of RM158.7 million, far exceeding the initial target of RM50 million.

Zokifli Abu Bakar, director of film in Malaysia Office (Fimo), a division of National Film Development Corporation Malaysia (Finas), said the RM158.7 million sales value included closed sales and potential investments from studios and production houses from around the world.

They include big names such as Warner Brothers, Sony Pictures, Netflix as well as BBC and Canal+.

Film in Malaysia Office (FIMO) director Zokifli Abu Bakar. — Picture by Miera Zulyana.
Film in Malaysia Office (FIMO) director Zokifli Abu Bakar. — Picture by Miera Zulyana.

Film in Malaysia Office (FIMO) director Zokifli Abu Bakar. — Picture by Miera Zulyana.

What is Fimi?

Fimi is an effort by Finas to attract investment in film and television production using Malaysia as a shooting location while building a sustainable ecosystem in the local market.

“We have cash rebates but most importantly we have is to make sure our ecosystem is ready, in terms of production crews and strong support from the government. Only then, can we attract more confidence from foreign production houses.

“Because we’re not the only ones who offer rebates. There are currently 60 countries around the world that are offering the same,” Zokifli said.

Fimi comes in the form of a 30 per cent cash rebate on qualifying Malaysia production expenditure.

“Fimi’s minimum spending requirement for foreign production is at least RM5 million and all of the expenditure must be spent on the Malaysian market.

“Meanwhile, the minimum requirement for domestic production is RM1 million only.

“At the end of the day, we’re here to facilitate. When the production house hands in their general ledger, we will check it via an auditor to make sure all the expenses are correct and only then, we will pay them,” Zokifli said.

There is also an additional 5 per cent rebate for productions with cultural tests elements.

“Cultural tests are when a production house exhibits or features our local elements in their series or films.

“The 5 per cent is when the production house mentions or credits Malaysia in their dialogues or films. We see that as an effort to promote Malaysia,” he said.

Since its inception in 2013, FIMI has brought in approximately RM1.7 billion in investments from foreign and domestic markets and this has benefited local production crews, hotels, restaurants, and cafes and transportation providers.

It has also opened up roughly 12,000 job opportunities in Malaysia.

The Malaysian delegation at Marche Du Film in Cannes, France May 2022. — Picture courtesy of Finas Malaysia.
The Malaysian delegation at Marche Du Film in Cannes, France May 2022. — Picture courtesy of Finas Malaysia.

The Malaysian delegation at Marche Du Film in Cannes, France May 2022. — Picture courtesy of Finas Malaysia.

Marking Malaysia’s Presence at the Marche Du Film

In Cannes, a special conference called “Malaysia, the Heartbeat of Asia” was held to showcase Fimi and the opportunities in Malaysia.

“The purpose of the conference is to tell the world that we’re up and running again and we are ready to do business.

“In order to attract people to come to our home, we must have something to offer them in return and this is where our rebate incentive comes into play,” Zokifli said.

As Fimi is working hard to bring in international production jobs to Malaysia, there still lies the question of accessibility.

Zokifli said Malaysia was ready to cater to these international production house needs even in Sabah and Sarawak.

“One of the films which benefited from our incentive was the 2021’s movie Edge of the World which came out in June last year and was screened in the United States.

“This is a RM21 million Hollywood production film which was filmed in Sarawak and the state demonstrated we have the capability and freelance production crews that can cater to such production houses.

“The Sarawak crew was also assisted by additional production crew from Peninsular Malaysia,” he said.

Zokifli also said that among the reasons why foreign production houses preferred to shoot in Malaysia was due to easy communications as most Malaysians understand and are able to converse in English.

Malaysian panel at the Marche Du Film in Cannes, France. — Picture courtesy of Finas Malaysia.  
Malaysian panel at the Marche Du Film in Cannes, France. — Picture courtesy of Finas Malaysia.

Malaysian panel at the Marche Du Film in Cannes, France. — Picture courtesy of Finas Malaysia.

Enduring the Pandemic

Fimo chief assistant director Norashikin Ahmad Nor said if not for the pandemic, Fimi could have drawn more investment.

However, not all is lost during the pandemic as the local animation and post production sector has been livelier than ever.

“Just last year, we received investments roughly up to RM80 million in animations and post-production.

“Up until now, animation and post production companies in Malaysia have been barraged with job offers up to the point they had to turn down due to the lack of animators and artists,” Norashikin said, adding that 40 per cent of Fimi incentives have been given to animation productions since 2013.

The international companies that have opted for Malaysia include Cartoon Network, Disney, Hasbro as well as Toon Boom.

Famous TV shows such as The Mandalorian and Michael Bay’s Six Underground also had their post-production work done in Malaysia.

Since the pandemic, more local production houses have been applying for Fimi.

From 2020 to 2021, 30 out of 40 projects were given to local companies.

“Because of this, more and more local production houses are now able to stand on their own and they no longer have to depend on film grants from the government,” Norashikin said.

She said the local creative industry will get more exposure in production through Fimi as they will be working with professionals from all over the world.

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