Finas film incentives hits target for foreign filmmakers but failed to attract local productions, audit report finds

Jerry Choong
‘One Two Jaga’ producer and actor Bront Palarae taking to stage to receive the Best Film Award. — Picture by Shafwan Zaidon

KUALA LUMPUR, July 15 — Efforts by the National Film Development Corporation (Finas) to promote film-making in Malaysia have only been partially successful, as Film in Malaysia Incentive programme (Fimi) attracted more foreign filmmakers than local ones.

This was revealed in the Auditor-General 2018 Report Series 1, which stated that the target of 50 per cent of Fimi’s allocated incentive funds did not reach its intended target of local productions.

For foreign filmmakers, Fimi managed to achieve its objective in encouraging them to use Malaysia for their film settings, by providing more opportunities for local production companies as well as jobs for local crews.

However based on the responses from Fimi applicants in a study carried out by the National Audit Department, one of the factors as to why there have been less local productions applying is the difficulty in achieving the minimum Qualifying Malaysian Production Expenditure’s (QMPE) value and difficulty in meeting Fimi’s conditions.

Under the programme, up to 30 per cent in rebates can be issued out to all production costs within Malaysia for both local and foreign productions, as long as they meet the QMPE and fulfill the costs per its guidelines. QMPE covers production and post-production, but not pre-production.

Another factor cited is the application form for the programme’s Provisional Certificate (PC) and Final Certificate (FC), which the applicants informed the department that it is not user-friendly.

Under Fimi, the PC is issued out to applicants who meet its qualifying conditions, based on the information and estimated budget filled in the form. However the PC does not guarantee the issuance of the FC, as applicants must apply for it within 60 days after production has wrapped up, to claim the rebate of the production costs within Malaysia.

Another factor mentioned by Fimi’s local applicants is the apparent lack of promotion for the programme. Many of them said they only came to know of it via Finas directly, and not through other channels including the Internet, exhibitions, and seminars.

According to the report overall only five local film projects worth RM12.42 million were approved under Fimi among all the applicants, from 2016 until the report’s auditing date of August 2018.

The RM12.42 million approved is approximately 10 percent of Fimi’s total allocated funding under the 11th Malaysian Plan of RM124.52 million, which is far lower than the targeted 50 per cent meant to benefit local productions.

The report further stated that the programme’s management has been deemed as ineffective due to weaknesses in certain aspects, including approval for payment of incentives, the process of granting approval for PCs, the verification of the applicant project’s QMPE, financial management, and monitoring.

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