Singapore: takes an axe to funding schemes

Singapore's Media Development Authority has closed the doors on the complex web of 46 separate funding schemes and streamlined access to state assistance under five funding themes: development, produc
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Singapore’s Media Development Authority has closed the doors on the complex web of 46 separate funding schemes and streamlined access to state assistance under five funding themes: development, production, marketing, talent and enterprise. The changes affect funding for domestic, co-productions and international productions accessing Singaporean service workers.

The new funding schemes will run across all media, including print and online as well as film, TV and animation/game production. Applications to the previous schemes have been closed, although projects granted funding under those schemes will proceed under the terms of their respective agreements.

Producers and freelancers are expected to be the big winners under the new arrangements, although not all the fine print has yet been made public. Previously film producers could access up to 14 funding streams, depending on the nature of their project (narrative feature, animation, documentary, etc.).

Although the options offered a number of routes to dollars, they also created mountains of paperwork and – when applying to different streams – the possibility of receiving partial funding and project delays due to the differing dates of funding rounds for different streams.

International producers in particular found the application processes confusing and difficult to negotiate. Anecdotally, this has led to Singaporean companies missing out on post-production and other service work as international projects chose places where local assistance schemes are simpler to access.

The MDA’s response has been to create three “production-focused” streams (development, production and marketing). MDA continues to be a co-investor in productions rather than the majority investor as the NZFC normally is.

The new enterprise scheme is similar to some of the NZFC’s support for producers here, enabling them to develop slates. The talent scheme now allows freelancers to receive assistance to develop their ideas and/or careers. Previously, talent development initiatives were all channelled through established companies.

All the schemes bar marketing can provide government money to allow producers to take an equity position in projects, be that by acquiring rights to existing material for production or creating IP through content or software development.

As with the previous schemes, all money is channelled through Singapore-registered entities with the expectation that the money will be spent in Singapore, unless otherwise agreed (eg for travel to participate in overseas events).

The total amount of funds available is not yet announced but application limits are set. For Development, up to $150,000 for content, up to $200,000 for applications; for Production, up to 50% of Singapore spend; for Marketing, up to $25,000; for Talent Development, $15,000 upwards, plus scholarships to government-run training schemes; for Enterprise, up to $1 million a year, for up to five years. The Enterprise scheme is envisaged primarily as providing seed capital for companies with a minimum 30% local shareholding.

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