Is local talent lauded only abroad?

Is local talent lauded only abroad?

Last weekend, local actor Christopher Lee took home the Best Lead Actor award at the Golden Bell awards, the Taiwan equivalent of the US Emmy awards.

He was nominated for the award two years ago, but this is the first time the 43-year-old has won an acting accolade outside Singapore.

Some Singaporeans belittled the win on social media, even as many celebrated it.

But the difference in opinions raised the question of whether overseas audiences are more appreciative of Singapore talent.

The answer may be yes, if previous examples are anything to go by.

Singer-songwriter Stefanie Sun made it big in Taiwan before she was embraced by her home country.

Fresh out of school and more comfortable speaking English than Mandarin, Sun went to Taiwan to get more exposure.

She sold 150,000 copies of her first album within the first month of its release in June 2000.

More than 10 million copies of her albums have been sold worldwide.

Ms Kathleen Tan, then the managing director of Warner Music Group Singapore says that for a Singaporean singer to be successful, "you must start elsewhere... Singapore is just too small".

The success that Anthony Chen's movie Ilo Ilo has found is another example.

The 2013 local film about a domestic helper from the Philippines did not initially resonate with the Singaporean audience.

Then it bagged four awards at last year's Golden Horse Awards: Best Film, Best New Director, Best Original Screenplay and Best Supporting Actress for Yeo Yann Yann.

Writer-director Chen tells The New Paper on Sunday: "Interestingly, when the film first won the prestigious Camera d'Or prize in Cannes , I was told there were naysayers locally, who felt it was the kind of film only art house audiences or arty 'ang mohs' (a Hokkien term for Caucasian) would appreciate."

He adds: "It really meant something when the film was awarded across Asia, especially the Golden Horse."

Named by entertainment news website Variety as one of 10 directors to watch, Chen is reported as saying the film has accrued US$3 million (S$3.9 million), two thirds of which come from outside Singapore.

Veteran film-maker Daniel Yun, who has been in the business for over 20 years says: "We cannot say local audiences do not support local productions.

"Take Jack Neo. He is prolific and has an impressive track record. His Ah Boys To Men films are Singapore's highest-grossing films making about $14 million at the box office."

Yet the realist says anyone can make movies, but there is no guarantee whether they will garner local support.

Entertainment veterans also reckon that with the proliferation of the Internet, young talents have alternative avenues for finding fame.

Chief executive of entertainment company Music & Movement, Lim Sek says: "Young people are more savvy in using alternative platforms to showcase their talent.

"Take music for instance. They do their own recordings at home using smart phones and upload it to YouTube or sell them on iTunes," he says.

Coverage by international media plays a key role in a local performer or film's success too, points out Mr Lim.

"With Ilo Ilo, the media gave it great play and this piqued people's interest. If the producers weren't able to sell it to the press, it wouldn't get that kind of buzz it got," he says.

Still, Chen believes that in order for the industry to grow and excel, the focus should not just be on the Singapore market.

"It shouldn't be about being the best in Singapore... We should seek to compete with the best internationally, and aim for that level of craftsmanship and sophistication."

juditht@sph.com.sg


This article was first published on Nov 2, 2014.
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