Producer Aron Koh at the SKT Media office.
If you've enjoyed movies such as "Seventh", "The Dream Boyz" and "My Papa Rich", then you have SKT Media Entertainment Group Sdn Bhd to thank. The aforementioned movies are produced by the Malaysian company, whose aim is not only to help produce more movies in the local movie industry, but help said movies to get to the international playing field.
"Malaysian movies going abroad, this is my mission," said Aron Koh, producer and one of the key people at SKT Media, to Cinema Online during a visit to the company.
Located at Mid Valley City, Kuala Lumpur, SKT Media movie group is a full flex movie-production house. Under it are a number of subsidiary companies which handles production (SKT Studios), distribution (Rex Film Distribution), investment (Rex Holdings Sdn Bhd), artiste management (SKT Artiste Management), and international production (SKT International Pictures).
"We are different from other independent movie producers, they probably do one movie every three to four years but we're doing it corporate style, something like Hong Kong, Shaw Brothers, we are all in house. Even when we're not making movies, we come to work, planning for the next project or marketing our own brand," said Aron, who recently added author to his resume following the release of his first book, "Zero Distance", a book that tells readers everything they need to know about the local movie industry, though the producer did admit that he had to cut some of the more controversial inside scoop from the pages.
Movies produced by SKT Media generally feature Malaysian and Singaporean stars and get released in Malaysia and Singapore as these two are the company's target markets but they're not the only ones. More and more Hong Kong, Taiwanese and mainland Chinese actors are getting roped in to star in its features too as it tries to find a foothold in the respective markets. Judging from the interest its movies have been gaining, it seems that SKT is paving the way for more local movies to be distributed abroad in the future.
We sat down with the producer and found out more of what SKT Media has to offer to the movie scene in Malaysia and abroad.
The trio behind the company
(Photo source: SKT Media)
The company began three years ago with Aron Koh reaching out to Dato' Sri Gavin Tee and proposing that they build a company together. Dato' Sri Gavin Tee, the property guru who is now the president of SKT Media, used to get his works rejected by a Singaporean company during his late teen years. He then made a promise to himself that once he became rich, he would start his own company. By working together, the two men made their dream come true.
Aron admits that while he is good with financing, he needs help with the creative aspects of things, i.e scripting and directing, director Ryon Lee was then brought onboard. Ryon and Aron were no strangers to each other as they have known each other for 10 years, with the former having been the latter's drama teacher. Together, the three key people banded to form SKT Media & Entertainment Group. As Aron reiterated with a laugh, "Ryon Lee takes charge of creativity, I take charge of production and Dato' Sri Gavin Tee takes charge of...money."
Local movies produced and distributed by SKT Media
With Ryon and Aron working side by side as director and producer, respectively, the duo has made five movies in total. Starting with 2014's "Seventh", followed by the 2015 movies "Dream Boyz" and "My Papa Rich", as well as movies that started filming this year, "Show Me Your Love", shot in January, and "Haunted Road 2", shot since May.
Among these, the most successful in terms of box office collection is "My Papa Rich", which was the second highest-grossing local movie for 2015 with its collection of RM3 million. Recently selected for this year's Bucheon International Fantastic Film Festival, the comedy follows a widower who came into money when a rich friend offered to make him a millionaire for a month.
However, to Aron, though "The Dream Boyz" may not have done as well at the box office, it is also considered a successful movie as it received good reviews and not only was the producer able to sell it to the mainland Chinese market, but he was also able to attain the interest of the companies there to make a China-based sequel.
Apart from making their own movies, SKT Media also supports other movies in terms of monetary investment via Rex Holdings Sdn Bhd. Don't be mistaken that the company only supports Chinese productions. Regardless of the movies' language, they will show support. To paraphrase Aron's words, language is no barrier, it's the content that matters. One local non-Chinese speaking production that the company has invested in is YKS Film Maker Sdn Bhd's 2015 movie, "Gangsterock – Kasi Sengat".
International movies produced and distributed by SKT Media
The subsidiaries under SKT Media also invest, produce and distribute international movies. SKT International Pictures collaborates with foreign companies to produce international movies. The aforementioned Rex Holdings doesn't just provide monetary support to local movies as it also invests in international productions. Same goes for SKT Studios that offers production services to international clients while Rex Film Distribution distributes both local and international movies.
SKT provided production support at Ipoh, Perak for 2014's "Hello Babies", the Hong Kong comedy movie starring Raymond Wong Pak-ming. Last year's "My Mr. Right" was a Taiwanese-Malaysian movie that it invested in while movies that it has co-distributed in Malaysia include the Jackie Chan-starrer "Police Story 2013", Andy Lau-starrer "Firestorm" and "Overheard 3", starring Louis Koo, Sean Lau and Daniel Wu.
"Haunted Road 2" will be SKT's most recent international co-production. Aron revealed how the project came to be – every year, the producer would attend HKTDC Hong Kong International Film & TV Market (FILMART) to connect with international producers. It was through this effort that Aron was able to strike a deal to produce the sequel to 2014's Chinese horror movie, "Haunted Road". The production of the sequel had begun last year, however, filming could only be started this year, according to Aron, because in China, movie scripts have to be sent to the censorship board before filming and unfortunately, their script for the sequel was rejected three times, it was only finally approved in December last year.
Aron commented that mainland Chinese companies have no qualms working with them due to the lack of language barrier, as both sides – China and Malaysia – are able to communicate in Mandarin. Working with a country that uses a completely different vernacular, i.e. Thailand, however, takes a little more effort, as translators would be required to communicate with the locals.
Artistes under SKT Artiste Management
Teddy Chin (standing) and Mindee Ong (R) as seen in "My Papa Rich".
If you noticed the same faces appearing in most SKT-produced movies, you're not feeling a sense of déjà vu, you're just seeing the company's resident artistes. Currently, SKT Artiste Management, the part of SKT that manages both local and overseas talents, has two actors under its wings.
The actors are Teddy Chin, who used to be taught by Aron when he was still a media student, and Mindee Ong, who hails from Singapore. The duo have acted together in four movies in total including 2014's "Seventh", where Teddy stars as a man named Cannon and Mindee stars as a lady named Ying; "The Dream Boyz", in which Teddy plays a student named Kit while Mindee plays a school teacher; and "My Papa Rich", with the duo starring as siblings Yang Kai Xin and Yang Kai Tai.
Aside from managing actors, the company also manages singers, namely Malaysia's homegrown popduo, ThomasJack, and Taiwanese girl dance group, Twinko, who is also co-managed by Taiwan's Red Element Entertainment Ltd.
What lies ahead for the company
One of SKT Media's upcoming movies will be "Show Me Your Love", the family-oriented movie though filmed in Malaysia, would star Hong Kong stars such as Nina Paw, Ivana Wong and Raymond Wong Ho-yin.
Another two upcoming movies, "The Spiral" and "Zombitopia", are produced using the CGI grant Aron received from the Malaysian government, following the approval of the proposals he submitted for funds. "The Spiral" is the directorial debut of Peter Wong, a friend Aron has known for more than 10 years. Set for release in 2017, the sci-fi thriller horror stars Siti Saleha, Ben Andrew Pfeiffer, MMA fighter Peter Davis and more. Malay movie "Zombitopia", previously called "Zombi Perang Dunia", a sequel to filmmaker Woo Ming Jin's "KL Zombi", has begun principal filming this month.
Production on the China-based "The Dream Boyz" sequel is also currently on-going, with Ryon Lee returning to direct while the cast will this time be made up of mainland Chinese actors. Even the scriptwriters will be from China as they would be more in tune of what Chinese youngsters, the sequel's target audience, are interested in watching.
So it seems like SKT's wheels will always be turning, which spells good news for fans, especially those who enjoy local productions, as this means the company will always be churning out movies, be it made locally or internationally.
Cinema Online, 13 August 2016