Wednesday, July 14, 2010

SINGAPORE ACTRESSES. When these PRETTY DOVES fluttered in droves from their NEST, shouldn’t it be said that there’s MORE than MEETS the EYE?






Now, whether this tiny morsel of news holds weight, it’s everybody’s intellectual guess.

Netizens are currently deluged with screaming headlines that the STARS ain’t shining that brightly at the Singapore MEDIA CORP studios.

Not when some of the principal artistes from the stronghold are quitting hastily in droves, back-to-back, in an unanticipated queue.

Things always happen for apparent reasons.

Let us talk about the so-called 7 princesses.

3 of them are leaving, or have vanquished the nest, namely FIONA XIE, DAWN YEOH, JESSICA LIU and speculations are rife that FELICIA CHIN will soon follow suit.

NAT HO, JOSHUA ANG, (the charming boys-next-door) and thespian ADRIAN PANG would have left by now, from the “glittering” film factory.

So what’s happening?

Just a dearth of good scripts?

They are like birds fluttering away hurriedly from a cold winter, looking for warmer weather.

The exodus of principal talents all-in-a-row is the first time ever, as any outsider can comprehend.

Of course everyone craves for security with a caring employer, one who appreciates our work performances, when we have done our best.

What price security?

FIONA XIE made an exceptional claim that she earned SGD 500,000 annually (of course Miss XIE should also mention that this amount should factually include her collective product endorsements for her best years), that she has found love in a rich boyfriend in Hong Kong, and that she is giving everything up for love and “peace of mind”.

“What is the point of being in a place that brings out the worst in you?” was her bold departing statement.

This spells out a thousand woes for the remaining surviving artistes in the Singapore film factory, as nobody can be that fortunate to find viable alternatives.

On the other hand, veteran actress HUANG BIREN was reasonably pissed when she quitted two years ago over her new salary package. She was delivered with an unkind pay cut in her contract renewal, sans leave, sans compensations, sans CPF.

It’s like telling you that in the acting profession, as your age piles on, your value drops.

Can things really be that bad?

We are well aware that “stuff” floating in cyberspace may NOT necessarily be true.

But as an artiste, not everyday is a bed of roses.

You can hang on to that pedestal, beaming and posing with your accolade.

Doomsday may arrive sooner than you think, when your sweet smile becomes a smirk and you will be rudely shoved off to make way for another emerging spring chicken.

Dispense disbelief, maybe.

Well then, if there’s no smoke, you can discount the fire.

This is show business, with a stark reality that tells you that there are no promises of long term adulation.

This is land of “facades”, with one artiste hugging and congratulating another on an award win, and then cursing himself for not being the actual winner.

When you are the victor, all your sunshine friends and the media will surface, milling around you, wanting a piece of the action.

This is to say that you are newsworthy.

When you become the loser, woe betide you as you can start to count your true friends at your fingertips. So there!

And if you have a chicken heart, back out.

This cruel arena is not for you.

Let’s say, you have this ocean bed, sprawling with oysters, waiting for your pick.

Pearls are for the employer to nurture and cultivate.

Properly treated, they will sparkle.

Now, are you ready to walk the red carpet?


The Singapore MediaCorp studios have certainly come a long way, since 1980 when it was earlier known as plain old Singapore Broadcasting Station (SBC).

Advancing technologies and emerging trends …. each brings with it new information that is added, or modifies the old impression.

In the 1980s, the Station’s artistes were notably ex-firemen, factory workers, insurance agents and flight attendants. They are mostly Chinese educated, receiving at best, the GCE ‘O’ level education.

The English mainstream deemed these actors as AH BENGs and AH LIANs, a less than disdainful term for groups from a “different” class, those with a less fashionionable mentality.

You can bet your last dollar that a true-blue graduate would never consider a career in acting during those days!

It was only when fashion icons ZOE TAY and FANN WONG joined the stronghold in the 90s that we see a re-positioning of the Station.

They brought about a change in consumer perception.

Suddenly, branded products who once turned a deaf ear to sponsorships were re- adjusting their mindsets.

Even fashion gurus like DAVID GAN and JEREMY TAN had a change of hearts and were more than eager to lend a hand at reshaping the industry.

The emergence of these “brands” had brought about this elusive element called GLAMOR and has then taken the film factory to new heights.

On the other side of the fence, if you ever sat on an employer’s hot seat before, you will probably know that the economic ride can be bumpy, and the “feel” is never cushy.

As an ace production company, you’d have thousands of mouths to feed.

ACTING is also a business, albeit a volatile one, and you have to keep those numbers healthy, and stay out of the red.

This is not Hollywood with the mega bucks and the SINGAPORE celluloid market, unlike Hong Kong and Taiwan, is still in its infancy stage.

Yet the financial cost of producing a television drama in SINGAPORE is at least double that of MALAYSIA’s and THAILAND’s.

And of the returns?

With a bit of geographical common sense, let’s make a quick calculation:

THAILAND has a population of 61.5 million, of this 10 million are residing in Bangkok.

MALAYSIA’s population comes close to 28.9 million in 2010.

SINGAPORE? Well, it is 5 million.

Yet any visitor to Thailand, Malaysia and Singapore who may have sat through a drama serial in each of the countries would have deduced the difference in the number and quality of the TVCs during commercial breaks.

Researching on available statistics, the quantity and quality of TVCs aired during prime time in SINGAPORE would pale in comparison with those of the neighboring countries.

Plus, nobody would classify the SINGAPORE drama as ” hot property “. Not every country in ASIA is eager to grab a piece of this pie, unlike the TVB drama series which are widely available in Chinatowns worldwide.

Of late the mainland CHINA dramas have uncovered new Asian markets and the TAIWANESE cinema is currently undergoing a new revival.


MALAYSIA is clearly the chief supporter of the made-in-SINGAPORE dramas, with help from BRUNEI, VIETNAM, CAMBODIA and to a questionable degree, CHINA.

The recent top-rated drama series THE LITTLE NONYA has fascinated and captured foreign markets but the future remains yet to be seen if the succeeding dramas can live up to viewers’ expectations.

So far, none of the recent dramas have dogged close to the heels of the predecessor.

Well, not yet.

The SINGAPORE artistes are still whetting their appetites to be “discovered” and “accepted” by the ASIAN markets.

Homegrown glitterati such as ZOE TAY, JOANNE PEH or CHEN HAN WEI who may be able give the TAIWAN and HONG KONG artistes a run for their money, are virtually unheard of in those countries.

Well, it’s more than 3 decades down the road and it boils down probably, yes, probably, to the fact that the marketing geniuses would have to exercise more than the usual prudence, prowess and efforts in terms of aggressive and focused overseas marketing.

Of course, it may be easier said than done.

Curtailing and suppressing established “brands” and “nurturing” new ones does not seem to be a viable solution as anyone can see.

Signing on artistes from TAIWAN and CHINA to establish a connection to new markets may or not work, as the sincerity of the employer can be attested in the long run.

The lot of an artiste is tough.

The hours are terribly long with little or no rest in between when you are working on back-to-back dramas.

The pay package differs widely from artiste to artiste and when the time comes for contractual renewal, you will be judged from market perception and the number of hours you pack in.

Is there a stark differential gear between the old and new schools of thought?


These days you have this young, ambitious and restless group classified as the star-struck GEN-Y who are eager to hop on board the ever-competitive stable of artistes.

These are the new generation actors who see acting as a stepping stone, and are not afraid to speak up, should the going gets rough.

And these are the “doves” who would flutter from their nests, looking for new horizons when “winter” beckons.

Life imitating art?

Truth is stranger than fiction?

Well, something’s gotta give.

Doves flee in droves for a singular reason: SECURITY and VISIBILITY.

Won’t you really?

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