LOOK EAST

Hav­ing en­thralled global au­di­ences with hit shows like House Of Cards and Stranger Things, Net­flix is now keen on ex­plor­ing Asian sto­ries.

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - Front Page - By MUM­TAJ BEGUM en­ter­tain­[email protected]­tar.com.my

IT was 2016 when Net­flix first ar­rived in Asia, and started its li­brary of Asian shows.

In 2018, the stream­ing ser­vice re­leased Net­flix Orig­i­nals from this re­gion start­ing with crime thriller Sa­cred Games from In­dia, anime Devil­man Cry­baby from Ja­pan and South Ko­rea’s va­ri­ety com­edy Busted!

On Dec 28, it will re­lease yet an­other orig­i­nal se­ries: Se­lec­tion Day, a story set in In­dia that’s based on the 2016 novel writ­ten by Aravind Adiga.

Last month, dur­ing a two-day con­tent show­case called “See What’s Next: Asia” in Sin­ga­pore, the stream­ing gi­ant un­veiled it has many more Asian orig­i­nal ti­tles that are at var­i­ous stages of pro­duc­tion, sched­uled to pre­miere in 2019.

Its CeO reed hast­ings said Net­flix in­vests in Asian sto­ries and sto­ry­tellers not only to am­plify their voices to the world, but to con­nect peo­ple around the world.

“We are pro­duc­ing sto­ries and shar­ing them, as they build con­nec­tions,” said hast­ings. “You see all the dif­fer­ent ways peo­ple lead their lives around the world, and re­alise we are also sim­i­lar in many ways.”

Ted Saran­dos, chief con­tent of­fi­cer for the com­pany, added: “The beauty of Net­flix is that we can take never-seen-be­fore sto­ries from South Ko­rea, Thai­land, Ja­pan, In­dia, Tai­wan or else­where, and eas­ily con­nect them to peo­ple all over Asia and the world.

“More than half of Asian con­tent hours viewed on Net­flix this year are viewed out­side the re­gion, so we have con­fi­dence that our up­com­ing slate of Asian pro­duc­tions will find fans in their home coun­tries and abroad.”

Edge of en­ter­tain­ment

The In­ter­net en­ter­tain­ment ser­vice’s global pres­ence is quite re­mark­able; it has 130 mil­lion paid mem­ber­ships in over 190 coun­tries, cater­ing to var­ied tastes and de­mands for a richer TV view­ing ex­pe­ri­ence.

One of the rea­sons the brand grew so rapidly is thanks to its in­tro­duc­tion of how view­ers could con­sume con­tent – binge­watch.

The first Net­flix Orig­i­nal to give us that was House Of Cards, which re­leased all 12 episodes of its first sea­son on the same day, Feb 1, 2013.

“House Of Cards is what made Net­flix a suc­cess,” said Saran­dos. “It trans­formed the way we told sto­ries, when all the episodes came out at the same time. It’s the grand­fa­ther of on-de­mand tele­vi­sion.”

The show al­lowed Net­flix to break through at the emmy Awards; House Of Cards re­ceived nine nom­i­na­tions, mak­ing it the first stream­ing show to earn a se­ries nod. In five years, Net­flix has earned 225 emmy nom­i­na­tions and won 43, as stated ina Los An­ge­les Times ar­ti­cle.

At the Sin­ga­pore event, House Of Cards ac­tress robin Wright re­called that she had no in­ter­est in do­ing an­other long-run­ning TV se­ries af­ter hav­ing worked on the 1980s day­time soap opera Santa Bar­bara for four years, amount­ing to 536 episodes.

She said: “But when (di­rec­tor) David Fincher asked, ‘Don’t you want to be part of the rev­o­lu­tion?’ I had to get on that train and I am thank­ful for the ex­pe­ri­ence. We be­came like a fam­ily while mak­ing this sixyear long movie.”

House Of Cards’ sixth and fi­nal sea­son was re­leased on Nov 2, with its very last episode di­rected by Wright. Although the se­ries’ fo­cus is on Amer­i­can pol­i­tics, its themes of pol­i­tics, sex and greed are uni­ver­sal.

“The Art Of War was al­ways the se­ries blue­print, which is how pol­i­tics works in every coun­try,” the 52-year-old ac­tress rea­soned.

When asked if she felt the im­pact of her char­ac­ter around the world, Wright an­swered in af­fir­ma­tive. “ev­ery­where I go, I am al­ways shocked how many peo­ple know Claire.”

Sto­ries that travel

Net­flix finds its fresh con­tent by en­tic­ing “cre­ators with vi­sion”.

This has re­sulted in binge-wor­thy shows like Stranger Things, 13 Rea­sons Why, The Haunt­ing Of Hill House, Mind­hunter and Nar­cos to name a few.

At the Sin­ga­pore event, film­mak­ers share that Net­flix not only pro­vides a wider plat­form, due to its mas­sive sub­scribers, the com­pany does not in­ter­fere with the cre­ative pro-

cess, even when a show pushes bound­aries.

This, in turn, has at­tracted cer­ti­fied movie stars to mi­grate tem­po­rar­ily to Net­flix. Other than Wright, Net­flix has lured A-lis­ters like San­dra Bul­lock, Chris Hemsworth, Will Smith and Chris Pine to be part of the brand’s fam­ily.

Eric New­man, the ex­ec­u­tive pro­ducer of Nar­cos, elab­o­rated: “Net­flix al­lowed us a cou­ple of things – to tell a story with sub­ti­tles, to shoot in Colom­bia and to tell a story that hu­man­ises (drug king­pin) Pablo Es­co­bar. Net­flix put tremen­dous faith in us, and we got to be part of global tele­vi­sion.

He con­tin­ued: “It’s an ex­cit­ing time in tele­vi­sion.

“My own ex­pe­ri­ence now is, I don’t know what show is when. I find out what’s com­ing and binge-watch. I watch in a pe­riod of a week and move on. And it has been a more re­ward­ing TV watch­ing ex­pe­ri­ence and there’s a wealth of shows, from Italy, Ger­many, Asia, etc.

“That we are watch­ing the same thing, at the same time, makes the world a lit­tle smaller.”

— Pho­tos: Net­flix

Hast­ings (seated, third from left) and Saran­dos (seated, third from right) at the See What’s Next: Asia event in Sin­ga­pore, which saw tal­ents from the East and West talk­ing about Net­flix’s up­com­ing shows.

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