Joanne Peh on local showbiz: We can do well if Singapore is willing to support us

The Singapore actress was comparing the local scene to South Korea's, highlighting investment opportunities and talent nurturing.

Joanne Peh thinks local showbiz can flourish if there is more support. (Photo: Instagram/joannepeh)
Joanne Peh thinks local showbiz can flourish if there is more support. (Photo: Instagram/joannepeh)

It’s an open secret that local showbiz is losing its luster and shine compared to its heydays in the 90s and even early 2000s.

While there are differing opinions on what might have caused the deterioration, local actress Joanne Peh is coming in with a hot take - the country needs to support the industry.

On an interview with the Mandarin podcast R U OKAY, published on 25 June, the 40-year-old openly discussed the challenges of developing the showbiz industry.

R U OKAY is co-hosted by NOC’s co-founder, Ryan Tan, comedy duo Mayiduo, and Johnathan Chua (co-founder of GRVTY Media).

When talking about the state of local showbiz, Tan claimed the new generation of actors are just pretty faces and it’s hard to make “high-quality shows” locally.

He cited the example of how Singapore doesn’t make period dramas anymore.

Peh, 40, who had been observing the discussion passively and nodding, suddenly asked, “Don’t you feel that real estate prices in Singapore are very expensive?”

She shared that the value of land, mainly due to how precious it is in Singapore, makes it hard to find suitable locations to film.

“And, once you start talking about money, it makes it very difficult because we don’t have a lot of funds. Whenever we want to film at some location, it’s always ‘How much money?’ If you can’t afford it, you can’t film at that location. So I feel that a lot of the time, you’re restricted by the market.”

The state of showbiz is a topic that Peh has discussed with her husband, and she was initially hesitant to share a controversial opinion that she felt would offend people.

However, after being egged on by the hosts, she revealed, “If the country is willing to support local showbiz, we can actually do really well. But if the country doesn’t focus on developing it, I think it’s hard. You are pretty much doing the same things.”

More government support?

Peh, who has spoken with industry veterans internationally, shared that the reason why South Korea, for example, is doing so well with their showbiz industry is due to the government’s support.

She explained that the South Korean government opens the floor for private investors before they come in with subsidies. In April this year, streaming giant Netflix agreed to invest US$2.5 billion into South Korean films and shows after its CEO met with the country's president.

“So the whole industry is flourishing,” she said, adding that “they don’t restrict creativity” and dictate what kind of content can be made just because there’s monetary investment.

Peh said, “From what we understand, when the South Korean government [financially] supports their showbiz industry, they don’t restrict their creativity so everyone can flourish.”

To be fair, Chua pointed out that the Singapore government doesn’t enforce that kind of restrictions as well.

The only thing to abide by are the six Public Service Broadcast values created with the aim of celebrating “our shared identity, and diverse culture” and fostering “a cohesive, connected society”.

He also theorised that the reason why funding for South Korean showbiz is so much stronger is due to their tourism funding.

While Singapore has that too, the money goes to digital content as opposed to free-to-air content, Chua explained.

Developing talents

Another reason that could contribute to the perceived lack of quality in local showbiz is the willingness to develop talents.

Peh heard that South Korea maps out a long-term plan for their showbiz personnel and, very early on, sends them overseas to places like the US to further develop their craft.

She shared, “So they have this kind of mindset and a long-term plan because you need to nurture talents. But over here, perhaps a lot of the focus is placed on the financial industries.

"Over here, we really lack good storytellers and screenwriters," Peh said. "Television and movies require someone like that to tell a story."

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