Sympatico, Malaysia-U.K. Venture, Launches Asian Slate

Sympatico, a production partnership combining the U.K.’s Argo Films and Malaysia’s Double Vision, is hatching a busy slate of film and TV productions that it says will be authentically Asian.

“Too often, Southeast Asia has been portrayed in a mix of styles on screen with, for example, iconic establishing shots of Kuala Lumpur ‘s Twin Towers soon giving way to a location that resembles Vietnam, mixed with Hong Kong by way of Vancouver,” said Min Lim, head of production at Double Vision and a partner in Sympatico.

The new venture starts life with six projects in active development, including two that it expects to put into production this year.

Double Vision is the production arm of the Vision New Media group that has over 35 years of experience in features, dramas, sitcoms, reality-game shows, magazine shows, documentaries, children’s programs and variety shows. Double Vision has in-house production and post-production facilities, earned an International Emmy nomination for its hit Malaysian-Filipino coproduction “Kahit Isang Saglit” and was responsible for Asian versions of hit global drama series “The Bridge” and “Liar.”

Argo is a newer company formed by veteran U.K. film and high-end scripted TV producer Richard Johns (“Shadow of the Vampire,” “Like Minds” and “The Calcium Kid”). The company recently completed “The Shepherd,” starring John Travolta for Disney+, with writer-director Iain Softley, and co-producers Alfonso Cuaron and Bill Kenwright. It is in paid development on “Biafra,” working in partnership with David Oyelowo’s Yoruba Saxon and Fremantle.

“We actually started three years, after an introduction by Fremantle. And have done a great deal of development during the COVID period,” Lim told Variety.

“We will finance development ourselves and will then go out and get project finance. There is soft money available in Malaysia and we also intend to make use of other forms of financing such as gap that are not fully exploited in this region.

“Strategically, Southeast Asia is certainly a region to watch and well-placed to deliver ‘the next big thing’. Not only do territories such as Malaysia have their own unique culture, people and locations but it also has an industrious and skilled production sector and a highly competitive film and TV production incentive,” said Johns in a statement.

“After exploring the region’s potential for myself and knowing Min’s vision and determination to work these assets in the international marketplace, Sympatico is on course to deliver some cracking scripted content with the sort of high production values, distinctive stories and universal themes that are essential for broadcasters and streamers.”

The pair say that projects are intended to be authentic and entertaining, smash stereotypes and organically integrate East and West with the finished products aimed at global audiences.

In production terms, that points to a Malaysia-set production being filmed in the country with characters who speak proper Malay. Asian characters will be true and equal leads in stories that are as much about them and their country as it is about their Western counterparts. To achieve that, every title on the Sympatico slate has both Southeast Asian and British writers.

Projects in development include:

Limited series, “Emergency,” a 1951-set espionage thriller, in partnership with Fremantle, that tells the story of a controversial British SAS commander and a local undercover agent in a Communist unit racing against time to stop all-out war.

Series, “The Last Kapitan,” in which a Chinese community leader in British-controlled Penang returns from the dead to exact revenge on the man who wronged him years ago.

Feature film, “Cabut” in which a group of Malaysian robbers take an expat American family hostage in their own home, only to discover that their prisoners are a bunch of twisted serial killers.

Film, “Killing Time,” a Malaysia-set remake of Johns’ cult classic thriller about a deadly female assassin who sets out to avenge the gangster boss who betrayed her.

Film, “Tudung Girl,”in which an underestimated and overlooked young Muslim woman tries to keep her family and neighbours alive when four assassins come to town.

Fact-based film, “Berjalai,” in which a local Iban tracker and a British solider are hunted through the jungle. Can they work together to stay one step ahead of their common enemy?

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