Greg Coote is one of Australia’s film pioneers – his extensive media-heavy resume includes stints as joint managing director of Roadshow Distributors, executive vice president of Columbia Pictures and managing director of Network Ten.
Today, the Los Angeles-based Australian views emerging markets with the same pioneering fervour.
“Going into India and China is like walking the plank – it’s fraught with all sorts of danger but the rewards are equally huge,” Coote tells IF. “There are 300 – imagine this – 300 cities in China with a population of around a million, which don’t have one cinema screen. Isn’t that extraordinary?”
Both China and India are undergoing rapid industrialisation and both represent untapped markets for Hollywood and potentially, countries like Australia.
China currently limits its intake of foreign films to just 20 a year – a situation likely to change as the World Trade Organisation continues its lobbying efforts. Meanwhile, India's local industry – Bollywood – still accounts for more than 90 per cent of its box office.
“There is a business that begs to be grown,” Coote says. “I’m not trying to culturally change India but there’s obviously room for the hybrid Bollywood-Australian-Singaporean-Chinese … co-productions."
It is co-productions that Coote is championing from Singapore, where he played a major role in setting up theatre chain Golden Village during his time in Australia with Village Roadshow. He has since built a close relationship with the Singaporean government and is the longest serving member on the advisory board to its Media Development Authority (MDA).
“I’m looking at a sci-fi movie now that’s completely shot on set and we’re talking about shooting it in China and posting it in Singapore because you can shoot this picture anywhere because you’re on set.”
Coote also has an enviable track record as a filmmaker, setting up Village Roadshow's relationship with Warner Bros – which led to The Matrix – as well as backing James Cameron's record-breaking Avatar while leading investment house Dune Entertainment.
He sits on several board seats in the region including, most recently, accepting the chairmanship of newly-listed production house RGM Media. Next month, the inaugural ScreenSingapore event (of which Coote is chairman) will further promote the region as a new cinematic hub, attracting names such as Tom Hanks and Oliver Stone.
Australian-Singapore co-production Bait was the first local film to tap into the strategy, shot on the Gold Coast last year and currently in post-production with Singapore's Blackmagic Design. Another Australian-Singapore genre co-production, The Harvest, is likely to shoot next year.
“All Australian producers and the creative community should look at Bait and say ‘I can do that’," he says.
"And I think it’s putting the Australian-Singapore co-production treaty to the test. In this day and age, what they’re doing with Bait – shoot it on the Gold Coast, post it in Singapore – makes a lot of sense."
ScreenSingapore will be held between June 5 to 12.