CEO of film company behind Ah Boys to Men shares management secrets

31 December 2015 / 9 months 3 weeks ago

Jocelyn Lee
The New Paper
Dec 31, 2015

For Mr Melvin Ang, chief executive officer of local film production company mm2 Asia, the biggest perk of running his own business is that he gets to wear shorts to work.

The 52-year-old said candidly in an interview with M: "A banker can't do that, a chairman in a corporate world can't do that. If I run my business like a corporate firm, the company's productivity gets pulled down."

He added: "In (mm2), everyone has a voice of his or her own. We have an open concept office, which encourages creativity. I don't believe in writing reports or asking my employees to use time cards. The more you try to control your employees, the more they will try to break free."

And it seems like Mr Ang's approach is working.

mm2 Asia, which was formed in 2008, was listed on the Singapore Exchange last year. It enjoyed huge successes this year, with box office-breaking local movie Ah Boys to Men 3: Frogmen collecting $7.8 million.

It also produced other home-grown films this year, including Royston Tan's 3688 and Mr Unbelievable, starring Chen Tianwen. It had a major hand in helping the entire local industry evolve and grow.

For the first half of the 2016 financial year, mm2 reportedly had earnings of $4 million (S$5.6 million) and revenue rose 31 per cent to $12.7 million.

mm2 Asia announced this month that it will raise approximately $5 million from a new share placement to three investors - Hesheng Media, Apex Capital Group and Maxi-Harvest Group.

Mr Ang said in a statement: "This placement underscores investor confidence in our future growth as we take on larger and higher-value projects while moving down the value chain.

"The additional funds will also help us to reduce our borrowings...

"Our board are heartened by their support and confidence and are committed to see mm2 Asia to greater heights."

There is no sign of slowing down.

In the pipeline for next year are eight to 10 movies, some of which will tap into regional markets such as Malaysia, Taiwan, Hong Kong and China.

For Mr Ang, there are two main criteria for choosing a project - commercial viability and storyline.


"As a business, we need to make money. Sometimes, we do a movie to tell a story, to contribute back to society, but the rule of thumb is that it has to be commercially viable," he said.

"However, the most fundamental thing is the story itself. It has to attract the mass audience. For example, Ah Boys to Men was able to reach a broad audience of all ages."

Mr Ang has collaborated with most of the home-grown directors, including Eric Khoo, Chai Yee Wei, Royston Tan and Jack Neo.

When asked who was the easiest - and the most difficult - to work with, he laughed and said: "Don't put me in a spot. To be a director, you must have a mind of your own and you cannot be easily influenced.

"All of them have their own styles and are very talented."

He added: "We have to cater to them and work well together. Most of them have the potential to do movies outside of Singapore, so it's really about nurturing them and getting them to be exposed to a bigger market.

Upcoming movies


A spin-off of short film anthology 7 Letters, 4 Love shows the work of four new directors (Raihan Halim, Gilbert Chan, Sam Loh and Daniel Yam) and focuses on four short love stories that cover courtship, marriage and old age.


This is a full-length feature film spin-off of Jack Neo's short film from 7 Letters. It is slated for a 2017 Chinese New Year release.


After the success of the $500,000 erotic R21 thriller Lang Tong, the budget for its follow-up - which opens next year - was increased.


Mr Melvin Ang says the Chen Tianwen-fronted comedy Mr Unbelievable "did well despite it not getting that many screenings", so they are likely to "explore part two".


Filming will start at the end of next year, and the fourth instalment will most likely open in 2017.

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