PICTURES, VIDEO

Singapore will invest more to grow vibrant creative ecosystem: PM Lee

Filmmaker George Lucas speaking at the opening of the Lucasfilm Sandcrawler Building on Jan 16, 2014. -- ST PHOTO: GOH CHIN LIAN
Filmmaker George Lucas speaking at the opening of the Lucasfilm Sandcrawler Building on Jan 16, 2014. -- ST PHOTO: GOH CHIN LIAN
People at the Sandcrawler Building watching the opening ceremony on Jan 16, 2014. -- ST PHOTO: GOH CHIN LIAN
People at the Sandcrawler Building watching the opening ceremony on Jan 16, 2014. -- ST PHOTO: GOH CHIN LIAN
A small statue of Star Wars character Yoda sits in the Sandcrawler building courtyard. -- ST PHOTO: GOH CHIN LIAN
A small statue of Star Wars character Yoda sits in the Sandcrawler building courtyard. -- ST PHOTO: GOH CHIN LIAN
Facade of the Sandcrawler building on Jan 16, 2014. -- ST PHOTO: KEVIN LIM 
Facade of the Sandcrawler building on Jan 16, 2014. -- ST PHOTO: KEVIN LIM 
Facade of the Sandcrawler building on Jan 16, 2014. -- ST PHOTO: KEVIN LIM 
Facade of the Sandcrawler building on Jan 16, 2014. -- ST PHOTO: KEVIN LIM 
The workspace of digital artists in the Sandcrawler building on Jan 16, 2014. -- ST PHOTO: KEVIN LIM
The workspace of digital artists in the Sandcrawler building on Jan 16, 2014. -- ST PHOTO: KEVIN LIM
Ms Long Yinghan, a local talent and digital artist, describes her work to Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong during his tour of the Sandcrawler building on Jan 16, 2014. -- ST PHOTO: KEVIN LIM
Ms Long Yinghan, a local talent and digital artist, describes her work to Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong during his tour of the Sandcrawler building on Jan 16, 2014. -- ST PHOTO: KEVIN LIM
Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong (centre) joined by Kathleen Kennedy (right), President of Lucasfilm, and Mr George Lucas in the unveiling of Yoda during the official opening for Sandcrawler building on Jan 16, 2014. -- ST PHOTO: KEVIN LIM 
Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong (centre) joined by Kathleen Kennedy (right), President of Lucasfilm, and Mr George Lucas in the unveiling of Yoda during the official opening for Sandcrawler building on Jan 16, 2014. -- ST PHOTO: KEVIN LIM 
Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong (centre, right), accompanied by filmmaker George Lucas, is greeted by people in Darth Vader and Storm Trooper costumes at the official opening of the Sandcrawler Building on Jan 16, 2014. -- ST PHOTO: KEVIN LI
Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong (centre, right), accompanied by filmmaker George Lucas, is greeted by people in Darth Vader and Storm Trooper costumes at the official opening of the Sandcrawler Building on Jan 16, 2014. -- ST PHOTO: KEVIN LIM

THE success of the billion-dollar interactive and digital media industry here requires a vibrant creative ecosystem which Singapore is trying to create, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said on Thursday at the opening of Lucasfilm's new office.

That means promoting a spirit of inquiry, staying abreast of global trends so that Singapore remains relevant to the world, and creating an open economy that offers exciting opportunities for Singaporeans and talent from around the world, he added.

"The magic lies not in the equipment or processes, but in the creative spark that resides in human minds. And these can only light up in an environment which inspires people, promotes creativity and helps people to realise their dreams and to dream big. That is what we are trying to create here," he said.

Lucasfilm, the world's largest entertainment firm, was behind the Star Wars and Indiana Jones movies. Its new eight-storey glass-and-steel facility at the Fusionopolis high-tech park is named Sandcrawler and modelled after the slow-moving fortress seen in Star Wars movies.

It boasts a 100-seat theatre, cutting-edge production facilities and Star Wars-themed decor. Lucasfilm Singapore, which started here in 2005, has more than 360 employees, of whom 130 are Singaporeans.

It has produced special effects for international blockbusters such as Iron Man, the Transformers trilogy and the Avengers, and will support the upcoming Star Wars movies.

Local animation artists have also worked on the animated television series, Star Wars: The Clone Wars.

Lucasfilm is one of the leading players that have been attracted to Singapore, as the country seeks to develop the industry, seen as one of the most exciting and fastest-growing in the world, Mr Lee said.

He noted that millions of people go online to consume content or create their own, as do businesses and artistes.

The industry holds tremendous opportunities for Singapore, he said, as it is located in the heart of Asia whose growing middle class will feed demand, and at the crossroads of East and West, where diverse cultures are critical to creative pursuits.

The value-add of this industry here has grown by more than 1.5 times since 2008, to exceed $2 billion. That growth has been fuelled by Singapore's promotion of local production companies and talent, and the drawing in of leading players in sectors such as from digital animation to gaming.

Going ahead, Mr Lee said Singapore will strengthen its position by investing in infrastructure, such as clustering digital and media companies to promote exchanges and partnership with research institutes, and by developing and welcoming talent.

He noted how Lucasfilm's six-month Jedi Masters Programme has trained more than 100 local budding animators. Courses here in digital media are growing more popular, and graduates stay on in the field.

"Our investment in our institutions and our people reflects our commitment to helping every Singaproean achieve his potential in a wide range of fields," he said.

Companies here also assemble a diverse talented team from around the world, who bring with them not just skills and creativity, but also a mix of cultures which generate new ideas, Mr Lee observed.

He held up the new office as an example. It is home to almost 40 nationalities from America, Russia and China to Macedonia, Ukraine, Argentina and Turkey.

He also cited Singaporean talents there like Mr Winston Ng, who rose from an intern to an associate production manager, and lead animator Edward Chew.

Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy said the Singapore studio has grown from a limited talent pool with no visual effects work in 2005.

"By investing in local talent we've been able to significantly grow our Singapore studio into a world-class digital production facility," she said.

The new building will be home to the regional headquarters of Lucasfilm Singapore, The Walt Disney Company (Southeast Asia) and ESPN Asia Pacific.

At the opening ceremony, Mr Lee unveiled a bronze statue of Star Wars character Yoda, the Jedi Master, with Ms Kennedy and Star Wars creator George Lucas.

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