Streaming service Hooq to showcase pilots by Asian film-makers

Streaming service Hooq will showcase six original pilots made by Asian film-makers, with one eventually winning a commision to become a full series.

Two of the pilots - social drama How To Be A Good Girl and supernatural-tinged adventure show Haunt Me - are from Singapore, with the rest coming from India, Thailand and Indonesia.

The other four pilots are Bhak (India), a drama-comedy set in Bollywood; Suay (Thailand), a crime thriller featuring a ladyboy go-go dancer trying to foil a kidnapping; Aliansi (Indonesia), a satirical comedy about an advertising agency which must sell the idea that aliens are real; and Heaven And Hell (Indonesia), a gangland thriller from the producers of hit martial arts movie The Raid (2011).

The pilots can be streamed, with no sign-up necessary, from March 22.

Hooq's chief executive, Mr Peter Bithos, 46, says the service opened the call for series pitches from across Asia because "we started with a vision to tell stories from an Asian point of view".

He was speaking at a press event at indie cinema The Projector on Tuesday.

While Hooq has yet to commission work in Singapore, in other parts of the region, it has produced original content in the form of feature films, such as the award-winning Indonesian revenge drama, Marlina The Murderer In Four Acts (2017), from Jakarta-based film-maker Mouly Surya.

The service also has other projects around the region in various stages of completion, says Mr Bithos.

He adds that the on-demand video service, established in 2015, wants its original content to be free of the commercial compromises that plague free-to-air shows, such as the need to "make 100 episodes at a very low budget that can sell ads on a Friday night at 7pm".

A Hooq original series can go on for as long as it makes sense for the story, he adds.

Surya is a member of a panel of five regional judges that will decide which pilot will be picked up.

Factors such as number of views on Hooq will be considered and the results will be announced in the middle of the year.

About 500 series proposals were received last year from around the region. From these, the panel shortlisted six. Each received US$30,000 (S$39,300) in production funds from Hooq.

Both the Singapore shows are in English. How To Be A Good Girl stars Oon Shu An, Tan Kheng Hua, Yulin Ng and Andrew Lua.

Oon, 31, says her show is about "a woman from a privileged background who makes an impulsive mistake and goes to jail".

She plays Frances, who has to fight prejudice from a society that ostracises ex-convicts. Tan plays her mother, a woman ashamed of her wayward daughter.

The pilot's director, Ben Siow, says being on a streaming service, the pilot can push boundaries that a broadcaster might not allow, such as the use of Singlish.

Actor Nat Ho, 33, stars in Haunt Me, alongside Malaysian actor Elvis Chin. They play friends who deal with the supernatural happenings that occur after Ho's character moves back into his ancestral home, an old terrace house with a portal into another realm.

Ho, who can be seen in the Channel 5 drama series Tanglin, also says Haunt Me will go into areas that a free-to-air show might not. "It's more true to life. It's more relatable. We drop a few f-bombs," he says.

• The Hooq app can be downloaded from the App Store or Google Play store or viewed at www.hooq.tv

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 15, 2018, with the headline 'Streaming service Hooq to showcase pilots by Asian film-makers'. Print Edition | Subscribe