Copyright MediaConnex Asia 2017
Image Credit: RJ Aquino

Bea Tanaka | Creative Producer, “Terbalik”

Malaysian suspense thriller bags Project Market Prize at SAFF 2016.

Bea Tanaka, of Malaysia’s 42nd Pictures pitched the story, Terbalik at the 2nd Southeast Asia Film Financing (SAFF) Project Market at the Singapore Media Festival last December 2016. Terbalik bested 14 other projects in development from all over Southeast Asia to win the Aurora Producing Award of SGD20,000 (USD14,000) courtesy of media investment firm, Aurora Media Holdings.

MediaConneX recently discussed with Ms. Tanaka her blood-tingling story, the current state of the Malaysian film industry, and why winning the Aurora Producing Award is a game-changer for their project’s development.

How did the story of Terbalik come about?

I am always looking for interesting situations for a ‘one-character’ or ‘one-location’ story, such as Buried and 127 Hours. It is not easy to find a strong and convincing situation to sustain the audience’s attention for 90 minutes with limited character and location.

This time I am confident to have created an interesting situation to tell the story of one movie actor (played by himself), trapped in a wrecked car, which is upside-down (“Terbalik” in Malay). From the beginning of the story, he is stuck in a big problem. Can he survive or not? This is a story about human’s most primitive instinct in any extreme situation — survival.

Terbalik Poster

The premise for Terbalik is very reminiscent of Stephen King’s Misery. What makes it stand out though? 

I never use Misery as a reference for Terbalik. While Misery is about the psychotic fan psychology, the three village boys who torture our main character in Terbalik are not fans of him at all. Their intention is to shoot the trapped celebrity and upload the footage to go viral. I think what makes Terbalik stand out is that we touched a little bit on the psyche of the generation now who are so dependent on social media and the situation created in Terbalik is very possible.

How is Malaysia’s film industry currently? 

The film industry in Malaysia has had a very challenging phase these few years. Malaysian audiences’ confidence in Malaysian films is very low. They are demanding better quality with the stories. I think this phase is the ‘defining’ stage of the film industry here, as it will push serious and passionate filmmakers to greater heights and weed out the not so serious ones. A very challenging time indeed.

How did you get around submitting to SAFF?  How was your whole SAFF experience?  

We were encouraged by CCAM (Creative Content Association Malaysia) and FINAS to submit to SAFF. Our pitch was simple and straightforward, as I think our idea is marketable for the international market. We used a model car and Lego toy boys to explain the story. Our experience of meeting decision makers at SAFF was priceless because we learned so much and we got worldwide feedback on our project. It’s so encouraging to know that our project has that international potential and it makes us want to do whatever is possible to make that a reality.


Now that you won your big award, what’s next for Terbalik?  


As of now, we will be regrouping with Aurora Media next January, after the holidays. We have been offered a jungle location by Pinewoods Studio in Johor so we will check out this location, and see if it goes well according to our storyboards. Other than Pinewoods Studio, there is the post house, Imagica, a Japanese company that would like to collaborate with us, too. It looks like we are going to have a very convenient and complete package in the same area for this project this time.

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Janice freelances as a Screenwriter and Director in the Philippines and the U.S., but her first, great love will always be Creative Writing. She's contributed for dailies and magazines in her island hometown of Cebu from the age of 14. One of her most exciting writing gigs was in the Film section of the now-defunct lifestyle webzine, Limité, in which she got to interview one of her filmmaker heroes, Richard Linklater in New York City in 2012. When she's not writing or daydreaming up stories, Janice loves to go backpacking around small islands, making driftwood art, and playing with her Shih-Poo dog, Brandy.

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