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Singapore’s Business Times on Freedom Formula

Business – 27 Mar 2009
MEDIA

Local comic blazes a trail to Hollywood

US production company, New Regency, buys made-in-Singapore comic Freedom Formula’s film rights, reports CHRISTOPHER LIM.

Freedom Formula: Ghost of the Wasteland, a comic series made in Singapore, is now well on its way to being mentioned in the same breath as Watchmen, Sin City and Batman, after New Regency licensed the movie rights from local comic house Storm Lion.

The Singaporean company announced on Monday that New Regency – a Hollywood production company which has produced films like Mr. & Mrs. Smith, Bride Wars and Marley and Me, will turn Freedom Formula into a big-budget feature film to be distributed by 20th Century Fox.

Bryan Singer, of Valkyrie, Superman Returns and X-Men fame, had previously signed on to co-produce the movie adaptation, and may even direct it. But the new financing deal is the crucial piece that was needed to fall into place to make Freedom Formula more than a dream, because nothing happens in Hollywood without money.

Freedom Formula is a five-issue science fiction comic mini-series first published in August last year by Storm Lion’s sister company, Radical Publishing. Both companies are funded by the same Singapore investor, Lacho Calad Pte Ltd.

Radical Pictures, the movie arm of Radical Publishing, will be a partner in the movie production process, and Barry Levine, Radical’s president, will be the film’s producer.

Big payoff

Storm Lion chief executive Edmund Shern created and penned Freedom Formula, which will earn him movie credits as both creator and associate producer, although scriptwriter Michael Finch will be adapting the story for the big screen.

With all the hype building up around Freedom Formula, it’s hard to believe that Storm Lion is still technically a start-up that began operations last November. Even more impressive is that it and its partners managed to conclude the New Regency financing deal within weeks, even though Freedom Formula actually predates Storm Lion’s founding.

“This year is our start-up year – so our focus is purely on development – both creative and business,” says Mr Shern. “We’ve set up a start-up office on River Valley Road and have secured our financing for this stage of the process; no mean feat considering the climate,” he adds. Storm Lion’s team is eight-strong at the moment, with plans to hire more staff later this year.

Storm Lion’s youth belies the fact that Mr. Shern, 39, is no newcomer to the industry. Storm Lion builds on his work in Radical Publishing, where he remains senior vice-president of operations. And before he joined Radical, Mr. Shern founded local graphics house Imaginary Friends Studios. The man has clearly paid his dues, and the hard work’s finally paying off in a big way.

“It’s validation for years of writing and networking with various Hollywood opportunities and also a validation for trying to do something that no one else in Singapore has ever done,” says Mr. Shern.

Most Singaporeans are skeptical when someone is going after  A-list business, but fear is never a growth strategy ,and so Storm Lion was established [not only] in the face of a perfect storm of the economic climate, but also amid the swirling confluence of comics and film.

Paving the way

Storm Lion is in charge of Radical Publishing’s portfolio in Asia as well as Radical’s new-media properties, but is also hard at work developing its own franchises, many of which also have movie potential.

“At present we are developing projects with Madhouse and Production I.G., and significant Hollywood producers have shown acute interest in various projects we are working on,” says Mr. Shern.

Freedom Formula is one of the better examples of seed funding from the Media Development Authority (MDA) paying off.  “I’m very grateful to MDA for a very meaningful contribution in the very early stages of development and conceptualization,” says Mr. Shern.

Christopher Chia, MDA’s CEO says: “Storm Lion’s achievement proves that Singapore media companies can produce original intellectual property that cuts across multiple platforms, besides carrying strong, commercial appeal. Storm Lion’s success will encourage the creation of more quality Singapore content for a global audience, paving the way for them to make inroads into the international market.”

But nothing would have happened if the series didn’t have a first-rate epic storyline. Now that Freedom Formula is receiving a new wave of attention, Storm Lion is going to re-release Freedom Formula in a single-volume hardbound edition early next year drawn by the Malaysian painter who goes by the nickname Puppeteer.

Mr. Shern says that the story will also be significantly expanded, so fans of Freedom Formula in its original incarnation should be interested in the upcoming release.

Copyright © 2007 Singapore Press Holdings Ltd. All rights reserved.

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