Amazon’s Prime Video streaming service is working on original and co-production partnerships with established and emerging filmmakers and content producers in the Philippines.
The international streamer has intensified its expansion plans in Southeast Asia this year, with the Philippines as one of the starting points and focus markets.
“We’ll have a lot more to share about the details in the coming months, but I think what we’re basically most excited about is that we’re at the beginning of our journey here in Southeast Asia and the Philippines,” said Erika North, who leads the Asia-Pacific Originals practice at Amazon Studios and oversees the development of original content in that region, in a recent one-on-one with The STAR.
She went on to say that Prime Video intends to be an “essential partner” and the “best home” for local creatives, embracing originals and co-productions they’ve never been able to participate in before.
“The conversations we have with the creative community usually start with the story you’ve most wanted to tell but haven’t had a chance to start? And we take that as really a first-hand moment for us,” she added.
They want to work with “some of the greatest producers and directors and help them open a new chapter for their productions and their creative talents,” she said.
At the same time, Prime Video “opens the door” to new talent because we “see this creative depth across the board in the Philippines. Our goal in the Philippines and throughout Southeast Asia is to capitalize on this and take these stories not just for our local markets, but out into the world.”
“I think we really want to build on that and become valued partners. We call it a home for talent. That’s a level of trust we aim to earn in the creative community. We want them to feel like they can come to us with any idea along the value chain because we want to work on co-produced originals and licensed content to help create a sustainable industry,” she added.
North also said that this is the best time to be both a content creator and a consumer. “Much of the simultaneous global dissemination has transformed the way people can tell stories and consume stories. As a content creator and content consumer, there is no better time to do both,” she emphasized.
She further noted that with content subtitled and dubbed in multiple languages, “stories can travel like never before.”
Meanwhile, North is also “personally” committed to bringing Filipino talent and stories to the world because “I’m half-Filipino.”
An award-winning industry veteran, North served as Director of International Originals and Content for Asia-Pacific at Netflix and Head of Programming and Production at HBO Asia before joining Amazon in 2019.
“I’ve seen the innate potential of creativity in the Philippines, in Thailand, in Indonesia all my life,” she said.
“I think part of the journey is finding a way to commercialize and expand the market for these stories. And some of the things that matter most to us are collaboration. We want to work with local partners here in the Philippines to help them with their ambitions and dreams.”
“Creating content is possibly one of the hardest things anyone can do, right? Creating something from nothing seems practically impossible. But it happens and it happens with partnerships. It’s done with great creative alchemy,” she added.
An indication that Prime Video is serious about going in this direction is that they have brought several Filipino creatives to the Prime Video team, including filmmaker Quark Henares as Head of Originals for the Philippines.
“We are expanding our team in the Philippines, Thailand and Indonesia because we want to be first. I think that’s really important. We need to feel like trustworthy partners. So that when the creative community speaks to us, they feel that we treat their ideas with the sensitivity and respect we know creative ideas deserve. They don’t come out of nowhere,” North said.
She assured that Prime Video takes a very long-term view of partnerships with local developers.
“I think they need to be encouraged and supported. At Amazon, we have a very long-term focus. We know creative production takes a while and takes time, and we’re here to help the industry grow,” she said.
“It’s not something we just try for a few months. It’s like, okay, a multi-year vision in terms of what it means for the developers and the production community. We take care of development, investments, licensed content, co-productions and partnerships, but also time and expertise. It was just an incredible experience… we’re pushing new boundaries here.”
Content-wise, they are now seeking and developing scripted television, non-scripted television and films. “These three content categories offer us many different avenues for storytelling around the world. When we think of these categories and the intersection of genres that we know consumers love in the Philippines and across Southeast Asia – horror, action, thriller or romance – we’re all about bringing those unique stories and a great point of view to find that’s packaged in genres that we know audiences love and that can fit into any of those content categories,” she said.
She cited the example of places like India, where they’ve found success in film and scripted television by taking a customer-centric approach while still listening to the creative community and “understanding what it is, what the stories are that they wanted to tell, how do you want to tell it.”
“And if you can pull that together, we’re off to a great start,” she added.
Prime Video is off to a good start as it has already started work on Southeast Asian productions. “We are excited to begin production of our first Southeast Asian original. We are currently filming Comedy Island in Thailand. It’s an unscripted hybrid show and we’ll be able to share more information about it very soon. But we are now manufacturing in Thailand with a Filipino team,” North revealed.
Upcoming shows that will be exclusive to the platform include the highly anticipated K-drama “Curtain Call” on October 31, starring Kang Ha-neul, Ha Ji-won, Go Doo-shim, Sung Dong-il and Jung Jis-o, Noh Sang-hyun and Kwon Sang-woo. The brand new series revolves around people caught up in a scam by a man on a special mission to grant a terminally ill grandmother’s wish and who is struggling to keep his cover secret.
Another K-drama, fantasy action series Island starring Kim Nam-gil, Lee Da-hee, Cha Eun-woo and Sung-joon is also coming to Prime Video in December. Also in December, the platform will launch Prime Video’s hit action thriller series Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan Season 3. The series, which premieres December 21 in over 240 countries and territories worldwide, stars John Krasinski in the title role, a CIA case officer-turned-fugitive on a mission to clear his name and stop a global catastrophe.
A Filipino series will also air exclusively on Prime Video. Ian Veneracion returns to the action genre via Studio Three-Sixty’s One Good Day, which premieres November 17 and streams Thursdays thereafter.