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Jack Neo responds to critiques about constant product placement in his films

"Where else would the production budget come from if not from sponsors?" The Ah Girls Go Army director opened up on local talk show, Hear U Out, revealing that filmmaking is not as lucrative as many people believe it to be. 

Jack Neo has cemented his place as one of Singapore’s most recognized filmmakers – the man who brought to life so many local classics such as Money No Enough, I Not Stupid as well along with his commercial smash Ah Boys to Men and its recent spin-off, Ah Girls Go Army.

However, Jack Neo’s consistent box office success has also faced constant criticism about his excessive product placements in movies, resulting many complaining that his films are just “feature-length commercials”

Appearing in the most recent episode of local talk show, Hear U Out, the 62-year-old filmmaker explained that the movie-making industry is not as lucrative as people would assume.

Despite the massive success of 1998’s Money No Enough, Neo revealed that he “didn’t really earn a lot from it, adding that he only “earned the basic amount” without “any bonuses”.

Neo shared that he had initially found it challenging to secure funding when he had first begun directing films, adding that things eventually got better as he was able to prove himself in the industry with the success of his first few films.

Case in point: Neo’s mega-hit franchise Ah Boys To Men (ABTM).

According to Neo, the idea was born after MINDEF (Ministry of Defence) approached him to transform a YouTube documentary – Every Singaporean Son – into a movie to celebrate the 45th anniversary of national service.

“ABTM was a huge production – MINDEF supported us. So the guns, cannons and the like were all from them,” he said.

Despite MINDEF’s support, Neo recalls that production was still somewhat of a struggle as he had a limited budget of S$1.5mil each for the first two instalments, which he claims is “very little”.

“Honestly, it’s really difficult to make money from movies,” he said. “If you spend S$1mil on production, you need S$3mil to break even, and you only start earning from that point onward.

“That’s why we also tend to have more product placements. Where else would the production budget come from if not from sponsors?” he explained. “They’re the ones that balance things out, or we’d never be able to make (movies).”

Watch the full interview on Hear U Out, which can be streamed online on meWATCH.

Source: CNA/gl