Among upwardly mobile, tech-savvy citizens in the Asian countries like Hong Kong, China and Singapore, the latest status symbol is not an overpriced Prada handbag or a gold iPhone; it’s a wireless (4/5G) connection and a Netflix account. Asia is ready and waiting for an influx of content development from the world says Hollywood financier Kevin Robl as he shares his first 5-year plan in Asia with K. Dass. President Trump appoints motion picture financier and key adviser to Board of Prestigious Kennedy Center for Performance Arts.
As America explores ways to renew its long standing friendship and economic relationship with China, President Donald J. Trump has made an important appointment which will have positive ramifications in bridging the gap between these two great nations.
President Trump has appointed one of his key advisers and trusted friends, Kevin Robl, to the board of directors of one of America’s most prestigious institutions: the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. Robl has a significant background in entertainment finance, and is particularly suited to help reconnect the USA and China, due to his significant presence, current working relationship, and his valuable knowledge of the people and the culture in China, and Asia.
A sneak preview before the exclusive interview:
Kevin Robl has built a successful business by identifying undeserved audience niches and reaching them in movie theatres and on digital platforms. For horror fans there is Willy’s Wonderland – how the mundane tasks suddenly become an all-out fight for survival against wave after wave of demonic animatronics (still filming). Urban viewers have enjoyed a steady diet of Pierce Brosnan movies – The November Man, Some Kind of Beautiful, Nicolas Cage in The Frozen Ground, Dwayne Johnson in Empire State, and another key focus has been the young-adult market with upcoming animation movie such as the Lord of the West (in production).
Robl is among a handful of successful financiers in Hollywood breaking new grounds outside the US. Robl is the consummate film and media-tech entrepreneur involved in multiple aspects of financing and growing companies at the forefront of motion picture finance and media technologies. As a prolific and successful motion picture financier, with many outstanding motion pictures under his belt. Robl has built a long-standing relationship with Base FX, the leading visual effects and animation studio in Asia. Anchored by its strategic alliance with Industrial Light & Magic (ILM), Base has more than fifty Hollywood theatrical film credits, including Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Transformers: Age of Extinction, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Captain America: Winter Soldier, Pacific Rim, Star Trek into Darkness, Looper, Identity Thief, Mission Impossible 4, and Super 8.
The company has also provided visual effects for the TV series/mini-series The Pacific, Boardwalk Empire, Black Sails, True Detective, and The Last Ship. Base received Emmys for its work on The Pacific, Boardwalk Empire, and Black Sails. At the 2016 OSCARS Base was part of the creative team on Visual Effects Nominee Star Wars: The Force Awakens, and in 2015 the company received the Best Visual Effects for Monster Hunt at the 2015 Hong Kong Film Awards.
While overseeing budgets, casting, scripts and myriad details involved with producing movies, Robl sees himself principally as a financier, in content and the companies that service content. Base, for instance, has completed work on over 200 feature films, provided services to all the major Hollywood studios, developed relationships with the top US and Hong Kong directors.
There was a time in the past when the prospect of selling an American or British content to China for nationwide broadcast was utterly inconceivable. Today, more than 400 million or so unique users are on streaming platforms and have access to a wave of Western content which is easily available on the device of their choice.
Distributors are finding rewards as they traverse Asia’s content business
TVAsia: Thank you for agreeing to share your thoughts with us. Before we get into your appointment to the Board of Directors for the Kennedy Center, please tell us a little about your background and how you were able to attain this high honour.
Robl: I am most excited about the prospects for the motion picture and the television industry in Asia. Television Asia is a magnificent platform, and one which we in the United States rely for information about the entertainment industry in Asia.
Even though one of my earliest jobs was under the tutelage of the great entertainment industry leader Dick Clark, my path to the movie world did not come primarily through my film or television background. I come out of the world of finance, having held executive positions at Morgan Stanley and Royal Bank of Canada, before building my own private equity firm in Los Angeles. My reintroduction to the motion picture and television world came through the investments we made from that firm and my love of movies and TV drew me to focus more fully on this exciting world.
TVAsia: You have worked with some of Hollywood’s biggest stars and directors. How do you think our top Asian stars can integrate into the larger international motion picture scene?
Robl: The stars in Asia are fantastic, and we are planning more and more projects in China, Singapore, Malaysia and elsewhere to highlight the deep and rich pool of Asian talent. As you know, many gifted Asian actors have made quite an impression on the international markets, and I am hoping we can facilitate more such positive exposure in the future.
TVAsia: While we are all excited about the introduction of Asian stars into the international market, how do you plan to help the Asian entertainment industry attain greater goals in the international market?
Robl: That is a very important question and I’m glad you asked. I did not mean to imply that our partnerships in Asia would be limited to top stars. We have plans to help writers, producers and directors gain experience in the international market. Then, there is a massive untapped resource of support crews such as cameramen, soundmen in this part of the world as well. The Asian talent is immense and deserves wider exposure. Also, we hope to guide some of the amazing intellectual property created in China, Malaysia, Singapore and elsewhere to the international markets.
TVAsia: How in particular do you envision facilitating the entrance of stories created in Asia to the US market?
Robl: In the past, American content producers were confident that their content would work in any setting, including Asia. Well, things did not quite work out that way. Two hit television shows in the United States – Suits and Criminal Minds – attempted to create an Asian format, but they did not do as well as their US release. Conversely, some fantastic Asian content has had great success in the American market, including the hit show The Good Doctor. We intend to find other formats that have succeeded in China, in Malaysia, in Singapore, in Indonesia or elsewhere and help them migrate to international success. I think the next Friends or Big Bang Theory is being developed right now in Asia! It’s very exciting.