By Poyi (Natalie) Leung
It is all about a passion and a sense of belongingness. These beliefs, rooted deeply in Macanese James Jacinto’s heart, convinced him to keep producing quality television commercials in Macau instead of overseas, where he could have been a millionaire by now.
James Jacinto, who pursued the animation studies in Singapore, established Efficient Productions in 1992 – a company that produces television commercials and animations both for individual clients and government departments.
He was a senior director in TDM before making his first appearance in the advertising industry in 1986. Driven by a dream, James decided to quit the job in the TV channel where he had been nurtured.
“I initially applied for a graphic designer job there but I ended up being assigned to work for the production budget management.
“I was in training in the accounting department for three months but it was when I paved my future career as a production director that I learned how to estimate the production cost precisely,” James told the Macau Daily Times in an exclusive interview at his office in Nape.
After devoting nearly two decades in television production, James’ effort was first recognised by the renowned IAI China’s Advertising Works Award in 2005.
The three winning television commercials, which were published in the 2005 IAI China’s Advertising Works Yearbook, are of Hong Kong Cable TV, Macau Civic and Municipal Affairs Bureau’s (IACM) Lotus Flower Festival, and CTM’s “Shall We Talk”.
The Yearbook, which is jointly edited by the International Advertising Magazine, Advertising College of the China Communication University and the International Advertising Institute, aims to provide historical witness, creative reference, a communication platform, and to respect intellectual property.
In the next couple of years, James had only selected television commercials entirely designed and produced in-house to enter the annual award.
In 2005, James and his team produced a television commercial for the Legislative Assembly election which was ranked in the production top 10 in the enterprises category of the 2006 IAI Yearbook Award.
More recent is the production for Macau Post Office’s philatelic service which has again been chosen among the other 206 television commercial entries to be published in the 2007 IAI China’s Advertising Works Yearbook, although the production for the Bureau of Telecommunications Regulation (DSRT) had missed the award.
While most of their productions have duration of 20 to 30 seconds, James said he likes doing one-minute productions the most because “it’s fun to input more different elements”.
“Hong Kong tends to have more 15-second television commercials because the air time is expensive. However, Macau can afford to have more 30 to even up to 45-seconds productions,” said James.
Apart from producing television commercials, the company also creates two-dimensional and three-dimensional animated cartoons.
James and his team had produced a two-dimensional cartoon about secondary energy for the Office of Energy Sector Development (GDSE) at the end of 2006. It was part of a school promotion campaign aimed at primary and junior high school students.
“We had spent four months on the entire 15-minute production including character design, storyboarding and voice-over.
“We also had to do one Cantonese and one Portuguese version which was the most killing part because the length of the voice-over had to be the same and the pace couldn’t be too fast or slow,” James said.
Their effort paid off because the main animated character, “QQ”, which was created by Efficient Productions’ director, Virginia Tse, has gained popularity among the school children.
Virginia, who studied film production in Canada, told the Macau Daily Times that the GDSE has produced a lot of “QQ” merchandises such as keychains, mobile phone straps and badges, and they are always running out of stock.
Apart from being the first local company that introduced the virtual set technology in 2001 for the Public Administration and Civil Service Bureau (SAFP) Election’s television commercial, James was proud to participate in the shooting of the US Amazing Race late last year.
“Virginia and I were part of the local TV production team for the Macau episode of the “Amazing Race”. The production was for global distribution. We didn’t sleep for four days in order to keep tracking them closely for the best shots.
“And in 2004, we were the shooting crew for Discovery Channel’s Reel Race show,” James added.
James’s company has a relatively small staff with only four employees and a few casual workers.
In order to maintain the competitiveness and to survive in the industry, James has set up a small workshop in China’s Zhuhai province where labour costs are cheaper.
However, processes that require more technical support and designs are still being completed in Macau.
In his early 40s, James had experienced a setback for the production and television coverage of the Labor Affairs Bureau’s Occupational Safety and Health Game Show in 2006.
“We’d been given a 500,000 patacas budget but due to the unexpected rise in local wages and shortage of labourers, how much we’d earned after spending an entire year on the production was barely enough to settle all the bills,” he said.
James asserted that no one can produce good works without a passion. He said he is one of the few local producers lucky enough to earn a living out of his passion.
During the outbreak of the SAR epidemic in 2003, James had decided to produce a complimentary three-dimensional animation for the local hospitals to promote the importance of personal hygiene.
“I love watching movies, TV commercials and music videos. I wanted to prove that I could produce the highest quality of work with a limited budget, limited time and limited equipment.
“About 700 projects have been done since the company was set up in 1992. I could be a millionaire if I had produced this large quantity of advertisements overseas. But I chose to stay in Macau because it is my home and I’ve a deep affection in TV production,” James confessed to the Macau Daily Times.
Hard to convince
More than half of James’s clients are government departments. However, he said his production has always been limited by the government budget and the relatively high quality home videos nowadays.
“It’s hard to convince them how our quality is better when there is another production in the same length but in cheaper price.”
He said GDSE, CTM and CEM are few of his clients that tend to invest more on the quality matter and give them more space and budget in creative production.
“Money shouldn’t be a problem anymore for the government nowadays. To benefit the local economy and the small and medium enterprises, they should try to emphasis more on the quality rather than the quantity,” James added.
James has noticed an obvious quality difference between Macau and Hong Kong’s public service announcements because “the Hong Kong government knows that advertisements are a reflection of their public image”.
“Creativity has now become a by-product of advertising production. Ideas are of no value and the production cost is always the people’s main concern. They don’t appreciate how much effort we’ve put on coming up the design and ideas which are the nutshell of the entire project.”
Virginia agreed: “Macau is for making low cost production. People won’t even expect having a high quality TV commercial. So we’re stifled for further development in the local industry.”
Efficient Productions was one of the founding members of the Association of Advertising Agents of Macau (AAAM) in October 1999. James is currently one of the Directors of the AAAM Council.
“I want to produce an education cartoon about global warming on behalf of the AAAM. Children play a more influential role in society nowadays as parents usually follow what their kids do. But I don’t think Macau can afford having an animation film like this one so I hope the AAAM would be able to obtain some government funding for the project.”