Momentum Studio Sdn Bhd, or better known as MStudios, was formed in 2014 by their CEO Alester Leong and his lifelong partner, Chien Ng; a local singer and songwriter.
The company started off as a live music performance company based in Kuching, Sarawak. It was an avenue where musicians came together to perform for a plethora of events, such as weddings, formal corporate events, and even concerts. After only a year of operations, the company achieved tremendous results and had a team of approximately 30 musicians under their wing who were actively engaged for regular jobs during that period. This accomplishment debunked the norm of misconception that musicians in Kuching can only pursue their career in the field by being a music teacher or only as a leisure pursuit on top of having a regular day time job.
After being closely acquainted with some of the most talented minds in music at that time, some of whom are savvy in the art of producing and recording music, Alester was greatly inspired. This led to his pursuit into music and audio production. Countless days were spent learning and understanding the craft and with the help of a dear friend in Bernie Lu, an in-house studio was built. Thus, the birth of MStudios Productions, a branch-off from the initial live music performance business to the idea of capturing, enhancing, and creating beautiful sounds.
The first prominent project entrusted to the company was to write a song for the newly appointed Chief Minister of Sarawak’s campaign during the 2016 Sarawak State Election. Alester felt strongly inclined to sculpt the song in a way that it resonated with the voices of the people of Sarawak, hence the title “Ibu Pertiwikita”. The song was derived from our state anthem “Ibu Pertiwiku”. The song was aimed to evoke a sense of nostalgia of the time when every Sarawakian stood in attention during school assemblies, proudly singing our state anthem. The ultimate message from the song is to declare that Sarawak belongs to the people. Alester was also involved with the conceptualization of the production for the music video, where the ending scene showed a school bus driven by the campaigning minister, Dr Sim Kui Hian with Chief Minister Adenan Satem on board along with other school students, representing the leaders of the State driving Sarawak into the future. The video turned out to be a huge success, garnering more than half a million views on Facebook and struck the hearts of Sarawakian netizens at the time.
In the years to come, Alester dabbled more into the video production side of things where he was involved with numerous passion projects, short films and music videos, while running MStudios’ business which was still predominantly the provision of live music performance; but business was slowly declining.
2018 was a particularly challenging year when the company was once again offered to be a part of an election campaign during the 2018 Malaysian General Election. The experience was very different this time around as the management of the political party diverted from the emphasis of promoting unity but built their campaign based on hate propaganda. The company took up the job out of desperation due to the decline of business. The job required the involvement of Chien Ng to perform a parody of a popular Mandarin song at the time. Lyrics were re-written to echo the dissatisfaction of the people. A music video was also to be produced for the song with scenes of her singing at underdeveloped areas of Kuching and running to artistically portray disappointment. At least this was the idea that was brought to the company’s attention. Lo and behold, a day before the airing of the music video on Facebook, Alester was called up to review the final product and he was utterly shocked. Not only was the video almost entirely different from the initially agreed upon idea, they used old footage of Chien on stage rallying with the opposition party from the past in the video without any consent whatsoever. The video also contained multiple visual elements, edited to incite hate and to defame the opposition party. Alester pleaded to the management for a re-edit but to no avail. The management insisted that it was too late for any amendment and the video will be aired as scheduled. The aftermath of this incident was an experience no one could have imagined.
The analogy of an avalanche falling rapidly and eventually becoming unstoppable was what Alester had in mind when he named the company Momentum. After the incident in 2018, the company’s business took a negative hit and the future seemed bleak. Nevertheless, the company refused to back down and persevered forward. 2019 was a new chapter for MStudios. With all the experience the team had in providing services in live music performances, music production and events coordination; they began to dip their toes into event production. From 2019 to early 2020, MStudios produced multiple prominent events, one of which included over 2,000 international delegates that spanned over a period of 7 days.
Business was looking promising and plans for expansion were made for the coming year of 2020 but everything came to a standstill when the world was hit by an unprecedented pandemic. Everyone was caught by surprise, especially those who were in the events industry.
Due to the unfavourable circumstances, Alester made the decision to once again push forward by diversifying the business. With the help of a handful of friends and industry acquaintances, everyone came together and ventured into the realm of video production. While doing so, the company continued to utilize what funds it had to keep the team intact and almost everyone got through the initial lockdown period without any monetary compromise.
2020 marks the beginning of a brand new MStudios. The company was privileged to be involved in multiple State level productions for music videos, short films and documentaries. The most prolific of them is a short film produced in conjunction with the birthday celebration of our Tuan Yang Terutama, Governor of Sarawak, titled “Taib – An Untold Story”. This was Alester’s directorial debut for a short film. The video was aired live during the celebration event in front of all leaders of the State.
MStudios continued to develop a strong presence in the local video production industry and in 2021, started researching into virtual productions; a form of video production involving digital elements and virtual environments. It was put to use during the 2021 Sarawak Day Celebration when MStudios was tasked to produce yet another music video. MStudios utilized Computer Graphics (CG) compositing to enable the performers to appear in a custom virtual environment, designed to represent a coastal shot of Sarawak. The music video was produced in collaboration with Prodigy Music Center, headed by Ms Sharnaz Saberi who not only has the ability to compose masterpieces but also the capacity to lead a large team of talented musicians and performers.
Because of the remarkable symbiosis between Prodigy and MStudios, both companies had the opportunity to come together once again for another significant project - a music video for the Governor’s birthday celebration event in 2021, and needless to say, the production was a tremendous success. It was shot in a one-take sequence transitioning from a café to an underground club followed by an airport hangar. This production involved a nationally acclaimed singer, Dayang Nurfaizah and more than 40 performers worldwide.
Another noteworthy project of 2021 was the production of a documentary video which was used as a submission for Kuching to join the Unesco Creative Cities Network (UCCN). This was done alongside The Filmmakers Company, led by Samuel Wong, a close industry partner and a close personal friend of Alester’s. Samuel took on the helm of executive producer while Alester was tasked to direct the film. The submission, which consisted of numerous written reports, plans, visual references and this documentary video was affectionately and meticulously curated by Ms Karen Shepard. The submission was successful and Kuching is now the first city in Malaysia to be listed as a member of the UCCN.
There seems to be a common trait in all the projects taken up by MStudios. They all tie back to the affection of the company towards contributing to our beloved state of Sarawak. Although there has never been a deliberate emphasis within the company, the pride of being Sarawakian lives within all of us here in MStudios.