'Making films' written by Sanif Olek

I have been asked this question many times from many Singaporean filmmakers who are just starting out, don't have the 'connections' or rich parents. Or others who wonder why I'm slogging on making films when I can just remain doing fun television programmes. I wish I have the perfect answer, below are extracted from the latest one I posted on Imran Ajmain's Facebook post. I've attempted to respond the best I could.

The Question.

How do young Malay people interested in film and video find out about doing something?
What kind of projects that you see happening elsewhere could we emulate for the SG scene for indie movie-makers?
Because of censorship & funding, and just about the lack of scarcity for content, Indonesian film-makers burst into a straight-to-DVD frenzy, and going strong til today. Can this happen in SG?

My response.
You NEED to COMMUNICATE your STORY to your audience. Tell them WHAT YOUR STORY IS ALL ABOUT. If you YOURSELF are able to tell your story in ONE LINE effectively, you have managed to engage your audience 80% to your story.

For example, you must be able to tell "My story is about Jack who wants to go up the hill to fetch Jill a pail of water", not "My story is about Jack's frustration going up the hill to find water for Jill". We already know it's frustrating to go up the hill, on top of that to carry a pail of water. We WANT to know HOW Jack manage to fetch that water for Jill.

What is so unique about your film?
Ask yourself these questions - why would you want to watch another half-past six MATRIX when Hollywood has done it perfectly? Why would you want to watch another Godfather when the one done by Francis Ford Coppola is considered the TOP 5 best film of ALL TIME in the world. Why would you want to watch another INFERNAL AFFAIRS when even the one remade by Martin Scorsese (The Departed) is considered inferior to the original done by Andrew Lau and Alan Mak in Hong Kong?

I feel that "wannabe" film story tellers are so fearful of how people would react to their work. Or how their film would look like. I've mentioned this and I'll mention this again. STORY is king, and I believe this applies to to making music/poetry as well. When your CONTENT is good and effective, people will be drawn to it NATURALLY lah.

Technology CANNOT assist you when your storytelling is zero. Good example of impressive films with flawed storytelling - Spiderman lll, X-Men lll, 90% of Michael Bay's films, Gangs Of New York, Matrix lll, etc...

I observe that a lot of people are worried more about technique and style than CONTENT. Technical gimmick and eye candy CANNOT hide flawed storytelling. Your HDSLRs and REDs can come later, much later, after your STORY.

You want to be innovative? Fine. Go to film school or at least study the fundamentals about structure. Quentin Tarantino learnt about linear storytelling so that later he could start breaking some rules.

The late P Ramlee (father of Malay cinema) said, "Seni itu adalah kerja Tuhan maka lakukan dengan bersungguh-sungguh dan penuh keikhlasan" (Art is God's gift, thus practice it wisely with sincerity).

Yes the only way to get your film noticed is film festivals. Don't get disappointed if the first film festival you sent your film to gets rejected. Different film festivals have their own niche and target audience. One of the reasons your film gets rejected could be the theme in your film is not suitable for the film festival, or that the film festival's programmer is simply NOT into your film, not that your film might be bad. Otherwise EAT HUMBLE PIE and make another one, and another one, to improve on your storytelling.

Oh, your family and good friends are not exactly the best people to judge your work.

For my views on censorship, kindly read this article. On government film funding, check the Singapore Film Commission's website (which you can google/bing/yahoo).

I'm still self-funding my films. Either my stories are engaging that many of my collaborators may have volunteered themselves to see that it gets made (and I'm truely humbled), or they are too nice to tell me my stories suck (which I'll be upset as they're not being honest)! Either ways I still love them - after all this industry is about constructive criticism, no?

Just do it, the rest shall fall into place.
On that note, this film, Ramuan Rahasia, is seeking funds to complete.

Sanif Olek is a local independent filmmaker who made the following short films :Lost Sole,a la Folie and Ameen on top of his feature film project Ramuan Rahasia.

He wrote this with the Malay Community in mind as audience but the article has some truths for all of us in general. This piece was taken from his blog site.
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