Friday, January 15, 2010

For Neytiri: Excellence of Execution

I was talking to fellow filmmakers the other day, about Avatar.

We were of the mind that what James Cameron did was the best execution of a movie done in the history of filmmaking.

Some people pooh-pooh the story, but they might as well stick their tongue out at the stories of Jesus, Moses, Muhammad, Buddha, Gilgamesh, Sigurd the Volsung, Beowulf, Alice in Wonderland, The Lord of the Rings, The Muppet Movie and every story that follows the monomyth structure.

You know, Joseph Campbell's Hero of a Thousand Faces? How every story is just one story. Told and retold again.

The problem with Malaysian works is not about creativity. There are lots of creativity in film, theatre, music, etc.

The problem? Execution. At the stage of execution, either in writing it down, acting, singing, recording it, Malaysian artists and artistes usually struggle at execution.

Hell, when writing, I struggle when I write - the execution part of my craft. The idea is there. How do I do it? That's the vital part.

I see a lot of Malaysian creative people or wannabe creative people threatened by works like Avatar, like Cirque du Soleil, like Michael Jackson. Beyonce. Whatever.

They perhaps cannot fathom working that hard for something. Maybe their pay is small. I mean, no movie from Malaysia has ever reached the 10 million gross barrier, let alone USD1 billion.

Perhaps what we don't realise is that the excellence of execution does not necessarily mean a spectacle. An epic. Or a large, difficult thing.

The excellence of execution can exist in small things. And from small things, it can combine to bigger and much bigger things.

The Japanese understand this. Look at their food! Some are just raw and tastes bad! But the execution of the meal, the presentation, is so good, you can't complain paying six bucks for two pieces of raw fish on rice with some seaweed.

Malaysian artists and artistes and craftsmen possess the expansive creative demiurgic power. An explosive power. Without the finesse of Lucifer to weave that energy and those dreams into something great.

In essence, I find the resentment towards great execution to stem from insecurities about our own unwillingness to put love into our craft. A laziness, perhaps.

We are all guilty of it, at some point or another. Until we embrace a culture of excellent execution, we are doomed to be just where we are, doing what we do. And jealous of other people's work.