Saturday, October 15, 2011

That'll Be Four Bucks Baby!

I'm a member of a scriptwriting group on Facebook, and one of the things I like doing is answering questions from new writers. It's not about feeling good about myself because I'm better or older, but has everything to do with sharing shit.

This week, one young, enthusiastic guy asked me: "What would be a good production house to do drama series in English? Maybe the first Malaysian English series in Malaysia?"

I answered:

"There are other Malaysian English series. A lot of them, I think. City of the Rich (written in part by Amir Muhammad), Buddies (Na'a Murad), that Kopitiam thing and a bunch of other stuff, including that thing with Cheryl Samad in it. As for the production house, I dunno. Lots of them around, but hardly anyone does Malaysian English drama series. Which brings us to the next question - do I think it will work? I dunno, dude. Malaysian English speaking crowd is few, but have better income. Then again, what are they watching? ESPN? AXN? My suggestion is just to write what you want to write. Fuck what the market wants. You're a writer, not a marketer."

Like it or not, the majority of the population in Malaysia are Bahasa Malaysia-speaking Malays. What do they watch? Bahasa Malaysia shows. Like Raja Lawak. Like Akademi Fantasia. What is the number one news show in Malaysia? Buletin Utama. What language is it in? BM.

What is the last Malaysian English film you ever saw? Mine was Ah Lok Kafe. Nasi Lemak 2.0 doesn't count cause it's a mix. Anyway, how much did Ah Lok Kafe make? How many people went to see it? Given the opportunity, would any profit-driven production house want to do a Malaysian English film?

People talk about the urban market like it's the most valuable market here. It might be, but how do you tap it? What shows do the Bangsar crowd watch?

I just came back from Jalan Telawi, and all the pubs were showing ESPN and WWE. Football and wrestling, including the mamak.

Was Akademi Fantasia a show for urban folk or rural folk? Who gets wet at the sound of Mawi?

You wanna talk urban and rural, are we talking demographics or mindset? I come from a swamp in Kuantan. You know what the swamp people watch? ESPN and WWE on Supersport. Just like the Bangsar crowd.

When the first AF kids performed or appeared in public, the makciks in tudungs pushed the glass doors of the building until it broke. Where was this? PWTC, I think. Where is PWTC? Right smack in the middle of the city.

They also watch Tahajjud Cinta and whatever the hell they put on TV during primetime. I believe that even if you put a video of a rock on primetime, they'll watch it for an hour. Why? Cause TV is still THE CHEAPEST entertainment, and people will always need entertainment.

My old editor, he said, "There's urban, and there's urbane." His family decided to live in villages, and they watch CSI, House, those kind of 'urban' shows.

I could go on forever, demonstrating the flaws and special cases in any and all market segmentation. Lesson: you can't really put people in boxes. They won't stay there like a bunch of kittens. You can do educated guesses, based on statistics, but you can never be right 100%.

Which brings us to the point I was making. Fuck the market. Fuck statistics. We have people who are very good or very bad at predicting trends. They are called producers.

My advice to the young scriptwriter was simple, and something I should follow myself. Fuck everything else. Just write what you want, when you want it, and however which way you want it.

I believe the key to good writing, fuck that, to great writing, is to be sincere in your approach. People can sniff fakery and fuckery a mile away, unless you're Neil Gaiman, in which faking it is the point.

If you lose your sincerity, you lose your audience.

Fuck thinking about it, bro, just fucking do it. Put your dick inside the hole and fucking pump it. Wank if you have to. And if they don't like it, they can stuff it where the sun don't shine.

Now, where the fuck is my draft? I got a deadline to crawl to.