Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Ultimate Wanking: Mass Effect

Some people I've met - young writers, filmmakers and film critics - the new generation who will replace us old farts and dinosaurs, often show a vitalising, vibrant energy. They want to do things they want to do, and hope it happens, rather than try to appease the masses.

Finally, after nine years working in KL, and 14 years spent in this godforsaken city, I see people I've been looking for since I first came here.

It's refreshing, yes, but I am now a bit too old to be so enthusiastic. I hope to not touch their youthful vigour or be a pedantic old man because seeing things from my eyes would put a very dark filter on everything indeed.

First of all, what kind of films and stories do you want to do? What kind of effect do you hope to get?

If you're still trying to get a reaction from people, you are still writing for them, and not for yourself. This is not wrong. In fact, nothing is either wrong or right.

I'll be honest and I will say that I want to connect with people through my stories. I have stories I do for the 'masses' and I have full-wanking ones for certain critics and people who over-analyse things. I write stories for people. They're not for me. Not really. Not most of them. I got a few which are just vanity shit, but mostly it's for people.

I even wrote stories for certain publishers, editors, certain production houses. Sometimes, I do stories for my friends. It is only for them. What they do with it is their own thing. I aim to please. I guess I'm still an approval seeker.

I just hope to share - without being a condescending old man - some of my experience in doing some shit. I can tell you - through various mistakes in my life - that ignoring the audience is a risk you take at your own peril. There are places for that, certain havens like blogs and Twitter and Facebook, sometimes YouTube. But in the money and image-driven world, you ignore people to your own undoing.

It's not like you become a slave. Anything and everything you do, 0.3% of the people will really like it. 0.3% will really hate it and 99.4% don't really give a shit.

You're trying to reach to the 99.4%. That's a huge mass. That's the masses people talk about.

By all means, do what you want to do. This is the only way you can ensure honest stories are told. Just bear in mind that having a disdain for the masses is dumb. You don't have to make the audience your enemy. I have heard so many people in the industry say our audiences are dumb, which gives them an excuse to do dumb work. This should not be the way.

The highest-grossing movie on Malaysian soil is Iron Man 2. I heard it made around 30++ million. This means more than three million people went to watch it, if they watched it once. That's the masses. What is the audience for Malaysian movies? Highest grossing was KL Gangster, at almost RM12 million. That's around 1.2 million people (or 500,000 watching it twice and some three times).

This year, Ah Beng 3 Wishes topped the box office at around RM7 million plus. Or so I heard. I don't have the numbers. I believe this is because those audiences who were ignored all this while finally went to see the movie. For years, we have ignored minorities and people who like various types of films.

What I want to see from the industry is variety. I would be very happy if there are more epic blockbusters like Hanyut, more seteroscopic 3D movies, more Malaysian Cantonese/Mandarin movies that I can enjoy rather than rely on my ageing hero Stephen Chow. I want to see art house movies from James Lee. I want to watch Rewan Ishak and what he wants to do in the form of a feature. I want to see the young kids at Idebewe and my friends at Playground make their movies. I want Namewee to do an unfiltered, real honest feature with the spirit of Muar Chinese.

I want more Malaysians to watch more Malaysian movies, with a million different flavours. And I want them all to make money. At least enough for overhead costs and to fund the next movie.

This is selfish, really, because when the scene is that vibrant and alive, I can perhaps flit around and make my own movies. I also don't want to see people going through what some old stalwarts faced, what they went through and suffered, just to keep the fire burning.