Tuesday, September 07, 2004

"Even your mother can direct a film!"

Your mother.
Originally uploaded by yasmin the storyteller.
About five years ago, my husband and I chose a Thai director to shoot a Malaysia Airlines TV commercial for us. It was the story of three friends who grew up together, got separated by the war, and met again, in their old age, at an airport.

Deeply-impressed by the way he brought out the soul of our story, we asked Khun Nang, what he felt was the difference between a regular film director and a good one.

This was his reply:

"Anyone can direct a film. If you gave her a good cinematographer, even your mother can direct a film. Just point the camera at some people and tell them to act and say something.

But to be a good director, you have to do TWO things.

ONE, sort out the script. Work and work at it, change it and rearrange it, until you are quite confident that the way you tell the story will move people in the end, and long after the film is over.

(Sounds easy enough, but why is that out of every 100 films that you see, only 1 leaves you thinking and feeling for days after? The rest just merge into a blurred mess of forgetability.)

TWO, choose the right actors.

Once you have got these two things right, my dear Yasmin, the film will direct itself.

End of lesson."

Wait a minute, I thought. That's it? Work on the script and choose the right actors? Hey, that's easy! I can do that.

And then I tried. And failed. And tried. And failed. And then I watched other people try. And fail.

I watched other directors attempt at making me laugh, but instead, I fell asleep. They tried to make me cry, but I laughed.

They tried to be romantic, but came across false and ridiculous. I walked away from their films, sometimes halfway through, if not physically then emotionally, feeling empty and cheated somehow.

Khun Nang's words were starting to ring true.

I remember watching GLADIATOR and thinking at the end, "What brilliant pictures, what lovely music, such grandeur, such a dramatic death, and... yaaawn... thank God that's over."

But at the end of MONSTERS INC., when that blue, furry, goofy creature opened that door, and we heard a little girl inside say "Kitty!", this was a happy ending. But my face was drenched with tears of joy, even after the lights had come up.

Who was I more in love with? Russell Crowe or blue, furry, goofy creature?