Sunday, November 21, 2004

"Everyday life, rendered tellingly, provides more than enough drama to engage us deeply." - Ozu

a bus in mumbai
Originally uploaded by yasmin the storyteller.
It was just one of many journeys I had taken between a hotel I was staying at and Mumbai airport.

I was in a taxi, the children were on a bus.

"Ujala", I was told, is Hindi for "bright".

Now to make a film as simple and as engaging as the still photos that I sometimes take.


Can anyone make up a quick and emotionally engaging little story from this photo?

Friday, November 19, 2004

The price of oil.

Here's one of a thousand photos of Iraqi children they'd never show on CNN or CNBC or FOX, and these days, not even the BBC.

Take a good close look.

The scary thing is, I know some of you out there who can still cook up reasons as to why this child was just an unfortunate, but NECESSARY casualty.

For every foreign "contract worker" whose passport photo you gasped over in the newspapers these days, there are hundreds of Iraqi children lying in nameless graves, because their scattered bodies could no longer be recognised.

What do you call a world where the life of ONE adult is worth more than those of a hundred children?

When I was young, they made movies that convinced me that all Red Indians were bad and all Vietnamese were gooks. They're still producing such fiction today; only these days, they call them "News Channels".

Maybe we should make a movie about Iraq before they do.

Monday, November 15, 2004

"I should like to put across that everything - epic adventure, humour and feeling - is contained in the normal human condition." - Ermanno Olmi

So said one of the greatest Italian film directors living today, on the 1964 US release of his film "Il Posto".

As if to prove his point, here's a photograph I took in Cambodia, earlier this year. In it, you see a pre-school child trying his damnedest to agitate a bunch of older school-going children. I was witnessing what must have been a bit of an "epic adventure" for our naked little friend, and a bit of a "horror" to the older children on the back of that truck.

The sight of this made me think several things. Firstly, how free were, and how much less inhibited, before they clouded our thinking in school. Secondly, it gave me an idea to make a telemovie about the first day of school.

I have my own pool of "horror" stories on the subject. How harrowing it was for me on that day, suddenly finding myself in a cold and unfamiliar place, surrounded by frightened children and hostile adults.

Now it may have been a relatively insignificant day for you, but for me it was like Auschwitz.

If you have interesting first-day experiences to share, do it through the "comment" button below. Inshaallah, if I use any of them, I'll credit you in my telemovie.

Don't expect to get rich with this, though. With "Rabun", by the time we had paid the actors, the crew, the equipment people, the live-sound people, the post-production studios, the caterers and the transport folks, we had zilch left for the producer, the director, the writer, the editor and the cinematographer.

Why? Simply because we wanted to shoot "Rabun", our very first "movie", our very first baby, on FILM, instead of the standard telemovie VIDEO format.

Yes, ladies and gentlemen. In this country, the grand budget for a 2-hour long telemovie is generally RM80,000 or less. In Singapore, I know someone who's getting a 100,000 Singapore Dollars grant (that's more than 200,000 ringgit!) to make a mere short film.

Oh well. It's a fair cop and society's to blame.

All that aside, even if I don't end up using any of your stories, and you don't even get the pleasure of seeing your name appear in my end credits, at least you would have benefitted from the cathartic therapy of re-living a defining moment in your life. Plus, you would have also participated in The Storyteller's second screenplay writing exercise. And all that, for FREE.

Even-stevens, no?

Wednesday, November 10, 2004

The Storyteller's Very First Screenplay Exercise.

what's your story?
Originally uploaded by yasmin the storyteller.
Here is a photograph I took while I was in Chiengrai last week. Each one of us will see a different story in the picture. (Click on the photo to see it bigger.)

I'd like you to write, in TEN sentences or less, your version of what's happening here.

Before you start, remember. The most important thing about a story is the FEELING it imparts.

Monday, November 08, 2004

Sorry, I don't kick ass.

i can't kick ass!
Originally uploaded by yasmin the storyteller.
Dear "The Visitor",

You were right about the TV3 story I directed being overused. And if you think about it, the whole idea of love between people of different backgrounds, like in Sepet, was also overused.

And you know what? Let's face it. There's really nothing revolutionary about Rabun, either. Not really.

Once in a while, someone like "ohsowat" (see his postings in the previous thread below) will come up to me and point out my obsession with nostalgia and romance, as if he were the first to notice it, and the first to broach the subject with me.

Trust me, HE WASN'T.

When something like that happens, I generally put on a surprised look and say something polite like, "Oh, do you think there's a recurrent theme in most of my work? Funny, it never occurred to me..."

But it's different with you, Visitor. There was no malice in the way you pointed it out (quite different from the seething nature of ohsowat's little note, if you know what i mean).

And so Visitor, I feel I owe your benign observation an explanation. And the only one I have is that, in life, these are the things that interest me. Love, and the blindly optimistic people who hold on to it, tenaciously, once they've found it. And as for the nostalgia, this is not something I think is uncool, you see. I have never had any hang-up about sentimentality; no qualms whatsoever about being cliched.

What's more (or what's worse), I actually ENJOY taking a well-worn story like "old friends meeting up again", make some minor adjustments, put little personal touches here and there, pepper it with snippets of my own life, and see if it can still move people, the way it did you, Visitor, and that reporter from 'Her World' who came to my office, saw the TV3 commercial, and wept.

I mean, she actually WEPT.

Which is interesting to me because, hey, it had a HAPPY ending. The two friends in the commercial found each other in the end, mah? And so, at least for two people on this earth, I managed to bottle tears of joy, with a mere 2-minute film for a tv station.

And that makes ME happy.

Why? Oh, I don't know. Perhaps because it tells me that I'm not alone. That there are other gentle souls out there who can still have a good cry over a silly little story about childhood friends coming together again. Even if they HAD seen something similar, many times before.

And in the meantime, I urge young people like ohsowat to go out there and be the innovators they want me to be; to make the new things they crave to see, instead of sitting around typing bitter notes to an incorrigibly sentimental old fool like me. (Besides, I don't want to have to explain myself to anyone ever again, about the why's and wherefore's of the subjects of my films. Lord knows, it gets so tiresome sometimes.) I also urge them seriously to consider avoiding my films and my commercials and even my weblog, if these things irritate them that much. (Bad for your digestion lah, sayang.)

And finally, I wish them the best of luck. I really do. Please make something new, adik-adik. Go out there and kick ass. Do Malaysia proud.

I'll be behind you all the way. (Oh, and don't worry. I won't be wearing my boots.)