Graduation: All Should End Well Did End Well / by next new wave

Author: Elise Shick

I don't want to write. To write means to mark an end to this vivid dream of bittersweet incidents taken place in Hotel Sentral throughout these past seven days. Maybe nobody cares anymore. Maybe they've moved on and set themselves off to begin a new adventure. Maybe some still cast their minds back to the first day of the workshop. Maybe some can't remember at all what had happened. Maybe someone like me still lingers on and doesn't want to forget about the graduation day. So I have no choice but to archive this day in writing form. Next year when we look back at this piece of writing, we will find a melancholically beautiful child sitting there, gazing at an older us. 

The Second Final Breakfast

As days went by, it became harder for me to spot any comrade in Level 5 whom I could have breakfast with. Ah, how sweet it was in the few first mornings when we sat together at a round table questioning Jasmi why he doesn't eat rice, porridge, and noodles. Seriously man, you should make a film out of this. You can probably be famous very quickly. 

To expect any participant to have breakfast with me on this day was mission impossible. They were all still in the editing hall. No one especially the editors wanted to let go of the iMacs up till the last moment. Let them do it. They could hug or kiss or dance with the iMacs as long as they had their final outputs handed to Stephen by 10am. 

I was still editing my crappy film done hours ago with my eyes half opened like a dead fish. I saw Pey Sien passed by. She wore a contented smile on her serene face. I've never seen her like this before. She must be very happy with her own work. If anyone happened to take a picture of this scene, you would see a graceful goddess walking pass a condemned peasant. This was not the end. I still had an interview with Mr. Sidi at 8:50 am. I survived the interview. It was short and sweet and lasted only for 10 minutes because Sidi had to rush into room 1502 (if I remembered it correctly) where a very very important meeting with the other mentors was taking place. 

After the submission, I spotted few participants finally took out their room cards without hesitation to go back to their rooms and take a shower. They must have soaked themselves in weird body odours for two days. It's ok, no one will know about that and no one will eventually care about that as long as their films are outstanding. For some people happen to read my blog after watching their films, they will understand that the road to success necessitates weird body odours, it's unavoidable. 

Pre-Screeening: How Are You Going To Defend Your Work?

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We were behind the schedule, as usual of course. We had Amir Muhammad, Carlo, and Sidi written in the guest lists to attend this session but when I peeped through a hole from Sentral 2, I saw Davy and Anocha appeared in the hall too. The participants entered the hall group by group. From their light footsteps, I heard a thousand pounds of trepidation. Davy started to throw different questions at them, followed by other mentors. I couldn't hear the contents properly but it seemed to me that the participants were fighting hard for their moment of glory. 

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I checked the hallway out, different kinds of expression flashed across the participants' faces. Everyone except Boon. Of course he looked as calm as usual, I doubted if he actually understood the art of panicking or adrenaline crush. Gogu saw me spying on them so he uttered to me in his low voice, 'Did you actually sleep? You look very tired'. Yes, I was very exhausted but I thought you too, just that you had your Buddha face and no one could spot your fatigue. By the way, someone was telling me last night that you couldn't explode on set even though you wished to. This was something that you must work on. Or just licked their faces if your production team members pissed you off. 

Panel Discussion 1.0: 'Let's Talk About Your First Filmmaking Experience'

The panel discussions were moderated by Amir Muhammad. This explained why the atmosphere was unshakeable. I attended several panel discussions moderated by Amir, several opening ceremonies hosted by him too, and I sensed that he could handle the whole situation with just a wave of his hand, or a smile that squeezed out two deep dimples. 

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Yah, so Amir the god of panel discussions was sitting upright emitting a suave aura while Carlo was talking relentlessly about his first experience in filmmaking. I wasn't sure if Carlo was super excited, but he always sounded interested when people asked him questions, especially with the camera on. He could finish three long sentences in five seconds. That was a talent. 

If you’re really working in film, it’s always a collaborative effort.
— Carlo Francisco Manatad

We had definitely been hearing these two words 'collaborative effort' for uncountable times since day one of the workshop. As an ending, we definitely needed to hear them once more. Thank you Carlo, you gave us such a good closing. Sidi was contemplating something while Carlo was talking. Amir must have realised that so he passed the question to Sidi.

If you love something, even though it’s a mistake, you’ll keep going and going.
— Sidi Saleh

He was probably speaking from his love experience. I remembered I gave him an interview question asking what is his relationship between he himself, his camera, and his subjects. He said, 'Love at the first sight'. Great, in order to make films, you must first know how to love. Shanjhey was enjoying himself at the side listening to Carlo's endless story. 

We found out that we had the same vibration that was why we worked together with the stranger we met.
— Shanjhey Kumar Perumal

Amir was asking Shanjhey how did he choose whom to work with. What Shanjhey said made total sense to many of us who was in this workshop. The vibration he meant, to me was a kind of wave form in the air that transmitted from one person to another and brought everyone together to do crazy stuffs. It doesn't occur everywhere or very often, but if you find it, please don't let it go. It creates miracles.

Panel Discussion 2.0: 'How Can We Continue To Make Film?'

The guy holding the microphone close to his mouth was the translator/interpreter for Mr. Choi Yoon. His real name is Cho HyungDong but he wanted us to call him his fancy nickname JJ. JJ was a very funny guy. Don't be cheated by his serious look here during the panel discussion or on the stage, he was born to be a very comical guy. One morning I had breakfast with him and TK, he started to talk about the egg disease and advised me not to eat too much eggs. All I felt like eating for that breakfast was egg, four hard boiled eggs. I took the result of my blood test today and found out that I have high cholesterol. 

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From Amir and Davy's faces we could see that JJ was performing his best interpreting skill in translating every word from Mr. Choi Yoon with care and love. He put special emphasis on passion and energy. Yes, the two keywords for us to keep continuing making films. Moving on to Anocha, Amir asked her where and how she got the funding for her first film.

I was spending money that I didn’t have.
— Anocha Suwichakornpong

The funding for her first film came from her friends, family, and other little funders she had approached. It wasn't just about her genius in finding funding but more about her courage to do so. She had the guts to make a film even though she had no money. If you dare to dream, you must dare to do it too. 

Making too many commercials might change my mind and way of thinking. 
— Davy Chou

Amir put a question to find out why Davy chose to be in the independent scene. From his answer we all knew that to Davy, keeping an honest aesthetic point of view and way of making film was very crucial. That was one of his principles, a good reminder too to many filmmakers out there who sometimes let slip of what they used to believe when they first started making film. With perseverance, I believe anyone can make real this dream even though it means to sacrifice or to suffer more. 

Screening In Progress: Let The Audience Challenge You

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Many guests had arrived at Level 5 where the screening of the participants' short films was held. I scanned through the screening hall (the place where we used to have our breakfast, lunch, and dinner together) and saw some alumni. Some university lecturers were there too. Actors and actress in the films sat quietly at the corner, awaiting their appearances on the screen. The feeling was very surreal. A place where we had meals together had turned out to be the exact spot of where we will all devour the end products of our hard works.

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After the screening, there came a Q&A session for each group. Gogu and Benedict looked particularly happy during the Q&A for Believe Me. Perhaps they liked to deal with the audience better than the production crew. I had no idea. Or watching their own work with the audience could be one of the most remarkable things in their lives. Everyone spoke about their hardship during the production and post-production day. For Gogu, directing the talents was something especially challenging for him, well, since we all knew that he was a very gentle and soft-spoken guy. I heard from someone that he and his talents were performing some kind of ritual during the production day, something to do with transferring energy. That was quite special. Actually I forgot what Benedict said. For producer, it must be the pre-production day when they normally had to swallow a dozen of panadols. Aishah said that she could have done more during the production day  to request for more insert shots instead of merely doing conti or holding the slate. Farries too, spoke from the bottom of his heart that production day was very challenging for him given the time limit and the harsh shooting environment. 

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There wasn't much ups and downs for group B. But I was quite surprised that the film was classified into horror genre in the end. I actually saw the previous version of Mama before the final output. There was a lot of improvement in editing especially the sound design that changed the fate of this film I guess. Yazeid said the same thing too, he was a bit taken back when the audience laughed halfway in the film. He said he couldn't control this but the film had become a comedic horror film. Honestly saying, it wasn't easy to make a comedic horror film. So...congratulations! The team didn't have much problems overall and they were really indebted to the technical team and talents for their professionalism. 

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Group C's film Melati caught me off guard the most after witnessing the progress from pre-production to post-production. They added a little bit of twists and turns in Davy's script and the end product turned out to be surprisingly well. I mean the three groups were given the same script and were allowed to amend some parts of the script but this group had changed it into another story. The first two had similarities and the potential to be categorised into horror genre but Melati was more like a family drama. Azim said that the script development stage was very important to him and to the film. Boon said they improvised something on set and it turned out to be fruitful. Maybe they created 'the grey area'–the tension existed during the negotiation between deliberation and improvisation–I mentioned in my second blog. 

The Q&A was followed by the screening of I Just Want You To Love Me–the film that staffs and volunteers had made together in the last minute as a surprise for everyone. The reception was good, judging from the volume of laughters and applauses heard from the audience crowd. It was a light dessert after horror films and family drama. Like I said in the previous blog, this supposedly mellow and poetic film had changed dramatically into a comedy. We had no control over it anymore, so let's laughed together. Everything should end well did end well. 

Announcement for FLY-ROK: Every Next Moment Is A Surprise

The inside and the outside of the screening hall was separated by a river of never-ending  discussions between the mentors, Mui, FINAS representatives and Mr. Choi Yoon from Busan Film Commission, oh yes, and JJ I think. Anyone could sense the dense atmosphere outside of the hall as we looked out from the glass door. Hmm, this year's mentors really held up to their decision, they didn't give up fighting for another participant whom they thought he really deserved to go to FLY. Discussions went on for hours until the moment of glory was shared by everyone in the hall. 

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So Davy represented the four mentors to give an opening speech for their decision. Look at Anocha's face, she was determined and must be very satisfied with the results. Carlo looked a little bit nerdy, Sidi confused, and Davy spoke with an air of confidence. 

It sounds like a cliche but it’s really difficult for us to make the decision, we wished we could send [all the participants] to FLY-ROK.
— Davy Chou

Come on, again? This is a must-heard thing repeating over and over again in every year. Davy even made a short disclaimer for pragmatic purpose, I guess. It's alright, we all knew that it must be a really tough choice to make since we witnessed the endless discussions outside of the hall. You were forgiven. 

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The audience and the participants cringed for quite a long time waiting for Mr. Choi Yoon to finish his speech. He took so long, or probably it was JJ who took so long to finish speaking. I guess he added here and there things that he wanted to say but didn't have any chance to say throughout this whole week. He was making good use of his time at that moment, slow and calculated. Anyway, it was on the next day when we found out that the mentors, Mr. Choi Yoon, and JJ were dragging the time because the staff had to give birth to a certificate that was not in the list: an unplanned honorary mention to one of the participants. This was the thing that the mentors had been fighting for because each year they could only send two finalists to FLY-ROK and this year, they wanted to break the rules.

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Benedict and Ariff were the two finalists who will be representing Malaysia at ASEAN-ROK Film Leaders Incubator: FLY in Jogjakarta, Indonesia from November 20 to December 3 this year. Everyone looked so happy especially Kak Aisyah, the FINAS representative who had been accompanying us from the beginning of this workshop till the end. I didn't have any photo of the honorary mention participant Boon, the super calm guy. So he had the privilege to be recommended by any of the mentors and Mr. Choi if he wants to apply for any film workshop. This was a huge surprise that astonished all of us, including the two finalists. The closing ceremony was marked an end with Boon's large smile. 

I still have a heavy heart with me now to end this blog but from the deepest of my heart I would like to say thanks to Next New Wave for giving me a chance to express my very personal and sometimes even mistaken interpretations on this whole workshop. For real, this is my first time writing a blog and spying on the participants. I had fear too that I couldn't make it or there would be no one to read my silly blogs but thank you all, thank you my dear readers. I hope these pieces of writing bring back good memories to everyone of you who had involved in this workshop and whoever wants to get some insights of what was happening throughout the past week. Dear participants, volunteers, staffs, mentors, FINAS representatives, technical teams, talents, and Mui, we will meet again.