Friday, September 13, 2013

A very special #Eid #telemovie

I’ve never considered myself a pro at making ole sappy sandiwara dramas, especially for Hari Raya. I have always wondered why most Hari Raya dramas telecast during the joyous season need to be all sad and filled with tears.

But hey there’s always a first time for everything.

The moment arrived when I was tasked to direct a telemovie for Eidul Fitri this year. Never one to turn down challenges, I grabbed the opportunity to do this special drama.

But perhaps before you jump to conclusions, this drama is indeed special.

If Christmas has It’s A Wonderful Life, a very special film about redemption, Eidul Fitri 2013 has a special treat.

The drama I was called to direct is called 'Raya Bersama...'. While studying the script, I reflect upon the essence of Hari Raya, especially among the Malays. Besides victory at self-restrain against all sinful activities during Ramadhan, it is tradition to seek forgiveness from one another. To an outsider, it might seem unconventional to literally seek forgiveness, ie, to go on one's knees et al, but it seems natural to do such during the festive season. For many, it would be an emotionally-charged occasion to observe among families, siblings and relatives. Hari Raya is also an opportunity to return to family values.

Thus I focused at those elements to make this Hari Raya telemovie special. Your tears will not be in vain.

'Raya Bersama...' was first telecast on 14 August 2013, 8.30pm on MediaCorp's Suria channel.

Please watch it. It's in the Malay language, no subtitles. It's not a difficult programme to follow after all it's television. Furthermore, I was taught in film school that a good film do not really need any dialogues. Let me know how many boxes of tissues you've dispensed by the end of the telemovie

Monday, September 9, 2013

Dear... am I, really?

I’ve been pondering on this situation very much the last couple of years – in my capacity as “director for hire”, meeting many producers of production houses and being told I’m too expensive to hire.

Does my glorious portfolio accumulated since 1996 suggest that my rates should go the opposite way? Is this the state of the television creative industry in Singapore? Or perhaps many production houses out there are run by business managers more intent to beef up their bottomlines than pursuing high programme content with real production values? Hopefully many are not resorting to wide-eyed interns to justify their costs (as mentioned in my previous posts). To say that I’m disturbed is an understatement.

It irks me more that my "costs" are mentioned and circulated falsely within the industry. Where is the decency to pick up that phone and negotiate? Just in case you are not aware, I may do pro bono work if I feel strongly about the cause. 

Let’s think about ex·pen·sive /ikˈspensiv/

When does an item or product become expensive? Here is a very interesting article about products and the assignment of their respective prices from Harvard Business Review.

Now before I go further, here's my standard professional bio (mid 2013), albeit a brief one.

A graduate of Film & Media Studies dept (Film, Sound & Video) from Ngee Ann Polytechnic and Media & Communications from Murdoch University in Perth, Australia, Sanif Olek is one of the most accomplished and versatile Singaporean-based, television and film director. Since 1996 Sanif received multiple ‘Best Director’, ‘Best Drama Series’, ‘Best Magazine Series’ awards for his television work (ie, Kaki Borak, 1988...Segaris Sinar, Ayah @ Rumah, Soo Lazat, etc). His films have been screened internationally at major film festivals, won a NETPAC film award and showcased at international museums, ie the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) New York, the Singapore Art Museum (SAM) and National Museum of Singapore (NAMoS). He works closely with the Singapore museums for commissioned works, residency and public outreach programmes. He is the head consultant at reeljuice, a collaborative creative agency actively promoting effective storytelling as means to enlighten the human condition. He is currently juggling between full-time commercial television work and lecturing. Sanif has just completed his debut feature film SAYANG DISAYANG, and completing another feature film, VOLUPTAS. 

It is odd to consider me expensive when television budgets have generally been raised. The programmes in the PSB funds have generally increased 3-5 fold within the last 5 years, yet I've quoted for a rather constant rate during the last 6 years for local television production. You might not be aware but most of the time, I'm responsible at improving on the original concepts, amending the scripts during filming day itself, repairing callsheets for APs during production and sitting-in during post-production (because many times the video editors these production houses have engaged are either overworked or creatively devoid of soul, or both).

…and oh, I should also add that I’m in this full time.

Furthermore I do not take up any other production on the side while being involved in an ongoing production. With all due respect to the other folks, kindly do not tag my rates to other directors who may be involved in filming as a sideline to their more lucrative 9 to 5 day jobs.

Also, may I add that it won't do any harm to the product if I choose to be hands-on. The results speak for itself.

Here's a thought - if you're gonna pay peanuts, you get monkeys.

The #sayangMovie completed.

In the morning of 30th May 2013, I posted the following tweets,
So yes, my first debut indie feature film, Sayang Disayang (previously called Ramuan Rahasia as its working title) is completed. Between the conception of the film in 2001, getting funding, yo-yo national film grant schemes, professional/personal learning curves, shifts in local film scene and 30th May 2013, it has been a long colourful *journey.

No additional filming was done, nor additional funding been received since the Konsert Ramuan fundraiser project in 2011 or efforts in online crowdfunding. My co-writer, Gene Sha Rudyn and myself relooked hard at the script and reworked a narrative outline without leaving out the magic we had set out to achieve when we first collaborated on the screenplay. But just before you jump to any conclusion, this exercise was more to refine the narrative, focussing on the characters and their human condition while keeping the essence of our story - than taking the easy way out to get it “over and done with”. Desperate times call for desperate measures.

In future when the opportunity permits itself, we shall share the journey of making the film itself.

The next phase of Sayang Disayang’s journey begins with getting this film - a voice from the center of the Nusantara - be seen by as many people as possible internationally. It will be another exciting journey.

For future updates, you might want to “Like” its page on facebook, follow it on twitter or search the web with the hashtag #sayangMovie.

*Kindly do “Ramuan Rahasia” in this blog’s search column to read all about this film’s bittersweet journey since 2009.

Thank you so much for your unequivocal support for this film, and for simply being there every step of the way. This means so much to everyone involved.