Saturday, November 14, 2009


On the final day of the seminar organized by World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO)/Malaysian Intellectual Property Organisation (MyIPO) in Kuala Lumpur yesterday, I think I stepped on FINAS’s toes a little too hard. Its representative at the seminar publicly said to me “you sound like a broken record”.

Hmmmmm….if he is the official representative of FINAS, his comments would also represent the official stand of FINAS right?

What happened?

Well, you see, it was the final Question and Answer session before the end of the seminar, when I stood up to comment and query the FINAS representative’s earlier presentation and comments made as a member of the final panel.

I asked:” Why is FINAS so interested in trying to market our films overseas, spending hundreds of thousands of ringgit flying all over the world, when they should help market Malaysian finals back home first, or maybe even regionally first.”

I continued: “In Indonesia, Thailand, Korea, and with the exception of Singapore, most movies hope to make back their money domestically first. Marketing their film overseas is a bonus – if it happens.

“You don’t make a film (at least in Asia) with the hope of making a profit from overseas sales without first wanting to make a profit back home. So what I am suggesting is for FINAS to seriously look to help develop, market and promote Malaysian movies domestically, and for the time being spend less in promoting our films overseas. I wasn’t sure why such a request would irk FINAS.

I also said: “Right now there is an average of 300,000 regular viewers and supporters of Malay movies or Malaysian movies, there should concentrate on how to increase this number of people viewing local movies.”

The FINAS representative immediately replied that I sounded like a broken record.

“I don’t know where Anwardi got this figure of 300,000 from. I want to know if Anwardi has got the addresses and phone numbers of these people or not. If what Anwardi say is true, can he explain how come two years ago, ticket sales was 3 million and last year it went up to over 5.29 million? Where does Anwardi get his numbers?”

“As for us going to festivals overseas, we don’t do it because we want to. We do it at the request of the industry. It is the associations that ask us to organize these trips to markets overseas. We listen to the associations and industry, WE DON’T LISTEN TO THE OPINION OF AN INDIVIDUAL!”

Unfortunately, the panel chairman stopped the beginning of a very interesting debate because I would actually gone on to thank the FINAS rep for proving my figure with his statement.

Firstly, the number 300,000 is not something that I pulled out of a hat. The number is the figure mentioned by the President of the Film Producer’s Association, Encik Ahmad Fuad Onah, in a previous seminar held in FINAS.

Anyway, the figure the FINAS representative mentioned was for the annual ticket sales. Let’s take his biggest number, the 5 million ticket sales last year. He actually proved that Ahmad Fuad’s statement was not accurate but in fact the PPFM’s President’s figure was actually quite generous. The number was LESS!!

Last year, according to FINAS’s website, 25 films were screened. And yes, 5.29 million tickets were sold. This means that an average of just over 200,000 tickets were sold per movie. Not 300,000 as what Ahmad Fuad Onah and I believed it to be. The number is actually quite smaller. In fact, in FINAS’s website, it states under the 2008 statistics column: ‘purata jumlah penonton - 212,000.” (Average viewership per film is 212,000 viewers).

Yes, he was right when he said more 5 million tickets were sold. However, this does not mean that there are 5 million Malay movie fans out there. It was, and FINAS’s website confirms it, an average of 212,000 viewers per movie.

That’s what FINAS statistics says. Not Ahmad Fuad’s. Nor mine. And therefore, if we had only ONE movie screened last year, and the ticket sales for the same year is 5.29 million, yes, I would agree that there is probably more than 5 million viewers that watch local movies,

Now, as for the industry wanting FINAS to find international markets for their movies and FINAS listening to these wishes by the industry (associations), let me try and make some sense of this statement.

For one, the industry has asked for many, many things from FINAS, but NOT ALL were granted. Which is fine. We cannot be and we should not be spoon fed or even fully subsidised by the government. But how come this particular request was given due recognition?

Does FINAS think there are billions of Ringgit waiting for Malaysian movies out there? Are there distributors and cinema owners in Europe and the Americas that are dying to screen Malaysian movies? Doesn’t FINAS give advice to the industry when they make unrealistic demands? Why doesn’t FINAS tell the industry, “Hey guys, why don’t you buck up locally first? Why don’t we try to promote locally produced movies amongst non-Malays? That’s a huge market waiting to be tapped IN MALAYSIA!”

But fine, let’s say that FINAS always acquiesce to industry’s demands and, as the FINAS rep says, they listen to the industry. Well. if the industry wants FINAS to start a national cinema chain (which they have asked for for the past decade) why haven’t they done so? Maybe because such endeavours doesn’t entail any overseas trips?

Anyway, my ramblings in my blog or at workshops and seminars will not make any difference right? Of course not. According to him, FINAS doesn’t listen to the individual’s opinions. We, filmmakers, who always consider ourselves as individuals first and everything else second, are nothing. FINAS only listens to the industry. Not the industry players'. Not individuals'.

I had better stop. I am beginning to sound like a broken record.

(Endnote: Another participant at the seminar told me: “Di, if you sound like a broken record, what does FINAS sound like? Hmmmmmm.)

Sunday, November 8, 2009


In the front page of the Sunday Times today - REEL MESS RM50m loan scheme for film producers a failure.
And the blame is being put solely on the producers who got the loans and produced non-performing movies at the box office and also those who didn't even finish making their films.
Of the so many people who received the loans, the DG of Finas commended the KRU brothers for producing Cicakman that made money and actually serviced their loans. The FINAS KP actually told other producers to emulate them.
Now, back to the question at hand. Firstly, the fund is a loan. Not a grant. It is to be paid back to the government.
It is managed by FINAS and SME Bank. The vet and approve the loans.
There is a committee that vets the proposals. This committee recommends and, at a recent seminar in FINAS, claims to oversee the production (I wrote about this in an earlier posting). The supervisory factor it seems is so strict that a producer who changes the approve cast or even location would be fined a sum for doing so.
Now, having said that, if the recipient of the loan fails to produce a movie (that they approve) that made back its money, who is to blame? The committee that approves it or the producer that got the money and spends it any which way he can?
For Pete's sake, it's a loan. It's not a grant.
Didn't the committee check if the recipients are capable of paying back the loan?
Wasn't there a stop gap measure imposed to ensure that the loans are paid back?
Didn't any of FINAS lawyers aware of the loophole that states the loan will only be paid when the movie is screened? So the producers who failed to complete their movies and not get it on screen need NOT service the loan? Wow!!
Man!! I wished I had taken a loan, spent a bit of it on a fictitious movie and the rest on a Mercedes or a Beamer, and just sit tight and smile. Fuck the movie. I don't have to pay it back because I am not going to screen it.
So what is the KP of FINAS doing about this? Looks like he's going for a knee jerk solution.
He is going to review the disbursement of the loan.
Instead of the previous 60 percent up front disbursement, he is thinking of releasing only 10 percent. The rest will be released in stages to ensure the funds is used responsibly.
And I thought he has production experience. He was, if I am not mistaken, the MD of Pesona Pictures before he took on the helm at FINAS. So he should understand that the burn rate in fillm production is FAST! You have a 30-day shoot schdule, and you spend a million buck within that 30-days. Money MUST be in place to ensure smooth production. Now is FINAS thinks that progressive payments to the producer is the solution, and that the producers need to request payments every five or seven days from FINAS, he is clearly not in the right frame of mind.
Everyone knows that dealing with most government departments, getting payments ready and approved takes weeks, even months, and not days.
The paper work, the approvals, the procedures and the signatories required are crazy. In this scenario, either the production of the movie comes to a screaming halt and the personnel jumping ship, or a 30-day production schedule turns into an expensive 90-day staggered shoot.
Nevertheless, the BIG question is, if the film fails, at the box office or even at the production stage, who shoulders the failure - FINAS or the producer?
Isn't it FINAS who approves the loan, and therefore in doing so, isn't it a rubber stamp signifying that they believe the producer and his product will make back the money?
Isn't it logical that they wouldn't have approved and released the money if they thought the movie won't make money right? Or has the criteria in receiving the funds changed? Or are they now approving loans for films that they think will fail or for producers they think will screw up the production?
Hey, if I were a producer, and I came up with a proposal to produce a movie about a chicken that can talk through its backside, and FINAS approves it, and yet it fails in the box office - why blame the me? Shouldn't you blame FINAS for thinking a movie about a chicken speaking through its arsehole can make back RM1.5m at the box office?
What do you think?
But I would rather also talk more about the reason for setting up the fund.
Wasn't part of the reason the fund was created was to develop in the film industry? To help serious filmmakers achieve their visions and for putting Malaysia onto the world cinematic map?
Out of the few titles mentioned in the article that were given loans - Aduhh Saliha, The Chini, Gentayangan, Kantoi, Eeee Hantu and Jibam - were any of these titles of movies that would have made a difference in our cinematic inventory? Were these movies of quality? Were they made by filmmakers who want to make a difference? Were these titles of movies that we can be proud of screening at festivals overseas?
At least, if they fail at the box office, the movies can still be considered by certain parties as khazanah budaya (and by this a box office failure might get even a Ministry to buy the movie wholesale in order to pay off the loan - but even then you need political clout and even bigger strings to pull).
Nevertheless, I guess with titles like those mentioned above, there's no point even considering it as cultural products. So why were these movies approved in the first place? Was it more of a commercial decision than a cultural or artistic ones? Who approved them? And who oversaw the projects?
All these needs to be answered because producers like me, who are thinking of getting such loans, will now suffer because the funds were 'mismanaged' and now it would be more difficult for genuine filmmakers to get loans or grants (if there are any).