Tuesday, December 28, 2010


Personally, 2010 leaves me with a bad taste in my mouth. My trials and tribulations in the film and TV business was the worse I have ever experienced in my life.
What's also strange was that some of my peers and colleagues in the industry had a worse time than me. I know of many producers and directors who went through the whole year without any jobs at all. How they manage is beyond me.
What's stranger still, is that production in KL seems to be booming! How do I know? Well, ask any top actor or actress if they are available for shoot, and they will more than not say they are fully booked.
In my current work for example, for a friend's company, we have had to replace three of the top cast members because of scheduling problems. There was no way for us to wait or work our production around their existing schedules.
Even some of the cast that we took on, they are already shooting with other productions. Nevertheless due to various reasons, we could still take them on and shoot around their existing jobs.
Looking at the situation, maybe I should have been an actor instead of being a producer.
We producers take a lot of crap from everyone. We have to look for funds, pitch for jobs, round up a team that we hope would deliver, face annoying TV executives and when all that is over, we have to wait for the payment. As actors or technical crew they get paid up front, progressive and at the end of production. Once finish, they hop on to the next project.
A leading actor for example, may request from a producer as high as RM3k per episode and if there's 13 episodes, he gets a clean RM39,000 pay for one and half month's work.
That's not bad isn't it?
A top scriptwriter too can earn as much as that if he is in demand. RM30-39k for 13 one hour episodes and most maddening is that most of these writers, who churn out melodrama, are usually not required to do any research at all. They just sit in their offices or their homes in front of their laptops or PCs and churn out about 500 pages for the producer.
Why or why I gatal nak jadi producer?
Anyway, if things don't change, there is a likelihood that I might just give up this business once again. The Malays would say "tak berbaloi" (doesn't make monetary sense). Strangely, I disagree. I think the business can be berbaloi - emotionally, financially and creatively - if the industry is a level playing field.
Unfortunately, this business is not based on merit. It is a business dealing in flash and glamour and it is a business built on pizazz. If you can make certain people in the business think you can deliver, even with zero experience, then you've got it made.
Let's see what the new year brings us all.
So goodbye 2010. Hello 2011.

Thursday, December 9, 2010


I just returned from a week-long trip to Sarawak to produce a documentary on SCORE (Sarawak Corridor For Renewable Energy)...and so was too busy to update anything since internet during the journey between Bintulu to Sarikei and Sibu and Mukah was difficult though not impossible.
Anyway, coming home I was hit with a barrage of events that should have shook the industry. Firstly I feel sad that the targets set by a certain producer for his film was not achieved. He was so confident of getting RM40 million in box office tickets sales for his maiden feature film, but alas, his ticket sales, from what I heard did not even hit the RM400,000 mark.
My dear friend's Estet, a movie that I thought is much better than most of the crap that are being produced locally, too did not make a dent at the box office. To date, it has collected less than half a million in ticket sales. Why oh why didn't the people turn up. Why oh why didn't FINAS help a film that is worth promoting to the public?
Whilst ESTET was going South, another crappy horror movie Nangkung, was making big bucks hitting RM6million since its release. It is still going strong and might even affect Mamat's latest directorial effort Rumah Mak Limah which begins its run today. I wish both Mamat and Gayathri the best of luck.
Meanwhile I haven't checked how well TU's first foray into producing a Tamil movie fared. Appalam, their Tamil remake of Adflin's award winning Papadom began its run a couple of weeks back.
But on the 1st of December two things of note happened. One TV Al Hijrah, Malaysia's first Islamic free-to-air TV station was officially launched. On what channel? I don't know. Read the newspaper reports lah...because you need a normal TV antenna to tune in to the channel (which I don't have). Hopefully, Astro will agree to carry the channel, so that the 3 million households who don't use TV aerials can view the channel.
The second thing of note, however, took the film industry by surprise. On this date, FINAS stopped the practice of rebating the entertainment tax for all local feature films to the producers.
This is startling news for producers as it can be a huge amount. For example, Nangkung who according to some statistics has received RM6 million in ticket sales, will be paying RM1.2 million in entertainment tax from the takings. Before 1st December 2010, this tax would have been rebated to the producer. Now it will not be rebated.
So producers are just wondering, what they hell do they need FINAS for? Right now, they line up to register with FINAS for dates because they want the rebates. Those who don't follow this procedure are not entitled to the rebates.
Since the rebates doesn't exist anymore, getting screening dates through FINAS is redundant because distribution companies can now get the best dates for their films directly from the cinema owners.
Meanwhile, the Film Producers' Association has remained silent on this issue much to the chagrin of its members.
We live in interesting but tough times.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010


I have begun producing six documentaries for Astro Awani. These half hour documentaries will be screened before the year's end except for the last two on Sarawak which will be screened in January 2011.
My last documentaries for Awani were for the Merdeka period about three months ago and one documentary in particular about Mustafa Hussin was well received (not bad for a RM20,000.00 budget and done in one month unlike someone else's 12 year long documentary in the making with a budget in the mid six figure bracket). Nevermind, its what we deliver that counts.
Two of the documentaries will be touching upon the country's take on the Economic Transformation Project and its impact on Malaysians. The second one will touch on crime and personal safety - with its English working title Are We Safe?
The one on crime and safety should be interesting because I personally feel that whilst authorities say that the crime rate has gone done by 15% the rate of violent crimes may have shot up. I am also of the feeling that the crime rate has gone down because we sacrificed our freedom by wanting to stay in gated communities. Even in normal urban residential areas, residents have decided to hire private security firms to actually block and gate public gazetted roads for their own security. Is this legal? I doubt it, and by gating public gazetted roads, users are forced to find alternative routes because security guards will not let you use these now 'privatised' roads. Those staying in Taman Tun, SS1 and 2 areas will know what I mean.
The last two documentaries will be focusing on Sarawak - especially the corridor development called SCORE (Sarawak Corridor for Renewable Energy). Over the next 20 years, the government will pump (either themselves or through private investments) over RM400 billion in a corridor that starts from Sibu right through to Bintulu - a distance of about 600 kilometers. A small fishing town like Mukah for example is slated to become a knowledge growth center with the creation of a few institutions of higher learning there.
In Sibu, Tanjung Manis area has been designated as the future location of the Halal Hub - more billions to be spent there bringing high level development to sleepy towns like Bitangor.
Bintulu, under the stewardship of the Bintulu Development Authority will also go into high growth development. For those who don't know much about SCORE it is managed by a body called RECODA.
All these high profile projects in Sarawak will be brought to bear in this two-part documentary.
Interesting? I hope so. Just hope my objectivity would be not be compromised nor tainted.
I will be taking along my trusty laptop and my SPICE so I would be able to blog or FB from Sarawak's interior (if there is a 3G signal).
I haven't returned to Sarawak for years....it would be a nice trip back for me.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Happy Birthday Double Vision

About 22 years ago, with two friends, Low Huoi Seong and Lim beng Teck, we set about on a journey that was at that time untested. We decided to become independant TV producers. We set up a company called Double Vision Sdn Bhd.
When we set the company up, I gave the name Double Vision and through time people thought that I came up with the name based on a song by Foreigner, but it wasn't. It was just my idea that the company will be producing programmes that would be different visually and internally. I wanted it to be different.
Our first production was a horror telefilm (at that time it was called cerekarama I think) entitled Ke Alam Misteri followed by Teater Seram for TV3.
It was received and opened doors for us. In time we produced dramas that no other producers would even try - with titles like Lembah Maut, Gelanggang Maut and Jejak Maut. My personal favourite series entitled Teater Novel and of course the series that made Double Vision famous - the Monty Pythonesque comedy series Gado Gado.
I left the company in 1994 for greener pastures and new challenges - trying my hand at event management, PR consultancy and multimedia. My last work with DV was writing the mini-series Kuala Selangor XI directed by Teck Tan.
Today, Double Vision is one of the oldest production houses in the country. The only other company I can think of that is older is Skop Productions. Companies like Keen Holdings, LJ VIsion, Take One, HVD, Serangkai, Nizarman have either gone defunct or have closed down or maybe just went into dormancy.
Today, my old friend Teck is running the show and Double Vision is one of the most productive Chinese drama content producers in town today having produced popular series like the award winning Homecoming. It has also embarked into movies with their latest offering being James Lee's Sini Ada Hantu and a joint venture movie in Singapore entitled Ah Long Pte Ltd.
Double Vision today was not the Double Vision I envisaged it to be but it is now someone else' vision - a vision that has gone leaps and bounds since I left the company. And for that I congratulate Double Vision.
In the words of one scientist flying through the Universe in a vessel named the Enterprise - Live Long and Prosper DV.
Thanks for inviting me to the Annual Dinner last night.

Friday, November 5, 2010


What do you do when the station counters our creative decision as a director? It's really weird. From my colleagues around the world, once a TV commissions a production to the producer and director, they give you somewhat of a freehand to deliver what was agreed upon. You have a director that has a track record and a producer who has a budget to deal with.

Over here in Malaysia, its different. Of course there are instances when the station gives you carte blanc for your work, but it's far and few in between.

Here even after you have shot and wrapped and edited your work, a station has the right to tell you to reshoot, reedit, redub, reanything else to their hearts' content, and producers are left to lament whether in the end the product is theirs' (creatively) or the stations'.

The funny thing is, even after the interference of the stations, either through the executives or executive producers, when the programme fails, the producer takes the blame.

I believe, that in a few of these stations, most of the executives are wannabe writers and directors, and they like the idea and the misplaced glamour that they had direct input in the product. They like to say for example, “ you know the first cut was lousy, only after I had my input it turned out to be better.”

In the end, directors and writers are disillusioned.

It actually begins even at the proposal and development stage when the station even tells the producers that their proposals are good BUT....

Its the buts that hits you in the guts. But since producers are at the mercy of the stations, they listen and agree and nod. Yes, yes, that's a good idea, we will include it. No no problem...your idea is better than my writers and directors.

Once the storyline or storybeats (stations love this term) are agreed upon (which in the end is about 70% the station’s creation), the producer smiles and signs the contract.

The next stage of course is the selection of the creative team. Most TV stations seem to have this idea that only a handful of directors can deliver the goods the way they want (read between the lines – directors who allows the station to control their creativity) and artistes that they are comfortable with (read between the lines - artistes who are friends) and who they think pulls in the crowds.

Sometimes, the producer agrees. However, the are times they push the envelope and hope that their suggestions would be accepted. Most of the times, they have to compromise and agree with the suggestion (read betwen the lines - take it or leave it) of the stations to cast named artistes that they prefer. Whether or not the artiste fits in with the writer’s or director’s idea of whom the character should be.

Once that has been agreed upon, the producer than sighs with relief and hope to go on with the business of producing the programme.

At this stage, most stations don’t bother to interefere but there is one that attaches a personnel to ‘monitor and assist’ the production. Some of these personnel monitors, some actually interferes. Second guessing the directors shots and location selections, makeup and even acting.

Then come the dreaded editing stage. When everything is wrapped, and the cast and crew released. The raw footage goes into post production for an offline edit.

So imagine the horror when a producer presents his offline edit to the station for previewing and receives a whole list of unflattering comments regarding the production.

If the comments mean just tightening the shots and pacing of the programme it's quite acceptable, but when the whole direction and creative licence of the programme are queried and second guessed, you are in deep shit. Questions like do you have more shots? Why didn't you take a shot of this? How come the scene looks like this? Why are the artistes dressed like that? Why is the cars not impressive? Why was this particular location shot like this? Why did the director choose that particular angle? Don't you think it would have been better in the scene was shot in another way?

So much for creative licence right?

This means that your livelihood, your reputation as a filmmaker actually depend on the reception of a handful of people who watch the offline. If these people are professionals and objective, you can be guaranteed a fair judgement. But if there is a suspicion that the station, or persons in positions of power within the station that has a personal grudge with you, you are royally screwed.

This kind of politics that exist in the industry is totally unwarranted. It plays with careers and even a company’s survival and goodwill with the said station.

If the producer buckles and acquiesce to the numerous requests by the station, these actually means that the station in the end pruchased the work of a few individuals who are actually the personnel of the station and not the producer who was commissioned in the first place. The product is no more the creative collaboration of the producer, director, cinematography, writer and the artistes commissioned in the first place.

And to tell you the truth, the producers are in a no-win situation. The stations are the paymasters. And these executives or personnel in the station can make or break you.

Worse case scenarios are re-shoots and re-edits because you are now under the whim and fancy of a few executives who are basically jerking you around. If they are professionals and objective, they would give you a fair shake. But if they hate your guts, especially if you think that you are a better filmmaker than they are, they will fuck around with you.

Once the product has been completed to their satisfaction, it is then delivered. And hopefully the final payment from the station can be expected within three months.

In the end, maybe, we the producers, who now feel like sodomised prostitutes, don't really care what the end product is. We just want to end the whole affair and wait for the payments to be received.

Now the success of a programme on TV is mainly based on the viewership ratings. If the viewership or the ratings are low, the programme is deemed a failure. Even if technically and creatively, it is good.

Now when a product receives good ratings, the station executives grin and said that they made the right calls. If the programme sucks at ratings, the station executives will blame the producers, the directors and the writers for producing crap.

Not that they didn’t help promote the programme effectively in the first place.

Being a producer is tough business. Unless you know the people in the station, and they are pally with you, and you pander to their whims and fancies, you will not get far. In this business, filmmakers are second rate citizens compared to the executives in the stations. These station executives are more creative, they are more intelligent and they generally know better than the producers what the audience wants. So live with it.

Sometimes I really wonder why they need us. They should just let these executives write, direct and produce, because they seem to know the formula of a successful programme more than us - something even Western TV executives do claim not to know. They depend on writers like Steven Bochco and Shonda Rhymes to hoepfully come up with the next big thing.

Lastly, some of you may wonder why I chose the title The Malay (Producer's) Dilemma. This is because I believe that racism and bigotry have also raised its ugly head in the commissioning process in some of these stations, especially one in particular. I do not need to elaborate on this because it's difficult to prove. Nevertheless, in the spirit of 1Malaysia, maybe that's why the Malay producers seem to have grudgingly accept the fact that some stations prefer to work with non-Malay producers who, according to some TV executives, work better, are more professional, and deliver higher standard of products than the Malay producers. I hope I am wrong, but what do you think?

Sunday, October 31, 2010


There is a documentary being hawked on TV as the definitive version on the great late Tan Sri P. Ramlee. I have seen it. However, I feel that this version, eventhough the filmmakers said it is well researched and took years in the making, is not definitive.
I have the privilege of knowing Uncle Ramlee during my younger years and had the wonderful good luck to know Mama (Saloma). So I guess I have a right to make a little bit of noise about it.
My parents were very close to the late P. Ramlee.
How close? Very close. There are stories about P. Ramlee that they have told me that I would not even share with the public. Why? Because P.Ramlee the man has become P.Ramlee the perfect icon. The man whose memory must not be tarnished.
The sad thing is that the man died in tragic and sad circumstances. And it is still incomprehensible that he died young - at 44 years of age. Compare that to Micheal Jackson who died at 50.
Looking at his last few films, you would have not believed that Ramlee was 44 years old. He looked older. That's how depressed and sad he was during his final years.
I think I have mentioned in one of my earlier postings how he struggled to make ends meet during his final years. He was unwanted, he was criticised, he was condemned and he was discarded by the public. The same public that hold him in high esteem today.
His last few films were not really good because he was a depressed person . He was unhappy with his lot in life. He wasn't rich. Heck, he was broke. He even borrowed from his closest friends when he needed money and gave them some of his personal items as collateral.
There were even people in RTM who didn't like him. Some even hated him. A few who were jealous of his talent, thought that they were better than him and did their best to make life difficult for him to get gigs on TV.
He tried to become a film producer and met a few investors who were interested in helping him out. But unfortunately he passed away before his dream to be a film producer was realised.
The foundation that he had laid for himself was conveniently taken over by someone he had not trusted in his life and someone who had gone on to become rich and powerful. I will not mention who this person is.
The funny thing is that since he died, many people are trying to make money off him.
Making re-recordings of his songs, making documentaries and books about him, and making movies about him, holding singing contests and many other events.
Imagine what he could have done with this money. He could have been happier and still be alive.
And those whom I personally know hated him are suddenly calling him guru lah, mentor lah, lover lah, friend lah and many other labels. If he was still alive, he would have told them off.
The truth it, Ramlee was a very private man. He had few friends. So too his wife Saloma. They had friends - close friends. Amongst them were my father, my mother and Dato Aziz Sattar. People that he was really close to. People that he trusted.
Even Saloma's relatives who claim to be close to him were really not. Heck, they weren't even close to her.
One person I believe has made a lot of money claiming to be an authority on P.Ramlee and Jalan Ampas when he was just a former tutor to one of his sons.
Memories and events get mutilated and changed to fit somebody's personal agenda.
Imagine the sadness I felt when I recently heard of a screenplay for a bio-pic of Saloma that was proposed to a TV station here, that created a fictional scene regarding her final hours.
If the writer had done his or her research, he would have known who was by Saloma's side when Saloma breathed her last.
In actual fact, there was only two persons there. My mother and I. No one else was there.
You want to know how I felt when I saw her during those last minutes of her life? Truly sad. She was unrecognisable in her death bed. Her body was frail and skeletal and her skin yellowish. Her hair gone. It was a sad sight, sadder still that only her best friend was by her side when she breathed her last.
I was standing in the doorway to her room allowing my mother final privacy with her best friend.
It's facts like this that get distorted that irks me.
So when I heard that Datuk Paduka Shuhaimi Baba had completed a so-called definitive movie about Ramlee I asked my parents if she had interviewed both of them. They said no.
Strange especially when my father was Ramlee's closest friend and colleague since the first day he stepped onto the Jalan Ampas studio lot. Strange especially when my mother acted with Ramlee in the movie Ibu and many more after that and became best friends with his wife Saloma.
Imagine my father, who co-wrote many of Ramlee's songs, was not interviewed for the documentary. Don't you want to know how Ramlee wrote his songs? Don't you want to know the mystery of the song Azizah? Strange isn't it?
Maybe, Shuhaimi felt her documentary was already strong enough without having to interview my parents.
Which is fine, but why then interview people who weren't really close to him?
To even read about someone who was in the documentary who claimed to have won a beauty contest and caught the eye of Ramlee and became lovers with him and then sacrificed her love to allow Saloma to love Ramlee nearly made me puke.
Beauty contest? Big deal. In the 50s and 60s, there were beauty contests galore in every nightclub on every weekend. In fact, the one I believe this person took part was one that was held in Johor Bahru and was won by another actress by the name of Salmah Ahmad. So much for being a beauty queen.
The only person who caught Ramlee's eyes and who he wanted to make his leading lady in life and on the screen was Saloma. No one else.
In fact it was Saloma that was not interested in acting. She was a singer not an actress and she knew that. But because Ramlee wanted her to act, she did. If you watch the movies Saloma was in, you can see that she was uncomfortable in her roles.
This story sounds familiar doesn't it? It was as if someone stole this story to fit hers.
How many realise that Ramlee actually only received one Federal Award - the Ahli Mangku Negara when he was alive?
This award, which is now conferred to hundreds of Malaysians over the years, was a big thing in the industry when Ramlee received it. It was as if he had been accorded a Datukship. That was how big the AMN was in those days.
When he came back, his close friends organised a big welcome home party for him. Many who claimed to be his friends today were not there to congratulate him including this fictional lover of his.
Ramlee's life was truly colorful, especially in the sense that he had many people who can't wait to see his downfall. That's why he trusted only a few.
I do hope Dato Aziz Sattar completes his biography soon and writes truthfully about who P.Ramlee was and who stabbed Ramlee in the back and who were his true friends.
In my father's autobiography, Wawasan and Warisan, he actually pulled his punches when writing about his friends, but if you read between the lines, you know what my father wanted to say about Jalan Ampas and the politics of working in Malay Film Studios.
My mother has also started writing her own biography and I hope she too would give the world a glimpse of who P. Ramlee was via her close friendship with the late Saloma.
So imagine if a documentary about P. Ramlee is not done right, what injustice would be done to the man when a movie about him be produced.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

FFM...Anyone really care about the results?

So last weekend, when I was in Yogya, playing golf with a bum leg, the country made its selection for the best of our local film industry. The decision was that Majika was the Best Film and that Shamsul Yusof is our country's best director for his subtle and elegant work on Evolusi Drift 2.
I won't delve into the results nor the decisions - but if that is what the jury think we should tell the world - that these are our best, I feel truly sad and at a loss for words.
Personally, the best movie that played on our screens last year - the best Malaysia movie on all scores - be it direction, music, cinematography, screenplay, acting lay in one movie. That movie? Ah Niu's Ice Kacang Puppy Love.
That Ah Niu was even not considered for Best Young Director was a travesty in itself.
So what if the movie is in Chinese? It's a Malaysian movie - albeit a Chinese Language Malaysian movie.
If I am not mistaken, the last time I checked, FFM stood for Film Festival Malaysia - not Festival Filem Melayu.
Come on guys, give credit where credit is due. Ice Kacang Puppy Love is Malaysia's Best Film of 2009-2010.
But screw it lah. It looks as if we are scraping the bottom of the barrel.
If you need to test the standard of a local film, send Majika, Evolusi Drift 2 and Ice Kacang Puppy Love to a known film festival - see which film the festival organisers choose as an entry from Malaysia. Try it. See which film they accept.
Feeling sad about the state of the country's film industry, I decided to go on an Indonesian film watching binge...yeah yeah...I know..they burnt our flags...they stomped pictures of our leaders...but whatheheck, they make good movies.
So, it's been awhile since I watched their best and I decided to take some time and view them.
Over the weekend, during my trip to Yogya, I managed to pick up a few DVDs including Deddy Mizwar's critically acclaimed Alangkah Lucunya (negeri ini), Joko Anwar's much talked about Pintu Terlarang, Riri Riza's Sang Pemimpi which is the sequel to his megahit Laskar Pelangi, Ratna Sarumpaet's Jamila dan Sang Presiden and Aidtya Gumay's Emak Ingin Naik Haji and Ayu Utami's Ruma Maida.

All these films, without a shadow of doubt, are miles ahead of any of our movies in FFM 23. Including Ice Kacang. Sorry Ah Niu.

These are quality cinema. With real subjects and real soul. With real intent.

I've always loved Deddy Mizwar's sense of humour through his previous films including Nagabonor 1 and 2 and Kiamat Sudah Tiba. In his latest directorial effort, Alangkah Lucunya (negeri ini), he has decided not to put on his comic-genius hat. He instead brings to the screen a Dickensian tale of an unemployed graduate trying to help a bunch of young street pickpockets to earn a 'halal' living much to the chagrin of his pious father.

Jamila dan Sang Presiden, is a surprising production from Raam Punjabi's MVP Pictures, the company more famous for producing thrashy horror flicks like the Kuntilanak series. Starring the beautiful Atiqah Hasiholan as a prostitute sentence to death for killing a VVIP client, the movie keeps a tight rein on prosidings keeping up the suspense and drama til the final fade out. The ever amazing Christine Hakim plays a support role in this movie as a female prison warden.

Riri Riza's sequel to Laskar Pelangi, Indonesian record breaking movie, isn't as good as the first instalment of the so-called Laskar Pelangi tetralogy. Nevertheless, we follow the main characters again as they go through adulthood with the main character of Ikal still chasing his dreams of being a writer.

One of my favourite Indonesian film directors, Joko Anwar, again keeps up his momentum as one of the most original of Asian auteurs, with his numbing Pintu Terlarang. Maintaining his filmnoir canvas signature to paint his psychological thriller, the movie is unlike any Indonesian film you have ever seen over the past few years.

Acclaimed writer Ayu Utami's screenplay entitled Ruma Maida, and directed by Teddy Soeriaatmadja, created a film that lays waste to corporate leaders who are eager to destroy the country's checkered past and history in their chase for the almighty bigbucks. A complex story that defines the need for the new generation to embrace education and history.

The above are just one liners of the movies. For the love of me, I can't bring myself to create one liners for our local movies that means anything.

Our films lack depth, history and soul. Our films lack cinema. Our films lack maturity.
Unfortunately, our films make money. So any criticism about the quality of these films fall on deaf ears, as the gauge of a film's quality in our country depends not on the film itself but on the box office numbers. That is the measure of a film's quality. Nothing else matters.

Sunday, October 10, 2010


Things are getting weird and critical in the TV production industry. It seems no one, or rather very few producers, is looking at RTM as a revenue source for the time being. This is because it seems that RTM has not enough funds to commission new programmes. The most recent call for tender was an eight-programme tender for the Chinese New Year programming. And that's it.
Furthermore, only Chinese producers or Chinese-owned production companies took part in this tender process as there is an unwritten law that Bumiputra producers are not allowed to pitch for Chinese programmes. The same goes for Indian-language programming too which are meant for Indian producers.
However, for normal programming in Bahasa Malaysia, everyone is allowed to tender. So much for affirmative action right?
Anyway, luckily for some Malay producers, the new TV station Al Hijrah has started to commission some programmes.
So far so good. In terms of quantum, Al Hijrah is offering much the same as Astro - averaging less than RM40k per commissioned hour (unless it's a special project and screened on Citra which currently offers the best budgets for any TV stations in the country). But Al Hijrah's payment terms is the best in the industry (if they keep to it).
For other producers, ASTRO who carried out a full blown pitching process in August, their fate will be made known this week. The results of the pitching process will be out. Those who sent in proposals will know if they would have any projects to role before the end of the year.
Media Prima? Well, not many producers have access to Media Prima projects. It's like a very close knit community with only a few producers given a look-see, and with producers that they are already comfortable with. My proposal for a secret agent series ala my father's Jefri Zain character made it to the Carcosa list (the final presentation). But alas, TV3 did not bite.
I know a couple of friends who got commissioned by Media Prima for some of the proposals they submitted at the same pitching session. Good for them.
So, for nearly 300 producers, the emails from Astro therefore becomes more and more important for their survival.
I have received my emails, and if all goes well, I can breathe easier next year. Thank you Astro.
I got ziltch from TV3 and RTM.
But I will be going into production immediately for Al Hijrah. Terima kasih Al Hijrah. Another life saver.
I only wish that RTM would get their act together and actually be the main source of revenue for top producers in the country like they once used to. If RTM doesn't invite and commission programmes by the end of this year, I believe many producers who depend solely on RTM will go bust.
It would be a sad state of affairs, especially when the Minister of Information recently said the industry is a multi-billion ringgit industry. Where the billions go to I don't know.
I know desperate producers are sending in proposals to FINAS to survive.
FINAS is paying good money for documentaries and has an ongoing request for proposals with the deadline closing on the 14th of October.
These documentaries have handsome budgets and most producers are already lobbying whoever they think can pull strings in the Ministry to approve their proposals. Worse thing is, most of these producers have never ever done documentaries before. Magazine programmes yes but documentaries - I doubt it.
I got no strings to pull but still I am submitting two proposals.
Having survived the past two years by producing documentaries for Awani Astro, I believe I have the ability to produce quality documentaries. So I hope my cv and resume will be attractive and impressive enough for FINAS.
What did I propose? Two documentaries - one on Wan Mat Saman, the Menteri Besar of Kedah in the 19th Century who built the longest canal in Malaya, and another documentary on the concept of Kapitan China in our history - with a focus on Yap Ah Loy. Who are the Kapitans? Who appointed them? What are their powers and responsibilities? Who is Yap Ah Loy? Who was the last Kapitan? Why did the post end?
That would be interesting isn't it? Even something that could be screened on History Channel.
Anyway, I do hope FINAS remains objective and study proposals on merit. (Okayyyy I'm trying to keep a straight face here and not fall off my chair laughing).
Anyway, after this week, many producers will either sigh with relief or break down and cry.
It is sad.
After ASTRO's decision to release titles they want to commission this week, they will be no other commissioning process in sight from any of the four channels anymore this year.
To my friends and fellow producers, directors, writers and filmmakers, I wish you all the best of luck. Be brave. Be positive. Kalau satu pun tak dapat, there's quite a lot of gerai stall space available at the food courts in Kota Damansara.
We Malay producers kalau tak dapat project, usually think about selling nasi lemak or tomyam.
Sad isn't it?

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

The things I hope to do in 2011

It's only three months to the end of the year. Time flies. Really flies. Supersonic lightspeed kinda speed.
It has been a weird year so far. Detik 12 Malam completed and awaiting screening on RTM. My new telemovie entitled Pontianak: 3 Cerita 3 Sutradara has just been completed. My documentaries for Awani, especially the one on Mustapha Hussain, was well received.
Personally, things are still quite a mess. Financing my docus has been problematic and tricky. Used to have things financed through SME Bank, but when the process and procedure became too taxing and mindboggling, I decided to try private funding from outside. I make less profits but to tell you the truth, it was still worth it because I don't have to deal with twits. Mind you not all bankers are twits. They are actually some bankers out there who do their best to help entrepreneurs - even those in this wonky film industry of ours. But they are just but a few. Most seem to despise dealing with us producers eventhough we have a government contract in hand (0r used to).

What I am trying to do now, is actually trying to see if I can get a loan from FINAS to produce my movie under the Negarawan film programme.

I mean if any tom dick and harry seem to be getting their proposals approved, and if people out there says that it is free money (which I doubt), I do think I stand a chance of getting a loan right? I mean I know I'm not in the same league as Shuhaimi Baba or the KRU brothers or even the Maidin film group, but still, I think I have some track record to boast of. The problem is whilst I love making horror movies I think by the time I complete a horror movie, the local audience might be jaded.

What about comedy? If Prof Hatta Azad Khan can direct a senario movie and rake in more than RM2m, why not do a comedy? The problem is the kind of comedies I do is not the kind those who pay to see Malay movies go to.

What's left? Would I risk it all for an epic movie? Would I dare take a multi-million ringgit loan to make a movie about Dato' Sagor? About Pangazou the Sabahan warrior? About Datuk Bahaman? ABout Tok Naning?

Would anyone want to see these movies?

I don't know. Do we make movies that the audience want to see or to we make movies that we want the audience to see?

This is the problem producers have right now.

Do we still keep producing lame horror movies, mat rempit half baked racing movies, slapstick comedies for the same market segments or do we try something else?

Do we instead improve ourselves as filmmakers and produce things that we are proud of as filmmakers.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010


The year has passed too quickly and here we are again, at the end of Ramadhan and near the beginning of Syawal. The fasting month, a month of contemplation, a month of redemption, a month full of holiness will soon come to an end.
For me Ramadhan this year was fleeting, mainly because my team was producing a digital movie for television entitled 3 Cerita 3 Sutradara which wrapped a couple of days back.
As is usual during the production process tempers flared, words spoken that shouldn't have been spoken and acts done that shouldn't have been done. So for a bit, I haven't been really a good Muslim this Ramadhan even though I missed two days due to having to take meds for kidney pains.
To all my friends, colleagues and acquaintances, to my fellow bloggers and readers, twitters and facebookers, I would like to take this opportunity to wish all of you Selamat Hari Raya Aidilfitri and in the spirit of the season, offer my sincere apologies to all and sundry for any wrong that I have done during the last 12 months before Syawal this year. I hope that you would see me as a mere mortal with a lot of failings and weaknesses. It has been a difficult year. A really difficult one, not only for me but for many filmmakers.
And I hope that after Raya, things will pick up for them.
This year, I will be with my parents the day before Raya and the morning of Raya (if Raya falls on Friday). After the family's usual eat-in after prayers at my parent's house in Janda Baik, my family and I will take a slow drive down South to Singapore to spend three nights and to visit my cousins there. Somehow, my family has become very rapat with our relatives in Singapore bar one.
Knowing that some close friends like Ebby Saiful and Hasnul Rahmat, and not to forget Dato Aziz Sattar's three daughters will be in Singapore at the same time, might also make this Raya trip a fun one.
However, I would not forget about my friends here in Malaysia - many of them - Amer Baker, Shukor Karim, Tg Annuar, Radzi Din, Ayoub, Mr Ray, Rusli, Azman, Ruslee Ariffin, Zaidi Mohamed, Dato Nazeri, Halem Mt Som, Wan Sazrudeen, Den Wahab and many others, Selamat Hari Raya Aidilfitri maaf zahir batin. I hope all of you would have a great weekend.
To the ladies whom I consider dear since schooldays and college days, they include Nurjannah, Asriah, Suharti, Puspayanti, Hatijah, Roslinda, Aida and Rosnah, and my friends from the industry that include Anne Abdullah, Lufya Omar, Adrea Abdullah, Razlina, Rosie Rashid, Juliah Shamsul, Dylla Ahmad and many others in the film industry, I wish you all Selamat Hari Raya Aidilfitri.
To my friends in the media, especially former colleagues in NST and TV3, I wish you all a great Raya too.
To my staff Hafiz and Nadhirah, have a great break.
To my beloved siblings and their family - my elder brother Arjunaidi and his beautiful family, my younger brother Asnadi and his wonderful wife Aina, to my only sister Murniaty and her two young boys - I beg forgiveness and wish you all Selamat Hari Raya Aidilfitri.
To my parents - Abah and Mak - I wish both of you the best of health and Selamat Hari Raya Aidilfitri wishes from a difficult offspring.
To my own family, my loving wife Puteh Jerineh Ramli and my four kids, Aidyl Abadi, Aidyl Nurhadi, Adylla Lyanna and Adi Iliya, I love all of you. Please forgive papa for his shortcomings and his failures. As always I try to do my best for all of you. Selamat Hari Raya Aidilfitri to all of you.
To everyone else, especially my friends in RTM, Media Prima, al Hijrah TV, ASTRO, Awani and Muzium Negara, do enjoy the holidays, be with your family, friends and colleagues and spread the spirit of oneness that only Malaysians understand. I remember 30 years ago, we were one. I really don't understand how so much hatred and divisiveness have crept into our lives and around us.
We understand that we do not approve nor condone some of the politically motivated actions that we have seen over the past years, but do not take it out on your fellow friends, neighbours and brothers for whom color nor creed nor religion matter. We have been one and friends for a long while. We knew what true harmony is. Harmony is forgiving, understanding, appreciating, respecting and acknowledging each others' space and rights. Underneath all this, we share the same spirit and blood.
To my Malay brothers and sisters, let the spirit of Raya show us the way to forgiveness and respect - to allow harmony to return to our lives.
Selamat Hari Raya Aidilfitri Mohon Maaf Zahir dan Batin.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010


The announcement by the Minister of Information, Communication and Culture Datuk Sri Dr Rais Yatim that local movies made in other languages (apart from Bahasa Malaysia) will now be entitled to tax rebates as enjoyed by movies that are made in Bahasa Malaysia, would be much welcomed by local film producers and investors.
Currently, under the local FINAS Act, local films are entitled to the rebates of 20% of box office (which is the entertainment tax levied on all movies by the state). This incentive however is only for movies with mostly BM dialogue.
Therefore movies that were made last year like Woohoo, Ais Kacang Puppy Love and End of Daybreak (financed by Taiwanese but made entirely in Malaysia) were not entitled to such rebates. These films are also not eligible to win the major prizes at the forthcoming Malaysian Film Awards.
Whilst the announcement is much awaited by the local non-BM film fraternity, Rais, and rightly so, clarified that the incentive is not a blanket order - the film will have to meet a few set criteria - content and box office results.
I am not sure what box-office results meant, but content requirement should be made a criteria.
This is because we do not want Indian or Chinese language local movies that do not even feel like a Malaysian movie but instead a pseudo Hongkong or Taiwanese movie or even a Singapore movie. On the other hand, feeble attempts to add in scenes with Malays in it are also not wanted. For example, the movie Kinta had really deplorable scenes of Malays which are badly shot and scripted. Rather not have that.
In Tiger Woohoo, the only scenes involving Malay dialogue and characters are when policemen are involved. Token scenes like these are really not true to the Malaysian spirit.
I hope Tayangan Unggul's Tamil remake of Papadom maintains its local flavor too.
Furthermore, I do hope that there will now be a growth of movies made in the kind of dialogue city-folks are used to - Malanglish or watever - so that the middle-upper income members of our society who look down on local cinema would support and come to view local movies.

Monday, August 30, 2010


I don't know about you guys, but what's happening in Jakarta recently, with the burning and the defecating on our Jalur Gemilang by a group called Bendera is quite humiliating for us Malaysians.
I know for some of our politicians, we should try and practice the adage of turning the other cheek, but sometime enough is enough. We don't have to be bullied by our neighbours all the time.
This isn't the first time. Even the fiasco about who owns the cultural rights to batik, satay, silat and some dance forms a few months ago was a little too much to take, especially when the Indonesian media took pot shots at us.
So how do we react to this? Our leaders say that it is not the fault of the Indonesian government and is the work of a few radicals trying to destroy the relationship between Malaysia and Indonesia.
So whose fault is it?
How many times do we have to endure the photos of our beautiful flag being abused in broad daylight without the Indonesian authorities doing anything?
Is it really true the Indonesian government do not condone these humiliating acts by Bendera? I think not because from media reports, the Indonesian parliament has also voiced out their anger against us detaining fishermen (depending on which media you read) or maritime officers who had entered our territory thus giving license for the Bendera bozos to continue their attack on our proud symbols of nationhood.
After our flag what else? Pictures of our King? Effigies of our leaders?
From what I have seen in our media, we have not been very vocal about it.
Yes, of course there's some very diplomatic noise made by our leaders, but what about us as a people? Aren't you outraged by what is happening?
In Facebook or Twitter, there's hardly any outrage shown by my friends.
Do you think you are not affected by all these? Well I am.
Let me remind you that because of a few idiot Malaysian employers who abused their maids, other families who need Indonesian maids have to suffer. Do you really want to pay RM800 and RM10,000 deposit and administrative fees to get a legal Indonesian maid? Who is negotiating these terms for us? It looks as if we are always on the losing end, and the one who has to pay for it are us.
So think again...because this row between Malaysia and Indonesia, our lives are affected.
In the film and TV industry, Indonesians has caused the local industry much heartache to say the least.
Whilst our TV stations spend millions every year in buying Indonesian movies and TV series, the Indonesians do not reciprocate saying that our productions do not meet acceptable standards in terms of technical quality and content, and that our fare is tame and outdated.
Yet, our stations programme Indonesian fare like there's no tomorrow.
About twenty years ago, the reasoning behind buying Indonesian content held water because an hour of Indonesian programming is cheap. It used to be about US500-US1000 an hour. But because the Indonesians are better salesmen than us, today's Indonesians series are bought by TV stations here at nothing less than US5,000 each. In fact, I have heard of some ridiculous fee of US10,000 per hour being paid for an Indonesian series.
And this are second hand series. Furthermore the TV stations do not obtain full rights to the series. It is usually only for one or two screenings. That's all. The rights of the TV series are retained by the Indonesians.
Local producers who get around US15,000 per hour from local TV stations sell ALL rights to local TV stations.
Does that sound fair to you?
Nevermind, maybe the local TV stations do agree with Indonesian TV stations that our quality lack ooomph. How to add oomph when you only get US15,000 per hour.
In Indonesia, TV series are paid US20,000 to US30,000 per hour and the producer still maintain rights to their productions. After being screened on local Indonesian TV they dump their programmes in countries like ours for bonus revenue.
Therefore, the Indonesians are looking at a revenue of US40,000 to US50,000 from one hour of TV production. Of course they can have better sets, locations and top ranking stars in their series.
Let's just calculate how much an Indonesian producer stand to earn from us.
If they sell 52 hours (an hour a week for one year), they stand to receive a minimum of US10,000 x 52 which totals US520,000. Even if the US Dollar goes down to RM3 the amount is RM1,500,000 plus. That's just one slot.
How many slots do you think the Indonesian series fill our TV stations? (Let's not even talk about the fully Indonesian channels on Astro).
I believe, in a week, at least 7 hours (I am being very very conservative) are filled by Indonesian fare. This means more than RM10,000,000 are given to the Indonesians for their second hand products per year. Is that a small number?
You want to double the number?
So, we are enriching the Indonesian producers every year, and what do they do? They belittle us, they don't voice out that what is happening in Jakarta is something they do not condone.
If they are earning millions from us, not to mention taking away slots and hours from local TV stations from local producers, shouldn't they be grateful and thankful?
Personally, I don't like to use the term boycott.
For example, for the past couple of days, I broke my fast with the family at two Indonesian owned franchises - Bumbu Desa and Sari Ratu. I abhor boycotting these restaurants or even telling my friends to forget going to Jakarta for golf anymore.
But then again, if Bendera keeps humiliating us, and if their government don't act against them for such stupidity, maybe I should start boycotting anything and everything Indonesian.
If I do that and everyone else do that, maybe the Indonesians who make their living off Malaysia would at least raise their voices and tell their government to shut down Bendera.
Heck, I am still waiting for the local film industry Associations - PROFIMA, FDAM, Seniman and Karyawan to voice out against these acts by Bendera. What are they doing? Nothing.
They must be oblivious to the hurt other Malaysians are feeling when the Jalur Gemilang is abused during Ramadhan and in the month when we celebrate our Merdeka.
As for the stations, all I can say is that maybe they should relook at their policy of enriching the Indonesian producers for the time being.
Pump the money domestically and see what happens.
Meanwhile, be outraged. Twitter your anger. Email your frustrations. Facebook your feelings against the abuse of our flag. Don't keep quiet. Don't let our neighbours kick us in the balls again and again and again.
Enough is enough.

Saturday, August 28, 2010


So as most things are in our industry, it was a small storm in a tea cup.

A few people flexing their feeble muscles, a couple of individuals who think they are well versed in the Finas Act and a few others thrown in into a misplaced subplot. In the end – it was another bangsawan.

The incumbent Director-General of FINAS has since made a public statement about his extension and also his disappointment over the writings of one popular Malay newspaper columnists who goes by the pen name of Kak Pora.

The statement he made goes like this:

Pada masa sama Mahyidin juga didakwa oleh penulis Kak Pora enggan ditemui media berhubung dengan isu dana hangus.

Soal dana hangus pernah disiarkan oleh Hip pada 9 Ogos lalu iaitu mengenai produser enggan membayar semula pinjaman bank untuk menerbitkan filem yang dianggarkan berjumlah RM8 juta.

Mahyidin berkata, kebanyakan kandungan artikel yang ditulis dalam ruangan Kak Pora itu kurang tepat, malahan ia tidak sepatutnya ditimbulkan tatkala kehangatan isu semasa mengenai FINAS sudah reda menerusi penjelasan daripada pegawai kanan kementerian, termasuk daripada Timbalan Ketua Setiausaha (Kebudayaan) Kementerian Penerangan, Komunikasi dan Kebudayaan, Datuk Mohammed Mohd Daud.

Perlukah saya (Mahyudin) hendak memaklumkan kepada semua pihak bahawa Menteri sudah melanjutkan perkhidmatan KP FINAS? Saya fikir tidak perlu, nanti apa kata pihak lain pula. Ia kelihatan kurang manis. Biarlah pihak lain yang beritahu tetapi bukan daripada saya.

Saya agak kecewa dan tulisan Kak Pora itu menjatuhkan maruah saya. Lebih-lebih lagi apabila dikaitkan dengan surat sokongan daripada Perdana Menteri, jelasnya.

Berhubung dakwaan beliau mengelak dari media untuk mengulas dana hangus, Mohd Mahyidin sekali lagi menjelaskan, perkara itu sebenarnya adalah tanggungjawab antara pihak bank dengan produser sebagai peminjam.

Menurutnya, peranan FINAS sekadar memberi surat sokongan atau perakuan bahawa sesebuah karya daripada mana-mana syarikat perfileman layak diberikan pinjaman.

Katanya, walaupun FINAS mengeluarkan surat sokongan, pihak bank mempunyai prosedurnya sendiri untuk membuat keputusan akhir sama ada pemohon layak diberikan pinjaman atau sebaliknya.

Urusan pinjaman daripada kalangan produser filem ini ditadbir oleh pihak bank. Kenapa pula saya hendak mendedahkan syarikat penerbitan yang gagal membayar pinjaman ini? Lagipun saya boleh disaman oleh syarikat penerbitan kalau memberitahu pihak mana yang gagal membayar pinjaman itu kerana mendedahkan perkara sulit antara peminjam dengan bank.

There’s a few disconcerting comments made.

Is it correct that he shouldn’t inform the industry that he has been given a three-month extension by the Minister? Who would be the right person then to inform the industry? The Ministry? The Minister? The Deputy Minister? The Secretary-General of the Ministry?

Is there anything wrong in him informing the industry of the extension which was confirmed by the Minister? Why keep the industry in the dark? Isn’t he proud to have been the three month extension to lead the industry via FINAS?

I doubt a three-month official extension in his contract comes under the jurisdiction of the Official Secrets Act. In fact, by informing the industry of his extension, it would have put paid to rumors of other personalities vieing for the seat.

Now at least, the industry will have a three month rumor-mongering session of who will replace him.

In fact, with this extension, shouldn’t the industry also wonder why he was given the extension? Is there anything of significance that he can do in these extra three months that he could have accomplished within the last four years at FINAS’s helm? The only thing I can see of any significance is the organising of the oft-postponed National Film Awards.

Shouldn’t the industry also be wondering that by giving the extension to the current DG, it also means that the Ministry has not found a suitable replacement for him? This is weird because the industry is a billion dollar industry.

The Ministry has in fact recently identified that the creative industry is an important contributor to the national GDP bringing in RM6 billion annually and providing employment for more than 126,000 people annually. (This number differs remarkably from the amount of RM8 trillion quoted by the Film Producers Association in March last year).

What we would like to know is how much of this RM6 billion was actually contributed by the local film industry (Feature films and TV). It could be small because if this number includes the revenue generated by the cinema industry (which should not be considered as part and parcel of the creative industry) and also the distribution sector of the market, plus the advertising and TV commercial industry, the amount generated by local feature film and TV production industry isn’t that big.

What I am trying to say is that let’s give a better and more accurate picture of how healthy the local film industry is. Is it a really healthy RM6 billion industry? Or just a RM100 million industry. If it is RM6 billion, then the DG’s position in the industry is one helluva important post.

Now, what about him saying that FINAS only plays a small role in the approving of loans to producers.

“Peranan FINAS sekadar memberi surat sokongan atau perakuan bahawa sesebuah karya daripada mana-mana syarikat perfileman layak diberikan pinjaman.”

Is this true? Does this mean that once FINAS approves and recommends that a production can receive a loan it then plays a hands-off role? Does the bank (in this instance) BSN then take over the process of evaluating and approving the loan and can ignore the recommendation?

If this is true, than logically, if the Bank can overlook a FINAS recommendation for a feature film loan for reasons only known to them, the Bank can also offer loans to a non-FINAS recommended movie for a producer they believe is capable of ‘servicing’ a loan.

What is the criteria for the Bank to now release the loan?

I don’t understand the DG’s statement about this. As far as I know, BSN is entrusted to administrate the loan. They do not have a say as to who should or should not receive a loan once FINAS approves it. Unless of course, there is an unwritten law or policy that allows BSN independent assessment of the loan application. If there is then really what function does FINAS play in this loan process if BSN can ignore the recommendation?

Finally, I think the film industry has a right to information regarding the status of the fund.

They have a right to know who has received the loans. They have a right to know who has failed to service the loans and default on their repayments. Why? The fund belongs to the industry and they have the right to know. If such official information is made known, many producers would not believe in rumors that the loans are only given to a select few. They would also then understand what proposals or what genres are recommended by FINAS and receive the loans.

They would also then be free to question why a company can receive three consecutively loans without fully repaying the loans and then make a request for a fourth loan when FINAS only allows one company to apply for loans three times and that too if their repayments are serviced regularly. I’m not saying that this has happened. I’m saying that the industry should be able to weed out rumors and only be presented with official data.

Shouldn’t the FINAS DG should be courageous enough to inform the industry with facts and truths? But when he is quoted as saying:

” Urusan pinjaman daripada kalangan produser filem ini ditadbir oleh pihak bank. Kenapa pula saya hendak mendedahkan syarikat penerbitan yang gagal membayar pinjaman ini? Lagipun saya boleh disaman oleh syarikat penerbitan kalau memberitahu pihak mana yang gagal membayar pinjaman itu kerana mendedahkan perkara sulit antara peminjam dengan bank.”

If the industry knew who these companies are that received loans and did not pay it back, we ourselves would then know which company not to support. This is because the fund is the industry’s and we should not tolerate any producer who received loans from this fund and not pay it back. Unless of course the fund is really ‘free money’ as is referred to by many in the industry who can’t seem to get any for themselves.

If this is the case, really then, it's a complete waste of time for me to even comment about this.