Sunday, February 15, 2009

Beginning

"Sorry, guys," I apologised profusely, reaching round to soothe him.

Slightly, of course. Wouldn't want to be accused of being gay, or anything.

Or rather, wouldn't want him to feel uncomfortable. Ditching them as they scurry around, packing up the equipment of the latest shoot we were doing, that's not cool. Getting them the job, working up the concept with them, arranging the times for the shoot, setting all of those up...that's cool. Getting paid for it is even cooler.

Dumping them just as we're about to finish, because I'm supposed to be somewhere else?

That's not cool.

*****

"I don't want to do it." We were having breakfast together, one of the rare moments that we do. Not the 'together' part, but actually having breakfast; my body had adjusted itself to the grinding schedule I pumped it with. Tending to wake up too late or too early for breakfast (or not even sleeping at all. Goddamn filmmakers), there rarely is a need for the typical morning injection of digestible elements into the body. There is, of course, always a need for coffee, but that's where the instants come in handy.

"What the hell am I going to talk about?" I asked. I am not sure whether the 'what the hell' prefix was actually spoken; if it wasn't, I certainly thought about it. He was trying to push me into accepting this particular request, to go and talk about an issue which I have yet to feel fully proficient in. Yeah, I've been doing it for a while, but beneath that particular question lies this: what makes me more special than anyone else doing the same thing?

For, despite of the scale of my clear-cut dreams and ambitions (to start an NGO, to finish my 'five films to make before I die', establish a magazine, etc), I do not yet feel that there is anything that makes me stand out from the crowd too much.

"You've gone through a different path," he said. "Just go and do it. It'll be fine. You know your stuff, you know what to do...you've done it before..." referring to my 2008 New Year escapades, "and it'll almost be a walk in the park. Plus, there's a bit of money involved."

I dropped my slice of French toast, reeling slightly from the oiliness. Somehow, that was never the issue in Korea; people use oil, but damn, the maid used plenty of it. With feel good comments of "Wow, Fikri, you've lost/maintained your weight" still ringing pleasantly in the ear, I made a mental note not to touch anything that poisons my body for a while. I thus reached for my Nescafe.

Pause. "Will it be in English?" A longer pause (I used this in my previous post, but what the hey). "Well...you can choose. But your Malay is not bad."

I laughed. Snorted, almost, is the more accurate word. But even he smiled; the days of me winning awards in the Malay language were but a world away.

Far away they may be, but that particular hook...well, hooked me. Even more so than the money part, though that tends to seal the deal rather than get things off the ground. Money, after all, is money. Look hard enough in every cranny, and we'll find it.

But the feeling of being challenged...now that's another story completely. Some things still do challenge me, and in a very different way, I find myself being tested in a variety of ways on a daily basis. It's not so much the tests of life, but how we overcome them, that serves to define us further as a person.

So what kind of person am I?

The kind who likes to go for the difficult. The kind who prefers to crash and burn rather than go lightly in the quiet of the night. The kind whose mastery of his own mother tongue is as questionable as the new Perak government. Put it this way: when I speak in Malay, what I'm doing is translating very fast from what I think in English.

That's probably not very good, but nevertheless, I am the kind who thinks, "In Malay? Yeah, I'll have me some of that."

"OK," I said finally. "I'll do it."

It might even be cool.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Wedding Bells

"When two people meet and they are happy I think there should be a marriage."

Paolo Maldini, AC Milan defender, on whether David Beckham should prolong his stay in Italy.

Friday, February 13, 2009

The Price is Right?

"I want so much."

It was late afternoon. Not a particularly hot one, but an odd time for me to be found chatting online. I've taken a somewhat subconscious aversion to online activities. Chatting, once such an integral mode of communication, somehow seems like something I can live without for long periods of time. I used to talk with people excitedly on Skype; now it seems like just another application whose shortcut routinely shows up on my Desktop as 'unused shortcuts' that Windows would helpfully dispose of at my request. And don't get me started on Facebook.

Of course, I rarely bother with that. The disposal of, that is. Somehow, in the back of my mind, there's the thought that lives a long life, one that has stood the test of time with plenty of barriers in its place. And that thought is: I might need again in the future.

And so it was on this particular afternoon that I find myself fighting the loneliness. It is a theme that has been recurring more and more often as of late. I see it in the movies that I watch, the TV shows I get addicted to, and even in scripts that I write (characters drowning in solitude sort of stuff. Tan Chui Mui, eat your heart out). And so I turned to chatting.

"I want it all, and I am on course for it, somehow. And yet, things don't quite turn out the way I want it to."

"Hmm."

"I'm so lucky that I have all these opportunities to chase after my dreams, chances that other people can only dream of, for the most part."

"Hmm."

"And yet, I feel so empty inside, so far away from the ones I love."

"And you're not OK with that?"

Pause. "I thought I would be." A longer pause. "I'm beginning to think that I'm not."

There is a certain price to be paid, to go after that which we want. That which we desire.

I am a big fan of autobiographies. I love reading about lives of people who had achieved so much in life, to read about how they themselves overcome adversity and barriers in their own lives to get to where they are. Of a particular interest to me are wrestling biographies, because the challenges that they face is quite unique to the sub-culture that is becoming a professional wrestler. That's not to say that I limit myself merely to that, however.

There is one theme, an constant that rears its head around in almost every biography that I have read: people may be successful, they may be heroes and be looked up to and admired, but in order to get to where they are, every single one of them has had to pay a high price. To sacrifice everything, devote anything, to give up all that they have, in order to get to where they are.

In order to achieve greatness, in order to everything that they want to be, they have to give up almost everything that they have.

Now I reach a particular point in my life, a break of sorts (both literal and metaphorical, though this particular holiday doesn't really feel like one). It allowed me to look back, and to think, and to consider, once again, whether I am willing to pay the price.

It does sound pretentious, doesn't it? To be great. Who else would come out and say that?

The aim: to be a good, influential, successful filmmaker (easier said that done).

The price: everything. Or at least, I feel like it's everything. My body (long hours, shitty pay), my mind (being lost at sea at times), my soul (separation from the ones I love, and the separation of the ones I love).

Not all are directly related to one another, or even to the aim. But me being there means me not being here. Saving up money for my film means me not calling back home as often.

But here's the kicker of it all. Let's say I had scale it back, had chosen a different career, had not gone away and pay the price that comes with being away.

Would things turn out differently? Would the movies have a happy ending? Would I have had much of an influence, much of a say in the things that happened?

Probably not.

"You can't have everything, mate."

It hit me.

"You can't have it all."

Simple, but true. A reminder that I need. One that I had forgotten amidst the sea of chaos, the ambitious fire that burns everything in its path, heading with intent towards whatever it is heading towards.

I can't have it all.

I can't afford to have it all.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Win Some, Lose Some

"You’re not going to become best friends with every nice person you meet. You’re not going to write every good idea you have."

John August, scriptwriter.