Wednesday, February 09, 2011

Art For Art's Sake?

I mentioned in passing to someone that I managed to needle some money to make short films for my students. I didn't think that I would get it, mind you. I figured that it's one way to teach kids what to do and how to do it. When it comes to filmmaking, there's many who still dismiss it as a form of fancy. What would you do with a film degree? That question is, I would argue, linked with what would you do with yourself after you finish your university education. Through filmmaking, the stakes are relatively high, and it does help to weed out certain aspects of your character. It does force you to become more organised, more disciplined, more efficient...just a little bit more of everything.

I still make mistakes, for I'm not perfect of course, but I am glad I made those mistakes, because...well, imagine what I would've been like otherwise. Maybe even worse.

Anyways, because of that, I figured that the making of films would serve to improve Monash's standing a little bit more, but it would also be undoubtedly be very useful to the students as well.

"I'm going to help my kids make some films," I said, somewhat proudly. Perhaps I am entitled to that; you guys have no idea how difficult it is to get money from Monash. "I managed to get some money from Monash to make them."

"How much?"

I was a little surprised, though in retrospect I shouldn't be. It was linked to the last statement I made, but I had expected him to ask me what kind of films I'll be making. In fact, there will be four short films; I'll be directing one, but that's one of the earlier ones, to help my students be involved, so that they would have some idea about what to do for their own productions. It's not about me; I don't need to be making short films anymore.

"Well, there's some money, but the stories should be interesting." I tried to shift the focus back to the story, because some of the ones I have been pitched really were interesting. Others were crap, but some had potential to be worthy short films.

"How much will you be getting?" Actually, I won't be getting any. Since I'm already paid by Monash as the filmmaker in residence, I had stated even from the very first proposal that I do not wish to be paid. It annoys me that in subsequent emails and discussions, the issue of me not being paid was raised twice. 'You won't get be getting paid for this film, ah' was the caveat. I felt like throwing a tight slap at them. I got another email from them a few days ago, shifting the ground and rules of engagement as we go along. Red tape. Damned administrative red tape.

But that's another story.

"Well, there's money involved, but it's not really..." It was the tone that caught me off guard, the feeling that the money at stake here is far more important than the work I'm trying to do. I realise two things here. First, the non-film people I talk to about this project appear to be very interested about the stories and project itself. Some of them are Monash alumni members, and they expressed their wish that something like this had been put in place previously. I had thought of the same myself; in fact, the things I do at Monash, I do them from a student's point of view. I still see myself as one, mind you. Lecturing is not something that comes all that easily for me.

Secondly, if you talk to film people, the first thing that they will concern themselves with is the technicalities. Which camera are you shooting with? What kind of actors will you get? Where will the shoot be done? Oh, at that studio? Ah, the lighting equipment from that company is not that great, I can get you cheaper. And yes, the money. How much will it cost. Even if it doesn't get into the specifics (we still don't discuss wages, mainly because they vary, and partly because for some, it can be obscene), but the generics such as big budget, low budget, commercial or indie applies. If it's indie, you know you'll be shooting with digital. If it's a TV commercial, you know you'll be eating catered food all day. Logistics, money, the technical equipments. The story? The art? I was surprised, because I still think of myself as someone who looks at the artistic aspects, but upon further reflection, I realise that I do fall into that trap myself sometimes. Nevertheless, the fact that this person, a respected filmmaker, pressed me not about the purpose or story of the project (which is, in some ways, ground breaking), but about the money, it makes me think less of some of the people in my line of work, less of myself even, but even more disappointingly, less of the people I do respect.

Funny. Many whose job it is to create art do not care about it very much, if at all.


bonbon said...

is this "the respected" filmmaker?

Fikri said...

No. Hers is an extreme case.

Anonymous said...


I recently got to watch your film Bound at Malaysian SHORTS, I loved it. I wanna show it to my friend.
Is there any way to view it online?



Fikri said...

Thank you for your kind words, but it's not available online for now, unfortunately.

Susanna said...

Hey you. Good meeting you again last night. I've always admired what you do, in case you didn't know.

Sometimes I wished I had studied Communications too, or at least had some exposure to film, TV, broadcasting and all those other fun things. There were times I wanted to be a scriptwriter last time, but I guess I only went as far as stage plays.

Ah, but I ramble. Could you put me on your mailing list or something so next time there's some screening somewhere or some way that I can show my support I'll know firsthand? ;)

Thanks. And keep writing too please. Because I enjoy reading :)

Fikri said...

:) Thanks, Susanna.