Note: I’ve been wanting to talk about this for a long long time. But at the same time, I don’t want to make it sound rant-y. But then again, this is a blog, and I should forgive myself being rant-y, at my own blog. But I didn’t have any idea on how to glue the whole thing together, till my previous blog about a birthday wish to a filmmaker that I deeply respected.
A BIT OF BACKSTORY ON HOW A MOVIE SHAPED MY FILMMAKING PALETE
Note: Please excuse the language.
It was 27th of November, 2005. I was eighteen at the time. Young, clueless, and like pretty much like every other teenagers, I gave up on life.
I was in the 2nd Semester of my Graphic Design course.I was at my student apartment, in my room, riddled with assignments that I have no interest on finishing at all. I sat on my table and I blew a candle on my birthday muffin and slow clapped to celebrate another miserable birthday celebration.
“Yeap. I suck at everything. Even in art and design. Sorry Mom. Sorry Dad.”, I said to myself.
It was 12.05 a.m. and I have made up my mind that I have no zero talent, zero creativity and zero interest in what I am doing. I ate my disgustingly cheap birthday muffin, shoves all of my assignments that was on the table to the floor, turned off my crappy laptop who kept on crashing every time I made circle shape on Illustrator, and went straight to bed.
“Fuck you, assignments. Fuck you Illustrator. Fuck you Life.”, as my flipped off my last flip to my ceiling while lying on my bed. It wasn’t long till I dozed off to the familiar nothingness.
KNOCK KNOCK KNOCK goes my door at late night. I took my pillow and stuffed it over my head.
RING! RING! RING! My cellphone rang and I was hesitant to pick it up. It’s Amir, one of my ex-classmates from Game Design course I used to be in. What the hell does he want at this time?
“Amir, do you know what time is it? I’m sleeping man. Go away.”
“Babi (pig), open the door. You asked me to come over to celebrate your birthday last year, remember? Because I missed it. (Do you) Want to watch movies with me, or not? If not, I’m going back”, said Amir who was weirdly breathing heavily on the phone. Guess he was angry at me for pissing him off.
“Sial, kejap. (You bastard, hold up)”, as I leaped of from my bed and went straight to the door.
We sat on the floor of the balcony that was close to my living room. I offered a cigarette to Amir who was sitting opposite of me at the balcony as I popped one into my mouth. He refused and went inside the living room.
“Something I did? What’s up?”. I lighted my cigarette and looked to the distance.
“Stop trying to be cool and come and watch this movie with me.” as he popped a DVD movie into my Playstation 2. He got me good when he said I was trying to play it off cool.
“Fuck you Amir. You read people too well.”, I thought to myself.
I got back in and sat beside him and grabbed one of his soda can drinks. He wasn’t too happy about it at first, but then he passed me his bag of chips and punched me on the arm as act of silent disapproval. Ah, sweet Amir. Always a giving fellow.
Then, at that precise moment, as I took my first sip from the soda can, I heard a piano tune that caught my attention. I turned to my TV and saw this:
Like the gazelle from the hand of the hunter, like the bird from the hand of the fowler, I free myself from everything around me. It was South Korean movie called Oldboy. And my whole world has been turned upside-down.
OKAY, SO WHAT DOES THIS MOVIE GOT TO DO WITH ‘CREATIV-
Shhhh, I’m getting there. I won’t go too much detail about what this movie is about. But I do want to say that this movie has changed the way I think, see, and act as a creative artist in three big ways:
1. Working within the confines of the limitations, aka “Less is More”
See, I grew up in a family that could not afford to buy me an expensive laptop with an expensive tablet to do my assignment. No. All I got is a laptop with an Illustrator program and that’s it. I always hated the fact that other kids has more intricate and smoother art in their designs, in comparison to mine.
But after after seeing how some scenes in Oldboy uses available lightings and locations to their advantage due to the budget they have, I realised that I was just fooling myself. I don’t need all of that bells and whistles. All I need to do is to use my situation at my advantage.
2. Using passions to generate interest on other things.
So, remember when I said I have zero interest in what I was doing back in 2005. It picks right back up after watching this movie. See, after I watched the whole film with Amir, I borrowed it from him. For months. I didn’t give it back. I was studying the film. From title credits, to timing, to its fonts and overlay and composition, to shots and angles, etc. I made this movie my personal Bible.
Like any other artist, I “borrowed” design elements in the film and implemented to my work. It got praise, by classmates and lecturers. It got me pumped to do another design inspired by Oldboy. One thing lead to another and before I knew it, I picked up a lot of software skills along the way, just because I want to make that text effects that I saw from Oldboy. From typography elements, to Bauhaus design movement, all because of a movie.
And it didn’t stop there. Which leads to,
3. “Creativity is not a talent, but it is a way of operating.”
Okay, I think I cheated a bit by using John Cleese quote on this. But that’s exact how I feel about about ‘creativity’ back in 2005. You see, I always thought that the best artist, designer, and even filmmaker were born talented. Till I found out about Park Chan-wook (the director’s Oldboy) history as a filmmaker.
To summarise what he did to get where he was at that time, he made a move from being a film-goer(opened a film club at the place where he was studying), to an amateur filmmaker (to which his film were considered a failure by many), then a film critic (because he needed the money) and then back to being a filmmaker again (because he wants to do it).
So his story got me thinking, what if he decided to just give up and settled in by being film critic? Then there wouldn’t be Oldboy and I would probably stuck in Malaysia, doing half-ass graphic design works due to my lack of interest in doing it. Park Chan-wook loves film and he ultimate resolution was to be a filmmaker. So the least thing he did is staying close to his passion at all times. And he did it. He became a filmmaker. A well-respected filmmaker. He got creative with the way he got in.
And that, inspire me, once a graphic designer to stay close with films as well. I slowly made a change from doing physical artwork to digital. And then to motion graphics. Then to video. And finally, I made a short film as my final assignment that got attention from Film and Television students who got interested in getting me to work in their final semester assignments. And the rest is history.
OKAY, THAT’S FINE AND DANDY AND ALL. BUT WHY TALK ABOUT IT RIGHT NOW?
See, there was a class this trimester about creativity. And in that class, I was convinced that I have lost my ‘creativity’. This is because I performed horribly in a task that requires ‘creativity’ to solve it. I thought to myself,
“Gee, I sucked at it. I guess I’m not that young anymore. I guess I’m not that goo-WAIT A MINUTE…”,I shouted and I slowly paced myself down to halt when I was walking to my car.
I’ve been through this before… Back when I was 18 years old, in my crappy apartment with my crappy laptop. This feeling of not being good enough for what I’ve done. Ever since I studied in Australia, I kept on telling myself that I’m not good enough because of this and that, and it annoys me. Mind you, that I’m not being delusional by saying that I did a great job (which I didn’t). All I’m saying is why I am deprecating myself for not doing well enough, instead of realising I have something new to learn and to look forward to?
Oh wait, I should asked myself, and not you readers. Sorry about that.
O…KAY… SO WHAT ARE YOU PLANNING TO DO ABOUT IT?
It’s going to sound pretty anti-climatic, but I’m sticking to those three rules I’ve established back in Malaysia. I need to stop being sorry for myself, stop blaming on myself or others because of the state of my being and start doing things that made me love doing this whole “filmmaking” thing.
REKINDLE The Flame.
RISE To The Occasion.
PLAY The Unplayable Piano.
SWIM Against The Curre-… You get the point.
THAT’S IT HUH?
Yeah, that’s it. I was thinking about sharing video of Shia Lebouf “Do It” video for a bonus gag, but I found something better. Something that is sort of personal to me. Basically, I had the same situation with my parents, but it didn’t register to me immediately. It took like a few years to finally realised it. But I’m glad Rocky’s son didn’t take as long as me: