Escaping intentions

How the mind escapes.

Last week, a riveting scene of a man standing alone on a beach in Thailand, with an impending huge wave engulfing him froze me. I sat there silently, stumped and numbed all the same time, on the blue seat in my TV room as the BBC docu unfolded scenes after scenes of real-life video footages recorded by the tsunami survivors. The reality of me being there only 2 days before the disaster, right in the heart of Patong last year, was something I never wanted to express in writing. It was ironic, that only DH can write about it in this blog and I could not bring myself to pen it down. The scenes of men and women running for their lives in Thailand brought waves of emotion, but I did not want to identify them. The emotions were just as quickly engulfed by other more pressing worries, like work and how the scripts and filming of JALAN are turning out.My mind did it again…it escapes.

Just yesterday, I caught myself feeling a very sharp pang of nervousness when someone mentioned about the possibility of SIngapore being hit by an earthquake in Sumatra. This prediction was by the same guy in Thailand who predicted last year’s tsunami, whom everyone ignored then. I have read about this before, and at that time I remembered thinking – apart from this prediction, I have 24 books to see to publication. Singapore and the tsunami can wait. My family will be in Malaysia and I will be in Vancouver by then. We will be safe. That was my mind escaping again then. But somehow, the mention yesterday was a bit more biting,if not reflective.

Today, I flipped through the newspapers and read a review piece on the tsunami documentaries that will be flooding the tv screens over this next few days. One of them, was about how a group of scientists is racing against time to see if the Cascadia Fault will reap apart again and cause a ruckus it did in the 1700, when the first recorded tsunami destroyed Japan. The scientists are fervent that North America will be hit by a tsunami soon, killing half a million. Vancouver may be one of the cities possibly drowned by tidal waters. So where do I go now? And to where, does my mind escape to?

God has a way to press the point that our minds have limited capacities. He has taught mine.

The money of history

Six million dollars.

That was the amount a certain British company was paid for making a 3 hour documentary on the history of Singapore. I, on the other hand, am making an 8 hour series on various aspects of Singapore history (and this is tougher mind you, since we are not going chrono with the stories) with slightly more than 2.5 percent of that. Do your math.

This entire production has been an eye-opener for many involved. It showed many with industrial experience what demands documentaries make and a reaffirmation in others of the dearth of talent in Singapore. A quick word with colleagues only ascertains the suspicion – that generally there is a lack of story crafting and depth in thought-process when sewing pieces together.

So will $6 million dollars give the room and capacity to any producers to churn the best out of the best? Did that $6 million documentary knock the hell out of other Singapore history docus with that big a budget?

I saw an hour of the docu and I was already irritated with the repeat archived stills, too many topshots of Shenton Way, various angles of PSA-corporate video materials (read: containers being lifted left, right and centre) and a rather, chubby and flabby Raffles in the reenactments.The VO script was content-packed, but only for a cursory chrono view of what happened from the year Raffles landed. They had good interviews with Tim Barnard, Mary Turnbull and Wang Gungwu but it was Lim Chong Yah who stole the show with his very Singaporean accent. Who else would be most interested in the history of Singapore if it is not for the Singaporeans. Everyone else would have an agenda.

Documentaries are point of views. Only this time, it is one that chips away at six million dollars. I reserve my most critical comments for my own learning journeys in producing the best.

Watch ‘JALAN’. It is on 15 January now.

Speeding frenzy

My eyes were fixed on the speedometer. 100km/h…110km/h…damn Apek, slow down! The dial slowly moved up and touched the 125km/h mark, my heart was pounding, and I swear to you I thought I saw the Apek smiling as if he was so happy to terrorise me. The speed reached 130km/h, and as he signalled to filter (yes, at that speed!), I wanted to shove my middle finger to his face and declare, “I am a tudunged woman, HEAR ME ROAR! Lu ingat gua tarak family ah Apek?!! Lu mau mati lu mati sorang la!”.

That was me a few hours ago. That was also me every other day for the past 2 years whenever I am in a taxi in Singapore. I am rather confused at this change in speed-tolerance. Only a few years ago I was so addicted to speed it was not funny. I get a high driving long distances at high speeds, the fastest, if I can recall – at 175km/h. I can do the exact filtering-at-130km/h that the Apek attempted and scared the shit out of me earlier, only much faster! I can do all that while yapping on the phone (with headset on) deciding where to eat and have coffee. Worst, at one time, driving to work meant reading the news from my PDA at traffic lights and flipping through the CD bank to look for CDs while the car was revving on the highway.
So that explains my fixation with Formula One then, and how I can almost see myself taking over Alex Yoong whenever his pokak Minardi stalled on Lap 3. “Pigidah! Muka aje hensem, kalau race-day mesti keter stall!”. That would be my dialoque to him, I fantasised. But of course, this would be before my eyes caught his and I melted like a candle under that really glazy, super cute stare. Ok, I digress.

I dont know when I became more paranoid about speed like how I am today. Whenever I am in a car now, even when DH is driving, I say a silent prayer. My eyes will almost ALWAYS glance at the speedometer and I check the blindspot more times than the driver!

In some strange fashion, I only trust the driving of 2 close friends at top speeds, while I am at the passenger seat. Din and Redha – both in their late thirties now,both parents to lovely 6 kids in total, both still F1 fanatics, and both still thinking they are Schumacher and Jordan reincarnates. I remembered sitting coyly in the passenger seat with Din driving at 180km/h and I chatted away with the other friends in the car many years ago, how cosy. Fast forward to today, I will probably be asking everyone in the car if they want hot Milos with cookies…and then maybe snore to sleep while Din do his thang… That is how much I trust his driving.

I wonder if those who were in my car back then in my speeding days trust me the same. I wonder if I made these people stare hard at the speedometer the way I do now. I wonder if I was a Din to them.

Hmm. Maybe I should do a test drive. Anybody? Helmets provided, promise!

Making JALAN

So finally a post on what have been occupying my days and nights these past weeks.

There was an interesting discussion today at Starbucks – possibly a result of my 6 hours of brainstorming and discussing with directors and Y’s 8 hours of filming in the sun. It was a battle between differing philosophies between what makes a good documentary, hey wait, what makes good TV (since we are not shooting on film that takes a whole lot of picture quality from the equation. Digital enthusiasts – pls dont throw eggs here. You will only end up smearing your screens, kan? 😉

Y, who is playing host on the new documentary series my team and I are working on, is also writing for 2 of the episodes. His first script was reviewed today, and in the course of giving him my feedback, I understood what his approach was which, I must say, he took great pains to explain. He wanted to make a documentary that provokes the audience to question, BUT with no closure to the issue addressed. I, on the other hand, favours one with a partial closure. Basically he wants to tease all the way while I just want to tickle.

So there goes the mayhem.It was hilarious at some point, and I was lucky that SO was not there or it would be stretched to at least an hour more. Throw in ZB and it will be the whole night.

Some of the scenes and transitions cut were so well done I was so happy I hired the creators involved. Yet there were some that have been rather dissapointing but still, I am hoping for the best will come through after hours of discussions, and am sure, lots of sweat and frustrations on their part too. It is this creative weave of energies that excites me in production .

Newspaper journalism, magazine editorship, book publishing and tv all have something in common. It is about crafting a story – and therefore, not about me. It is about the readers and the viewers. It is never about what I dont know, but it is about what THEY want to know. Thats the mark between good journalism, good documentaries and bad, self-indulging ones.

The making of this series is not going to be an easy one. We are at the mercy of many factors (including the most uncontrollable – the weather!) and hard, hard work on making this one solid docu series. Lots of prayers help, and I am constantly reminding myself to doa for God’s blessings too.

Let’s see where JALAN’s journey is. Stay tuned.Mark Jan 27 on your calendar.