"Can I make a living as filmmaker?"

I get these questions a lot from aspiring filmmakers of my own country.

"Can I make a living as a filmmaker?"

"How do YOU make a living as a filmmaker?"

"How much do you earn a month?"


Frankly, I find these questions rather disturbing (and a little annoying) Mostly because I'm a very simple person whose actions are mostly governed by passion. Yes, PASSION. I'm a guy chasing a childhood dream, not some douche in a get-rich quick scheme. If financial stability is ALL I care about, then no, I will definitely NOT do anything related to filmmaking.

I have met my share of aspiring filmmakers from all around the world during my film festival travels, and most of them are more worried about whether they can MAKE A GOOD FILM if they attempt filmmaking, or whether a script THEY HAD WRITTEN, would make a good film. They worry about assembling a crew, finding a cast, or how to distribute their films upon completion (YouTube? Film festivals? Which fests?)

At least they care about the FILM itself. Again, I'm a simple guy, for me, it's really all about the film, all about practicing your craft, I think that if you are incapable of being true to the filmmaking, why the hell are you even thinking of becoming a filmmaker at all? Dude, do you EVEN care about making films at all?

One of the many accusations I get is that "due to my own family situation, I can do whatever i want without freely without giving a hoot about consequences". That arty fartsy artists like me get to make films because papa or mama is showering me everyday with money. Gee, thanks a lot for thinking so highly of my parents, I'm a little amused how my parents are imagined as senile, delusional old fools whose only purpose in life is to, you know, attempt to drown me to death with a raging flood of money.

(and that all my awards, all these festival selections, all these praises, interviews, newspaper appearances etc. had nothing whatsoever to do with ANY single hard work I put into my films to ensure that don't... suck)

Therefore, the actual quality of my films or the efforts I pour into my films are negligible. The most important thing to know about my career is whether I make a bajillion a day (no, I don't) or whether I have a private jet filled with beautiful cabin attendants that fly me to film festivals since I'm seemingly flying every month (I wish, but nope, I don't).

Someone told me he really really really wanted to be a filmmaker, to globe trot, to win awards, to undertake massive co-production projects between Malaysia and another country because he learnt its language etc. He really wanted a chance. A break. A possibility to get into an industry.

"Sure thing. I AM actually shooting something two weeks from now, from Tuesday to Friday. Come and help me out." I said.

"I have a day job. I can only help on weekends. But I really really really want to be a filmmaker."

"I'm sure you do. Next time then," I said politely and cheerfully while I think: (next time, when I'm shooting something else and deliberately schedule the shoot on weekends to satisfy your lordship's timetable, then, I hope I can really really really help you fulfill your dreams of filmmaking)

Where is the hunger? The passion? Where is this great dream of wanting to craft an epoch-making masterpiece that leaves legacies for years to come? If you want something that badly, you don't throw opportunities away. My very first job in the industry was serving as assistant director in a telemovie back in 2007, I was already warned that I would be paid half of what I should be paid for more than a month of work, where I would be sleeping in jungles and crap.

I took the job. Interns were paid more than I did for easier work in more comfortable environment.

If I tell you that you MIGHT be able to make a living through filmmaking, will you at least try to care about the FILM itself like... You know, what a FILMmaker should do? Does it make you feel better if you know that the odds of you getting a constant income are much higher if you actually have a decent quality of output?

(it's really one of the reasons why I churn out 3-4 short films a year, instead of one short film every 3-4 years. And producing almost one feature film a year. I probably get to practice more, keep myself from getting rusty, Maintain connections with the industry. Blah blah)

Perhaps I am naive and am oblivious to the fact that passion is long dead in my dear beloved country, and our achievements and value in life are DEFINED solely by our monthly salary. Maybe tombstones should write "at the peak of his career, he made 20k a year".

All societies are controlled by capitalism, all societies are materialistic. That is the way of nature, I won't defy that. I am pragmatic too when it comes to filmmaking, I don't just jump into projects without evaluating its artistic quality, the targeted marketplace (I have a marketing degree... An oft-overlooked fact)

If someone says "I want you to help me make a film for free based on our concept, you pay the cast and crew yourself, in return I promote your film on our blog. Yup."

I would probably say no.

If I were to fund my own project (which I do) I should be doing whatever I want without any constraints.

What bothered me was FEAR. I always feel exasperated (I'm a highly impatient fellow) that the person cannot just try make a film himself an see how he feels.

"I don't have a pro camera" one argues.

"Use a camcorder then." I replied, since I DID start experimenting with filmmaking with one during my Perth days. Since using a cheap handycam didn't stop my FLEETING IMAGES from winning the Grand Prix in Corto Tokyo 2009.

"No camcorder."

"Use an iPhone, or whatever phones with cameras." I replied, since Park Chan Wook just won a Golden Bear for short film in Berlin Film Fest with a film shot with an iPhone.

"No iPhone, no mobile phones with cameras."

"Use a normal camera." I thought if LA JETEE, almost 50 years ago, done almost entirely with stills. I thought of my own experiment with the form when shooting THE WHITE FLOWER.

"nope, can't get that either."

All I see is someone convincing himself NOT to make a film. I applaud his resilience. A little part of me inside dying all over and over again.

(Epitaph: "dabbled in filmmaking, but no stable income. His existence was pointless.")

Thank you very much.

I'm not looking forward to baby Hanae's generation.