THE Boy Who Rocked The World looks like a million ringgit but costs nowhere near that. Yet the short film, which won the 2014 Sundance Channel and Astro Short Film competition would not have been possible without crowdfunding.
Director and filmmaker Paul Gan, 28, said it was a humbling process and a big leap of faith.
“There’s always money available, you just need to know where. You can’t have a ‘I deserve this’ attitude – we had to go around all ‘tolong, tolong, kesian’,” he said.
After convincing friends and family to contribute RM18,000 to the film over the course of four to five months, it should have been smooth sailing. But what was supposed to be a three-day shoot turned into seven days, with the weather putting a damper on things.
“There was one week of drought and suddenly we had a heavy thunderstorm! The equipment got wet.”
Despite the setback, the short film not only saw Gan win the coveted trip to the 2015 Sundance Film Festival in Utah in January, but was also screened on the Astro Sundance Channel on Merdeka Day.
While the chance to see and meet some of his favourite filmmakers was a highlight, Gan said the variety of workshops and films shown at the festival broadened his mind and showed him what the Malaysian film industry was lacking.
“Seeing how people enjoy films and how they were willing to share their ideas in order to cultivate the culture of filmmaking was mind-boggling,” said Gan.
“I saw George Lucas, James Franco and my hero, Louie Psihoyos, director of The Cove, but the workshops exposed to me their vision of future filmmaking. My world felt smaller and it gave me the confidence that if they can do it, so can we.”
This year’s winner, Keshvan Sugumaran, 30, can expect the same eye-opening experience. He was crowned the winner in a ceremony last Friday after he was judged to have come up with the best film on this year’s theme, Malaysia: Inspiration.
To find out more about the competition, and to watch last year’s winning films, click here.
Gan said the experience of filming the movie and attending Sundance showed him it wasn’t enough to just produce a good film. They also needed to come out with a distribution plan for the film, which was something he had neglected to do.
“Every film needs to be distributable and breathe on its own in order to travel through different film festival circuits,” he said.
“My mistake was not having the relevant staff to manage PR, or to track how it’s been doing overseas.
The Malacca-born director said studying filmmaking or broadcasting in university doesn’t automatically make you a director, and that it was only one of a few problems young Malaysian filmmakers face.
“Overall it’s the knowledge of how or where to start and who we should approach.
“I think indie filmmaking here is a trial and error process. I studied broadcasting but my real masterclass was watching movies. You watch, learn, and in a way copy, but turn it into something new.”
Gan said the diverse cultures within Malaysia are something local filmmakers can harness, instead of relying on the same generic, formulaic movies and competing against international films.
“After watching the films at Sundance I felt their content was similar.
“But Malaysia has so many stories to tell that nobody has brought out yet. So why go overseas when we’re so rich in content here?”