WHEN teenagers create short films based on a “not quite right” theme, you can be sure that things are going to get wacky.

That’s exactly what happened in the third instalment of the annual Not Quite Right video competition, hosted by Sunway University’s department of performance arts and media. The competition, open to teenagers aged 16 to 20, saw entries coming in from all over the country. From failed kidnappings to a mysteriously reappearing fruit, every short film had an element of the odd and unusual, in keeping with the theme.

What sets this competition apart from the countless other short film contests out there is how this is targeted specifically at young people. “We realised there actually isn’t a competition for young people,” said Leow Puay Tin, head of the Sunway University department of performance arts and media. She added that most competitions have a specific topic that generally revolves around the sponsor’s identity, but “we deal with young people, and we know what they can do when they’re given the opportunity.”

The participants are at the right age to begin thinking of making a career in film or performing arts, which makes the grand prize of RM2,500 for the whole team and a RM24,000 scholarship for each team member to pursue a diploma in performance arts and media, even more enticing.

The winners at the Not Quite Right video competition prize-giving.

The winners at the Not Quite Right video competition prize-giving.

Combine this drool-worthy incentive with an interesting theme that is so open to interpretation, and it’s no wonder that Malaysian youths all over the country have flocked to send in their entries: this year drew 103 entries – double the number from last year.

“We made the requirements very simple,” said Leow, adding that “as long as we could see and hear them, that’s all we needed. We were not looking for technically perfect videos.”

They may have not have been looking for technical perfection, but the final nine videos were impressive, both in terms of ideas as well as execution. The grand prize went to a sophisticated entry, complete with special effects, weapons and zombies.

However, beneath the razzle-dazzle, the topic is one that is close to the hearts of many: friendzoning.

“There really is a girl who friendzoned me a couple of months ago,” said Yeoh Jackson in stitches, actor and producer of the short film, aptly titled Friendzoned, when asked about the inspiration behind the film.

This 20-year-old is no newbie in the world of amateur filmmaking: he has taken part in every Not Quite Right competition since it began three years ago, and has consistently made it into the top nine. The impressive special effects in his latest entry was the product of intensive self-learning via YouTube tutorials, proving that the Internet isn’t a waste of time!

Although Yeoh’s parents were not very enthusiastic about his passion for something that they considered less than useful (“They thought it was dumb!” Yeoh said with a laugh), they have since gotten used to it. His first camera was paid for by his father. It was the first step in what looks to be a promising future in film.

Leow was keen to point out that, contrary to what most Asian parents think, there is indeed a future in performance art and media.

“About 50% of our students get jobs right after their diploma, and the rest go on to add on another year of studies to get a degree,” she stressed, adding that some students have graduated with distinctions from notable universities such as Deakin, and most have jobs in the larger media corporations in the country now.

Yeoh, however, is content with pursuing a degree in Finance, and indulging his passion for creating videos through his YouTube channel (he posts under the name Panini Yeoh.)

He dedicates his winning short film to a girl he has code-named Joanna. “I just wanted to prove to her that I can do something amazing.”

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