213. Back Again

And so ends my 5-day adventure in the island of Penang.

The days of surviving on 5 hours of sleep, waking up before dawn, eating conference food and having very late suppers have come to an end. Truth be told, I’m glad it’s over. Truth be told, I’d do it all over again in a heartbeat. I arrived at the airport in Subang late today afternoon at 5.30P.M., and like age, the feeling of home slowly sank in.

The conference saw my return to many things. Most prominently: to a directorial role. My last attempt at being a director was back in late 2012, for the 48 Hour Film Project here in Kuala Lumpur. That didn’t turn out well for a number of reasons. Traumatized by the experience, I told myself “never again”, though I was never sure on what I was referring to when I made that promise to myself.

When on the first day of the conference they told us that we will be producing a short film in – not 48 hours; not 24 hours, but in 12 hours, you could empathize with my lack of enthusiasm. Impossible to pull off. Insanity. Who do these people think they are? You understand when I wanted to take a backseat role. Let me be a boom operator or something.

But things have a funny way of working out, and I found myself becoming the script writer, the director, and the leader of the group. And that marks the second thing I returned to: a leadership position. People were looking to me for directions. People were asking me what to do.

Now I’m a little bit older and a little bit wiser, and I think those little bits paid off, because the fiasco that was the 48 Hour Film Project didn’t repeat itself. Still, it was an uphill struggle: when the script came out, I thought it was brilliant. I thought I was going to amaze everyone with my ingenuity. I was going to be the star of the show.

But things happen.

We got on location and it wasn’t what I thought it’d be. The camera and boom took longer than I imagined it’d take to set up. It was harder than I thought to get the actors into character. People didn’t agree with the angles that I wanted. Then when we got to the editing phase, the editor neither understood nor agreed with my vision of the story.

Then at about 7P.M., I left the assistant director to work out the edits with the editor, praying that she’d be able to communicate what I wanted. Cut the story short: she didn’t. The little film that I imagined would be my pride became a colossal embarrassment.

What was supposed to be an exercise in nonlinear storytelling became a crappy extended flashback sequence. The pacing was wrong. The sound didn’t come out right. The comedic timing was nonexistent. I laughed as the video was played for everyone to see, because the alternative was crying.

It’s a terribly frustrating thing. To have to picture in your head, and what comes out in the end is nothing like it.

But what I ended up achieving, on the other hand, was the allegiance of the group. It wasn’t easy, mind – the group had 3 prominent, domineering figures in it – but I managed to get them all to go with my vision, even if it was only for as long as I was present. What I thought would be development hell turned out to be a relatively pleasant, if tedious experience. And in the end, I did not come out with the short film that I wanted – but I came out with new friends.

So I guess that’s alright.

You’ll forgive me for missing yesterday’s Fiction Friday post. I was, you know, on set. Dehydrated, stressed, worn, but doing exactly what I always wanted to do.

I hope it only gets better from here on. And since I promised a new story every week, here’s the script of the short film: The Lollipop Runner.

THE LOLLIPOP RUNNER

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