Hello from London!
Well, specifically, from Greater London since I am now currently entering Week 2 for my 4 week film directing course. After months of fretting, worrying about the course and agonizing deeply as to whether I’m a writer or a director – well, here I am, on Week 2 on a film directing course, and starting to speak with all the directing lingo. Oh yes, I can speak dirty to you – but what I mean by dirty, I mean, a reverse shot off the shoulder dirty medium close up shot.
Coming back to London to do a course feels very strange. It is the anniversary of the first time I set foot in England to study. Of course, back then I was a wide-eyed, naive and cocky 18 year old, ready to do Economics and ready to become an investment banker. Sometimes I wonder if I were to meet that same 18 year old, would that 18 year old be ashamed to meet the 28 year old that she had become? Would she be disappointed? I would like to think that 18 year old would be kinda pleased that 10 years on, married and all, she is still rebelling and doing things her way.
I am sure some of you are curious as to how the course is going. I had blogged earlier that I had been rather ambivalent about the entire thing. It had taken me ages to accept that I was no longer in finance and despite not quite liking a career in the corporate world, it was difficult to accept myself without a suit. It was only this year I was brave enough to tell people that I am a writer and now to go on a course, where I fully embrace creativity…to be frank, it was terrifying. My parents are not the sort to force any of their kids to do anything that we wouldn’t want to but having said that, I always describe myself as Asian, embracing rather Asian values without my parents forcing me to. Yes, that included wanting to do something mathy, something science-y. But I rebelled. I did not do accounting. I did economics. Aha, see the difference? See the rebellion?
The first few days was very difficult for me. I’m not used to fully accepting myself as a “creative” as they say. Most people find it pretty effin’ weird that I would even give up what I had done i.e. finance to do something well, as some people have cruelly put it, unsubstantial as filmmaking or creative writing. So for the most part, in Malaysia, I find it very difficult to talk about it being creative, always couching the words writer with terms like “business plan” or “consulting” as opposed to “I write fuckin’ screenplays!”
On the first day, I remember, I was actually quite angry and upset with myself. I felt like I was struggling to find my footing, on where I really stood and I envied all these young people who were so sure of themselves. And I envied the confidence they had, years of working and struggling have certainly taken a toll on my confidence.
But as each day went on, as I started to direct and started to learn about film, it suddenly became…addictive. I would go home thinking about movies, thinking about each scene and about editing. I meet David on Wednesdays (despite only being in London for two weeks now, the two of us have quickly established a routine: Cheap and Cheerful Wednesday) – and on the first Wednesday I said that, “You know what? I’m genuinely happy. I’m genuinely happy I looking at scripts, I’m genuinely happy I’m looking at stories. And I’m genuinely happy I am being creative.”
And I am. I watch TV shows with a more critical eye, but at the same time, I feel more humbled on how difficult it is to collaborate and become creative together. The director may pull it all together, but without every single person, like the sound guy, the director of photography, the make up, the costumes, the props, the actors – it is not going to work. And each of these roles are incredibly creative in their own right and so, to coordinate everyone is a difficult task.
I really enjoy the intellectual challenge behind interpreting each script. I remember in some of my writing courses, my tutor used to bang on about subtext, or reading between the lines and despite her hardest to explain, none of us quite got it. I vaguely understood even as I wrote that what I write on paper, is not quite what is being said – but it never crystalized properly until I did this course. Suddenly, good movies like American Beauty become a work of genius and again, I am awe-struck by the depth of Alan Ball’s script and the clarity of the message he was trying to put across.
That is not to say there are not any bad days. While I am very comfortable in interpreting scripts and in writing, I struggled with things like editing and in the first few days, camera positioning. Editing for me was extremely difficult and when I got things wrong – it was rather demoralizing as I’m the sort that strives for perfection. But as I keep telling myself – it can only get better with practice, so I try not to get too upset.
But best of all, being in this course, is of course, being back in the UK. In the first week, I was feeling terribly homesick and awkward and then all of a sudden, it was like I suddenly remembered how much easier it is to be myself here in the UK than back at home. I am free to be me, there is no expectation on how I ought to behave or how I ought to react. I am Adlina here, just plain Adlina. There is no Adlina the Malay girl, Adlina the ex-economist, or the Adlina the-throwing-her education and life away by deciding she wants to be a writer-. Actually, I’m Adlina future Malaysian film director, which isn’t a bad thing to be. My classmates ask me that maybe I would like to come back to the UK to live here and work here – and I start to remember how much I adore this country.
The only thing missing on this course, of course, is the husband. I’ve been away from him for two weeks – and frankly, instead of time soothing the soul, I miss him more and more. I look forward to going home to see him, but frankly, I would rather if he could come here and be with me. Still, on days that are difficult and very cold, I imagine myself at the Qatar airport, waiting to catch the connecting flight back where I will be with him again.
Another two weeks to go, and hopefully, another two weeks of a life changing experience. I am glad I came on this course, I am glad I broke the bank to fund my stay here and I am thankful, very thankful for this opportunity, for my parents to push me into doing this, for my husband for supporting me and encouraging me and my in-laws for helping me find accommodation to stay. And very thankful to God, for somehow, making all the dots connect in the best way possible for me.