A Little Bit on Honesty

To be honest with all of you, after I had posted up the last entry – I was not very happy with it. There was something missing in the entry, that even after I read it over, it felt dishonest and untrue. I was very grumpy after I posted the entry and the more I thought about it, the grumpier I got. I stormed upstairs and though I promised Eizwan that we can catch up on Supernatural – what I really intended to do was to sit in bed while he watched and grump to myself while admiring pictures of Kim Myung Min.

Here's a picture of KMM for my own pleasure.

Here’s a picture of Kim Myung Min for my own viewing pleasure.

And these are the days when I am grateful for Eizwan’s presence.

Even though this episode is a Castiel friendly episode, it was not enough to entice me. In between surfing more pictures of Kim Myung Min, I was mulling why did I not like that entry. What was I trying to hide? Eizwan had switched on the TV and was ready to put Supernatural on the PS3. A lesser husband would not take time to notice his wife’s distress  and would have just continued on watching.

But this is Eizwan. This is why I married him.  He could see I was not happy. He asked me to talk through about why I was not happy about that entry. And then we spent hours dissecting what went wrong with the last entry.

Don’t get me wrong. I love the King of Dramas. I am inspired by the show. But why I am inspired by the show was probably not quite the honest part. I had written several drafts before the last entry, correcting it over and over and yet, I could not get to where I wanted. Usually when I struggle to write something, rather than writer’s block – it’s usually because I’m being dishonest with myself.

Eizwan hit it right on the nail when he asked me about my last blog entry. Sure it is inspiring, someone who would do anything to get what he wants. But that isn’t the only reason why the drama affected me so much. He pointed out the points that I kept talking about the past few days. My favourite part of the show is Anthony Kim’s character. There are plenty of arrogant, cocky and hyper-capable characters out there like House and the current Sherlock Holmes from Sherlock. But very few of them are like Anthony, who is arrogant, cocky and hyper-capable but prone to constantly breaking down into tears. Unlike House and Sherlock, who are barely aware about how flawed they are, Anthony is fully aware of his flaws. He wears power suits despite being completely and utterly broke. He teeters in between the realization that he was not who he once was and the delusion that he is still the powerful CEO of Empire Productions that produced the best Korean dramas of all time.

It is this strange balance of these two extremes that really caught my eye, to be able to write such a finely crafted character. With most cocky characters on screen, rarely would the characters acknowledge their thirst and desperation to succeed – they are always so sure of themselves. With Anthony, you are privy to see his desperation to go back to what he once was despite his outward self-confidence. The internal battle is played with very little melodrama (or the occasions when it is played with melodrama – it is taken to the extreme for laughs). I admire a writer for being able to create a character so nuanced and balanced and yet unbelievably cool.

As it is a satire, the King of Dramas use plenty of rom-com clichés to move the story forward. But what I did not expect was that every cliché was turned on its head so that more than half the time, I had no clue how the story was going to progress. When the writer, Go-Eun wakes up from a clichéd coma with amnesia, I did not expect it to be a prank that she plays on Anthony. Anthony’s response was a classic, over-the-top soap response: he pulls her close to him and declares desperately: ‘If you can’t remember me, at least remember me with hatred from what I did to you’…only to find he’d been punked by Go-Eun.

Or in another frequent K-Drama cliché, when Anthony gets the large sum of money from the Watanabe group for his drama, I half expected the storyline to go by the way of Anthony falling for say, the daughter of a respected CEO and thereby creating a love triangle between Anthony and the writer, Go-Eun as it would have played out in most Korean dramas. What I did not expect was for the Watanabe Group to actually be a front for the Yakuza which inevitably, raised the mundane stakes of getting a drama onto the tv screen, to truly a matter of life and death.

It is this delicate balance of playing around with tried and tested drama tropes and cliches, and then turning them on its head every single time that won me over. It is hard to be over-the-top without being too silly or falling into the Wayan Brothers category. The King of Dramas was too smart for all of that – it’s aware that they are being over-the-top and yet, it is played with so much sincerity that despite being chased by gangsters and a constantly vengeful Chairman bent on destroying our hero – it is believable.

And as I watched, I was exhilarated. I could not predict each sequence like I usually do when I watch movies (one of the reasons why I found Skyfall deathly boring) and I became more invested in the characters. None of the characters developed ‘normally’ per se and more than once, when the actor Kang Hyung Min’s conscience is pricked and we see a spark of humanity in his soul, it’s immediately extinguished by his love of money. In some characters, there are no redemptions, they may be good in their own way but they’re not going to change as they do, in a grand Hollywood style. If they’re petty, chances are they’re going to remain petty despite the occasional glimpse of a conscience, throughout the drama.

But as I sat down to write all of this, none of this came up. Instead, I wrote the entire cliché on why I loved the drama. I could not tell any of the reasons why I truly loved the drama. As I went to bed last night, with the first draft ready to put up – I thought, perhaps I did not want to bore any of you reading an in-depth analysis about The King of Dramas. Or perhaps, I did not want to come out as a Korean Drama fan-girl as though it was some form of low entertainment that I did not want to be associated with.

After I had posted, I was aware that I was very angry. And Eizwan asked me why don’t I write about it, about why I cared for the drama. I made up excuses – it’s boring, who cares? I can’t find a way to write about this as interestingly as possible. But I was becoming more aware on why I can’t. If I am staring at the screen for ages, it is because I know it’s too raw for me to deal with it, too difficult. It is not that I don’t want to deal with it but that I am so used to packing up emotions in a tidy little box and shoving it as deeply as possible to the recesses of my mind that I am unaware it exists.

Which is funny. As a writer, I would think I would be more used to mulling about how I feel about things. I spend a lot of time analyzing myself and people around me, to understand how I feel. But I have always known, and it pains me to say this, is that my greatest weakness is my inability to be completely honest with myself.

During the Director’s course I took part in London, one of the things I had to do was act as though I was in love with a housemate of mine but it was in secret and I was fully aware that it was an unrequited emotion. I failed at the task miserably because I could easily hide feelings like that. The task was intended to teach aspiring directors on how to get actors to feel the role.

A piece of plank displayed more emotions than I did on that day. Our teacher watched my classmates try miserably for 10 minutes to get some emotion out of me when she announced to the class that, ‘Adlina by nature, closes her feelings up. She doesn’t let them show and so it’s hard for her to be openly angry for instance, because it’s not the way she does it.’

She did not mean it unkindly. That is who I am, as a person. I think I am good when it comes to frustration and happiness. But when it comes to disappointment, to fears and regrets – it is not that I do not let it show. Rather, I don’t even acknowledge their existence; they’ve been shoved in that box, deep in the back of my mind. Sometimes, I don’t even know why I’m sad – I just know that I am sad and frustrated and I keep it in.

Harry was an actor turned director. She pulled me aside then and asked me to think about a situation, a moment where I loved someone but the love was unrequited. And to bring it up to the front, to let the feelings through. ‘And then I want you to act it out.’

Before any of the previous male companions could claim that they were the ones that came to my mind – surprisingly, the first words that came to me was the SC. It brought forth a torrent of anger, disappointment and rejection that I knew existed but had hidden away and it all came out at once.

Harry was pleased. And she asked me to hide this emotion but keep it at the forefront of my mind as I acted.

The result was just pure electric.

I have spent a lot of time thinking about that day, about how been given permission to allow myself to feel, everything came out all at once. At that time, it made me a better actor and I knew that if I were to be honest with myself with my own fears and doubts, I would be a better writer. If I was not so afraid to admit to myself my own weaknesses and my own failings – despite how vulnerable I would feel, my writing would be better.

Each time I struggled with a piece of writing – I know a part of my brain had decided to hide the truth. After much soul-searching, I knew why I couldn’t write any of that. A part of me is really afraid that I can’t write. I’m afraid that at the end of the day, for all my criticisms of cliches and tropes – that is exactly what I depend on when I write, because when I come to the crossroads, I take the path more commonly taken. Because it is much easier – or because I believe it makes me look good. I’m scared of writing something so different because of how it will be received. Heck, when I watch The King of Dramas, I’m not even sure I have the wit to come up with half the stuff they wrote.

I’m really sorry that The King of Dramas never got the ratings or the ending it deserved. I wish I had that kind of skill and talent to write the way they had, to create characters that I could love so deeply – to take all the cliches that I’m so used to and throw it back at myself. I wish I could take a path less commonly taken and not be so scared to do so. I wish I could see that I was taking the most commonly used path as opposed to patting myself on the back and saying ‘I’m certainly taking the road less taken’.

And the true reason why it was so hard to admit why I’m crazy in love with the show? I really, really wish, that for all it’s unpolished writing, the horrible ending it had, the strange inconsistencies the King of Dramas had, I could write half as well as the writers of The King of Dramas had.

Just a little bit of Drama

It is but a quiet beginning to 2013 for me. While my good friends have been struggling with a heavy schedule and sharing fantasies about the various colleagues, bosses and acquaintances that they would like to stab with a pencil/knife and/or set their cars on fire – I have no such fantasy. It has been a quiet January for me which altogether is not that bad.

But I live in Malaysia and despite telling myself that I do not want to keep up with the Joneses I can’t help feeling the pressure to share about how hard this January had been and I too have a number of people that I would like to stab with a pencil.

The unfortunate truth is though, the only people I would like to stab with a pencil would be the local postman – and that for throwing my books that I ordered from Book Depository into the porch. It is sacrilegious for books to treated that way – sure I get that Mr. Postman is very busy, and that God forbid that he would take the time to leave a note asking me to pick up my stuff at the local post at a more convenient time. It only makes perfect sense for him to take my precious books and throw them into the porch like it was discus practice.

Perhaps I am being unkind. Perhaps there were rabid raccoons on my porch and they were scrambling to get into the house and attack my kitties. Damn those raccoons.

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“Do you want to spend your life here? And one day, in the far-off future you’ll tell your kid, ‘Your mother once had  a dream,’ and leave it at that? Dreams aren’t made to be memories. They’re made to be achieved.”

– Anthony Kim, King of Dramas

Anyway, fantasies on attacking the postman is certainly nowhere as exciting as stabbing VIPs with pencils. To feel the need to stab a VIP suggests that there is some sort of drama with the VIP that can only be alleviated through random acts of pencil violence. My life has been so quiet that the only drama I have in my life right now is The King of Dramas, which in tumblr speak, is giving me many, many, many feels. Despite its terribly disappointing ending – it was probably one of the best and fun dramas I had seen in a long while.

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This is Anthony Kim. He is not terribly good looking. He is an all around asshole in the series. But I am in love with him. It’s okay, before you feel the need to snitch to Eizwan, he knows. He is always the first to know when I openly declare I’m in love with another man. He is usually quite supportive too.

I’m one of those people, those saps who can find certain literature, tv shows and movies can change my life. And when I think about my life – about turning points that change my life, I can pinpoint various pieces of literature and TV shows that made me who I am. A painfully awkward 13 year old feeling out of place? The X Files. Trying to figure out these strange emotions towards the opposite sex that I feel in my heart as a teenager? Pride & Prejudice with a healthy dose of Sailormoon. And of course, during my dark days in the SC – it was those lonely nights of watching the now defunct BBC Entertainment for my dose of Doctor Who.

Some people believe in omens and signs – and they look for them everywhere. For me, it comes through dramas or books or mangas. As I’ve said a million times over probably by now (or at least it feels like it), I am still recovering from 2012. I’m trying to embrace my life as it is and as it will be, not so much as I hope it would be and this drama came at the right time, like a friend assuring me I’m doing the right thing.

The series isn’t perfect. There is an incredibly disappointing ending as a result of the series’ real life battles with ratings but from episode 1 to 16 (17  and 18 is an extension demanded by the broadcasters, presumably since their follow up drama was unprepared to take up the slot), it is witty, sharp, satirical and very heart-warming. For me, it’s inspiring as we follow the footsteps of the all-around jerk Anthony Kim, the best drama producer in Korea whose fall from grace inspires him to climb back and exact revenge on everyone who had wronged him. He has one last chance of making a comeback, and he is partnered with the inexperienced but idealistic writer, Lee Go-Eun who serves (or at least, tries to anyway) as his conscience. Of course, as the series progress we watch him change to huge asshole that he is to the…not-so-big asshole that he will become.

I can relate to Anthony Kim – and hopefully not in the way I’m a major asshole. But I can relate to feeling lost and unsure in life, the desperation to find a way and find success. I like that despite the odds being stacked against him, he uses every means possible and if you watch the drama, it really is every means possible to win. Despite some of his methods, shall we say, is less than kosher – you keep rooting for him to win. What I’m trying to say, and it is a pretty sappy thing to say, is that this show is what I really need right now, I need to believe that working hard and a belief in your dreams can make you go far.

I may be presumptuous to say a particular show is going to change my life. I do know when it has a potential to do so: when I  become overly obsessed about it, when I cannot stop thinking about it. And even if this drama does not change my life, it came right around the time when I needed it most, like an unexpected friend.

The show has ended and I am not exaggerating when I say that my nights are now going to feel a bit empty. I’m going to miss the characters on the show, the camaraderie and will have to satisfy myself with just watching reruns (well, just forwarding it to my favourite bits pretty much) The obsession will die out soon as I have plenty of things to do, plenty of things to read: I do have about 5 books waiting for me, and another book on the way from the UK, ready to be thrown into my front porch. For now, I’m quite glad that I got to catch this show and very grateful for it giving me inspiration when I need it.

 

Believing in Magic

A few days ago, the Banker asked the members of the Garoupas (our group name as christened by my father, long story) if we would pay tribute to the world’s biggest superstar (1 billion fans and counting) Shah Rukh Khan in what happened to be the wonderful Yash Chopra’s swan song – Jab Tak Hai Jaan.

Unsurprisingly, despite the Garoupas fantastic ability to stomach terrible movies (we watched one that got only a 4% rating on Rotten Tomatoes – in my defense, I was overruled and I had used my veto too frequently) this was somewhat a controversial decision. The Gomen Servant said no, very politely. It was just not her cup of tea.

The Gomen Servant is always too polite. When she says it was not her cup of tea, what she actually means that she would rather have her nails pulled off one by one with a pair of tweezers.

Considering that I am the only member of the Garoupas with the best taste in movies (disclaimer: self-proclaimed, no member of the Garoupas were actually consulted) due to my so-called artistic and writerly capabilities – one would expect that I would find Bollywood movies ridiculous and tedious.

Of course, if you’ve been reading this blog and know how much I bang on about India, you would have said, ‘Nonsense! This Adlina you’re talking about, whose one of her many lifelong dreams include having a small role in a Bollywood movie!’

For reals, I’d be happy being an extra, standing in the lift with a Bollywood star, pulling out all my acting stops to seem as aloof and disinterested in this lift. I am not just an extra, I am an actor, and I am on this lift. I have a destination and a purpose, and my purpose, as an actor on this lift, is to go down the lift and exit through the lobby.

It’s tough being an actor. All this method acting.

But as I sat down and watched the opening sequence of the movie which involves a very handsome Shah Rukh Khan disarming a bomb sans any protection – a very, very awful thought crossed my mind. The thought was, ‘This is ridiculous. Is the whole movie going to be like this?’

I noticed that the past year has made me somewhat cynical. If anything, that little skip in my step when I walk has disappeared and very little gives me joy these days. I’m bored easily in movies and very rarely moved when people share life stories.

I was worried I was not going to enjoy the movie anymore. You can’t just watch Bollywood as-is, with Western realist eyes. You gotta suspend every damn belief you have, including physics, if physics can even be considered a belief. And then you will be rewarded with something. That something was magic. That magic is a lot like falling in love, like seeing the world in a new light where everything was brand new and exciting again.

The movie crawled on (I’m being unfair, it being a Yash Chopra movie was very well-paced) for ten minutes and I was starting to wonder, where is that magic that made me fall in love with India, with life in the first place? Or have I fallen out of love with magic – that reality has made me a bitter woman, who only finds joy in replacing empty but tasty calories from white flour to wholewheat and only picking cream crackers with high fibre at the grocery store?

Yum. Tastes like cardboard.

And then, suddenly, Katrina Kaif ran to a church, dressed in a beautiful lehenga, her luscious locks cascading down her back as snow fell and I suddenly had this ridiculous, big grin on my face. It was the most ridiculous scene possible – an impossibly beautiful Indian woman, in a lehenga in gorgeous snowy London running towards a Gothic Church.

I get why people love stories, or fall in love with a fictional character. Reality, to be honest, can be quite a disappointment. It can be mundane and the problem is, well, as hard as you may try – the only way you can really escape the bills and taxes and responsibility (aside from playing dead and assuming a new identity – well, there’s not escape there, either. You probably still have to pay bills with your new identity) is escape to fairytales, to fantastic stories of heroes and villains.

I hate people who say things like stories and fairytales are just nonsense that it is better if we get ‘reality’. To paraphrase my English teacher, Mrs. Bach, stories are the truth. It is far more ‘real’ than any of the ‘facts’ presented to us.  As far as I’m concerned, every fairytale, every drama out there – there is an element of truth that we can learn from, be enriched and be inspired by. I personally believe that the inspiration for stories come from reality – and that if magic can exist in a story, it can exist in the real world.

I don’t want to keep banging on about the hard year I had, but it is always there, hanging over like a dark cloud. Sometimes it threatens to rain and sometimes it does pour. Sometimes I tend to forget that this dark cloud will lift, and imagine that the world will always be, a little bit darker than I what I had hoped to be. And then I watch something ridiculous like Katrina Kaif running to the church, and my heart swells. If the magic exists in the movies, it exists in real life.

Just gotta find it.

P/S: In case you’re wondering if the movie is worth watching, the answer is YES! It’s a fun Yash Chopra movie, a little disjointed towards the end, unfortunately and nowhere as tight as my favourite Yash Chopra movie, Rab Ne Bana De Jodi. It has action, it has romance and it has SRK. Need I say more?

Doubt

“The fundamental cause of trouble is that in the modern world the stupid are cocksure while the intelligent are full of doubt”

– Betrand Russell

I actually have about 4 more days in Calcutta to post – if I could get around to posting it. I know some people thoroughly enjoy writing about their holidays, but even as I wrote it, I found it a rather dull experience. But since I’ve been challenging myself fo a while to write about my holidays, I might as well continue on to post the damn thing online. One thing for sure is, travel writer I am not.

Otherwise, I have been extremely busy these past few weeks since I got back from Cal. As some of you may know from my vague tweets that I have been focusing on working on a vague business of mine for a while now. The next post on Calcutta will actually explain that business that I’ve been working on and off for the past year. Let’s just say it was an idea that came in a whim in January 2011 and as a result of that crazy idea, booked a flight and hotels in India and just headed there to pursue said crazy idea.

Last year was spent laying the ground work for the business as well as working on the last vestige of my consulting. I also spent a lot more time last year working as a creative writer. But a business can’t just remain on the ground. This year though, as with my resolution of finishing my work, I really wanted to get that business up and running. And as a result – I’ve been running around looking for shoplots, working on trying to find a place to sell my products, discussing packaging and finding equipment.

All good but all the running around meant I had less time for my writing. And I should be doing what I used to do last year which is to wake up around 5am and write. But what with all the traveling and running around, I am so exhausted that I can’t wake up around 5. As it is, I am already feeling the beginnings of the flu.

I do believe it is not just the running around that is causing the flu. As with everything that truly matters, it fills me up with a lot of self-doubt and trepidation. I want this business to do well, to succeed very much but the risks and stakes, as with any hero’s journey (see The Writer’s Journey, am really not calling myself a hero) is very high.

I would like to think that I am the intelligent and hence the self-doubt, but there are times I would like to be the fool and be cocksure (and not matter that I’ll be heading into trouble). I would love to be cocksure of the business I am working on, and I would love to be cocksure about my writing. As it is, with all this business work, I’ve been neglecting my writing. As much as I imagined myself to be rather corporate before, I have a writer’s soul and not writing is causing me to feel like a shadow of myself.

There are times where I wonder if I have to choose, am I just a writer or am I just a business person? Do I have to give up one facet of me to fulfill the other to the end? Can’t I just have the whole cake and eat it?

I Resolve To…

The internet has been down for two days now. Vogler is next to me on my right while the Iphone 4s (ahem) is next to me on the left. I could, technically, tether the damn thing to my pc but by not doing so, it should theoretically force me to finish Vogler. But despite how much I am learning from Vogler, I can’t help feeling like I’m yanking my ribs out via my throat when I’m reading it.

It’s not that it’s dry or anything – it’s just that. Well, it provokes too much thinking. And my brain can only take in so much – anymore than that, and then I start stacking the cheese in the fridge into a tower. I would use Legos but I don’t have any.

Anyway.

So I procrastinate. By blogging. Well, at the very least, Vogler sits on my right as a dire reminder to finish him. The intention is to finish him before I start writing again. I could write simultaneously but then I’d be busy switching back and forth. I may be able to multitask on a million things but reading is not one of them. I can only read one thing at a time and I can’t write while I read.

So.

It is now the 30th of December. Only 2 days away before the new year. When I was much younger, I used to fret about having New Year plans and all that. I don’t anymore because I used to find the New Year’s reveling quite dull and question every year why I did it. It was much better NOT doing anything except watching the fireworks with loved ones. That is always fun.

What I do like about the New Year are resolutions. Resolutions are fun. Probably because they are like lists and I do very much enjoy creating lists. I even like the little dots on the side of my lists although I have now progressed onto numbered lists. I know, look at me! Life of the party, I am.

But I digress. I am pleased to say that 2011 was the year that I actually kept my resolution. I resolved to lose weight last year and I made a huge effort (pardon the pun) in doing so. I am currently a size 10/12 UK – 12 is a little baggy while 10 is a little tight. I’ve come down from a size 14/16 UK. I have lost an approximate 10 kg? I think. I am not so sure because I fear the weighing scale and resolved never to check it for fear that I start binging again when I see the number. All I do know is that I am lighter and slimmer than before I started university so all is good. I am certainly healthier – the frequency of my asthma attacks have decreased and I recover from illnesses faster.

I could stand to lose a few more pounds but for now, I am happy with my weight. Onto newer resolutions.

My brother pointed out that it would be better to have New Year Goals as opposed to the vague Resolutions. Fair enough – vague ‘resolutions’ like to become a Better Person is impossible to attain. Define better person. Say every year, I have a bad habit of knocking old ladies down in an effort to be the first in line at the Isetan sale – that would make me a horrible person. But what if this year I decided to mumble a brusque ‘sorry’ to that old lady as I bulldoze her down – I suppose that makes me a ‘better person’?

I did apologize.

This year is a recycled resolution but an important resolution nonetheless. This year, I want to complete my novel and have them shipped off to publishers in attempts to get it published. That’s all. Of course, I have other little things up my arsenal that I want to happen like you know, play the piano (vague), experiment on my cooking further (vague), get my other business up and running fully (vague) but what is most important for me – is the novel.

So up, up and away 2012! 2011 had been a very good year and here is to a better one in 2012.

My Short Movie

So…I am currently in bed, with the husband fast asleep next to me. I’m not, my eyes are wide open and I doubt  I can go back to bed anytime soon. I’m coughing slightly – I was already developing a cough on my final few days in London but somehow the sheer excitement had prevented me from falling ill. Of course, now that I’m back in boring old Malaysia, the past one month has finally caught up with me and I feel nearly quite dead.

My brain is still on film-maker mode. Apparently I was mumbling about the various shots that I needed in my sleep and got very confused about where I actually was. I am still very excited about my course, which is a fantastic considering the amount of apprehension that I went through at the beginning.

One of the first things I did when I got home was to upload the movie I directed for the course. Considering we had only 2 hours to shoot this, and about 1.5 days to edit the bugger, I am immensely proud of what I had done. And it is certainly something since it was only one month ago, I had never touched a video camera or an editing suite.

To be fair, I had a fantastic DP who helped me with the shots. I had originally argued with him over the story and the kind of shots I wanted – I prefer framed shots but his arguments were that for such an intense conversation scene, it would be better if it were handheld. We compromised with a still handheld – it gave the dynamism and movement an intense conversation that worked for the scene but not too much that would give me a massive headache.

I worked with really fantastic actors for my shoot. Because the nature of my scene was so dialogue heavy, I needed the actors to be as natural as possible, so I loathed trying to block them. I did try – it did not really work out but in the end, we went with the idea of letting the actors block themselves, as to what felt most normal around them. We rehearsed, positioned the camera where we thought we would get the best angle. It went against a lot of what we were taught (did not quite plan a shot list) but as it turns out it worked for the best.

The scene comes from a story idea that I was hoping to help nurture and develop into a full-fledged screenplay.  It is amazing to see what sparked from an idea to finally be developed into something tangible and can be seen.

For now though, I am going to take a quick break from everything. I’m going to Hong Kong on Wednesday – insane, I know but I’m not going to be thinking of writing or being creative while I’m there. I’m this close to burning out (body is saying bye bye from exhaustion) but once I’m back, it’s time to get creative again. I’ve a few projects on the back burner that needs working on and a kind of hunger to get cracking on this career of mine.

Belated Greetings from London

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.

Ahem.

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.