Monday, February 12, 2018

Directing Workshop: Week 5

So the last class was a Sunday afternoon class, which meant that I was a hungry and sleepy person before and after the class. I forgot that I was sleepy when the class started, since we talk about listen to things I care about as a person right now. I alleviated my hunger midway through the class by excusing myself to go eat in the middle of the class. Mm, food. If I were a better manager of my own time, I would have eaten before going to the class, but I manage my time terribly, so I go eat only when the gastric kicks in.

We started off by talking about how there were conflicts and crises in stories. Conflicts were things that were in the way of our main character’s main goal. Crises are small(er) conflicts along the way that the main character may or may not engage in, but ultimately do not hinder the main character from reaching the main goal.

We were supposed to bring and present our chosen 15-minute scripts to the rest of the class, telling the class what our script’s all about, the theme explored in it, the conflict and the crisis on the pages. We spent a good forty-five minutes or so going round the group presenting our scripts to the rest of the group/

The script I have chosen is called “Malam Pertama”, written by Ridhwan Saidi. It’s about two strangers who just got married and are going through their first night together, but they speak different languages so there’s a translator there with them in their bedroom translating for them. I think the main theme explored is the awkwardness of the first night of a marriage between two strangers. Their main goals are to get to know each other better. The main conflict is the difference in language. The crisis is the translator, who is both the facilitator and also the factor that enhances the awkwardness in the bedroom.

What I’ve gathered from trying to analyse and listening to all the other analyses of 15-minute scripts is that short plays (or even short stories) don’t necessarily fit into a traditional story mould (a traditional story mould being the story has a beginning, middle and end). A short story sometimes just wants to point a thing out, such as mine wanting to point out an awkward thing by making it absurd. Some short stories can be character-centric, saying “isn’t this character interesting/weird?” by showing how the character is interesting or weird. Other scripts still can just aim to deliver an image into the audience’s mind, showing for example, a scene right after a car crash.

I guess one can mould a series of events into a beginning, middle and end, and if the script doesn’t connect the dots very well in the script, or maybe connect them in a way that doesn’t suit the director’s taste, then the director would be able to shape it into a form that more pleases them. But of course, if the initial form on the page is displeasing to the director, why did the director choose the story in the first place? Maybe they got paid? Maybe they weren’t aware what they were doing? Who knows?

We also talked about performance concepts and performance forms at the very end. Performance form being a choice from realistic, experimental, pantomime, musicals, et cetera, and performance concept being the art pieces that surround and inform the staging of the play (such as music, advertising, mood, lighting, graphics, et cetera). I don’t think there’s much to add on that.

Next week will be a week off, because of the Chinese New Year holidays, so we’ll resume classes the week after that. Until then,


Friday, February 9, 2018

Directing Workshop: Week 4

So in this latest session we started talking about how to analyse a script, from the apparent to the less-than-apparent. What is apparent on the page are things such as the title of a script, its writer, the characters in it, the stage directions, etc.

To get to the less-than-apparent stuff, Abang Wan asked us to use questions as the key to gaining access to it, mainly the 5Ws and 1H (what, where, who, when, why, how). By asking all these questions, we get to dive deeper into a script and therefore gain a better sense of what the script is trying to do and what story it's trying to tell.

Abang Wan is of the school of thought that when a script goes from the page to the stage, the director is the main story-teller (instead of the playwright), so there are certain liberties that the director is able to take in order to tell a story on a stage. However, before the director can take those liberties, they have to respect the script by analysing it as thoroughly as they can.

The director must get to know the playwright, why they wrote a certain piece, what their thoughts are, what scripts were written by the same playwright  around the same time, what the playwright's critics say about them, what their tendencies are, what they value in a story, what environment were they writing in, and so on and so forth. This is done to respect the writer and understand the core of the written story.

Once that step is done, a director can start diving into the theme of the script. What is the main thing that the script is trying to say? What are the recurring ideas in it? The director decides whether or not they want to keep the main theme. If not, then the director has to find a way to highlight different themes within the same story (not the easiest thing to do, I imagine).

The director also has to find out what questions are being raised by the script. These questions can form the main Acts in the story, as discussed in this Lessons From The Screenplay video here. I like the idea that is put forward by Michael in the video, that Acts are questions that are asked by the story and an Act beginning when the question is first asked and an Act ending when it is answered.

A director also needs to analyse the characters in the story. A director needs to understand their motivations, why they say things the way they say them, their relationships with each other, their relationships with themselves, etc. A director ideally needs to get to a point where they know the characters even better than their actors will. This is so that the roles are cast as well as they can be, and any questions that the actors might have about anything relating to their characters can be answered by the director without wasting much of either's time.

After rereading my notes, I've noticed that in the four weeks we've been going for this workshop, there's not a whole lot about the elements of story in our discussions. We don't talk much about what a story consists of, story structure, what makes for a good story, and similar questions geared towards servicing story. Given that my understanding of the director's job as being the main story-teller, I find this lack of story-related questions a bit peculiar.

But at the very end of my notes for this week, I wrote "find out matlamat utama kita punya watak utama, dana apa yang menghalang dia daripada matlamatnya," and that's like the first thing about what makes most stories, stories: a character wanting a thing, but is kept from the thing by an obstacle or obstacles. So that's comforting. I hope more story-centric discussions happen in the coming classes. I'll also have to do my part by asking story-related questions, if those discussions are going to manifest themselves.


Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Directing Workshop: Week 3

So I didn’t go to the workshop last week because my brother got engaged, so I was there to be a part of that important moment of his life. I wasn’t the only one who wasn’t able to attend. Fortunately for us, the first thing that was discussed during this third session was what was done the previous week. 

The group said last week they continued the activity that was done in the first week, which was the draw/explain activity thing. Abang Wan also started talking about the roles of the director, but didn’t elaborate too much on it (since I’m guessing they ran out of time?).

This week, Abang Wan continued with his explanation of what the roles of the director include, and focussed on “choosing the script”. He said the director has  few things to consider before choosing a script, even if they liked it. Things such as whether or not the director is equipped in terms of knowledge, time and money to manifest the script on stage are important to consider.

One person asked if it was okay that a director chose a script that had already been staged and staged it exactly the same way (albeit with different actors) as its predecessor. Abang Wan didn’t like the idea, but it wasn’t wrong per se. Then we got into a discussion into whether or not it was okay.

I posited that it would be as if a person painted a painting that had already been painted before, in exactly the same way that it had been painted. It wouldn’t be wrong, per se to do that, but people would definitely put the value of the original higher than the value of the copy. It would be wrong, however, if the painter copy tried to pass it on as an original work. That’s a person taking credit where credit is not due, a corrupt practice indeed. The person making the copy needs to be transparent and honest about their work and clarify that it is indeed a copy and accept the feedback for what it is.

One person put forward that because a previous work had already been staged, there’s no reason to do it again the exact same way it was done in the past. They said that even movie remakes put their own spin on the story being told, because there’s not much point in telling the same story twice in the exact same way.

I suggested that because of the temporary nature of theatre performances, there might be a solid reason for a story to be restaged in the same way. Because what is performed on the stage begins and ends with the staging within that hour or two, and it’s not recorded on film or tv, then staging it again could be bringing the story to new, younger audiences. 

A play that I watched and loved when I was twelve might not continue to be told by the time I turn 28, and so out of love towards to play and what it had done to me, I would probably want to retell the story so that new twelve year olds might be able to watch and experience it in as close a way as I had all those years ago. In that regard, re-staging a play seems well-justified. But again, the onus is on the director to make it clear that it is a re-staging of an original work done by such and such so as to be transparent about the work of art.

That was a nice little discussion we had near the end of the session. Next week we are expected to bring along 15-20 minute scripts to the session. What we’ll do with them, I don’t quite know yet. I guess we’ll have to wait and see.

Until then, cheers.

Monday, January 22, 2018

Get To Know Me Again (21-30)

Here’s the third and final part of the Get To Know Me thingy where I answer questions 21-30. For answers to questions 11-20, click here. For answers to questions 1-10, click here.


21. I think every time the Auditor General of Malaysia publishes their report for the year, I get this overwhelming sense of “man, banyaknya duit yang dibazirkan begitu sahaja.” The marked up costs that the Government spends on things is borderline criminal, and I don’t know who should be taking responsibility for all that waste. 

Also, when we came back to Malaysia from Sydney, we received the receipt for our tickets, and we found out that each economy class ticket cost around RM12,000. That was outrageous to us. We put in a few inquiries as to why it cost so much. Never got an answer.

22. That a person may bear the sins made by another person.

23. Theatre practice has always been a nice place to meet new people, for me. Comedy shows may also turn out the same, if somebody introduces me to new people. I find people in theatre and comedy pleasant and easy to have fun with.

24. My favourite food would be nasi dagang. What I crave changes from time to time. I just ate a nasi lemak just now, so I’m craving nothing in particular. I think the thing I’ve had to stop myself from eating too often is KFC. Man that stuff’s so unhealthy, but so goooooooood.

25. I don’t re-watch tv shows, unless they’re reruns and nothing else is on. Ever since I’ve depended solely on Netflix for my shows, I haven’t returned to any other show except Breaking Bad and Rick & Morty.

26. This is a question I wish my friends would answer instead of me. But if I had to say something, probably bad puns, slow speech speed and soft-spokenness.

27. If I had to name a name, Qayyum would probably be it, even though I think he would disagree. But I think all of my friends are unlike me. Qayyum included.

28. The most traumatising moment of my life happened when I was studying in Sydney. A person made a fake Grindr account (Grindr is like Tinder, but specially for gay people) using my pictures that they took off of Facebook and details that they knew about me, including my phone number and home address. I received no less than ten strangers’ text a day ranging from “hi” to “sex?” for about three days. On the third day, one person even came to my house and wanted to come in. I turned him away, and stayed scared for the rest of the week. I changed my phone number shortly afterwards. I reported the account and got it shut down after a while. I even went to the police to see what I could do about it, to which I got an encouraging “there’s nothing we can do about it,” from the people in uniforms. It speaks to my privilege that this was the worst I got it. Many people have it way worse, and I empathise with them.

29. I learned this from a Jeffrey Archer book: be on time. If you can’t be on time, be early.

30. I’ll probably never get married again. Once is enough to last me a lifetime.


That was nice. I got to write. Yay!

I hope it wasn’t too boring for you, dear reader.


Get To Know Me Again (11-20)

Here are my answers to questions 11-20. Click here to read questions 1-10.


11. In most situations where it’s a social gathering, but I don’t know anyone there, or more realistically, the person I do know is busy talking to someone else or doing some other important thing. Like when it’s a kenduri and the only person I know is the groom/bride. So then I’d be like, “eat, don’t make eye contact with anyone, eat, don’t make eye contact with anyone, oh no I made eye contact with someone, smile, nod, continue eating, don’t make that mistake again.”

Equally as out of place for me is when everyone else there has work to do but not me. No one gave me a task to do, so I’d just be there looking at people being busy. That’s a weird spot to be in. I just wish somebody would give me something to do so that I don’t stand out as this lazy person who’s only shaking his leg and checking his phone every five seconds. I find myself in this situation a lot when it’s raya korban season and all the Men would be cutting up the cow and I’d be there without a knife, awkwardly just watching all these Manly Men go to work. Sometimes a considerate Aunty would give me something to do, and I’m always thankful for that.

12. I think I’m pretty unapologetic about what I like, in terms of art. But sejak kebelakangan ni there have been revelations about artists doing terrible things, and those are the ones I find tougher to admit to liking. Some examples would be Louis CK and Kevin Spacey. They have done terrible things, and I hope they never do those things again, but I can’t say that I’m no longer a fan of their past works.

13. Every time I see people littering, I get really angry inside. Another thing that can get me on a rant is ignorant people who talk about a thing as if they were the leading authority about it. Oh man do I dislike that.

14. I don’t know that I “belong” in any fandom per se, but I am a fan of certain things that a lot of other people are also a fan of (such as the Arctic Monkeys, Rick & Morty and Dynamic Banter). I guess for the former two, it’s that some people tend to think that just because they are a fan of that certain thing, it makes them better than other people who aren’t fans of that thing. I make Dynamic Banter the exception in this example because I’m pretty confident that people who are fans of that podcast are aware about how weird their taste in podcasts is, so they keep it to themselves and to each other most of the times. But I can’t say that I have met another living breathing fan of the podcast ever, so I don’t really know. This is just based on feel alone.

15. I sleep, most of the times. If that doesn’t work, I watch some stuff on Netflix. If that doesn’t work, I go meet up with friends.

16. I think it would be the day when I spent the whole day with my wife indoors watching Stranger Things 2. That was a nice day. But of course, too much of a good thing will turn into a bad thing (too much water, you drown. Too much food, you die. Etc), so any good day will turn into a nightmare jugak if I have to relive it everyday (but you know this).

17. Almost immediately, but I am almost immediately ready to be proven wrong as well. I don’t think I can refrain from judging people immediately, because I think that’s just how I am wired. But I try to keep my judgements to myself at all times, unless people ask me about them. If it’s negative, I’d be reluctant to answer.

18. Nasi lemak, a laptop, a guitar and a bed.

19. Nothing quite jumps out to me as the most satisfying thing I’ve done, but I have done things that I’ve found satisfying. Every time I finish a writing project is a satisfying feeling. A lot of times when I write a song to completion, it is satisfying. When I’ve successfully staged a play, it is satisfying. A good game of rugby is satisfying as well.

20. Snakes. Or hamsters. Imagine whacking a piƱata as hard as you can, only to find hamsters in it. You just killed a whole bunch of hamsters. 

Or bombs that explode when you hit them. 

Or your bills for the month. 

Or a collection of your Facebook statuses from 2009.


The next post shall be the answers to questions 21-30 (click here to read 21-30).


Get To Know Me Again (1-10)

So I saw that people were answering questions from this picture thingy on the twitters and I wanted to do it too, but as some might know, I don't like the concept of likes in return for effort, so I'll just answer all the questions here in this post because I WANT TO.

1. Basically it's just my Youtube name twitterified. Why that became my Youtube username was because apparently AnwarHadi was taken, and I didn't like the idea of numbers in a username, so I got around that by using "ini".

2. A lot of people have inspired me throughout my life. But I guess the question is in present tense, so the people that I can think of who inspire me right now include Mike Falzone, Scott Aukerman, Haruki Murakami, Joe Swanberg, as well as John and Hank Green.

Mike Falzone is a person who makes videos on Youtube, is a stand-up comedian in LA, and runs two of my favourite podcasts (Welcome To Our Podcast and Dynamic Banter). He's funny, honest and an unrelentingly kind person. I don't know how he does it, but he keeps making videos and podcasts that are not only entertaining, but provides perspective well beyond his years. I believe he thinks deeply about life around him and the relationships he has with people and is able to deliver advice in the most admiral way possible, with a good dose of humour and reality.

Scott Aukerman is a comedian, podcast host, tv show host and tv producer. He hosts my favourite podcast of all time: Comedy Bang Bang! Through listening to him, I have been able to be more and more comfortable with my own sense of humour. He has shown me what it means to be unashamedly yourself and honest with what I think is funny and rolling with it, not apologising to anyone about what weird things I find funny (this mostly relates to word-association stuff). He's loads of fun and is incredibly competent at keeping a conversation going while always finding a way to throw in as many stupid jokes he can fit into it. 

Haruki Murakami is an author. Every time I read any of his writing, I come away rejuvenated with a desire to write. I don't know what it is about his way with words, but it allows me to tap into my own creativity and makes me go "there is no right way to write, so just write."

I mainly know Joe Swanberg from his work on Netflix's original series "Easy". I love the series, and I want to be able to write and direct stories like that one day in the future, telling the stories of my people in what feels like an honest, heartfelt and sincere way.

John and Hank Green are among other things, people who make videos on Youtube, writers, entrepreneurs, and podcast hosts. I mostly spend time with them through their podcast "Dear Hank and John" (or as John likes to think of it, Dear John and Hank). It's a comedy podcast about death where I get my dose of dubious advice as well as the latest news from Mars and AFC Wimbledon. I love how wise, funny and honest they are on the podcast, and I can only hope to be able to be that way in a decade's time.

3. I do more than I don't. I'd rather people have a positive view of me than a negative one, and that sort of dictates the way I treat other people, to a certain extent. But I am also a fan of living my truth, and if I am unhappy about certain things from certain people, I let it be known when it is asked of me. I try my best not to be hurtful, but sometimes my personal weaknesses (such as my inability to articulate my feelings, my bad choice of words, my carelessness, etc.) end up hurting people I'd rather not hurt. 

4. Right now, starting my career as a non-teacher.

5. Be kind to people.

6. I have three: writer, actor, musician. If I can be all three at the same time, that would be my dream job.

7. Maybe Holden Caulfield from Catcher In The Rye, but as a middle-aged adult. I'd like to know how he views the world now, how he tries to help (or not help), and just have a nice long conversation with him over coffee or tea.

8. My earliest ambition that I can remember was to be a pilot. I loved it whenever planes passed overhead (which kid doesn't, kan?),  and I would stare at them until they got out of sight. I was fortunate enough as well to be able to go on a few plane rides as a kid, and I loved the experience. I kept that as my answer to "what is your ambition?" until I was 15.

9. I don't really identify as any specific cartoon characters right now, but maybe Bojack Horseman would be the closest one I can relate to (without the being rich and famous part, of course).

10. There are plenty on my list of skills-to-work-on, but if I had to choose one, it would be the ability to write 5000 words of fiction in 6 hours everyday without fail. The more realistic version of this is of course somewhere nearer 500 words a day.

I'll work on these ten questions at a time, so the next post will discuss questions 11-20 (click here to read 11-20), and the one after that would be 21-30 (click here to read 21-30).


Sunday, January 14, 2018

Directing Workshop: Week 1

So this year I decided to sign myself up for a theatre directing workshop. It's organised by the good people of Revolution Stage (Bandar Utama). It involves weekly classes that span six months, and by the end of the workshop, each participant will get a chance to direct a real play that will be open to the public. I am one of the ten people that have signed up and I hope to learn a whole bunch from this experience.

I found out about this workshop through following Revolution Stage's instagram account. They posted about it and I immediately signed myself up, since being involved in theatre is a thing I want to do more and more of. Plus, directing is something I'd like to be able to do down the line, so it makes sense for me to learn about it sooner rather than later so that I am ready if and when those opportunities arise. I am going to use this blog to journal my experience of the workshop and reflect on what I have learned so that I don't forget everything I'll be learning from this programme.

Yesterday was the first class of the six-month workshop, and I had a good experience. We introduced ourselves to each other and shared why we signed up for the workshop, and then the instructor introduced himself. His name is Khairunazwan Rodzy (I'll call him Abang Wan) and he's been in the theatre game all his undergraduate and professional life, which amounts to a couple of decades' worth of experience. He's directed everything from the smallest to the biggest of stages, and has multiple Istana Budaya play directing credits to his name. He's a low-key, chill kinda guy with a great sense of humour.

One of the first questions we had a go of answering around the circle was "What is a director? Apa itu pengarah?" We got a range of answers from "a director is a person who directs" to "a director is a leader". My answer was: a director is the main story-teller.

I listen to podcasts regularly, and one of the genres of podcasting that I've been listening to more and more these past few weeks have been interviews with screenwriters and directors. One of the main things these highly successful professionals keep going back to is story-telling and the art/craft of story-telling, so it has shaped my understanding of their jobs as being first, story-tellers. It's just that their chosen medium of story-telling is film and tv that make them directors. And that makes sense to me.

People trust the director to tell the story the best way they can, and that's why the director gets to call the shots; because of that trust other people have in them to tell the story in an effective way, by putting the camera here versus there, and getting the actor to say these things versus those things. It's all to service the story, serving the purpose of story-telling.

Directors aren't the only story-tellers on set, of course. There are the actors, whose job it is to tell the story of their characters, the art director, whose job it is to tell the story of the settings the stories take place in, et cetera. And when a script is put in front of these story-tellers, all of them read it differently, because they're different people with naturally differing points of view. If one script is put in front of ten people, then ten different ways of telling the stories come out. It's the directors job to pull all these story-tellers together and say "okay, this is the story we want to tell, and we're going to tell it like this. Everyone needs to be pointing in this same direction, to achieve this thing, this story," and a good director is able to do this well, in my opinion.

One of the activities we did that I liked demonstrated how important it is that the director is able to communicate their thoughts to their team effectively. Each of the ten participants had to draw a picture depicting a story that was written by somebody else. Then one by one, we went to the front of the class and get the other participants to draw exactly what we drew on our piece of paper just by using the spoken word. We weren't allowed to use gestures or show our picture to the rest of the class.

It was a nice activity that showed to me how important it is for the director to be able to convey both the big picture and the small picture to their team. If all a director ever talks about is one of them, then people wouldn't be able to carry out the task quite as well. It's when everyone on the team is on the same page about what big picture they're drawing and what smaller pictures they're focussing on at any one time are they able to craft what the director intended all along. Directors really have to be mad-skilled communicators to be able to do their jobs well, in my opinion.

I'm looking forward to the next class and discovering what we'll be learning in it. I'm also looking forward to bringing snacks (because a three-hour workshop does work up an appetite) to share with the rest of the class.

Here's to communicating clearly.