Tuesday, January 5, 2021

Remembering 2020 (Part 2)

 To read Part 1, click here.

Blogging huh? I recently listened to a Good One podcast episode where the host (Jesse David Fox) spoke to his friend and former fellow blogger Kelly Conaboy about their blogging heydays in the late aughts early tens, and it reminded me of how much I used to care about blogging. I would actively put in the effort to make sure that I wrote on here consistently and would feel bad for going through months without blogging. How I didn't know I actually wanted to be a full-time writer yet at the time, I will never know. I think that is worth exploring, but maybe in a different post. In this post, it's Part 2 of my 2020 wrap up.


So by the time April rolled around, I had already written a full first draft of a play script and I was feeling pretty chuffed about it. I was riding that accomplishment high all lockdown long. Lucky for me, at the beginning of this month, a local production company (RedComm) put out a call for writers to submit their work samples to them for them to choose who could join their first ever online workshop thing. I submitted two things: a sitcom idea and the play script that I had just written the month previous. I ended up getting to join the workshop to develop the sitcom idea.

I was part of 8 participants, and it was held over Zoom, and the workshop was conducted by Malaysian screenwriter Rafidah Abdullah with help from producer and CEO of RedComm Lina Tan as well as tv and film director Shamyl Othman. Basically we worked on our idea in the span of five days and got it to a point where it could be pitched to networks and funders. It was a very eye-opening experience for me, learning how to take the kernel of an idea and developing it to become coherent enough for other people to get what I was trying to do. I learned how to write a logline, a treatment, how to write scenes, how to make an idea "pop". Plus, I also got to listen in on the other writers' ideas and their processes. It was a very cool experience. This experience would also pave the way for me to get a job at RedComm as a writer in September, but we're getting ahead of ourselves here.

Pasca Sini also released DMB as a single in April (20 haribulan 4, 420 gitu). DMB has been quite well received by many people in our listenership. It's not stacking the kind of numbers that Dichotomy did, but it's definitely looking like it's gonna be a staple at our live shows nanti when we can do that again.


May was mostly empty in terms of activities for me. I got to go back into the Ripple office by the middle of the month, after working from home for two months. It was nice to be able to get out of the house again, and it was nice that the number of cases at the time were consistently below a hundred a day (remember those days? Good times). I liked being able to be around work friends again, feeling a little bit more normal as the days went by. It was strange in the beginning of course. At any one time at the office, there weren't more than ten people (from an original fifty), and we were distancing from each other physically. But we got to shoot in the studio again, so that was cool.

Also, Pasca Sini organised our very first online streaming gig at Angkasa Space. We roped in our friends Motherwit and W/SH to play with us too. It was our first time in a long long time playing music together again, and it felt good to be able to do that again, but it also felt super strange playing a show that had no audience members, just camera crew there. Also, my in ear monitor was on the fritz throughout the show, so I wasn't able to enjoy it as much as I would have liked. But overall, it was a super nice time to be able to play music again with the band after going such a long time without playing anything.


There weren't much going on in June for me either. I recorded a storytelling video for Kaki Seni in which I read from a book called Shadows that was written by Maya Zaharudin and illustrated by Shufitri Mohd Shukardi. The experience was cool, as it felt like I was doing voice-over work for cartoons. I got to make up different voices for different characters and play around with my voice in fun ways. But because I hadn't used my voice that intensely in such a long time, by the end of the second take of reading, my voice was really cracking up, and I'm glad we didn't have to do it a third time.

Besides that, this was also the first time the state borders had opened up, so my family met up in Kuala Krai, Kelantan to visit my grandfather who had recently lost his wife (my grandmother) during the lockdowns. I remember trying to go to Kuala Krai the first time while the borders were still closed the month previous, and we were turned away by police as we were entering Bentong, Pahang.

It was cool to be able to gather with my parents and brothers again. We hung out as we do whenever we're in Kuala Krai, tried to teman Tok Ayah and visited Nenek's grave.

Sometime towards the end of this month was also the first time I got to shoot The Nasi Kandar Show with DestinasiTV. They texted me asking if I'd be interested in hosting for a new show of theirs and I was like "You want to pay me to eat and talk in front of a camera? Sure, why not?" I'll talk about it some more in July.


This was the month in which I stopped being a part of Thelaki and Ripple Media. I had been there for almost two years (since September 2018), and it was time for me to move on and see what other things I could do outside of creating videos for the internet. I even made a farewell video for Thelaki's Youtube viewers. On my last day, I wrote personalised hand-written letters to everyone I cared about in the office thanking them for being a part of my life in their respective capacities. I had never done such a thing, and it felt nice to do. I think I'll keep the practice for myself in the future. It was a cool two years of my life, learning for myself that there is a future for me in a predominantly creative field. I got to do some pretty cool things with some pretty cool people. I met some amazing people who will forever stay in my thoughts and prayers. 

July was also the first time I got hired to write as a freelance for a TV show (the show title sounds like Slub Milky Mouth). I was tasked to write three episodes, and this was a massive learning experience for me as well. I got to participate in writer's room discussions. I got to pitch ideas, get my ideas shot down, learn the script format for this particular show and draw from my teacher training to come up with games that could be used for the show.

Besides that, I got to speak on a forum in Publika that discussed the topic of "Breaking Perspectives About Good Influencers In Malaysia". I was the only person in the panel who had no idea what he was talking about, but at least I was able to make the socially-distanced audience laugh a handful of times throughout the forum thing, so that was cool.

And another thing that happened in July was my first time ever being involved in a live sketch comedy show. I was pulled in by Harith Iskander to rehearse for and perform at the Blackbox in Publika a show called Lawak Mantul, which was staged on the 24th of July. It was a fun experience, as I got to work with the funniest people I know (such as Mozek, Farid, Mad Sabah, Abe, Prakash, etc.) in front of a receptive and socially distanced audience. The show was also streamed live on Facebook, or so I was told. There are a few clips from it here. I talked about it on a Mentol Pecah podcast episode and went into detail about how the experience was for me. You can listen to it here if you'd like.

This month was also the month in which I went to see a psychiatrist for the first time. I went to Pusat Perubatan Universiti Malaya with my wife, and we both met doctors that day. Taka got diagnosed with Bipolar 2 and got medication. My diagnosis was more "low mood" or something or other, nothing too serious that needed any medication. We spoke about this at length in a Buah Mulut podcast episode, if you're interested in the whole process.

This was also when we went to Perak to shoot a few more episodes of The Nasi Kandar Show. I got to bring Taka along on this trip and it became like a work trip for us, as during the day I'd be shooting the episodes, and in the evenings we had time to go around Ipoh, walk around and see the sights together. It was a nice time to spend with each other, and the food was nice. The Nasi Kandar Show has allowed me to be in the more public public eye since the beginning of IniAnwarHadi, as I started being recognised by people I wouldn't expect to recognise me (mostly people in the food biz, but also the layperson who watches Youtube content). I felt like I was getting exposure outside my niche for a bit, and it felt familiar but also strange at the same time.

All in all, quite an eventful July ya nampaknya?


August was taken up by mostly writing scripts for the aforementioned show. I did a bunch of writing at a new space that I like called Safehouse KL. It's in TTDI and it used to be IntunNation. It's a chill place and I liked being there. It felt like I was a cool kid doing work among other cool kids. Boleh la takat nak pretend.

I went to watch a live standup show by Mad Sabah. He's one of the best standup comedians in Malaysia right now, and the hour that he delivered that night really was such a fun and sakit perut gelak kinda night. I went with Taka, and she enjoyed it very much as well. I recommend catching his standup whenever things open back up again.

I also went on a family vacation in Melaka during this month. My mother's side of the family organised a family trip for us to go to Melaka. We rented a homestay type place and stayed there for a weekend. We played games and baca Yasin and ate and chilled. It was a nice time.

The Pinball Monkeys also performed on stage for the first time since lockdown in August. I don't remember much of the show, as I am wont to do, but I do know that it felt great to be doing improv again with the Pinball Monkeys compadres. 

At the end of the month, Pinball Monkeys launched our Patreon page and improvised sketch comedy podcast. It's a weekly podcast where each episode is 20-30 minutes of improvised silliness made by Mozek, Farid and myself. We have so much fun making it, foreal. And in this iteration of the podcast, we feel like we've finally found a form and rhythm that works for us, in which we get to consistently make stuff that we like and let other people listen to them.


A lot of September was taken up by theatre rehearsals. I was involved in two out of the seven short plays in the show called Romansiprokal: Darah Malam Pertama and Fault Sapa. All the short plays were ones written by the Penang playwright Yusof Bakar. I went to Revolution Stage quite regularly to rehearse the plays and it was good to be able to spend time with my theatre director friends again.

I also attended a local film festival at this time. It was called Pesta Filem Kita and it was held at Ruang by Think City KL on the 12th of September. I was able to sit in on a masterclass by U-Wei Hajisaari, listen to some forums, talked a little bit tu Amir Muhammad, and watch a handful of short films made by local film makers. It was a nice experience, but I did end up feeling rather lonely, as I did not go with any friends (I don't even know who in my friend list would even be remotely interested in going to this type of thing) and although I met a few acquaintances when I was there, it did feel like a solo activity for me in the end, which was fine, but I did long to feel like I belonged, as can be easily predicted.

On the 15th, it was my first day of being a full time writer at RedComm. Towards the end of August, I had gotten really antsy about my job prospects. I knew that I wanted to be a full time writer, but how and where? I had no idea. I had applied to a bunch of places to become a writer, and in my desperation I even ended up sending in my resume to places that needed content creators. But I knew I wanted to be a script writer. I wanted to write for the screen. I had been wanting to write for the screen for a long long time. And I finally got to make it my full time job. It felt super nice and reaffirming and satisfying and anxiety-alleviating. I'm here now. I'm so grateful.

Pinball Monkeys performed once at The Joke Factory while still continuing to upload weekly sketches on our Patreon page. Pasca Sini also performed at a live stream show called Sadtember with some other local rock bands in the line up. I don't know if they're ever going to release the full show, but here is us playing DMB on the night.


I started October with staging the Romansiprokal plays. It was an anxiety-inducing time also, since Covid cases were going back up to triple digits. On top of that, I was down but not out with a runny nose and cold (it wasn't Covid, but I still didn't want to get my fellow theatre pals to catch what I was having, so I had my mask on almost all of the time). It was nice to be able to do theatre again, but our run of shows had to be cut short since the number of Covid cases had made it untenable for us to continue with the staging anymore. It was sad, but it was also the right thing to do.

Besides that, Pasca Sini recorded a live session at Reka Karya for the Youtube channel (click here to watch). It was a fun time. We also shot the music video for our song Fikir Sebelum Bertindak in the later half of this month. It was shot at Petai Belalang studio, and it was also a fun time recording that one.

I also spent a lot of this month writing my first telemovie script (it's a musical, too). It hasn't been shot yet, as of this time of writing, but I am excited to see how it turns out.


This month was taken up by a lot of rehearsals for the aforementioned musical that I wrote. I didn't do much at the rehearsals, since the cast was doing a lot of dance practice. I just ended up sitting in a corner and writing drafts for other scripts I was working on at the time. 

I also guested for two different podcasts that weren't Mentol Pecah. Once for the Mulut Murai podcast made by the people at Safehouse (I like this episode muchly). The other is for the How To Malay podcast, with Mozek and Qam (this was also fun).

Pasca Sini released our first full-length album called Emo Department on all streaming platforms on the 20th of November. It consists of twelve tracks that we have been working on since 2018 with the help of our producer and friend, Shaheir Jibin. We really like how the album turned out. It's a bummer that we can't tour it, but we look forward to playing the songs on the album on stage whenever it is safe again to do so. Until then, have a listen to it and be emo with us.


The final month of the year, I was mostly on the set of Slub Milky Mouth (bukan nama sebenar), making sure that any rewriting could be done quickly and scriptwriterly. It was a new experience for me, seeing a show being shot on a multi-cam setup in a huge closed studio. Each member of the cast was very talented and sung and danced their way to getting the job done.

Besides that shoot, I was also involved in a script-reading workshop-type thingy at Lot'ng for a play that is scheduled to be staged sometime in the middle of 2021. We met up three times in three weeks and we helped the playwright hear what his script sounded like out-loud so that he can make adjustments where he feels necessary. I look forward to going into rehearsals for that play, as the cast members seem super cool and I'd get to work with Chris the director again.

Right after the shoot of that Milky Mouth show, we started shooting for the educational show I had been writing a script for. I was on set for the episodes that I wrote to make sure that the cast pronounced things correctly and that they got all the facts straight. I was also there to rewrite what needed to be rewritten. It was a huge learning experience to me in terms of finding out what is helpful and not helpful for a writer to do in their script. I also got to see some actors in action, and make up my mind about how to go about being an actor in the future if I were to ever be cast in a screen thing nanti (primarily learn my lines well before coming on set, and listen very carefully to what the director has to say).

Pinball Monkeys also published our first comedy album called Semua On The Spot. It is a collection of all our favourite sketches that we've made at our Patreon page, and we like it very much. We had so much fun making the sketches, and we hope you give it a listen to have just as much fun as we had.


And that about wraps it up for my 2020. It has been a sucky year, it's true. I didn't get to tour with Pasca Sini, I couldn't perform more shows with Pinball Monkeys, I couldn't hang out with my friends, I couldn't travel anywhere most of the time. But it's also been a year of blessings for me. I finally got a job a screenwriter, I got to meet some amazing people, I got to be a part of the best comedy podcast in Malaysia, I was able to be a part of publishing both a music album and a comedy album, I got to spend a lot of time with my wife, I got to spend quality time with my family and friends and I learned how to cook. There is still much to be grateful for in my life.

I hope your 2020 wasn't too bad either. May 2021 bring us more joy and serotonin.

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