So here we are again, with the year wrap up. I did this first in 2017 and continued in 2018. I have grown to like this activity very much because it will allow me to convince myself that I didn't just sit on my ass and do nothing for 300 days straight, as my mind would have me believe. It allows me to see where I have fallen short, and where I have done okay, and be grateful for all of it. I also get to be thankful for all the people that have been responsible for making the things happen, and that counts for a lot. To look back at my life with both a critical and a kind eye is something I aspire to, and this exercise is an attempt at fulfilling that aspiration.
Butt first, let's revisit the three things I said I wanted to get done in 2019:
1. Write three short plays. I certainly did no such thing. I instead found myself writing weekly current-events-type things for Thelaki Show, in which would include two short skits that were aimed at making people laugh, or at least lol in our direction. Do I feel bad that I didn't end up writing three short plays? Totally. But did I end up feeling like this whole year has gone by without me ever writing anything? Not exactly. I wrote for work, and it was hard, and a lot of the things I ended up putting on the page and on the screen I ended feeling pretty okay about, so I'm not too bummed about it really.
2. Submit short film for Short and Sweet. It's laughable how not done this ended up getting. I didn't even end up being in the theatre category for anything (although I was offered a role in one play that I had to turn down because of scheduling issues). Short and Sweet ended up being so far back in my list of priorities this year, that I absolutely forgot that it was a thing I wanted to do langsung. Again, I sooth myself from this failure by reminding myself that I did end up writing, producing and acting in a handful of online ads for clients (such as this one or this one) who hired Thelaki to make videos for them, and that kind of feels like making short films (albeit less narrative-driven, more iklan-like). They all felt very DIY in the sense that our team was tiny tiny (all of three people including myself, usually) and we usually were not allowed a whole lot of time to make these videos (typically less than three weeks from conception to upload), and I wrote scripts and made storyboards and everything, so that's something to feel okay about, I guess?
3. Act in more things. I did not put in a whole lot of effort in going to auditions for stuff throughout this year (because I guess I've had my heart broken too many times by the process, revealing that I am a fragile fragile boi), and all the acting gigs I did end up acquiring were stuff with people who were already familiar with my work and wanted to work with me. I also feel like I acted a lot for the stuff I was doing with Thelaki, particularly the odd sketch or two in certain TLOGS, if not for the Thelaki Show stuff. I was part of stage projects that were great, such as Playing God, Syyy! and Nadirah, and short films that were great such as Ralat and Benevolent Ba, all of which had great directors at the helm, so I am grateful for the opportunity to contribute.
Now that those three things have been addressed, let's take a look-see at what 2019 actually had in store for little old me:
I kicked the year off by being part of Pasca Sini's music video shoot for our latest single called Pola Pikir Positif. We (as in our bassist and my brother, Boy and our band manager Arep) rented out a nice-ass house in Taman Tun Dr Ismail and we spent the whole day there just recording the music video for that. I wasn't too tight on the git-fiddle when it came to playing that song, but by the end of the day of recording that music video, we had played it so many times that I ended up being able to play the whole song with my eyes closed. It turns out making a music video for a song really makes you practice the song many, many times. It was our first time recording a "proper" music video in the sense that we hired an external music video director to shoot and edit it, rented a location to shoot it, hired make-up and set designers (thank you Hannah and friends), so it was all in all a fun albeit tiring experience.
Pasca Sini ended up playing two shows this month: one at Rumah Api (our first ever at the legendary venue, to an underwhelming reception if I may say so myself) and one at LiveFact, so that was cool beans.
Over at Thelaki, two notable videos ended up making somewhat of a splash by our standards, which were the Maitry Burger Lembah Klang video and the first Maitry Cabaran Jangan Gelak video (which ended up being our most viewed video of all time as of December 2019 at 264k views), so that was cool. I remember pitching the idea of a Try Not To Laugh Challenge video to our Brand Lead and him saying "okay, cool, go ahead", and being surprised at how well-received it ended up getting like months after it had been published. This video alongside the Lelaki Tengok Kpop video taught me that a video can reach its audience later in its life than intended, as I had previously thought that if a video didn't take off within a week of being uploaded, it was a flop. Rupa-rupanya tidak. It can gain lots of viewers even after months of being online, and that views for certain videos comes in waves, as long as those videos are not really time-sensitive.
For a significant part of February, I tried not eating rice at all for a month. It had always been something I was curious about but afraid to try out because of my overwhelming love for rice in all its edible forms. I finally did it this month because I thought it was a good video idea, like one of those Buzzfeed-type do-a-thing-for-a-month-and-see-what-happens type videos that tend to gain a rather large viewership. I started in the final week of January and finished in the final week of February, and recorded the whole journey (although the video did end up being uploaded in March). I was glad that I did it, although I didn't have too much fun doing it as I was missing rice a LOT. I learned a lot through the experience, and the video did end up gaining a decent viewership, so I guess it was worth it.
Pasca Sini played the Hacktick showcase, where I got to witness first-hand for the first time just how amazing Hacktick were on stage, and how much their supporters truly loved their songs. Their EP was one of my favourite records from 2018, and getting to open for them was a great experience. I dare say that it was one of the starting points for a wonderful friendship between the two bands. Pasca Sini also played another show at ATASbyBijanFX later in the month.
I also went bungee jumping for the first time in my life on the 4th of February 2019. I did it for a MaiTry video and we did it at Sunway Lagoon. It was just as terrifying and fun as I had expected it to be, even though we grossly over-estimated how high the jump actually was after the fact (we thought it was closer to 50 metres, when it was actually around 20 metres ja sebenarnya). The video didn't do too well in terms of views, but man did I have fun doing it.
I also went with my wife to a DopsTV video shoot, in which we talked about being married to each other with an old Youtube friend, Aiman Azlan. The actual recording was a whole lot of fun, as I got to get silly as much as I could, but the published version had cut out A LOT of those silly parts, I guess in service of staying true to the DopsTV brand, which is not known as a channel that promotes a whole lot of silliness. We recorded for about an hour, and only 35 minutes made it to the final cut.
I enrolled in an intermediate acting class run by Revolution Stage at the start of March, and classes were on Sunday mornings. There were initially five people in the class, but as the months went by, it ended up being four, and it was a nice class to be in, coached by Revolution Stage's own artistic director and founder Abang Wan. The class was chill, but I ended up learning loads.
I played my first show in Ipoh with Pasca Sini on the 2nd of March at Insider Satellite, opening for Tell Lie Vision from Singapore (if I'm not mistaken). It was a band-tengok-band show, mostly, but we ended up having fun anyway. I got to eat nasi ganja Yong Suan for the first time, so that was very nice.
It was a particularly busy six weeks for me, starting from the third week of February up until the very last day of March because of Thelaki work, Pasca Sini stuff and theatre work all coincided very closely with each other. I was involved in two plays staged in the same month, which was Nadhirah (13-17 March) and Syyy! (27-31 March), so rehearsals were pretty much every day, if not for Nadirah then for Syyy! then for Pasca Sini. I got very little sleep in this month, but it all ended up being fine and we managed to pull it all together in the end.
Nadirah was great because I got to work with some great people in the production (cast was great, director was cool, stage manager was great), and I got to act in an Alfian Sa'at play, which is a big deal for me as I had directed an Alfian Sa'at piece just last year (The Optic Trilogy). I even got to perform it in front of some pretty big deal people, such as Sharifah Amani, Redza Minhat, Farah Rani and Iedil Putra (they came to watch because they had staged the play too, at some point in the past). I don't know if they particularly liked our version of it, since they didn't tell me if they did or not. But I'm glad we got to do it!
The Syyy! play was a Hatta Azad Khan piece that directly inspired the hit series Pi Mai Pi Mai Tang Tu. I got to play the role played by Imuda called Budin, probably because I was the most Northern Boy of the cast. We had fun doing it, and the people that bothered to come watch seemed to have a good time watching the play, so that was cool.
Pasca Sini played one show in Melaka, and that one also felt a lot like a band-tengok-band show. We played as a three-piece, as Thoriq wasn't able to make the trip. My brothers Aiman and Ainul were able to make the trip though, so we got to hang out for an extended amount of time, which was cool, since it was rare for the four of us to hangout at the same place at the same time.
The start of April was also the start of rehearsals for the 16th Boh Cameronian Arts Awards (BCAA). The BCAA was the equivalent to the Tony's in the US, so when I got the call from the director Chris Ling to be one of the hosts for it, I lost my shit and said yes straight away. The BCAA was an awards show that celebrated the stage arts in Malaysia, so the hosts had to put up a musical of their own, so this was also coincidentally my very first musical to be a part of. The rest of the cast were like legit theatre people, legit singers and dancers (Tria Aziz, Kai Chalmers, Nave VJ, Melissa, Jia Xi), while I was a puddle of farts, so I definitely went into it feeling super insecure about all of me. I was definitely 6th of 6 in that list of talent, and felt it every day. I cried multiple times in the bathroom while on breaks during rehearsals because of how bad I felt, especially in the dancing department, as I was terrible at it.
But all the cast members were super professional and un-judgemental. They were there to do their jobs, and do it well, and that was also expected of me too, so I did the best that I could. Chris was super super supportive and never allowed me to believe that I was less-than anyone, and always reminded us and me of why we were doing what we were doing, and that was super important. I was moved to tears while singing and dancing in that rehearsal space in TTDI because of his reminders. Our choreographer Kenny Shim was also such a supportive sweetheart, and believed in me enough that when I was finally able to do the dance steps, he was like "see? I knew you could do it!" and I was like "aww, thank you so much Kenny! Okay now don't cry don't cry we're rehearsing now, don't cry".
I put in SO MUCH hard work and time to get even close to the level at which all the other hosts were operating at, and by Award night itself on the 28th of April, we had as close to a flawless show as I had ever been a part of, due to the efforts and competence of everyone involved, from the Stage Manager (Michelle Yip) to the musicians (Nick Choo and his team) to the technical team to all the people on stage. All came together to manifest the vision of Chris and had a ball doing it.
I also got to act in an online advertisement that never saw the light of day (or at least, not that I'm aware of). It was still a fun shoot though, and it was my personal first time working on the same set as The Ming Thing brothers, so that was cool.
The first of May was an important date for Pasca Sini, as they had won an online contest for bands to see who could open for Mayday Parade when they came to Singapore on the first of May, and Pasca Sini won! Unfortunately for me, the news came too late as I had already booked myself for an ad shoot on the same date, so they boys went there without me, having the wick-edly talented one and only W/SH covering for me.
The shoot was for a Raya ad for Traveloka, and can be watched here. I had only gotten three hours of sleep the night before the shoot, so I was sleep-deprived throughout, but it ended up being a fun shoot anyway, and we got a lot done within the time that we had on location. The video itself turned out okay, and I dare say that I'm not too embarrassed by my performance in it.
In May, I also directed a play called Kenapa Tak Tukar Nama. It was a twenty minute script about the struggles of a Chinese Malaysian wanting to convert to Islam in Malaysia without wanting to change her name. I worked with two actors for this, namely Natasha Mohdali and D'Zulhakem (aka Akem), and it was kind of a breeze. The actors were cool, got their work done in a timely manner. My directing of it was minimal, particularly in regards to the set. We staged it at Revolution Stage. I made surtitles for it, which is rare for an RS play, and got my brother Aiman to be the surtitle operator on the show days. Audiences seemed to be okay with the performance, and it was my first paid directing gig, so okay lah at the end of the day the actors were happy, the producers were fine with it. Cuma the writers ja I didn't feel like they fuxt with the staging too much, so that made me feel a lotta bad for a little bit, but hey, whadaya gonna do, right?
Pasca Sini also played shows at Merdekarya (to an audience of four people, I think?) and at Impero for a buka-puasa potluck-type show, which was cool and alright.
For Thelaki, we shot and uploaded a sahur video that was super fun to make. The not fun was of course the waking up in the crazy early hours to shoot them, but we ended up having fun eating together and making jokes. I even ended up cooking at home for Mirza and Helmie for the video, which was a fun thing to have done, so that was cool.
I think we also shot an iklan for Giant during May, since the video was uploaded in June. I conceptualised, wrote, storyboarded and produced the video, and it turned out okay enough, I guess. Storyboarding was really a thing I learned to appreciate a lot this year, mostly as a time saving tool for when we go to shoot a thing. At least with a storyboard, we're not figuring out a shot while we're shooting on location. With a storyboard, we already have a good idea of what the shots are going to look like, and how many of them we want/need to take, so I've really come around to liking storyboards a lot and appreciate storyboard artists.
The 18th of June was my very first time doing stand-up comedy. I went to The Joke Factory's open mic and put myself down for a three minute slot on the night, was nervous as all hell, got on stage, told my jokes and stories, and left the stage feeling okay about doing it. I'd been wanting to do it for the longest time (probably since 2017), and I finally got round to doing it, and I haven't done it a second time, mostly because I have not written anything to go on stage with, so that's not great, but at least I've done it ONCE.
Pasca Sini played three shows in June, once in Publika for Fete De La Musique, once in Nilai for an international school's sport's day thing, and once at Impero again for a Raya get-together type sitch. It was chee.
Yeah, June was a rather chill month for me, I guess, filled with more Hari Raya-type activities, and also going to my wife's band's album launch. It's called Hikayat Gundik Berirama, and it's one of my favourite albums of the year. It took five years to make, so be sure to try and give it a listen however you can (I would recommend getting it on their Bandcamp page).
And that's it for the first half of the year. I'll get on writing the second half soon enough. Until then,