It's been 10 years since I first got into filmmaking.
The film in question was a little short called 'Nicotine'. I'd been getting familiar with my Sony Handycam and editing on Sonic Foundry Vegas 3 on my Pentium PC and the Kelab Seni Filem Malaysia was accepting submissions again. I remember I was sat in the office of Grey Worldwide in front of a candy pink iMac reading the call-to-action for films but I don't remember why, at that particular moment, I decided to shoot something to submit.
The idea for the short was something I'd had since I was in university, and I'd written a draft back then as part of a group of short films all interconnected with each other based around a halls of residence. The idea was to possibly loan the cameras from the film & broadcast department of the university and shoot them, but I never did. Back then I always held myself back from actually doing all the things I dreamed of doing.
But around that time ten years ago when I was sat in front of that shitty pink iMac reading about the Kelab Seni Filem Malaysia, things were different. My philosophy at that time was to do all the things I dreamed of doing, even if it came out crap, because I couldn't imagine anything worse than being an old man thinking back "I should've tried making a film" or "why didn't I record an album'.
So I shot "Nicotine", and it got a pretty good response. "Nicotine" led to another short film, "Some Like It White".
And after that? Ciplak.
And since it's the 10th anniversary of me becoming a "filmmaker", it seems only fitting to celebrate it by re-releasing my first feature film, the one that got my name out there and gave me the career I still have today.
And while I'm at it, why not put it out there for free.
That decision may seem like the odd one, but it's the one that makes perfect sense to me. The movie was released in 2006, back when I communicated through the interwebs through a blog on 20six.co.uk. I didn't even have enough internet speed to upload my short films onto YouTube. The movie played on three screens for three weeks, I did a small run of DVD's and it was available briefly on VOD through Unifi's HyppTV.
And that's about it. It played a few festivals but Ciplak (and my other indie flick 'Relationship Status') was never easily available. If you were lucky, you might catch it somewhere or find the DVD at an event, but apart from that for the most part it became the movie I was most known for but not many people had actually seen.
And I'll be honest - at a certain point I was a bit embarrassed by it. The flick was rough, raw, amateurish and shot on miniDV in standard definition. With good HD cameras becoming more and more accessible and YouTubers left, right and centre posting shorts much better shot than anything I'd done in the beginning of my indie film career, could anyone really sit through 83 minutes of shaky SD handheld?
But it was my girlfriend, Eva, who turned me around when she said, "there are people out there who really want to see this film. Think about how pissed off you get when there's a film that you really want to see and it's not available. That's what you're doing to these people that want to see your movie."
In essence, she was calling me a dick for not making the movie available. And I will forever be grateful to the love of my life for making me feel like a dick.
For better or for worse, Ciplak is the movie that made me. It's the one that gave me a career. It was the most fun I ever had shooting anything because I wasn't burdened with the worries of box office figures, I wasn't subjected to the horrors of the inner workings of our film industry and most of all, I was shooting a movie for the sake of shooting a movie. I'd gotten together with my friends and we were having fun. It was a better time in my life, a time where my biggest worry was what would happen if my mom caught me smoking.
This year has been a weird one. And at one point, I was even ready to quit because I didn't know how to go on. But life does that to you - if it thinks you want to achieve something it will beat you down to an inch of your life to see how much you really want it, and the more you want to achieve the harder it'll punch. The question is whether or not you can take the beating, go toe-to-toe. You may not come out the winner like the end of Rocky 2, but at least you went all 15 rounds like Rocky 1 and get to be with Talia Shire.
But why free? Well, there's three reasons. The first is because I felt the movie had run its course. It's not an easy movie to sell to TV and home video (or the cinema, for that matter) and I felt it had made whatever it could through proper channels so why not let it out there for everyone who's curious to see. My original idea was actually to figure out a way to region lock it so that it would be free for Malaysia but paid VOD everywhere else in the world.
I then discovered that wasn't easy to do. In fact, it was almost impossible as I couldn't find any service that would feasibly let me do that. There are plenty that will region lock a paid VOD video, but not a free one.
Which leads me on to the second reason - it's the 21st century. We're in a digital world. When Ciplak first came out it was still in its infancy. Gmail was still a fancy new thing which you could only get if someone invited you to use it. Facebook was just beginning to reach the public from the confines of Harvard. Most people were still on a dial-up connection.
Things are much different now. Piracy is different now. And with all of these changes the world of filmmaking is different now. And I want to explore the non-traditional ways. I want to see whether releasing a movie digitally is viable.
But why free? Well, the movie is free but if you notice on the website and on Vimeo there's the option to leave a tip. I'm curious to see whether anyone would actually tip the movie. And in all honesty it's no hair off my back if no one does. I'm just curious to see who would.
And regardless of the tips, even if people don't tip, I want to see if there are other ways to generate income from the movie besides charging for the movie. A merchandise section will be opening on the site soon, and there are some other plans as well, so we'll see how it goes.
Thirdly, I don't want to charge for it. Partly because the movie looks a bit too raw in this day and age, but mostly because I want to put something out there for those who are into filmmaking and the filmmaking community locally. I'm packing the site with all kinds of things to show how this movie was made, pull back the curtain. I learnt how to be a filmmaker because the filmmakers I looked up to did the same thing. Robert Rodriguez would pack his DVD's with extras, Kevin Smith would be frank as fuck on the commentaries and later on peel back even more with his Q&A's and podcasts. It only makes sense for me to do the same.
At the very least, even if you completely hate the movie and think it's the worst thing in the world, at least you'll come out of it thinking, "he made that piece of shit and got the movie released and gained a career?! I can do better than that!" Good. Do that. Be better than me. Trust me, it's not that hard. Whatever your opinion of the movie, hopefully you get something out of it.
If it's your first time watching Ciplak, I hope you can find some enjoyment in it. And if you watched it when it first came out and watching it again now, thanks for being one of the first and thanks for coming back. I wouldn't be where I am today if it wasn't for y'all.
- KHAIRIL M BAHAR, 6:23am, 26 September 2014