Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Project Merdeka 2009

The little piece of paper by the little girl at the kedai runcit.
I'm an engineering student all this while, but there is a part deep inside me that I have an interest for arts. In fact, I sometimes feel that I tend to have more passion in this field compared to engineering. Wrong course taken, perhaps?
Anyway, I first tried to produce a video for our Merdeka celebration last year, entitled "Jiwa Merdeka". It took me a few days to come out with an idea, but once it was out, I got down to work straight away. I went to one of the playground in Taiping Lake Gardens and interviewed young kids randomly for their thoughts about "Merdeka". The post-production part, which includes the editing part was far more difficult than the shooting part. Nevertheless, I finally come out with the video after a couple of days.
'Jiwa Merdeka' by Calvin Ong
The effort was worth it, because I submitted it for the Merdeka Video Competition 2008 organised by Malaysian Students' Association in Japan (MSAJ) and the video won the first prize.
This year, there wasn't any notice put up for a similar competition initially. However, from what I went through last year, I really enjoyed the experience of producing such video and I decided to do the same thing again this year. The first hurdle was of course, to come out with an idea, the storyline of the video. I didn't want it to be just another cliché video. I wanted it to be something special, something that every Malaysian can relate it.
It wasn't as easy as I though as I took a few weeks to come out with the idea. No matter how hard I brain-stormed alone, the idea just didn't come out. But finally, it came, and it actually came to me by coincident. I was sitting with my seniors one afternoon while waiting for the Nagaoka Fireworks Festival. We were talking in Mandarin and the Japanese uncle who sat next to us heard us talking. He suddenly asked me, "Are you Taiwanese?"
"Nope, I'm a Malaysian," was my reply to him.
It was from that short conversation, that made me realised how often this kind of incident happens to us. I believe most people who are either studying or working abroad more likely and prefer to introduce themselves as Malaysians to the foreigners. But the funny thing is that when they return home, the thought of "I'm an Indian, he is a Malay, my neighbour is Chinese" will be back. So, I thought, why can't we just be Malaysians? Why must there be difference among us? Our blood is of the same colour, isn't it?
Perhaps some people would ridicule this message, saying that it will only remain a dream and never materialise. That is because they have been trained and brain-washed by their parents to be critical towards another race since they are young. I'm talking from my own experience. So, why can't we just give ourselves a chance, just once chance and hope that our kids would live in a more peaceful, tolerate and harmony country, free from racial segregation?
"Good job Calvin!! May be next time we can make a short clip together......." - James
"wow secret so mysterious! ya good job!"
- Bai
"good job!" - Mri Irzamzuarey
"Good job Calvin~ meaningful........ i seldom praise ppl ^^"
- Heng Chiang
"nice! can i be the actor next time? :P... can i also have "agnes" number? :P serious... i think i can be a great actor... just the face need some help... LOL"
- Calvin Lim
"wow~simple n straight 2 the point. meaningful post ^^" - Yin Hwa
"Wah, calvin dah jadi director ni! Haha, nice one."
- Yong Ning
"wah... boleh blaja buat video clip ni dr calvin ^_^. happy independence day to my fellow old georgians" - Ibrahim
"WOW!!! ker lor... im impressed!!! the message is so clear... we're malaysian when we're abroad.. and, why must we diff ourselves back home.. great job.. thumbs up :) this clip should be inc in 15malaysia.. of course i felt it, further than that also... hehe always proud to say that im Malaysian... we should be thankful that each of us know at least 3 or more languages :)" - Jimmy Tan
"Marvellous! felt touched, proud, sad, happy all at the same time while watching it. good music effect too. most importanly, great message!!"
- HY Gan
"awesome man!" - Reena
"love it very much! i like the hockien speaking part fr your mum! very original lol... a bit phai-seh btw, stay in Taiping so long never heard of Kmpg Pinang... well done!"
- Chong Jin
"nice video!!! haha...Thnx for taking me in ur project... finally i did something patriotic.... XP"
- SiGee
"haha! sigee's eyes r natural one lo...wakaka"
- Angela Leong
"wow....nice work. btw they r acting or u took it by chance??" - Shao Nan
"hey!!! its very very nice la.. the message is clear!! with the help of the musics. wow!.."
Jessie Tang
"i think there is a copyright issue when you use other people music."
- Wee Kien
"Don't worry Chong Jin, I myself have never heard of Kg Pinang. Awesome video, Calvin. Really reflects what we experience overseas =) I made something similar a month ago. Can you detect something our videos have in common? =p i wish my mum's in my video =p it's amazing how u managed to coordinate everyone especially your mum and the shopkeeper" - Shin Yau
"I KNOW! They're both dedicated to Yasmin Ahmad. Gosh, she's been so inspirational that she grooms these engineering and economic students into advertising talents without proper advertising "education"! And Calvin, I must say, good job!! Why not forward it to our dear politician so that they can see it as well?"
- Sze Huey

Reading through the many comments I got when I posted up the videos at Facebook, I guess the message I tried to convey was done quite effectively. I guess that is because the idea was taken from my own real experience, and that made most people were able to relate it.
Enough of the long lecture and I will give some bits on the production process of the video which I named it - "We Are One".
'We Are One' by Calvin Ong
The video is divided into two parts, the first scene was meant to be shot in Japan.
However, I didn't have the human resources while I was in Japan. So, I looked for an alternative by asking my ex-Japanese Language lecturers at KTJ, Ito Seiko Sensei, plus a few of my juniors - SiGee, TJ, Jesse, Angela and a few others to help me out on the same day the KTJ Workshop 2009 was held.
Shooting was done at the lecturers' office in INTEC, hence it might not look like it was shot in Japan. To cover that up, I insert a short clip taken from Shinjuku Station to emphasise that this scene was supposed to happen in Japan.
As for the second part, the scene should make it look that it is in Malaysia, or more specificially in a wooden grocery shop in a kampung. I drove around Kampung Pinang, a long-standing village in Kamunting, Taiping, with my Mom and two little cousins trying to look for such grocery shop and when I almost gave up hope, we saw one, along the road near a junction.
Front view kedai runcit.
The entrance to the kedai runcit.
I introduced myself to the mak cik, told her that I was in the process of producing a video for the Merdeka celebrations and asked her if I could shoot one of the scene at her shop. The friendly mak cik smiled and agreed straight away. She didn't rush us during the whole shooting session and just allowed us take our time. It was my first time getting involved in such project, so it took me a few moments to think of the camera angle and having the actors to act according to the script.
Quite a number of takes were requiered initially because in some takes, their faces were covered, their movements were a tad slower to my liking and other minor mistakes which I know would look obvious when I edit them. However, they got used to it pretty quickly and we were done in just less than an hour.
That mak cik helped me in one of the payment scene and she acted very natural as well. Too bad I forgot to ask for her name, and I still don't know what's her name until today. I'm planning to return to her shop one day and show her the video.
I think she would love it very much.
The mak cik, owner of the kedai runcit.
Here is the trailer for the video which I made in less than 30 minutes. Mind you the message might not look like what it should be. Some people thought that I was making a video about durians before they saw the real video haha.
'We Are One' by Calvin Ong - Trailer
That wasn't the end.
I was so in the mood in producing that video that I was telling my sister about this project one night. Her roommate overheard our conversation and she came out with another brilliant script. That made me decided to go down Kampar one day, on a visit-cum-shooting trip to UTAR.
Her friends who are mostly from mass-communication course were willing to help me out on the shooting. I didn't have to explain to them repeatedly on the script because they somehow knew what to do with only one round of briefing from me. But the truth is that I had my sister to do most of the translation because my command in Cantonese is just sucks and they understand Cantonese better than English. Again, we did everything in less than thirty minutes. That is super fast considering that this is just the second video I have ever produced. I need not take too many unnecessary shots because most shots were done in the first take. Many thanks to the professional acting by those girls.
I made two versions for this video, one in English and the other in Malay. However, there is nothing different between the two videos except the subtitles.
'1Malaysia' by Calvin Ong - English Version
'1Malaysia' oleh Calvin Ong - Versi Bahasa Malaysia
The message is very simple, in fact it is quite similar to the first video; i.e. recognising us as Malaysians, and not by any other race. I don't know if it is a coincidence or not, because recently there was a call by certain groups to do away with the race column in official forms. Credit goes to my sister's coursemate, Song Sook Kin who came out with this creative idea for this second video and also the rest of the acting team. I was only there to execute and produce the video. But overall, I am quite satisfied with the final product.
During the shooting of this video, there were a few funny scenes which I included them in the making of "1Malaysia".
'1Malaysia' by Calvin Ong - The Making Of
Hope you enjoy watching all these video; and Happy 47th Birthday, Malaysia.


fufu said...

wow calvin, i didnt know that you are such a sugoi hito dayone!!! i love the last video awesome!!! good job~ but just wish the Keturunan : Malaysia could have clearly focused... erm... one good idea nonetheless =p

Kae Vin said...

good one.

but "i am lain-lain" sounds a bit funny :P

and u still have time to change to study broadcasting and take over the place of Yasmin Ahmad.


sakura said...

wow~the complete story, hehe..
keep up the good work ;)

~Live Life~ said...

Man! That's unbelievable...I was just watching quite a couple of Yasmin's videos on Youtube the other 15 Malaysia's clips...It never occurred to me that I might know any friends who have the initiative to produce this kinds of clips...

Kudos to u for such great feat!

I felt most for the second clip as when I went over to the states, it always took me some time to explain my nationality and origin to someone...

I like the third clip, simple and strong idea...which could be better with less narration, I think...

Keep it up! Good job...=)

calvin said...

@ fufu:
hehe, i'm flattered by your praises =P
the videos are not perfect, but i guess they will serve as a learning platform for me to make better videos in the future. thanks for your honest comments =)

calvin said...

@ kae vin:
yea, i know. but i thought of inserting some sense of humour in a rather serious-tone video xD

i don't think i have to change course. i can always take up a double-degree. and i have no intention to take over yasmin's place. it's not that easy =P

calvin said...

@ sakura:
yea, i wanna share the behind-the-scene story of the production of those video with everyone, hence this post was written =)

calvin said...

@ ~Live Life~:
now you know you have a friend of such caliber. haha, i'm just self-syiok by praising myself. just ignore me =P

like i've mentioned in the post, i guess the storyline happened to me, it came from my personal experience. that is why most of you could relate it to yourselves.

my original script didn't have so much narration, but due to some reasons (which i will reveal at some time), i inserted some narrations which i feel that they might be unnecessary as well.

thanks for your kind comments.

ns29 said...

for me,the hardest thing will be getting bad comments or critics from ppl.
but however,I read this in newspaper today.
"No matter how hard it is,just believe that there will be someone that supports and agrees with you."

Getting bored with those big bad news nowaday,these are just good.

calvin said...

@ ns29:
well, i've known from the beginning that not everyone would the idea of these videos. you just cannot have everyone to love you, because there will always be a few haters, or people who disagree with you. but i believe with what i'm doing, and i respect opinions from others, be it a nice or a bad one.

getting bad and harsh comments is one thing, but to see how that person response to those criticism is interesting as well.

i hope there would be at least someone who supports and agrees with the message i try to convey through these videos =)

Melissa said...

It is really good. Simple yet meaningful. The video really touched my heart. It is glad that you share your thoughts with us. Thanks!

Li said...

Hi Calvin, I stumbled upon your blog in random search, and I really like your "Project Merdeka 2009" idea. It was brilliant, the point that you are trying to make-- "We are one race when we are abroad....." this has been the same thing which I have been thinking when I was abroad, and you turned it into a nice video clip. Try something bolder or discuss deeper into your idea on your next clip..I'm looking forward to your next clip! Well done for this!

Ken said...

Hey soon-to-be-director, ur work is meaningful. But Agnes anak Limbo is a Buddhist?

Btw, I recognise that form! We filled up when we were in primary and sec school. Haha...

Good job!

calvin said...

@ melissa:
i'm really glad that the videos had given some effects on you. when i read such an encouraging comment like yours, it gives me the sense of satisfaction and i feel that my effort was a worthwhile one =)

thank you!

calvin said...

@ li:
hi li!

i think the video hit those who are/were living in oversea the most, because we have gone through the same experience. another thing is that there would be no other better place than malaysia, no matter how long you've been away from home.

this is just my second attempt in producing such videos. i will try and come out with an even better video next year; like you said, something bolder that takes account into the real life of malaysians :)

at the moment, i think i have some daring ideas;nothing concrete, but i will try and work on it and see what comes out next year.

thanks again for your comments!

calvin said...

@ ken:
i know the majority of the aborigines in sarawak are christians, but it doesn't mean some of them cannot have a different religion, right?

and yes, you're right! a very detailed spot-on i'd say on that form xD

Zzzyun said...

hey Calvin, only manage to watch ur videos now.. i love them! simple but strong msg!!

my fav one is the 2nd one.. i always find it difficult to explain to others who i am as well..

they alwix think chinese come from china.. =/

ps: pls keep up the good work!!

calvin said...

@ zzzyun:
thank you for your kind words. getting such comments from you guys is really nice; at least i know i managed to convey the message around :)

same thing applies to me. at times, the japanese always relate the chinese malaysians as the chinese from the mainland, and that is sometimes kinda frustrating >.<

Anonymous said...

I congratulate, you were visited with simply brilliant idea