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Wednesday April 11, 2007

Making it reel


Seven finalists were in Singapore for the grand finale of the Nokia N93i You Make it Reel competition. 

IT WAS their first time out of the country. Carrying their backpacks and travelling bags, the 23 Universiti Teknologi Mara (UiTM) students looked out of place standing in the middle of the dance floor in Powerhouse @ St James Power Station – one of Singapore’s hippest night clubs. 

The troop had just arrived in Singapore after a tiring five-hour bus ride from Kuala Lumpur, and none of them had the slightest idea where they would be spending the night. All they knew was that they were there to attend Nokia N93i You Make it Reel competition’s grand finale and to show support for their colleague, Kamal Sabran, who was one of the lucky seven regional finalists. 

They clapped and cheered for Malaysia’s independent recording artist Pete Teo, whom Kamal collaborated with at the national phase of the You Make it Reel competition.  

The American punk band Greyskull, from Texas, also performed to thunderous applause. 

Prior to the event, the finalists were required to create a video clip for the band’s latest single, Pretty in Pink. 

Singaporean Gavin Lim’s (center) narrative music video best captured Greyskull’s Pretty in Pinkand clinched the top prize.
The contestants from Malaysia, Singapore, India, Philippines, Indonesia, Vietnam and Thailand had earlier won the national Nokia You Make it Reel contest in their respective countries, and had all converged on the island republic for the grand finale.  

Using only Nokia’s N93i mobile device, and with no set budget, the aspiring directors shot their videos based on their interpretation of the song.  

The device enabled the directors to come up with a music video using the barest of equipment.  

They had the opportunity to experiment with new ideas and use the functions in the multimedia device to manipulate their videos into works of art.  

The videos shown that night proved that the directors used every bit of their creative juice to direct a short clip for Greyskull to judge and select as the winner.  

The participants chose various ways to convey their message – the Filipino director used a stop-motion technique while Kamal’s video was rich in symbolism and metaphors. Both contestants were favoured to win the competition. 

In their bid to come up with the most creative video, some of the contestants had overlooked their most important task; to shoot a music video that best embodied the band’s musical style and spirit. 

In the end, it was Singaporean Gavin Lim’s narrative music video that Greyskull felt captured their song, and clinched the top prize.  

“We picked Gavin’s video because it best represented the song and our style as a whole,” said Greyskull’s drummer Robbie Estill. 

In Pretty in Pink there is a line that goes, “I’ve never seen a white tank top that looked so good before, a sick girl with an attitude is impossible to ignore”, and Gavin brought that character to life in his video.  

“It proved that Gavin did his homework on the song and thought of the best way to put it in a video. That’s what we need from a director – someone who understands how we work and is able to create a video based on our style,” said Robbie, who revealed that it took the band five minutes to choose the winner. 

Perhaps, Gavin’s win was a triumph of experience and maturity. 

“I basically stuck to the idea of the song. I just directed according to the lyrics and added a few things here and there. But the general idea behind the video was still the song,” said the 41-year-old director whose short film was recently screened at the Hong Kong Film Festival.  

In the video, instead of just showing the girl getting herself a tattoo, he added some magical elements into it. The clip showed animations of her tattoo coming to life. 

“It’s just a ludicrous idea that came to me. Who knew it was interesting enough to win the grand prize?” said Gavin who walked away with US$10,000 (RM36,000) that night. 

In fact, he was so sure that he wasn’t going to win the competition that he was ready to leave the venue even before the announcement was made. 

“I have a short film screening at the Hong Kong Film Festival right now. I missed the first screening because I had to be here and I’m on my way home to get a good night’s sleep before jetting off tomorrow for the second screening,” said Gavin, who was convinced that Kamal’s entry would emerge the winner. 

“Maybe the Singaporean entry had a lot more to do with the song but mine had more creativity and artistic flair,” said Kamal matter-of-factly.  

Kamal had to send in his entries twice because his first video had too many violent elements. For instance, his interpretation of the “girl pretty in pink” is a girl with tears of blood streaming down her face.  

It is a tad difficult to imagine this image coming from the shy and soft-spoken 30-year-old man. 

“I know that the song talks about a girl who gets tattoos and attracts men but I thought the deeper issue is about women who change themselves (with plastic surgery) and become victims of beauty,” said the Masters student in New Media and Visual Communications. 

He was aware that some of the messages he tried to deliver were too heavy for a punk rock video, but decided to take the risk anyway.  

Kamal spent a day shooting the video, and two days editing it – with the help of all 23 of his friends who journeyed to Singapore to support him.  

Some may think that it’s extravagant to have the help of 23 people to shoot a three-minute video but Kamal felt that it was the only way for him to complete his entry. 

“I didn’t have the necessary equipment to create a video. I didn’t have lighting like the professionals do. I had to make do with a friend holding a torchlight for me,” said Kamal. 

He was very grateful for all the help he received during the making of his video. He intends to edit the clips that show the work that went behind the scenes, and upload them onto the Internet as his token of appreciation for all the effort his friends had put into making the music video. 

“I’m not disappointed that my friends had to travel all the way from KL to see me lose in this competition. I didn’t enter this competition just to win; I entered because it was a way for me to show my creativity to the world,” said Kamal proudly. 

But there’s one thing for sure. This defeat is not going to stop Kamal from making more music videos and other short films especially using the Nokia N93i. In fact, it has only opened the door wider for Kamal to experiment with new ways to express his ideas. 

“This competition has given me a lot of experience and I will definitely use it to turn myself into a better director,” he said confidently.  

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