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Saturday March 24, 2012

Your 10 questions with Pete Teo

1. How can the fight against digital piracy be more effective? Bernard Gideon Lim, Penang

The simplest way to do this is to enforce our anti-piracy laws consistently and supplement it with public awareness campaigns. In my opinion, enforcement is secondary to public education especially given that there will be supply as long as there is demand. I personally believe if prices for legitimate goods were lower (or personal income higher), people would be less inclined to support pirated goods. Nonetheless, it is important for the public to understand that piracy is theft not just of intellectual property, but in many cases, also an entire industry's livelihood.

2. Do you think you have been doing a good job in creating unity in Malaysia through your projects? Eugenie Devan, Bangsar

My colleagues and I try our best but the result is not for us to judge. The truth is, a few videos alone will not change a country. We depend on all Malaysians to promote unity. Thus, it is crucial for everyone to contribute to the effort in our daily lives rather than rely on people like me (or worse, politicians, whose hands are often tied by political expediency). The size of each person's effort is entirely irrelevant. If enough of us contribute to the unity we so yearn for, then with effort and time, I believe it will happen. The last thing you should do is sit back and let others do it for you. Promote unity yourself.

3. What are the challenges aspiring filmmakers in Malaysia face and what will it take for young Malaysian filmmakers to succeed? Felicia Chia, PJ

The fundamental challenge faced by our filmmakers is that we have a small and fragmented market. This means budgets are very modest and opportunities are rare. Added to this, in-country infrastructure for training and promoting young talents is weak or non-existent, which results in us often wasting our best talents. This is a shame because talents need to be developed and exposed before they can flower. As it is, if you are an aspiring filmmaker, you should concentrate on bettering your craft independently. Work with groups of friends so that you can co-resource and learn from each other. In the long run, however imperfect the situation, you will get your break if you are good enough. You should also remember that hard work matters as much as talent, if not more so.

4. What inspires you and what has been your influences when it comes to making music and film? Sam Chua, Singapore

I believe good art is truthful art, so honesty inspires me. I also believe a good artiste needs to be courageous and committed so brave art also inspires me. Naturally, the arts business is complicated and it is not always possible to be all of the above (though I believe one must try). I try my best and don't always succeed. But I intend to keep making art for a few more decades yet so with luck I have more years to try and live up to my heroes. I am satisfied with that for now.

5. Is the Government doing enough to promote the arts scene here and what can be done to improve the quality of films and music Malaysia produces? Sathia Kumar, Melaka

The short answer is, no. The arts is often looked upon by our public arts policy makers as merely instruments of either tourism or moral guardianship. The arts can be so much more than that. It should really be where our communities communicate to each other about respective strength and weakness, beauty and ugliness, hopes and fears and thus become a vehicle to build common experience and understanding. But instead, too much is caught up in dialogue of hegemony and fear. With regards to how we might improve the quality of our music and film, other than the fact that we as producers need to improve, I believe we as a community also need to support homegrown arts much better. So go see local films and support local bands. And if they turn out to be less jaw-dropping than Hollywood blockbusters, remember that our producers and artists must be given the space and opportunity to grow. They can't grow if we don't support them.

6. Asian film and music is on the rise and can Malaysia be the next Korea? Sharon Pong, Sarawak

Korea's accomplishment in music and film has been nothing short of miraculous. They did it through a combination of protectionist public policy and development of their homegrown talents. In films, for example, Korea limited exhibition of imported films to 25% of all exhibitions in cinemas since the 1990's (recently relaxed to 50%). They then used the increased output of local films to develop new talents through job opportunities, world class education and training. They also enjoy close to fanatical support from local communities. We are a long way off from being able to do that. It doesn't mean it can't be done. But there will need to be a fundamental shift in public opinion, public policy and implementation.

7. Do you want to be known more as a songwriter or a filmaker and which gives you more satisfaction? Tony, KL

I grew up wanting either to be a writer, a musician or a filmmaker. So I am very grateful to be able to do all of that. Although these disciplines take different skill sets, the core element that drives them are very similar. Still, not many artistes get the opportunity to explore different disciplines in a professional context. I enjoy all of them equally. I am a very lucky man.

8. What is the hidden message in the Undilah' video? Bulbir Singh, Seremban

Some have mistakenly claimed that the video contained anti-government “subliminal” messages based on, for example, an incidental shot of the PAS newspaper Harakah. But they neglect to mention that the pro-government and mainstream media Nanban newspaper was in the video too. It is all water under the bridge now, of course but I still don't understand why anyone would have a problem with a video that encourages Malaysians to vote regardless of party allegiance. All I can say is that there is no hidden message in the video. It is exactly as what you see i.e. a non-partisan effort to encourage Malaysians to exercise their democratic right to vote.

9. How do you put aside your personal political views when working on a national project? Nordiana Samat, Putrajaya

It is not so hard if you bear in mind that my public projects involve the promotion of values rather than political parties. Thus, Undilah promotes the democratic right to vote, Here In My Home promotes inter-communal unity and so on. None of these projects promote either political coalition. My collaborators and I make it a point not to be party-politically allied in these projects because the values we promote are not the sole province of any political party but that of the entire nation. Further, political parties in a democracy have little choice but to respond to public opinion in the long term. Thus, we focus on raising public awareness with regards to these fundamental values rather than being the tool of any political party.

10. If you were not in the arts, what would you have pursued instead? Billy Lim, Seremban

I can't imagine a life without creating art. But if I had to do it, I think I'd be a teacher. I taught social theory to first year university students while I was doing my masters and enjoyed that tremendously.

COMING SOON

Public transport is a huge issue for all of us. It is a subject that is close to Syarikat Prasarana Negara Bhd group MDD ATUKS HAHRIL MOKHTAR 'S heart. He was previously with Land Public Transport Commission, and before that Rangkaian Pengangkutan Integrasi Deras Sdn Bhd (RapidKL). Please email questions to him at 10questions@thestar.com.my

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