The Malaysian film industry: Reviving the industry amidst the new normal

Hoping to once again fill seats, the film industry is relieved that it has been given permission to resume work. — Picture from Instagram/TGV Cinemas
Hoping to once again fill seats, the film industry is relieved that it has been given permission to resume work. — Picture from Instagram/TGV Cinemas

KUALA LUMPUR, May 29 — The global Covid-19 pandemic has taken a toll on almost every industry and the hardest hit, is the entertainment industry - more specifically, the film industry.

With the implementation of the movement control order (MCO) on March 18 — the film fraternity has had to stop work, losing their source of income while while cinemas have shuttered leading to a backlog of unreleased movies.

And now, with the announcement of a new standard operating procedure (SOP) for almost all sectors, the industry grapples with the reality of sorting out the nitty gritty to allow production to continue.

Maya Karin at the 25th Anugerah Bintang Popular Berita Harian. — Picture from Instagram/Maya Karin
Maya Karin at the 25th Anugerah Bintang Popular Berita Harian. — Picture from Instagram/Maya Karin

For actress Maya Karin who has opted to sell burgers during the MCO, the SOP offers little respite as it’s a whole different ball game for full length feature films.

“I just shot a television programme with Chef Wan and it took us three hours but if I shoot a movie, it’s six weeks.

“The SOP needs to be more specific as for what kind of shootings, is it for drama, or for movies or telemovies or for just television shows that require just one hour or two hours of shooting,” said the Ombak Rindu actress.

Maya urged the National Film Development Corporation Malaysia (Finas) for a clearer definition of the SOP so that the producers could prepare a plan for the future.

Afdlin Shauki believes filmmakers should be more innovative now that the new filming SOP has been implemented. — Picture from Instagram/Afdlin Shauki
Afdlin Shauki believes filmmakers should be more innovative now that the new filming SOP has been implemented. — Picture from Instagram/Afdlin Shauki

For actor and producer Afdlin Shauki, the pandemic has impacted the industry on different levels, affecting the business side and the creative side differently.

“It’s definitely not going to be the same, maybe changes are being done.

“But what we do know is that we can no longer approach filmmaking in the same way, in terms of what we used to do for decades before.”

“The way we produce films will also change and it might take more time than usual for us to complete it,” he said.

Afdlin also said that filmmakers should try to be more innovative in finding out ways to overcome problems, saying it was not impossible, but it required research.

Pete Teo admits being extra cautious on set made their job more difficult as they have to adhere to social distancing. — Picture from Instagram/Pete Teo
Pete Teo admits being extra cautious on set made their job more difficult as they have to adhere to social distancing. — Picture from Instagram/Pete Teo

Meanwhile filmmaker, actor and singer-songwriter Pete Teo who has already started working again, said that everyone is being extra careful on set by adhering to social distancing but it has made their job more difficult.

“On the film set of course you have a collection of people and it ranges from 10 to 100 people on set and that’s not a perfect environment because of social distancing.

“So it made it hard, everybody will have to take extra precautions.

“On one hand you can’t really stop the industry as stopping it leads to hardship for people and if the entire industry can’t produce then the industry will die.”

The 48-year-old filmmaker agreed to guidelines to be followed and urged that producers implement it on set.

Esma Daniel notes this is the time to diversify the film industry in Malaysia. — Picture from Instagram/Esma Daniel
Esma Daniel notes this is the time to diversify the film industry in Malaysia. — Picture from Instagram/Esma Daniel

For local actor and director, Esma Daniel, the impact of the pandemic took him back to 1997 when the nation faced economic turmoil resulting in the momentarily collapse of the film industry.

“Nobody was shooting.

“This is what we’re afraid of, is it going to happen again?”

“But because of the various platforms that we have today, we still have the chance to work and I hope that it will not repeat again,” he said.

Esma extended his gratitude to the government for the financial aid that was given to the film industry and for granting the permission for them to start shooting again.

Referring to the new SOP, one of the chapters had caught Esma eyes where it stated that every production house should have a safety officer supervising the set.

Esma suggested that Finas should do a short-term course for industry players so that they could be hired as safety officers.

“For players who can no longer act or for industry players who need the side income, this could broaden up the job market for those in the filming sector.”

He also suggested that Finas implemented a green card system similar to the one used by the Construction Industry Development Board.

 The green card system is a programme that requires registration and accreditation from construction personnel as a step to further enhance the safety of their workplace.

“What can be expected from this is that Finas would be able to collect more data from industry players which wasn’t available before.

“With this proper database, we will be able to enhance certain programmes,” he said adding that this is the opportune time to diversify the film industry.

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