Solo travelling in the world of independent filmmaking

by Afiq Azman

Afiq Azman is a freelance writer and aspiring filmmaker. He often travels by bus as it is, according to him, a place of solitude and soul searching.  

I make films on an amateur level; I don’t have access to big budgets or expensive equipment. And it is quite a tough game.

However, that to me doesn’t qualify for an excuse to not make a film. Of course if I ever was to submit a film for a competition, it has a 10% chance of even making the shortlist.

In the day and age of cheaper DSLRs and the advent of Youtube, Viddsee and Vimeo, all great sources of films and videos made on a budget, it create an easier avenue for people like me to share their work online. Don’t expect a huge following at first cause remember, you don’t become a filmmaker because of showing off. You are one because you like to share stories and you want to impact audiences with your message.

Constantly improving the craft is often the wisest thing to do with how little resource I have on hand. Being in National Service and earning at most $650 a month doesn’t help much. Then again, it’s no excuse for sacrificing $125 on a trip to Penang; home of the Tropfest South East Asia film festival.

afiq azman film making penang

Tropfest started out in Australia about 20 years ago at a café in Sydney. It was a small gathering of film enthusiasts who are screening their works on a small TV set. Somehow, it created quite a buzz and people started gathering around. Today, Tropfest has regional editions, from America, to Arabia and Europe.

I arrived in Penang on the day of the festival. I tried getting a few of my filmmaker friends from Singapore to tag along with me, but all were unavailable. Hence, I travelled up alone. Sad, isn’t it?

I was at the verge of forgoing the festival by leaving early. However, I knew that I travelled so far up north and it would be wasted if I at least not tried to make it a memorable one. So I started talking to random people.

afiq azman film making penang

And it worked. I met Alex. He is currently awaiting the start of his law internship and for the two hours that preceeded the film screening, we both exchanged topics, from education to government policies.

I met with some of his friends who are actually also interested in watching films and are also active in promoting social awareness of key issues in the local education system.

I didn’t fancy such a thing to even happen.

The clock struck 8pm and the first of the tweleve nominated films began screening in front of a crowd packed full of film buffs on a grass lawn.

Each year, the festival has a signature item that each film entry has to be based on. This year’s theme was “Wheel” and all the films on show were engaging, to say the least. Some would leave you crying, while others would leave you laughing out loud, or if you prefer, rolling on the floor laughing. And there were some that literally took everyone’s breath away. (I had to deal with Alex slapping on me whenever a hilarious moment in a film ever occurred. No worries, all is well. No bruises)

Even though all of the films evoke different set of responses, and explored the theme in so many different ways, what was important on such a night is the eye-opening experience you get watching different styles from different parts of the region coming into play.

Tropfest is a great platform for idea-sharing. Sharing thoughts, emotions and ideas amongst like-minded individuals who do what they do, because they believe in their cause.

In life, especially in such a corporate-like structure that is Singapore, we are often handled with responsibilities, tasks that needs our constant supervision, whether we liked it or not.

However, all the corporate responsibility doesn’t necessarily give us a reason not venture out of our comfort zone. Definitely there is a need for comfort zones, for us to replenish and recharge, to see where we stand. Still, we shouldn’t fall back to much as there is so much more to this earth that is yet to be discovered.

Yes, some of these ventures will not turn out the way we imagined it to be, but that too is part and parcel of the process. You become more aware, more intelligent, more informed on what is really out there.

We may not get to see all of what the world has to offer in a lifetime, but will we not regret if we at least tried to see outside the box?

And if you are ever scared of venturing out on your own. Trust this man. It’s perfectly normal. Soon, there are people around you going through the same thing as you. It’s a matter of finding them. Remember Alex? He popped out of nowhere. I didn’t expect the wonderful night we had together as newly made friends. At least that is a step taken.

afiq azman film making penang

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