Some friends went to cinema today and saw a queue of people waiting to see LOS dan FAUN but alas they were all turned away because just after 3 weeks of showing, it has been pulled out by the cinemas to make way for the other wajib tayang films to come in....twillight which started one week earlier is still playing strongly at the cinemas today.
First of all, for those of you who don't know what the 'WAJIB TAYANG' ruling is, let me give you a brief history of what the wajib tayang system is. Wajib tayang is a system that was put into place to protect local film producers from being sidelined in the big money business of film screenings in Malaysia. This is because of the many imported foreign films that are allowed to screen in this country with their great big hollywood or bollywood or hongkongwood budgets, coupled with their huge marketing budgets, would simply just overrun our miniscule industry. If that were allowed to happen then we might as well just say bye-bye to the local film industry and to the scores of film workers who are striving hard to make a living in this country. So for Mahyiddin Mustakim the Ketua Pengarah of Finas to say that 'wajib tayang' has helped many local film companies succeed in the comments of his recent newspaper article, i would agree to that, but the question i raised is wether these old rules are still applicable and pertinent to the current face of the industry today and if not, then 'KEMASKINI-KAN-NYA 'or change it for the better. Why should anybody get defensive about this, aren't we working for the same thing, towards the same goal. I want a better wajib tayang sistem for all, not to do away with the damn thing.
I myself look for the shelter of wajib tayang for my film for without it surely it doesn't stand a chance against the big boys of the US of A. Hence it is safe to say that i as a responsible film worker in this industry, am thankful that there is a wajib tayang skim. But as in all good things, as time changes, the equation to all sums start to change too due to socio, economic and political maturity and growth. So in short, the wajib tayang needs to be looked at again HARD and something radical must be done soon. If not the film industry will go the same way as our local music industry.
Some of you are asking right now, can't the local film industry survive without this wajib tayang thingy? the answer is NO. because we just do not have the money to do battle with the hollywood giants in term of advertising and marketing. Their ratio is pretty much 1 to 1, which basically means if my movie cost usd100 million to make then the marketing i allocate will be usd100 million as well, in malaysia in general, if a movie cost rm1.2 million to make i have left a budget of about rm300 thousand to market. Now thats like bringing a shoe to a gunfight. No matter which president you hit with that shoe, i bet his hospital bill won't be as high as treating your multiple gunshot wounds. No wonder as i travel from the LCCT back to the city centre after a short stint in kota kinabalu, i really didn't feel the love from finas' motto 'Filem kita wajah kita' as i saw all the billboards that had films advertising on it were showing upcoming Foreign Film titles, reminding us when it is going to be on OUR cinemas. That's when i came out with my own new motto ,'Filem Dia, Billboard Kita'.
Why are there not so many upcoming local film titles on billboards?... the answer is ...We can't afford it!!! Or at least not most of us. Not with our miniscule budget. Who should pay for some of this ADS, billboards or otherwise?... Our partners the exhibitors/cinemas who make 50% of our ticket collection just for showing our films in the cinema.
Is it just a Malaysian problem? The answer is again NO. Besides Hollywood, Bollywood and Maybe Japan, most countries' film industry needs some sort of helping hand or protectionism from the hollywood machine. If not, there will be no more local stories that is a signature of our time and culture that we and our children's grand children can refer to god willing. CHINA is a great advocator of this 'wajib tayang' but being a great and proud nation, theirs have so much zest and power. Recently they banned' the dark knight' one of the biggest film in the world to date, because simply, it showed the chinese people in a bad light and they did not want that kind of branding for its people. More power to you China. If the muslims in this world were more ready to stand up and say no to Hollywood branding them as terrorists maybe the word muslims wil not be synonymous with terrorism. I believe that china only allows 20 foreign films a year and the rest is for their locally produced films. South Korea in an attempt to win market share from the hollywood machine to help their fledgling film industry, any cinemas that want to operate there must play local films for 100 out of their 365 screening days in each cinema (or something like that). Great Britain for instance has a film commision which overlooks and helps its film industry by collecting the taxes from the national lottery to pass on to the filmmakers. Britain also does not have hollywood films open in britain the same day as the US. They allow local british films to take centre stage during summer releases so that it can gain the maximum number of viewers.
Can Malaysian films survive without a new form of wajib tayang or some other form of protectionism? In my humble opinion the answer is NO. Now, being on the outside It is easy to argue that we should let the free market decide on what films should make it and which one should bomb. Usually i would wholeheartedly agree with that position but if only we were on the same level playing field with the foreign film, if we also had hollywood budgets, if we also had the whole world as our market.... but alas currently OUR market (in Malaysia) is the only market that we can see any semblance of a Return on Investment for the monies put into our movies. But now, even that is in threat because the cinemas make more money from foreign films than local films. MATI dik...
All these countries however have one thing in common. Except for Great Britain, people from most of the countries mentioned,mainly speak their mother tongue and a bit of english. Hence when a local film comes out almost everyone goes because they understands the language.
It is a sad thing but Malaysia here is a country which lacks a solid identity. An identity that is defined through LANGUAGE. Although the beauty of malaysia is it's diversity and colourful mixture of races we are still not bound by one single thread which should have been.... our national language, Bahasa Malaysia. ( the only reason i am writing this entry in english is that some of you might not get the full impact of my arguments because of the lack of understanding for the language) We can argue till the cows come home but the data shows that foreign films are watched by all races including the malays but Malaysian films are watched by mostly a fraction of the malays. Imagine a malaysia that has every race proud to speak its national language and can watch anything in the malay language. Impossible you say, look at the trengganu, kelantanese chinese and indians, On a more international scale look at indonesia.
And then there is the question of local films being a major part for documenting our culture and heritage. We must do it even if it means making less money from taxes on foreign films because the number of foreign films coming into the countries are reduced.
So what has all this got to do with the malaysian wajib tayang situation you ask?
ini adalah petikan dari website finas.gov.my mengenai apa itu skim wajib tayang.
Wajib Tayang : Skim Wajib Tayang
Peraturan-peraturan Perbadanan Kemajuan Filem Nasional Malaysia (Skim Wajib Tayang ) 2005 berkuatkuasa pada 23 Jun 2005. Skim ini diwujudkan bertujuan untuk menerima dan mempertimbangkan mana-mana filem tempatan atau filem usahasama untuk ditayangkan secara wajib didewan wayang gambar oleh pemamer
Pempamer hendaklah menayang filem yang diluluskan:
1.selama empat belas hari berturut-turut; dan di dewan wayang gambar yang terbesar
PROBLEM : This didn't happen during the last two months of the year and last year because it was decided by wajib tayang that there were too many malay films so each local filem only had about one week in the main hall before another malaysian film came in. During the peak periods of the year either during summer or the year end school holidays where there are many big hollywood films as soon as our fourteen days are up... we are shown the door to either the streets or a smaller hall. Both are bad news for local producers.
2.Walaubagaimanapun penayangan sesuatu filem yang diluluskan boleh ditukar dari dewan gambar yang terbesar kepada suatu dewan gambar yang lebih kecil jika:
a.bilangan penonton adalah kurang daripada tiga puluh peratus daripada jumlah keseluruhan tempat duduk dalam dewan wayang gambar itu selepas empat hari pertama tayangan berturut-turut; atau
PROBLEM : These figures can be manipulated because there is no surefire system in place to tell wether the final tally for ticket sales are for real or fabricated. I worry that without a proper system in place, investors and businessmen would shy away from this industry.
b.bilangan penonton adalah tidak kurang daripada lima belas peratus daripada jumlah bilangan tempat duduk dalam dewan wayang gambar itu selepas tiga hari pertama tayangan yang berturut-turut.
c.Jikalau bilangan penonton kurang daripada 15% pemamer bolehlah atas budi bicaranya menarik balik penayangan filem yang diluluskan
PROBLEM : Some local films are bad enough they don't deserve the time of day but if we let just the numbers decide, some good films which might not have enough marketing mullah or even one which doesn't appeal immediately to the masses or not mass friendly ie. not a horror or mindless comedy and which probably needs more time for its' sales to pick up steam through word of mouth, cannot do so because this clause lets the cinema pull the film out because of sales figures.
3.Pempamer hendaklah mengemukakan suatu laporan mengenai apa-apa pertukaran dewan wayang gambar atau penarikan balik mana-mana filem yang diluluskan kepada Jawatankuasa dan peserta dalam masa dua hari dari pertukaran tersebut.
1.Pengeluar filem atau pemamer.
2.Filem tempatan atau filem usahasama
* ‘Filem Tempatan’ bermaksud filem yang diterbitkan di Malaysia atau mana-mana tempat lain oleh warganegara Malaysia atau suatu syarikat yang diperbadankan di Malaysia yang majoritinya sahamnya dipegang oleh warganegara Malaysia.
* ‘Filem Usahasama’ ertinya apa-apa filem yang dikeluarkan di Malaysia secara usaha sama antara warganegara Malaysia atau syarikat yang diperbadankan di Malaysia yang majority sahamnya dipegang oleh warganegara Malaysia dengan mana-mana warganegara asing atau mana-mana syarikat yang tidak diperbadankan di Malaysia
So like it or not guys you literally have within 2 weeks before a local film is already in the danger zone for decreased shows or even being pulled out altogether. You cannot wait!! if you love this industry and believe there is something worth fighting for, you need to help us help the country so it doesn't become a completely foreign film market. That is why you CANNOT WAIT too long (not more than 2 weeks before you guys go to the cinema to support local films. Because it would probably not be playing already. Hence the disappointment of the people in the queue is due to my movie not being a mass market hit and the wajib tayang rule in motion.
Do i watch foreign films? Yes i do and i really love some of them like all of you, but there are also many that are a waste of time, and taking our much needed space.The cinemas would just put on as many they can because to them, they make more money with foreign film. Malaysian films they put on because they have to, by law. I Thank god for that law but i do believe the government and PFM must implement some changes to it so as the local producers will survive.
Try catching a good Malaysian film and you will see that there are some good stuff out there. My mantra has alway been... you never know until you try. And even if you've tried it once and didn't like, it doesn't hurt to try again. hahaha.
Are there crappy Malaysian films out there? Yes there are but there is also a MOVEMENT of local filmmakers trying to make better quality films that must be given a chance and supported. Given a choice, i would not take any crap at all but if i had to choose from local crap and foreign crap.... i would take shovelfuls of the local stuff. Because at the end of the day Malaysia wins. The money stays in Malaysia and Malaysian mouths would be fed.
I am not sure that i agree with a price increase in Foreign film ticket prices because i believe the root of the problem is to try and get MORE people to believe in MALAYSIAN films first. To gain their confidence, to make them believe there is something worthwhile to save.The price increase may have a backlash effect on the local film industry as money becomes more scare in an economic slowdown, people will be more choosy of what they watch and will want to get maximum satisfaction from their limited resource, they might still opt to watch a usd100 million production as opposed to a RM1.5million production... because they get more value for their money. This would be true for a lot of people, if not all. I agree that if a mercedes benz cost just as much as a proton, no protons would be sold but if the mercedes was increased in price not necessarily everyone would start buying protons as some would think about reliability, some safety, some prestige and still opt for the mercedes. The rest will buy the proton because of necessity. But people don't see Malaysian films as necessity.. to them its 'just entertainment' so i think we would still lose. wouldn't it be better to go on a campaign to show malaysians that our products now are getting better eventhough it comes from MALAYSIA.
As an active member of the Local filmmaking fraternity these are my suggestions on what steps can be taken to make our industry... of course they are open to discussion, i am no mr know it all, but i have my opinions.
1.Reduce the number of foreign films coming into the country. Take the good leave out the crappy. You could always STILL get these films and other local films another new malaysian culture that nobody seems to be serious about eradicating, PIRATED DVDS. The best original COPY in the world.
2.Have campaigns, even at grassroot levels to get people to see why malaysian films are an important culture and nation building tool. Spend PFM or government allocated funds to MEMBUDAYAKAN FILEM MALAYSIA.
3.STRESS THE IMPORTANCE OF OUR NATIONAL LANGUAGE AT ALL LEVELS. LET BAHASA MALAYSIA BE OUR GLUE THAT MAKES US RECOGNISABLE AS ONE NATION.
4.Give priority to Malaysian films. Don't open foreign films on thursday. Open them on Monday, people who love Hollywood films will still go, but give at least give the opening weekend to a local film.
5.Let's not let this Multi million dollar industry be one that is solely based on trust between the cinemas and the producers. Put in place measures to make the cinemas be transparent about ticket earnings. If they are business partners let them be true business partners by safeguarding all parties interests. Put in place laws that make the cinemas accountable for things that are out of the ordinary like cinema halls not being full when they are turning people away at the counter, A centralised computer ticketing system overseen by an independant body maybe like Ernst and Young or even FINAS. The system is already in use by several restaurant chains, other franchise type business which work on royalties, so why not implement it to the cinemas. Give access to up to date ticket sales as the tickets are sold to local producers so we can monitor takings and allow us to plan our marketing better.
There is a bigger battle here to be fought and the sooner people realise that film is not mere entertainment but a part of our culture that needs to be protected for generations to come, the sooner we will become a greater and progressive nation.
Power to the people
To those of you who think we get rich doing this... You must be some kind of stupid.
Having said that the film workers in malaysia make an honest decent living just like the rest of you working in banks, architectural firms etc...and this multi million dollar industry is a legitimate one (but no banks besides the SME bank would touch us production houses), it is a high risk and high stakes business.
We (filmmakers) are the other kind of stupid, because we let our passion rule so that we can create the best possible work that we can give at the expense of our financial stability.
Agree or disagree, these are my views.