这个世代在国外寻找机会的艺人当中，数Bront Palarae 特别特出。他勇敢的在亚洲各个城市耕耘，他努力，有智慧，有行动。还有其他像他这样在行动耕耘的马来西亚艺术家，他们给了我们希望。
我有一次在东京和Tun Mahathir 讨论过这个问题，他当然是哈日的，不过我不觉得他了解国际水准的人才是需要本土的栽培的。或许他尝试过，然后灰心了。不管如何，我们还是得加油。
IN SEARCH OF A BIGGER CANVAS
I have spent almost the entirety of my career as an unsigned indie artist. It hasn’t been a walk in the park but I guess I’ve done pretty good. This was what my road looked like and, if you are interested, how you might traverse it…
The first thing to understand is that you path is almost entirely determined by the size of your market, even more than how good you are. In a small market like Malaysia. you fight uphill all the time. Small market means lack of opportunity.
Crucially, lack of opportunity also means you grow slower. Velocity of output is vital to any artist. If you made 1 film every 3 years compared to a peer in China who makes 1 film per year, you’d still be a newbie after 5 years while s/he’d already be a veteran.
The only way to overcome this is to tap into bigger markets. You can do this by moving to work in a bigger market, or stay in Malaysia and export to foreign markets. This is especially so if you don’t primarily work in BM, the biggest sub-market in Msia. Either way, it is hard.
Due to personal circumstances, I chose to remain in Malaysia. This means maximising every opportunity to play / exhibit my work offshore. As a result, the first decade of my career were largely spent on the road in Japan and Korea. You need to be kinda lucky to accomplish this.
Yet, the harder you work, the luckier you get. Most people think talent in an artist is everything. It isn’t. Truth is, talent is necessary but insufficient for success. Hard work is crucial. Remember, most of your peers are talented too. Thus hard work is the difference maker.
Given the importance of export markets to our artists, I’ve been baffled by the lack of support from our public institutions. FINAS, for instance, has done little to facilitate exports in the past. The PH govt is likewise showing no vision or leadership in this matter.
Rather, all the chatter has so far been about grants and handouts. While important to help young filmmakers get started, I see little need to fund established filmmakers through grants. Much better to divert funds to tax incentives and the setting up of export channels.
Either way, good though it would be to get help from public policy – it is important to accept that you are fundamentally on your own. If all you do is sit and moan, then you ain’t gonna accomplish much other than a reputation for moaning. It is better to act. Talk is cheap.
The task is difficult, but it is easier if you hunt as a group. So remember to share resources and contacts. Help each other. Trust me, work alone and you will likely not get out at all. Hunt as a group and your chances multiply by many fold. This is not a zero sum game.
Other than being a musician, I also belong to a generation of filmmakers known as “Malaysian New Wave”. For a few years, we beat the odds in the international film festival circuit. Yet In the end we failed. The reason is complex but came down to our failure to continue to hunt as a group. We must learn from this.
Of the current generation of artists working to establish offshore opportunities, Bront Palarae stands out. He ploughs the field all over Asia and shows no fear. He works hard, act smart and walks the talk. There are others like him. They are the hope.
Please remember that, despite everything, Malaysia is a talented land. The reason most of our talents have often been wasted is complex – but it is underlined often by a lack of confidence and exposure. You need self-belief to be out there where competition is fierce.
Whether you are an artist, or just an interested layman, you need to understand that confidence comes from validation. And the most basic source of arts validation comes from local support. Yet the quickest to damn Malaysian artists are Malaysians themselves, often fellow artists.
I am not saying there is no room for objective critique – of course we must be critical – but there is a difference between thoughtless bitchiness and critique – and the difference is: intention. Let me tell you a true story to illustrate my point…
I was once invited by a Japanese fan to watch his neighbourhood band. The band sucked to high heavens. But when asked why he supported a band that he knew to be terrible, his reply was revealing:
“If we don’t support them when they are shit, how can they get good?”
See, his reply is the difference between Japan and Malaysia. We thrash our own often for selfish validation. They criticise their own too but with positive intention. That’s why, despite having grassroot scenes as uneven as ours, they have a world class arts scene and we don’t.
I once discussed this with Tun Mahathir in Tokyo. He is of course a big admirer of Japan. But I am not sure he understood the importance of local support in nurturing world class artists. Perhaps he tried but was disappointed. Either way we must try harder at it.
I have taken long to get here, but my point is: there are many elements required to overcome the handicap of small markets. Talent is important but so is hard work. Smartness is important but so is luck. Equally crucial is ability to nurture artists as a community…
It is this last element that we are most missing. The evidence is everywhere. From lack of public policies that nurture young artists (as if they are unimportant), to lack of understanding of how world class artists are formed (as though they exist in a vacuum).
Ultimately, much as we deserve the government we have, we also deserve the arts we have. And as with everything that involves the collective, it really begins with the individual. So, in a nutshell, you must be talented, hardworking, lucky, and yes – nurturing too.