Ahmad Idham.

For a film industry with more byte

Director Ahmad Idham talks about his views on embracing the digital age to keep local cinema sustainable


1. HOW HAS FILMMAKING EVOLVED TO MEET THE DIGITAL AGE?
Our working processes — planning, shooting and editing — have become efficient. Devices are becoming less complicated and most post-production tasks have significantly improved with the introduction of grading technologies.

No doubt all these advances are great advantages to the industry and its practitioners, but there is still a downside — we have fancy tools but not the practices.


2. HAVE WE FULLY TAKEN THE TECHNOLOGICAL LEAP?
In the case of the local film industry, there is a delay in embracing digital habits. For adoption to take place, changes must be understood first. At one point, we were too focused on the negatives of cinema distribution in the age of digital projection. Instead, we should have explored how the creative community (production studios, distributors, exhibitors as well as the public) could productively accept digital transition when the wave first hit.

There was a lot of time wasted in the early stages because some of us are simply more comfortable with the analogue way.

It is important to ensure that our content as well as industry practices are in tandem with technological growth.


3. WHAT ARE THE STRATEGIES FOR SUSTAINABLE LOCAL CINEMA?
Digitisation leads to emerging markets and that is why the majority of international films are oriented towards mass markets, in particular youth consumption.

Local filmmakers need to start looking outside the comfort of their own set of audiences by tailoring their craft to meet the interests of neighbouring markets in Asia to start with.

As much as we need to expand the horizon of our content, we also need to be bolder with our initiatives to push our talent pool out there — provide them government/corporate sponsorship and learn from major film arenas so they can apply the knowledge, practices and networking methods that are missing back home.

It’s about time we reviewed the structure of our creative industry and where it is heading, instead of rebooting our plans, where short-term successes are usually the case. We should be in it for the long run.


4. IS GOING DIGITAL ABOUT TRANSFORMING OR REPLACING WHAT WE DO?
It’s more of the former. Digitisation is about enhancing capabilities. The core of what we do and how we carry outdecisions essentially depend on aptitude. Some find it intimidating, while others feel enlightened.

Education is very important if we are to embrace digital technology.

What took me by surprise is the success of businesses that depend solely on digitisation. Uber, for instance,does not own a single car but it makes more money than taxi drivers and the landscape of public transportation services has evolved in a big way.

The same goes for Agoda and Booking.com; they don’t own properties yet they are garnering revenues more than some hotels are.


5. WHAT IS YOUR DIGITAL PET PEEVE?
Social media. It’s ideally a tool to help ease communication and get information fast but for some reason it has become an appalling breeding ground to bash one another and spread rumours. I still can’t escape from social media; I am on Twitter a lot more than I am on Facebook because of the demographics and news updates.

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