Malaysia and the Mentors – Part 1/7
Malaysia part 1 of 7: Getting There
In March of this year, I traveled to Malaysia with four amazing people to mentor film students through their first ever 48hour filmmaking competition. Dan Slevin chaperoned Johnny Barker (omigod Shortland Street hottie!), Aidee Walker (omigod Outrageous Fortune Hottie!), Annie Duckworth (omigod hottie!) and myself (…).
The story from the beginning. Back in February, I was duly stocking shelves at Light House Cinema Cuba for the eleven hundredth time when my phone buzzed. It was a tweet from Dan Slevin, Wellington film lover/reviewer and magazine editor (among his many other skills and talents). He asked what my email address was.
‘Huh,’ I thought, hopes running high, ‘Our relationship, contained almost solely to 48hour business, may be progressing. Does he want to hang out for a coffee? A beer? A night alone in a hotel?’ Obviously, I sent him my email address asap.
Five minutes later, an email came through from him with one line:
What’re you doing March 18th – 26th?
As fate would have it, I would be shooting the third season of Girl vs Boy, a TV show for young adults that I star in, so after a stressful amount of emails back and forth with producers, I was able to free up those dates. I’m eternally grateful to those guys for their understanding and compassion and patience (turns out I’m not in the new season that much due to looking ‘too old’).
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs sent out a whole bunch of material about our mission to Malaysia. In a nutshell:
LIMA MATA IKAN/ RIMA MATA IKA was the name of NZ week in Malaysia. It’s a Malay phrase that translates to Five Fish Eyes and it’s nearly the same in Maori so that’s why… yeah, I didn’t get it either. The purpose of the week was to ‘celebrate the linkages between NZ and Malaysia’. Maori carvers would go over and demo their skills, there’d be a game of touch rugby, a business dinner, a food fair, and a 48hour filmmaking competition. Dan would be managing the entire 48hour comp (as Wellington manager for the past decade, he was well practiced) and four kiwi filmmakers would mentor a handful of students each.
My initial response was panic. I didn’t know what I was doing. I was in over my head. I couldn’t be trusted on what Dan referred to as ‘a diplomatic mission’, could I? I’d be representing Aotearoa as a filmmaker, my greatest dream, was I good enough?
Then I calmed down and realised: this is an all-expenses paid trip to Malaysia with some awesome people. Whatever I’m not sure of, I can learn. Take a deep breath and remember: whatever happens, I can deal with it.
What follows are the notes I made in my phone throughout the trip accompanied by photos we took.
Sunday 26th March – 2:36pm
Arrived to airport safely. Packed. Found Dan and started with a hug. Relationship progressing already. Romance. We’re in the Wellington International Airport security line. Will I be scanned for explosives? Sniffed out for drugs? My stubble isn’t long enough yet. Once the beard comes in you can bet I’ll be up there being fondled next to the other passengers who look vaguely Southern Eastern. But for now my rectum feels safe. It’s relaxed. Oop, gotta give them my phone…
Sunday 26th March – 7:14pm:
Have just checked into Sydney airport and facing a three hour wait until boarding our flight to KL. We will be arriving at 3:20am, then I’m looking at mucking about until noon where I’ll fly to Kuching, then take a train or bus to my accommodation. Very exciting and slightly daunting. Even that three hour flight seemed tedious, all the films having either being good ones I’ve seen or crappy ones that I haven’t seen for a reason, so I vouched to read my awesome David Lodge trilogy instead. Dan’s chatting to his lassie, discussing their new domestic life together, and I’ve just bought an expensive beer called James Squire from the bar here, taking pleasure in the paywave feature of my debit card. You just scan that shit and zap, money’s gone from your account to the bar. Apparently some scoundrels have already figured out machines that can deduct money from your account so all they have to do is sidle up close to you on a crowded bus or train and hold the contraption to your pocket. Just like that, you’re poor and they’re rich. More reason to distrust the greater society. Next time someone grinds on me in the bus I’m gonna step away instead of jacking them off like normal.
Thought heaps of time had passed and surely it would be time to board our plane. I am wrong. Have reread my travel info so I know exactly what I’m in for now. The next flight is 8.5 fucking hours long. That’s like, Europe material, it hardly looks like we go that far on the map. Must be a slow plane. The barman here is a caricature of an Aussie, twangingly harsh accent, shark-like countenance and overtly friendly recommendation of beers and he is our saviour.
Time has passed with two beers and good conversation. Txting Abby from my iPad, tweeting about pilsener with Beth Brash and discussing Sam Neill films with Dan. Did anyone see Daybreakers? My boy Ethan Hawke rocking a relatively low budget Australian made vampire flick. Dug it heaps.
Monday 17th 4:30am (Kuala Lumpur time)
Arrived in the KL airport, waiting an hour for the Ekspres train to take us into the city. It’s this train that costs 150 ringgit (about $30) and speeds through the countryside to the city. Free wifi onboard is a treat, as is the instrumental version of I Just Called to Say I Love You. Looking out the window I can see the city transformed into meagre clusters of lights on a blanket of night.
Train smells of old wet carpet but we’re in good spirits as my remembered Indonesian phrases of Selamat Pagi and Terima Khasi have roused small but genuine smiles from the ticket lady. Free wifi everywhere is making twitter, Facebook, photo streams and iMessage fun. I’m gonna concentrate that instead of these notes. Excuse me.
After meeting our friendly and attractive (surprisingly young and stylish) Dutch guide Martyn (oh yes, with a y) who speaks incredibly American sounding English, checking my luggage through to Kuching and taxiing to the Prince hotel, we have encountered our first sticky problem. Check-in time is noon. No problem for me, as I am due to arrive in Kuching later this afternoon, well after twelve, but for Dan who is more than ready to check into his room and have a shower, it is less than satisfactory. Add on the $800 deposit and our time in the gorgeous, plushly decorated sparkling lobby has become lengthy and somewhat uncomfortable. I can’t get on the wifi without a password but I have no desire to interrupt them as they figure out the necessaries. Tensions after a 24 hour travel time have spiked.
I am now in a taxi en route to KL central to catch the Ekspres train back to the airport to catch a plane to Kuching. My taxi is currently stationary due to traffic so I’m watching the meter run higher and higher. Not that I have to worry about that too much thanks to the excellent per diems I’ve been generously supplied with (thanks again, NZ Government). My taxi driver speaks fair English which is helpful, and he seems to love my jokes. I call them jokes but really they’re simple phrases that he perhaps doesn’t understand.
We had a wonderful five course breakfast at the Prince hotel and met with Anna, Aidee and Johnny. They’re all awesome and ready to make dirty jokes after ten minutes of small talk – a feature I find irreplaceable in a good human being.
So now, my lone journey starts. With a bit of luck and determination I can stay awake until nighttime, get a decent sleep so I’m up bright and early for these workshops I’ll be holding… I’m still waiting on details about what the fuck I’ll be doing exactly. Although, and this thought hits me like nails to the bowels, I think I’m in charge of the curriculum. As in, everything… Yeah. Poor kids.
Sitting on possibly the most uncomfortable toilet of my life doing one of the most anticipated and glorious poos of my life. It’s been almost 48 hours since my last delivery, possibly more so, and all this airport food and black coffee has combined to make quite a pleasing parcel.
A sensor on the back wall causes the toilet to flush however, so every time I lean forward I am treated to an invasive and unwelcome clean of my arse crack via dirty toilet water. One hour and a half until my flight leaves so I’m looking at a lot of book reading and ostentatious strutting while really just itching my poohole through my jeans.
Stay tuned for Part 2.