News | Music video | Azmyl Yunor’s Charity Lane (2013) | BTS

JOHN CHO // Writer-Director, Production Designer // Malaysia

News | Music video | Azmyl Yunor’s Charity Lane (2013) | BTS

So finally here it is. In anticipation of the theatre performance tomorrow presented by Five Arts Centre and directed by Mark Teh, “Something I Wrote” is touted as a compelling documentary-musical about musician Azmyl Yunor’s views on Malaysian life; seven actors play the renowned local singer-songwriter in the play. In conjunction with this, Azmyl is also releasing “The Revenge of the Rabak”, a retrospective compilation album of sorts, which features Charity Lane.

This is one crazy passion project that did not die a fiery death. The two years it took to make this – I had another job when this got off the ground – and we had to negotiate the busy schedules of everyone involved. Not to mention I had to learn how to do all those visual effects from scratch. Talk about ambitious.

Many years ago, before all this happened, I stumbled upon Azmyl’s MySpace. I was curious at first, to sample the many works on offer from the self-styled “Bob Dylan of Malaysia”. Immediately I was very attracted to the music, I loved the rawness and honesty of Azmyl’s music that simultaneously punches you in the face and pats you on the back. Maybe it’s late as I’m writing this and I don’t know what I’m saying but it sounds about right.

The one song that really stood out for me was none other than Charity Lane. At the time, I had neither the inkling nor aspiration to try and work with Azmyl as I was reading finance in university and headed for a promising career in a non-creative field. How life has a way of throwing you curve balls.

I met Azmyl once at an open mic, and then later again, without recognising him at a family get-together. It turns out by some strange sequence of marriages, we were – I struggle to use the word ‘related’, as it would be quite the stretch – affiliated. Some strange Kismet.

Still, I never thought we’d collaborate on a music video. Perhaps an album I would write for him to sing and perform, as I had old pipe dreams of making it as a singer-songwriter in a previous life. But I was still working in finance, remember?

Cut to a few years later, and I was dabbling in the dark arts of filmmaking (read: hobby), it was only then that I first considered making the music video, and what I would approach Azmyl with, and for what piece of music. I was doing a lot of rotoscoping for another project at the time. This is a technique for selective tracking video footage for the purpose of replacing or substituting parts of it with another moving image or still picture. So initially, I set out with the idea of trying to use this tool to incorporate his likeness into iconic imagery, historic photographs that we all know well, and try and carve out an intelligent socio-political commentary.

I thought this was apt given the song’s satirical tone and sound with close semblance to the earlier works of ol’ Bob Dylan. So that was the concept, with which I had approached Azmyl.

But of course I would soon discover that a lot of these pictures I had in mind were either copyrighted or of very low resolution, so I had to scour the public domains and open archives for suitable images. At the time, a lot of ex-USSR pictures were made available to the public domain by an old news agency and so I was able to use a lot of these for the video.

We then set about to find a location and a suitable artist or celebrity to make a cameo appearance as a librarian. Azmyl had a great suggestion for the casting of this role; it turns out indie-music darling, Liyana Fizi, was one of his ex-students (Azmyl is a lecturer in another life) and he could possibly get her to appear in the video. We were also looking for someone to star as the dim jock friend, preferably a band mate. Talented drummer and Azmyl’s close collaborator in the band, ‘Maharajah Commission‘, Ammar Khairi, would heed this call.

With Azmyl, Liyana and Ammar, we shot all the library scenes we required in a few short hours at Sunway University during Puasa month of 2011, then we picked up Ammar’s facial expressions a few months later in January 2012, just before he was to leave for Australia. Then due to an unfortunate spate conflicting schedules, we only could pick up Azmyl’s scenes much later in 2012.

So finally all the principal photography out of the way, it was time to make sense of it all.

The whole process of putting it together, which was then still very much a gamble, took several months and finally only early last month all the scenes were completed; the whole sequence could be pieced together in editing. Then, I proceeded to foley and sound design, which took a few days before finally arriving at the colour grade. Foreign language subtitles were placed at the last minute, on an impulse, as an aesthetic choice.


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