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Ramblings

The 4 Things that will decide if you are mediocre or amazing in life.

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Lately, I have heard many complaints of two staff. One is a producer and the other is a camera person. Mr Producer and Mr Cameraman have very differing issues. Mr Producer is a pretty hard worker, but lacks the critical thinking and problem solving skills to be a good producer. Most of the times, he follows instructions well but when it comes to making decisions and problem solving, he very often makes the wrong decision. On top of that, I feel he lacks self awareness and people skills that is the foundation of a good producer.
Mr Cameraman on the other is pretty talented, has all the right people skills, but terrible work ethics. He comes late for work almost every day, makes basic errors during shoots such as wrong frame rates, and is generally lazy. He talks the talk but when it comes to action (doing the work), he just doesn’t match what he says.
It was becoming apparent to me that the rest of the employees are pretty pissed with these two. So it was time to have a conversation (deliver a warning) to them. And quite honestly, I wasn’t looking forward to that. I don’t like confrontations in general. But this was necessary. Their behavior was affecting the team. So it’s clear to me that it’s either they shape up or they got to be shipped out.
Before the dreaded meeting, I actually watched several videos of Gary Vaynerchuk to get some advice on how to deal with underperforming employees. I remembered him saying something about hiring fast and firing fast. But to be honest, I like these two and I think firing them would probably be too harsh. They should at least be given a chance.
Then in one of the videos, Gary mentioned that it’s all about giving. More than you receive. The 51–49 rule. So I begin to think how I can help these two to become better versions of themselves. Whether they continue to be in my company or not.
So for the next few days, I was thinking about these two guys and why they are basically struggling with mediocrity. And what are the qualities that the A players and the winners have that Mr Producer and Mr Cameraman are still not getting?
I think it all boils down to 4 things.

1. Talent

I think we are all born with different talents and we are good at different things. Lebron James is born with the natural talent to play basketball. Steven Spielberg the gift of storytelling through the lens. We need to figure out what we are good at and then go all in with it. During my meeting with Mr Producer, I asked him what he thought he was good at. What was his natural talent. He thought for a moment and said “I think I’m good at playing the stock market.” I told him perhaps that’s what he should be doing. Maybe he’s just not born with the natural talent of becoming a fantastic producer. Find your talent and Go all in. By the way, I actually think this talent thing is the least important of the four.

2. Work Ethics

For all the talent that Mr Cameraman might have, he is lazy, and has poor work ethics. I have no doubt that someone who is not as not talented, but works much harder than him, will be more successful than him. I asked him about what he is really passionate about. He told me he really wants to do more storytelling using the camera. My immediate response was “Why don’t you?” Then he started talking about needing a big crew and support to make the film that he wants. I stopped him half way. I told him straight in the face, whatever he’s saying is all excuses. I have shot online short films using my handphone and reached almost a million views when I uploaded it online. No lighting, no fanciful equipment, no famous actors. There is no excuse not to go shoot stuff if that’s what he really wants. The more likely scenario is that’s not what he’s genuinely passionate about. I have worked with world class director of photography that spends an insane amount of time researching, doing test shoots, studying color, composition and storytelling. Every successful Director of Photography has worked their fucking socks off. But unfortunately Mr Cameraman will always be a camera operator instead of a director of photography. Until he works his fucking socks off that is.

3. Humility and the thirst to learn

humility

The thing that I have been hearing about Mr Cameraman is that he enjoys telling people that he is a ‘director of photography’ instead of a Camera Operator which is his official position. On top of that, when he is on set, he comes late and he commands the freelance crew to work while he sits at the side barking orders. He is too fancy to even help do the slate when it’s needed. There are some geniuses that I have met that are truly good at what they do and they have this attitude problem that they are better than others. Those I would call ‘talented assholes’. But when someone is not even THAT talented and yet thinks that he has made it, I would call this person a straight up ASSHOLE. This lack of humility and a false sense of importance is killing him. Or rather, that’s the main reason why he is stuck in mediocrity. The winners in life will never settle. A thirst for knowledge and a curiosity to try things is what is a key different between winners and losers.

4. Action

taking action

Lastly, the world is made up of two types of people. The dreamers and the doers. The dreams spend a lot of time talking about their dreams and what they are going to accomplish and what they will do in the future. Most of the time, I find the dreamers actually talk a lot because there is a lack of confidence that they can actually achieve what they talk about. The doers on the other hand, talks little but man do they take action. I am amazed at how many people do not walk the talk. A friend just complained to me recently that he really hates his job which is to install dentist chair. I asked him what his passion is. And my definition of passion is the thing you wake up and do every day even if you are not paid. He thought for a while and then replied “It’s singing.” And almost immediately, he added “But I don’t think it’s possible.” I told him quite frankly that if his dream was to become a superstar singer well known throughout the world, maybe it’s improbable. But if he was busking and singing funny original songs in the streets to make a living, it is absolutely possible. But it’s all about whether that’s what you want and whether he has the balls to take action. Unfortunately, it’s more likely that he would remain a dentist chair installer for a large part of his life.

What would happen to these two, I can’t say for sure. I shared with both these 4 principles. But what gets through to them and how they make use of these information would large depend on themselves. I am emphathetic enough to know that most people will find it hard to change unless it comes from deep within themselves. That’s the reason why most people do not take action. Because talk is always easier. And cheaper.

Three Mistakes to avoid if you want to make a BRILLIANT short film

By | Films and Movies, Ramblings, Video Production | No Comments

Just last week, a former colleague of mine who was working as an editor in my company asked me to meet up for lunch. To give some context to this story, this guy was a junior editor in our company and had recently moved on to join another company for a slightly better pay package and a chance to work on more narrative type of video content. I had wished him well and told him to stay in contact and if I could help in any way in the future, I would.

This editor was also a short film maker and has directed several action short films and has dreams of becoming an action movie director. While I had always applauded his effort in trying to go for a genre that is not a conventional route for young film-makers to go, I had been telling him that ACTION is a tremendously difficult genre to do WELL. The keyword here is of course WELL. Anyone can be an action director, or for that matter, literally ANYONE could be a director, but to do it WELL is a whole different ball game altogether. But to do well in the action genre is many times harder than the conventional art house, drama, comedy or even the horror genre.

In the short one hour meeting with The EDITOR, in which he showed me his action short film, I very quickly identified 3 main issues, which I thought would be the same issues for any short film makers. That’s why I decided to write the learnings in this post. So here we are. Three Mistakes to avoid while making your short film. Enjoy!

#1 Mistake : Care about everything else except STORY!

story

Way too many film makers worry about the aesthetics and not enough about the story. This is a recurring theme in all my dealings with many film-makers. They spend time researching on the aesthetics, on the latest technology, cameras, lights, toys, but not enough time devoted to studying story, story arcs, turns in stories, how to build characters, how to create tension, etc. The list goes on. While many film makers do not write their own script, (for instance David Fincher) but all good film makers have a deep knowledge about STORY and about CHARACTER and about the human condition.

If the story is not good, no amount of beautiful shots or brilliant cinematography is going to save it. But people can generally forgive a badly shot film with a good story. Now am I saying that you must be a great writer before becoming a great director? No! You can work with a great writer if you are not good at writing. But you must have enough self awareness to know that you are not a good writer to begin with. Then you can actively seek to learn more about how to tell a good story, or you could just partner with a good writer. There are tons of resources out there on the internet which teach good screen writing. Copies of academy award winning scripts are also there to be read and studied.

There is no excuse. Get your story right! It’s like the foundation of a house. If it’s not done right, rest assured that the house will crumble in due time.

#2 Mistake : Spend money on the all the wrong things!

spend money

When The Editor told me that he spent close to 25,000 dollars for his short film and actually went into debt, my mouth opened wide in amazement. What the hell was he thinking? Let me clarify why my jaw dropped. I’m not saying that you shouldn’t spend money to make a good short film. But I was shocked at where he spent his money on.

His film was peppered with nice aerial drone shots, some nice cinematography, a rain scene which was unnecessary and make up with some blood on the actor’s faces which was not even evident. I asked him what he was trying to achieve in this short film. He thought for a while and then remarked “I hope that after watching this short film, investors or sponsors will give him money to make his next short film.” I immediately smiled and asked him matter-of-factly “Why would someone do that?” Unless you impress an investor so much in your short that they want to invest in a movie that you direct. It has happened before. Lights Out is a good example where the film maker went from an online horror viral short to a box office sensation movie.

But it was clear that the director had chosen horror as the genre to showcase his talent in doing horror scenes. But The Editor had spent money in all sorts of things that are not even related to action.

For instance, much money was spent on the rain scene to build drama for an unwarranted love story. Drones were spent for nice interesting shots of the city. But how does any of these relate to ACTION? Shouldn’t he be spending money on the stunts, on stunt choreography, on art direction to break stuff to showcase the action?

And you know what’s the worse thing? He ended up in debt cause he insisted on shooting another day for scenes that were totally unnecessary in the storytelling. On a side note, please don’t go into debt just to make a short film. If you have to spend money, work in all kinds of jobs and save money! Don’t EVER go into debt just to make your short. I have seen to many film makers go down that rabbit hole and has never met one that has come out of it.

#3 Mistake : Worrying that people will steal your ideas!

steal ideas

This is a personal pet peeve of mine. You know what I’ll do when someone writes me an email claiming they have written a fantastic screenplay and asking me if I am interested to read it? Oh and by the way, before he sends me the script, please sign an NDA. I’ll immediately delete the email and if I could, I will reach into the computer and then bitch slap the fellow who sent me the bloody email.

There are two aspects to why this is my pet peeve.

Firstly, ideas are worth shit! It’s the execution. Ideas are everywhere. Everyone from the toilet cleaner in my office, to my wife, to the top director in the country has a bloody idea. So what? Ideas are worth shit until they are executed upon. And if your idea is really so brilliant, trust me, people will PAY you. Which brings me to my next point.

Making a movie is a bloody expensive business. And I am not referring to those student projects or home video projects where a guy scraps together a story and asks his friends to film and then churn out a 90 minute video footage of epic horrible proportions. I am referring to an actual movie which has a distribution and which will hit the cinemas and generate real money. Because of the fact that movie making is a really expensive investment and business, investors and film makers are more than willing to pay you if you have a brilliant idea. Why would they steal your idea or screenplay so that they can start looking for millions of dollars to invest in the project and NOT pay you? Does it even make any sense?

Lastly, if you possess a negative mindset where you are worried that people around you are going to steal all your brilliant ideas, then how are you going to share your work? In today’s world of youtube and FREE stuff on the internet, the only differentiating factor is your talent. You got to produce as much content as possible and then share it freely with the world. And if you are truly talented, trust me, someone will spot it. Someone who might just change your life. But if you are so scared that people will steal your ideas and don’t even dare to share any of your works, then you can quit right now. Don’t become a film maker. Be a copyright lawyer instead.

I’m only kidding. Be a safety box designer.

people who complain are losers

By | Life, Ramblings | No Comments

negative mind will never give you a positive life

The thing I don’t understand are people who like to complain. Why spend the time to complain and be negative and make yourself be unhappy when you CAN do something about it?

If you hate your boss, quit your job! IF you hate what you are doing, change it. If you are unhappy that you are not spending enough time with your family, CHANGE it. I’ve come to realize the people who complain the most actually secretly enjoy complaining. They get a kick out of people nodding their heads and sympathizing with them, and agreeing about how ‘loserish’ their lives are.

I have met people that have worked at the same job for ten years and they are complaining on a daily basis how shitty their job is. That is something I feel fascinated by. Instead of making plans to change to get out of this job they hate, they take pleasure in the complaints of fellow workers. So they gather together during lunch every day and they spread this negativity.

And truth be told, I don’t think it’s something they consciously seek to do. To breed and spread negativity. But such is the habit that has been accumulated over many years. Change is a scary thing. Whether it’s changing a job, quitting a failing relationship, even taking up a new course or changing a lifestyle. Most people are scared of change.

But most people also don’t think too much about life. Increasingly, over the years, as I grow older, time becomes more and more valuable. Or rather, my perception of time becomes more valuable. Much more so than money. Which is why I don’t really understand people who spend hours queuing for hours only to get a freebie worth five dollars. People who do that obviously put very little value in their time. And that inevitably becomes a value of themselves. Do they believe they are worth more than five dollars per 2 hours of time? People who think and value themselves highly would never engage in such pointless activities.

But I digress.

complaining sucks

The way I look at it. There are three terrible things that happen when one complains.

Firstly, it’s simply a waste of time. What does complaining actually achieve? Very little. That’s just true. Nothing changes with any types of complaining. Unless you actively find a solution to the source of your complaints, it really will not change anything. Only time wasted that you can easily use to do something about your situation. Hate your job? Find time to build your resume and look for a better one.

Secondly, complaining creates a negative mindset. And negativity will attract even more negativity. I was just chatting with a colleague the other day. We were talking about luck. He was saying that some people are just born lucky. I actually disagree. I strictly believe in the concept of ‘you make your own luck’. What do I mean by that? Have you ever notice that people who are generally more positive, and who are more open to opportunities, and with a good attitude, tends to have better luck than say Complainers?

Everywhere I go, the people I’ve met that seem to do well are positive people. They look at a glass that is half full. The complainers are usually people who look at things that are half empty.

Lastly, complainers drag people around them down. Not only does complainers affect themselves, it actually affects the people that they are complaining to. Most of us are polite people and we tend to nod politely and agree when we hear someone complain. Some of us might even have a good laugh. It basically creates a group of people that are feeding off each other’s negativity. We really don’t need that in this world. There’s enough negativity as it is.

So please. Next time when you feel an urge to complain. Shut your mouth and think what can be done instead. And trust me. You are better off doing that.

doing something for free

Why doing something for free for a client will benefit YOU

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I know many freelancers or business owners have this thing against doing work for free for a potential client. Some common arguments that I hear include “Why should we allow ourselves to be taken advantage of?”, “We should be paid well for our professionalism and expertise”, and “even prostitutes get paid. We are worse than prostitutes.”

Let me start by saying that clearly there is no right and wrong answer to this. Of course we should all be paid for our talent, skills, hardwork, etc. I think it’s quite clear the reasons WHY we should be paid. So I am not going to spend much time talking about that. Also, there will be people in this world that will try to make use of us and get a freebie from us. I have heard them all. “You can use this as your portfolio in future.” “This can lead to much bigger projects if the upper management likes this”. “We don’t have much budget this year but next year we will definitely pay you.”

There WILL always be people out to scam us. But let me tell you this. They will always be in the minority.

who benefits

So why will doing something for free for a client bring benefit to you?

The answer is simple. In the long run, because of a mentality of always constantly finding ways to give and to provide value, you will definitely reap the benefits. But most people are impatient and they want to close the deal and to earn money, even at heavily discounted prices up front. You see the difference between charging a low price and giving something away free is this. Charging a low price cheapens your product or service. But giving something away free gives you so much more leverage. When you keep giving, you can always guilt the people who receive into giving back. Not the next day. Or even the next month. But somehow, some time, I promise you. You will reap the benefits.

From my own experience, those big clients of mine had always started with something free I do for them. A prototype that they can show their bosses. Something simple to show that we deliver good quality service. Or even an urgent job and they are unable to get the finance to sign off. I’ve done them all and those jobs that I do for FREE, almost always result in bigger projects later on. Of course you got to deliver a good product or service cause nothing can ever substitute that. But if you are good at what you do and can provide a quality service or product, then I urge you. Go out there and try to find companies and offer to do something to them for FREE.

If you want more business, do it for free. Keep giving. Don’t expect anything in return. Don’t start having a bad attitude when the potential new client did not give you anymore jobs after your free service. Smile and look for another new potential client. Then give again.

smile for me baby

Of course I understand that we all have expenses and responsibilities in life. I am not suggesting that you quit everything and only start doing FREE things for people. You can take up a job and do FREE things for people on the side. What you have is TIME. And please don’t tell me that phrase that I hate the most. “I don’t have time.” EVERYBODY has time. It’s only a priority of time. If you prioritise watching TV, sleeping late, going to clubs to hook up with chicks, going for a holiday, etc. Then it’s YOUR CHOICE. Don’t complain that you don’t have time or that you are not killing it in life. And let me get this straight. If you are perfectly happy with your 9 to 5 job, and your family and work life balance, then it’s awesome. No one’s judging. But today, if you are not satisfied in your business or the money you are bringing in, then this is what you can do.

In your FREE time, offer to do something FREE for potential clients.

When you do this, three things will happen. 1. You train your mind to start thinking about giving and being more selfless. Giving is an extremely powerful mentality and action. 2. You will also be expanding your list of contacts and potential clients. Even if there is no further business from the company or client that you offer your FREE service to, your good work can easily get a good word of mouth and someone else could be alighted to your talent. 3. Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, when you give to someone unconditionally, it’s most likely from a human psychology that they will feel they owe you a favor. So naturally, they will consider giving something back to you.

And again, I stress that there will always be people who will try to take advantage of you. But trust me. Doing the right thing is always the right thing. Thing far. Think bigger. Go further.

 

Successful

Three things you must DO to become successful

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Recently I came across many people telling me what they want to achieve. A colleague tells me he wants to be the next famous movie director and make movies that break all box office records. A childhood friend tells me he wants to expand his tuition business to become a world class franchise. And one of the sales exec in the company rejoices because he just scored an appointment with a top tech company to sell our video making services. He proudly proclaimed that he is going to charge this potential client 50k for making a corporate film.

I smiled and told him matter of factly. Don’t think about how much you want to charge the client. Think about how much value you can bring to the client. If you want to charge the client 50k, then you got to make sure we deliver a value that is at least worth 100k.

bring value

  1. Bring Value

You see too many of us think only about what we want. We want fast cars, beautiful houses, lots of passive income, and clients giving us top dollar. But we spend too little time thinking about what we can offer and bring value to the world. Because only when you can provide value to a lot of people consistently, then you have a real shot of being a success. So rule number one. Don’t think about what you want. Think about what value you can bring to the table.

Find-your-passion

2. Find your passion

A few days ago, a junior editor asked to speak to me. He was telling me that he wanted to take unpaid leave for a month to travel to Europe. I was really excited for him and told him immediately he should go do it because he is young and he really should see the world. Then I casually asked him what he sees himself doing in three years time and he immediately says that it’s probably not going to be in the media business.

So I asked him what was his passion? He mumbled a little and spoke about wanting to open an eatery, but I could sense there was no enthusiasm in what he was saying. Then I asked him “Do you know the meaning of passion?”. He nodded his head and wanted to give me a definition of the word passion. I smiled and stopped him. “No. We all know the definition. That’s not what I mean. What I mean is. Imagine if you were to wake up and for the next ten years do this one thing. Even if you were not paid. For the next ten years. What is it going to be? That. I would define as passion.”

He paused for a moment. Then his eyes lit up. I think I would love to dj even if I’m not paid. “Fantastic.” Then you should start a side hustle and get yourself there. I could tell that he was shocked that his boss was encouraging him to do a side hustle. I told him straight “I genuinely want the best for you and I want to help you to be successful in your passion. And the skills you are going to pick up in this company will lead you there.” This leads me again to the first point. Bring value to everyone around you. Even if you might not get anything back. Give. And you give. And then you give some more. Because the way the cosmic world works, or maybe some call it karma. Somehow good things will happen to you.

But I digress. The point I am trying to make. You need to find your passion and then go all out to make your passion become the work that you do every day. Because being successful is VERY tough. And only if you are doing something that you truly love, then you will be willing to work your fucking socks off. And only then, will you stand a chance of being truly successful. Passion and you work HARD.

DO it

3. Do.

Yes. It’s just a two letter word. But it has so much meaning in it. Too many people around me spend their time talking about what they want to do and never get around to do it. There’s a guy who told me he wanted to write a kickass screenplay, but it’s been three years and last week when I checked, that screenplay is still in his mind in the development stage.

Let me tell you a short story to illustrate this point. The year was 1998. I was a broadcast media student in a university. And at that time email was still very new and it was a time when we actually loved receiving email. Video was shot on SVHS cameras (big ass but low quality cameras) and editing could only be done in a actual tape format. I remembered vividly one day during a lecture when a professor was explaining a concept of sharing files with each other using FTP. My immediate thoughts were “Wouldn’t it be awesome if there was a way for all of us to showcase the videos we have made and share it with everyone?” I turned to best buddy who was seated beside me in the lecture. I told him my idea and he immediately laughed and said “Why would anyone want to watch videos?”. Well, I guess we all know what happened.

My point, other than the fact that I could have been the one who started youtube, is this – DO. If at that time I had a determination to find out how to actually start a platform to allow the sharing of videos, I could in theory be the founder of youtube. The fact that I didn’t do anything and was so easily persuaded by my buddy’s taunt. Add to the fact that I was pretty much a slacker during my uni days. I just talked about an idea. Debated about it. And ultimately the big difference is – I simple Didn’t DO.

I have gone to respect those people that do and keep failing much more than those who are smart, who talks a lot but never does anything. They spend so much time thinking about an idea or a concept or the most perfect way that they just end up missing out. Ideas are shit. Execution’s the game. I believe my idol Gary Vaynerchuk said that.

Don’t spend so much time talking or thinking. You need to start doing. Even if by doing, you end up failing most of the time. I guarantee you will learn more than someone who spends time talking and thinking and not even executing.