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  • Writer's pictureMichael Chen

I just want to make a good Malaysian movie

Updated: 6 days ago

If we go way back to 2014, this was a little something I said when asked about what my hopes are for CUAK, the first movie I produced.

Michael Chen interviewed.
Michael Chen from 2014, as CUAK Producer.

"...if I can get a fair segment of the community (I meant the Malaysian public) and say to themselves that it's a movie that I'm proud of, as a Malaysian film...", unable to finish my train of thought, I just did a thumbs up.

I got a little emotional when I said this, check out the video below. It wasn't something I planned. It just happened. I was going through a lot at the time on a personal level.

In 2014,

I was starting a new career path in advertising. That was a big leap for me at the time as for most of my working life between 2007 to 2013, I was entrenched in the independent scene. Ranging from music, to theatre, short films, events and I did everything. I was an actor, a singer/songwriter, part of the crew for a multitude of TV and indie projects. My part as a crew ranged from Production Assistant (PA) to 2nd/3rd Assistant Director (AD) to Assistant Producer for a multitude of projects for TV and other trailblazing low budget efforts. I was even a part time kickboxing instructor with humble dreams of becoming an action actor following the footsteps of Jackie Chan, Jason Statham and etc. For the most part, I was just known as the 'indie guy'.

I had just proposed to my girlfriend, now wife, and was trying to become a responsible adult. We just bought an apartment together. Planning on how we would eventually have a family and build a future we would be proud of together.

Needless to say, it was a lot. While I have a lot to be proud of, looking back with the lenses of 2024 in my eyes. I'm definitely not without regrets. When it comes to my career as a Producer and making films, my one regret from that period is that due to circumstances and my lack of knowledge/experience, I never truly saw CUAK all the way through to the end. I am eternally thankful to my Lead Creative Director and a guy I am deeply honoured to call my friend, Khairil M Bahar and the team at Garang Pictures & Capri Communications, you all know who you are. They are the ones that brought the film that I started to the finish line. It got a limited Malaysian release via TGV Pictures as Distributor and then a second life on Astro First for a while.

I walked away battered and bruised. A fallen soldier because the battle was too big for me at the time. I didn't know it then. While a lot of good came from that experience, I am also still suffering from the losses that came from my failures of that movie.

My biggest take-away? : If I ever produce another movie. I will do it very, very differently. I would want to give my next film every opportunity in the world to succeed. I threw CUAK to the wolves and hoped for the best. With GENG KUBUR, the wolves are still very much there, but this time I'm giving GK all of the protection, support and mojo it needs to weather the storm. The rest, I leave to the people and the universe.

It feels oddly cyclical because here I am 10 years later. And it very much still feels the same way.

It's 2024,

I am now a Father of two beautiful baby girls. I have been married to my wife for 10 years and been together with her for even longer, 18 years! I am still figuring out how to be a better man for her and learning to be a good Father to my girls. My wife and I are still hustling for a life we can be proud of together. Riding that delicate balancing act of career and family.

I had a great go at my digital advertising path between 2013 to 2018. It was no longer a question of whether I could be a Producer. I have produced over 200 short-form digital branded content, 2x movies, 4x40min episodes of stand-up specials and 8x55min episodes of a murder mystery series. Even as an Actor, I achieved things I never thought I would. Having acted in12x plays, 4x musicals, 5x series, 8x indie short films and 2x movies.

I am no longer just the 'indie guy'. I am different things to different people. I am a jack of many trades and a master of most of them.

Since 2019, I have been running Iron Hill Media (IHM) as CEO. It's almost 5 years now. Our mission is to tell authentically local stories for global audiences. 'Local for Global' is our slogan.

For the first time in my life as a Producer, I am backed by a team of seasoned and connected Producers who are responsible for high end global TVC's with over 20 years of experience. I didn't have to worry about being able to deliver a final product with high production values worthy of a global audience and more importantly, give local audiences something different that they can be proud of as a Malaysian piece of content. I could focus on what I am most passionate about. Working with good, talented people whose voices should be heard and essentially, tell a good story. Our Malaysian stories, 'local for global'.

It's been tough going. To date, like the rest of the world, I needed to weather the COVID storm. Figure out the local and global industry and where IHM can fit in. In my tenure, I have managed -

  • To develop, pitch and ultimately produce "Murder By Moonlight" (Aug 2022), a murder mystery series that was commissioned as an Astro Original.

  • Winning grant funding to develop a high-end zombie-pocalypse animated series called "Happy Survivors Club" since 2021, which has since travelled to Annecy Animation Film Festival (2023) and is still looking for more funding to create the final product.

  • And now, producing my 2nd film ever, Gavin Yap's "Geng Kubur" (aka Dead Boys Club), a coming-of-age horror film.

I am giving everything I can to this film. The story and it's characters are born out of Gavin's imagination. But I am not treating this film like a Producer for hire. To me, this film is everything. It's Iron Hill's first full length feature. It's my second film as a Producer. It's my shot at redemption for my regrets from 2014. From it's development phase, to the pre-production prep, casting, the shoot, post production and figuring out how to allow the world to see it. I am orchestrating one of the biggest projects of my life thus far.

Part of it is selfish, because yes, I want to prove to myself that I can do it. But ultimately, I sincerely believe this film deserves all of the chances I can get it to achieve success. On all fronts. 'Local for Global'.

We have managed to have it released all over Malaysia, with almost 80 screens. Which means, chances are, you can easily buy tickets to watch it in the cinema. I have successfully partnered up with Primeworks and they are providing a very generous amount of mainstream exposure for the movie. For the next few weeks, our movie will be everywhere online, on air, on radio, billboards and a whole plethora of media, entertainment and news platforms. My Distributor in Empire Film Solution is very, very experienced and we are working so closely to ensure maximum exposure for the film, it's insane. Finally, pulling all of my own personal experience, I know digital social media strategy is integral, especially from my time in digital advertising, so we are working with Code Of Origin (COO) to ensure no stone is left unturned.

The movie will be released on 25 April 2024. As I write this, this date is just days away. My hope remains, "...if I can get a fair segment of the community (I mean the Malaysian public) and say to themselves that it's a movie that I'm proud of, as a Malaysian film...", I'll be happy.

The one true way this can be seen is via box office success. I have done and will continue to do all that I can to achieve this. Ride this right to the very end.

Like the title of this post says, "I just want to make a good Malaysian movie."

Let's go!

*If you've read up here, drop me a line on any of my socials or in the comment section below. I'd love to hear from you. About anything at all. Preferably it would be about how many tickets you'll be buying for 'Geng Kubur' of course!

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