Young filmmaker Sharifah Aryana interviews last year’s Malaysian representative at the ASEAN-ROK Film Leaders Incubator, Sharifah Aleysha. We find out more about Aleysha’s experience and understand how her entire whirlwind of filmmaking workshops kicked off through Next New Wave.
With the imminent arrival of Next New Wave’s upcoming filmmaking program, we re-connected with alumni from the first ever Young Filmmakers Workshop held last year.
One of its most prominent was actor and storyteller Sharifah Aleysha. After attending Next New Wave’s one-week session she was chosen to represent Malaysia at the ASEAN-ROK Film Leaders Incubator (FLY2015), a two-week workshop held at Johor Bahru which focused on developing short films.
A joint collaboration between ASEAN nations and the Republic of Korea (ROK), FLY2015 also brought Aleysha along for its Higashikawa installment — a more intensive, four-week version of the programme held the following year.
Recounting the beginnings of her experience, Aleysha describes Next New Wave’s Young Filmmakers Workshop as “incredible fun” but also remembers feeling particularly exhausted.
“The first thing I did after the whole week was [to] take a 12-hour nap because I was so physically and emotionally tired from the week,” she remembers.
“But I didn’t regret a thing. The workshop helped my career by introducing me to all kinds of people and content here in Malaysia as well as all over the world. It helped me gain a lot of confidence — I’m better at figuring out [what I want].”
Curious of how Aleysha’s journey as a filmmaker has progressed since attending the inaugural Young Filmmakers Workshop? We’ve got back your back: she happily gives us insight into the programme in this special interview.
What did you find most helpful about the workshop?
I think the most helpful person(s) were Tan Chui Mui and the production manager, or at least my team’s PM, Lim Shu Jia. They were always ready to answer our questions and to lend a helping hand or another point of view. I don’t know if my team would have survived without Shu Jia.
If you were given the chance to go back and change something, what would it be?
I don’t think I would go back and change anything. I feel I did my very best and even though I did make some mistakes, they were important mistakes to make. [Those mistakes] taught me a lot about the process of filmmaking and myself. This is also why I think workshops like these are important for young people, because it allows us to reach further without the fear of screwing up so much.
What were some of your favorite memories at the workshop?
My favourite memory of Next New Wave were the moments at night [when] we had [time for] ourselves and with the mentors. We didn’t have to be too serious with ourselves, we were able to get to know each other as people and we could talk about films as much as we wanted. It was also good to have conversations with the mentors without the rigidity of the classrooms so we could learn how their past experiences influence their filmmaking decisions now.
Seeing as you were selected for ASEAN-ROK FLY Leaders Incubator: FLY2015 in Johor Bahru as well as FLY2015 in Higashikawa, can you tell us a little bit about the difference between these workshops and some of your experiences while you were there?
My experiences at ASEAN ROK FLY Leaders Incubator: FLY2015 [in Johor Bahru] and FLY in Higashikawa were very different from my experience at Next New Wave as I worked with people [from] completely different backgrounds, languages and ideas. At FLY, I learned a lot about being a good leader, allowing everyone their time and space, but also asking them for more than [what] I would normally do.
In Higashikawa, I had to shoot in -12 degree weather and I chose the snowiest night to do a shoot so that taught me more about perseverance for your art and how weather affects everyone’s mood. I also had to shoot in a language other than my own and that challenged me in a completely different way. Needing to translate from Malay to English in my head then from English to Vietnamese for my lead actor and then from Vietnamese or English to Japanese for the others.
What were some of the more important lessons you learned from these workshops and why?
The important lesson I walked away with from both these workshops was that the world is huge. So much bigger than what the camera can capture, but it should never stop us as storytellers. It also showed me how to communicate a story that was important to me and make it just [as] important to someone else.
In both these workshops, my script ideas were chosen and I was asked to direct and that actually really humbled me. It also helped me open up to other people’s work ethics and viewpoints.
My favourite memories at these workshops are pretty much the same as Next New Wave – [moments] when we were able to shut off and talk about anything and everything we wanted. Another favourite memory was when we all sat down and watched random films together – sharing our views and thoughts, screaming at the top of our lungs.
Do you have any advice for this year’s future participants? What do you think, in your opinion, they should look out for?
My advice to this year’s applicants would be to just go for it. Leave your ego at the door and be ready to learn from anyone and not just the mentors. Ask all the questions in your head and don’t worry about looking needy or annoying. Ask questions you know you want answers to, even if they sound stupid. It’s fine – if you want to learn, you have to ask dumb questions because then you can start asking all the smarter ones.
Any other advice?
Have fun! Because if you enjoy what you’re doing then everyone else will want to too. Always remember that it’s okay to make mistakes as long as you learn from them.
No one is expecting you to churn out an Oscar winner (but by all means try your best) and that’s the whole point of these workshops – so [that] you may make mistakes to learn. Open your heart to everyone because you really don’t know who you could call up one day to make a movie with.
And lastly, enter with an open mind – be honest about every single thing that you do, especially to yourself.
Since coming off all three workshops, Aleysha has been diligently building her portfolio, working with numerous local directors and producers from both film and theatre backgrounds.
She played a part in recent short films by Ika Zulaikha (Suraya) and Pouya Eshtehardi (Blue Tree), and also wrote for Five Arts Center’s TIGA, a writer/director showcase held back in April.
While Aleysha continues developing her talent as a filmmaker, she also has hopes to further her studies in order to be able to teach in the future. But regardless of current or future plans, her focus is resolute.
“I just want to tell stories,” she finishes, adamant. “No matter how.”
Next New Wave‘s 2nd Young Filmmaker’s Workshop will run over eight days from 19 – 26 August. Two selected participants from the workshop will represent Malaysia at the ASEAN-ROK FLY workshop held in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. For application forms and more information on the workshop, visit Next New Wave or contact firstname.lastname@example.org.