On a quest to take Myan­mar’s film in­dus­try to new heights

The Myanmar Times - Weekend - - News - DE­CEM­BER 21, 2018 LE PHYU PYARMYO MYINT lae­[email protected]

FEW peo­ple would have thought it likely that a young IT tech­ni­cian work­ing in Sin­ga­pore would turn out to be one of the driv­ing forces in Myan­mar’s film in­dus­try to­day. But this is ex­actly what hap­pened to famed lo­cal di­rec­tor Arkar

When Arkar was work­ing in Sin­ga­pore, he just couldn’t re­sist go­ing to movie the­aters dur­ing his free time. But he felt dis­mayed that while he was able to watch films made in neigh­bour­ing coun­tries in the re­gion, there were none from Myan­mar.

It sad­dened and ag­i­tated him that there were few, if any, Myan­mar films that were screened in other coun­tries. It was these feel­ings that com­pelled him to en­ter the lo­cal film in­dus­try.

As they say, luck favours the bold. Arkar’s dar­ing de­ci­sion to com­pletely switch ca­reer direc­tions paid off and he is now on the way to soar­ing to greater heights as one of the coun­try’s most prom­i­nent di­rec­tors who has been turn­ing out movies that have gained strong sup­port from movie fans.

An in­for­ma­tion tech­nol­ogy ex­pert by pro­fes­sion, Arkar’s main hobby is pho­tog­ra­phy and he cap­i­talised on this to jump­start his en­try into the movie in­dus­try. His knowl­edge of light­ing as well as spe­cial ef­fects proved in­valu­able in his ca­reer as a film di­rec­tor.

He started out mak­ing travel videos and then ven­tured into mu­sic videos for his younger brother who is a singer. Bit by bit his work be­gan to get no­ticed not only by his fam­ily and friends but by the wider pub­lic. This gave him more con­fi­dence in his skills and in 2012, he es­tab­lished the Arkar Pro­duc­tion.

He was just 23 years old then and not born to a fam­ily re­lated to the small world of the coun­try’s film in­dus­try, nor fa­mil­iar with the work­ings of the ad­ver­tis­ing in­dus­try. All he had was courage and raw tal­ent and an im­pres­sive port­fo­lio.

Soon com­pa­nies be­gan to warm up to him and gave him ad­ver­tis­ing con­tracts to shoot their com­mer­cials or pro­mo­tional videos.

“As a 23-year-old youth I had to work hard to be en­trusted with jobs that were worth hun­dreds of thou­sands of kyat and im­por­tant to busi­nesses. I tried much harder to get the trust of the bosses com­pared to those who have es­tab­lished names in the in­dus­try. Some­times, I had to shoot sam­ples of com­mer­cials and some­times I did it free of charge,” he re­called.

His tenac­ity and tal­ent even­tu­ally got him go­ing and busi­ness own­ers were im­pressed with his work. But it was after shoot­ing a com­mer­cial for Asia Wings Air­line that the movie in­dus­try opened its door for him and he re­ceived a lot of of­fers to ven­ture into movie di­rect­ing.

Arkar said the movie in­dus­try is a to­tally dif­fer­ent world com­pared to shoot­ing com­mer­cials.

A film di­rec­tor works with many peo­ple to shoot a one-and-a-half hour or two-hour movie. After the shoot­ing, there is the post-pro­duc­tion work to en­sure that the K200 mil­lion to K300 mil­lion film is fit to be shown to the pub­lic. The movie has to be kept away from the pry­ing eyes of the pub­lic un­til it is shown in the­atres. There is also the need to con­sider the de­mands of the mar­ket be­fore the film is fi­nally screened.

“Com­mer­cial and mu­sic videos are well-known as they get lots of screen time and pub­lic­ity. How­ever, in film, we have to keep it un­der wraps un­til it is shown. We can only heave a sigh of re­lief only after it is shown. The film Mys­tery of Burma started film­ing in 2016 and was shown only this year. I couldn’t sleep well for about two years,” he said.

Jef­fery Mitchell, the older brother of for­mer US am­bas­sador to Myan­mar Derek Mitchell, hap­pened to see travel videos made by Arkar and was in­pired to cre­ate a movie with the beau­ti­ful scenery of Myan­mar, which re­sulted in the movie Mys­tery of Burma. Arkar found some­one in Myan­mar who wanted to es­tab­lish a new film pro­duc­tion com­pany in 2016 and fi­nance the film with Arkar as di­rec­tor.

Al­though he loves the im­ages, colours, sound and mu­sic used in Mys­tery of Burma, Arkar con­fessed the story was made to ap­peal com­mer­cially.

“Some artists said it was just a busi­ness move and not an artis­tic en­de­vour, but, film buffs in Myan­mar recog­nised that it was dif­fer­ent from other or­di­nary lo­cal movies,” he said.

Con­tain­ing scenes in set­tings that were tech­ni­cally chal­leng­ing to cre­ate, the movie re­ceived good feed­back when it was screened in Sin­ga­pore and also made a de­cent profit when it was screened in lo­cal the­atres. It is also ex­pected to be screened in Thai­land soon.

Arkar con­ceded that Mys­tery of Burma was cre­ated just for en­ter­tain­ment and he doesn’t ex­pect any awards for it.

He says he thinks Myan­mar’s movie tastes have changed since 2016 and au­di­ences now care­fully choose the movies they watch. He also thinks that a movie with a good sto­ry­line can be more suc­cess­ful now than in the past. Ex­am­ples of such movies in­clude Moneswal and Mi, where ex­pe­ri­enced ac­tors worked with a new gen­er­a­tion of di­rec­tors.

“In two or three years, Myan­mar movies will get sig­nif­i­cantly bet­ter. The new gen­er­a­tion of ac­tors, screen­writ­ers, di­rec­tors and oth­ers in­volved

‘The new gen­er­a­tion of ac­tors, screen­writ­ers, di­rec­tors and oth­ers in­volved in the in­dus­try are more ad­ven­tur­ous while the vet­er­ans have good ideas and ex­pe­ri­ence …The com­bi­na­tion makes good re­sults.’

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