Malaysian-born and KL based Zaim Rosli is a director at Directors Think Tank, a leading production company with offices around the region including Indonesia, Singapore and Malaysia. Campaign Brief Asia put 15 questions to Rosli to find out more about him and his approach to directing.
When the industry vet isn’t directing, he can be found riding his bike or motorbike or even tinkering in his garage on his car.
1. What’s your favorite part of the job?
I can’t be specific because there’s so many things that I love about this job! I get to explore and experience new things and emotions in every single job with different scripts. For me the script is like a puzzle that needs to be solved. I love problem solving.
P.S: Also travelling! working while travelling is fun right?
2. What is your most productive time of day and why?
I can consider myself as a morning person. I always thought that if I have a great morning, I will be productive throughout the day. Psychologically, I will feel more positive because I feel like I have longer hours to get things done. I always keep myself busy because I have this thought that “today will not be the same as another day”.
3. If you didn’t have this job, what would you be doing instead?
I’m grateful that I am not only creative but I’m also a very technical guy. I think if I’m not working as a film director I would be a bike or car mechanic. I don’t mind getting my hands dirty on fixing and creating something new. I don’t mind learning how to roast coffee and open a small coffee shop.
4. How early did you know this would be your path?
I always thought that when I grow up I want to be a mechanical engineer. While studying Mechanical Engineering in Uni, I developed a new interest in photography. I love the moment that I managed to capture in a photo. So, I decided to drop out from Uni and pursue what I believed in.
Throughout the journey, as a photographer for six years, I felt like the visual itself is not enough to portray the emotions. I slowly started to explore the world of filmmaking and that is how I began my journey as a filmmaker at the age of 26yrs at Directors Think Tank.
5. Can you name some recent jobs?
The latest job I did is with BMW. It was an exciting project for me personally as a petrolhead, I can explore and shoot the car on the street. Not only that, I get to work with five different and unique genres based on the KOL personality and background and produce five different films. But my most recent job was with Ensure Gold that I got to shoot remotely from Malaysia but the set was in Singapore. This job is still in post production.
6. Do you put on a different hat when shooting for a specific genre?
I don’t think I will try to put a different hat on while shooting but I normally love to assist on the technical part so that it will help the communication better between me and other departments. I have a strong belief that everyone in each department is doing their best. Also I believe filmmaking is about collaboration with all the people on set.
What I have in mind for a different hat is that I act the clown on set while shooting with kids and also I always play “good cop /bad cop” to get the kid’s trust and cooperation.
7. Have you been continuing to shoot during the COVID crisis? Can you describe that experience?
Yes, I did a short film at home featuring my housemates during the first MCO. It was a fun project to do because we could not continue our shooting at that time.
To keep moving forward in this pandemic situation, remote shoot is a new way of shooting. It is quite challenging for me personally because I cannot be there to see everything on set. we have to gather way more information like the dimension of the space so that i can translate it correctly on my side compared to before this pandemic, I just need to be there to see everything.
8. Do you have a favorite piece of kit?
My laptop obviously. There are Thousands of references and secrets in it.
9. Are you often asked to do more than direct? If so, what are you asked to do?
Second camera operator and editor.
10. What are three pieces of technology you can’t live without?
My phone, laptop and definitely my camera.
11. This is a high-stress job. What do you do to de-stress from it all?
I believe in work-life balance and I’m afraid to answer this question because I have so many activities that I love to do to de-stress myself. I love nature, i will go camping or hiking. If I have little time to spare, I will go for a quick spin with my bicycle or riding my motorcycle. Other than that, I love fixing stuff. I can spend the whole day at a workshop learning and fixing cars or motorcycle.
12. How do you manage producers’ expectations with the reality of what can really be done?
Right communication is the key between me and my producer. Every single detail needs to be discussed clearly before the shoot day. It’s not just about the shoot day but all the preparation that has to be done within the time that we have and also one more important thing to discuss is about the cost, so that both sides can manage their expectations. Other than shoot day, clear brief and discussion are important with the posthouse to plan for the post work. Then only we will have a smooth shoot day.
13. How do you manage your time? Do you manage expectations or try everything they ask of you?
To be frank, I am such a forgetful person. Lucky-lee and thankful-lee I have my producer, Lee, who will sync everything on my calendar and always remind me of time management.
As for managing expectations, we will plan and try our very best to deliver the job for each of our clients with the amount of time given.
14. When someone who is starting out asks what they should learn, what do you recommend?
Based on my personal experience, you need to understand what is happening in the world of filmmaking. Before this, I always thought it was just about “ action” and “cut’ but turns out it is more than that. Keep increasing your knowledge and experience day by day by watching anything genre that you like. Knowledge and experience is the key factor in filmmaking. The more experience you have the easier you solve any problems. Because for me, filmmaking is about sharing your small piece of life experience in front of a camera. Furthermore, to be a good filmmaker, you should understand and experience what is happening in all the departments involved.
15. How do you take criticism? Do you find yourself defensive or accepting of others’ ideas (good and bad)?
Everyday is a learning curve for me. I do take criticism seriously because this is how I can improve myself. For me, criticism happens because people care about your work, you can always filter on points that can develop or bring you down.
I don’t think I find myself defensive in accepting criticism because I always welcome positive and negative criticism to cherish the idea.