14th March 2012
Location – The Print Room – Kuala Lumpur
It’s 11am and I’m waiting for Lennard from Esquire magazine to start a shoot with comedian and movie director Harith Iskander.
As usual, I only got a phone call about the job the night before:
Esquire: Awww Paul, you know you’re good at these last-minute things.
(Wonder where they heard that from.)
Me: So where do you want to shoot?
Esquire: Your choice.
Me: So what’s the story?
Esquire: Err, we haven’t written it yet — but we were thinking along the lines of Hitchcock, a profile sort of shot.
Me: Ok, why?
(Pause.. tic-toc, tic-toc..)
Me: All right but if I shoot him, I can’t have Harith doing all the usual silly faces we’ve already seen on billboards and posters. The poor guy must be so tired of doing that crap.
Esquire: It’s your shoot, it’s entirely up to you.
I suggest projecting a Hitchcock film onto Harith and the background, an idea the magazine seems to like. We agree to all meet the following morning at my studio at the Print Room.
The next day I dig out my VCR player and my Hitchcock box collection copy of “Birds”. God I love this movie, and I decide then and there to use it for the shoot. I pop it into the VCR player…and nothing happens. I whip out my screwdriver and some vodka (vodka being a great substitute for a head cleaner, amongst its 101 other uses) and get to work, but after fumbling around for half an hour, I haven’t gotten anywhere. I call Lennard.
Me: Len, my video player just died. I don’t suppose you happen to have one?
Len: Yeah sure, I’ll bring it over.
(And I thought I was the only one in KL who still owned one.)
Fifteen minutes later, Lennard appears with a Sony. Wait a minute – didn’t Sony only make Betamax?
Luckily, I turn out to be wrong. So we pop in the video and press “Play”, but all we get is the crisp sound of tape being chewed up…. F@#k! Unplug it, UNPLUG IT!
Lennard decides to have a go at being a repairman, with little success.”Don’t worry,” he says eventually, “I have another one at home. I will go and get it and you just get the tape out”
He rushes off, but when Harith arrives half an hour later, Lennard still isn’t back yet.
Harith and I chat as we wait and he tells me that his wife is about to give birth, which is why he can’t stay too long for the shoot. That seems fair enough. As the minutes tick by, he eventually asks where Len is.
Me: He’s gone off to get another VCR, we’ve already killed two.
Harith: Wow, you still own a VCR?
Me: Well…I used to.
The cavalry arrives soon after, VCR in hand. Len puts in the tape and we finally have picture. We press “rewind” to get things going, only to hear the now familiar whirring sound of tape being chewed. Again. F@#k,f@#k and f@#k.
Me: I have a DVD player.
Len: Do you have “Birds”?
Me: No, but I have “Spellbound”, or some Charlie Chaplin movies.
Harith: Well, Charlie Chaplin suits me more as I can relate to him.
Me: Really? So what was the connection between you and Hitchcock anyway?
Harith: I don’t know.
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