New Finas director-general aims to take film industry out of traditional sphere


Datuk Kamil Othman, director-general of the National Film Development Corporation, is the man with a plan.

On a sunny Friday morning, Datuk Kamil Othman arrives at the Finas (National Film Development Corporation) complex in Petaling Jaya, Selangor has a quick smoke outside before stepping into his office and starting the day proper with a discussion with a member of his staff.

As they go through the list of things he has to give his attention to, Kamil takes out his little notebook, opens to a new page and begins to write.

“OK, item number …” he mutters, “… number … 77 …”

Kamil has been a very busy man since taking over the director-general’s office in Finas in November last year. But I’m fortunate to get a glimpse of how he works. He achieves a rather unusual and seemingly impossible balance of an easy-going and approachable persona and a no-nonsense attitude. He cracks jokes easily but you have to be mindful to take his words seriously when it comes to things related to his job.

Coming off a very successful stint at the Multimedia Development Corporation (MDeC) where he had brought a much needed boost to the local animation industry, he now takes on his new position with a lot of other people’s expectations tailing him.

Many pinned their hopes on him to bring much needed and pined for changes to the film and TV industry. This is understandable considering that recently local films have not been making much at the box-office, except for The Journey, which became the highest-grossing local film ever.

A scriptwriter that I spoke to lamented how things are slowing down in the industry and the number of jobs he gets has been gradually decreasing.

Also, Kamil is a well-known film buff, and even as a radio DJ back when he was with Time Highway Radio, he was already known as a person who is not prone to cookie-cutter aesthetics and trends.

Joe Kidd, a member of the punk band Carburetor Dung that had been on Kamil’s radio show Alternative Rock Hour twice, recalls how he was once stuck in a traffic jam listening to Black Sabbath’s live version of War Pigs that went on uninterrupted for nine minutes.

“That’s Kamil!” says Joe. “He was also playing local underground stuff when no other DJ or station would.”

With such a reputation as a trailblazer, it’s no wonder there is so much expectation heaped upon him. But does it bring added pressure to his new job?

“It adds pressure in terms of managing expectations,” says Kamil, when he finally has time to do this interview proper. Even then, there are already people outside his office waiting to see him.

“Different people have different ways of measuring the success of the industry. For some, they might think the way to build the industry is through more funding, more direct support. There may be others who think the solution lies in policies.

“But I think why most people are feeling confident, and this is where the pressure comes, is because we have a track record in building the animation industry. MDeC’s 14 years were about building the animation industry without following the traditional support system that Malaysia normally has.”

What happened at MDeC was that the animation industry was built from the ground up, with emphasis on manpower, infrastructure, network and distribution. These were the “building blocks of the industry. .Money was not the main focus.

NEXT PAGE: Passion and creativity

“I believe he’s someone who really wants to do something for the industry, which is really to create an effective ecosystem for the industry. I hear there are plans to streamline various organisations and make them connect, which is, of course, a good start.”

Comments are closed.