* All italics and emboldening are editor’s own
Mak, in A Few Words
I’m a professional storyteller who tries to shine a light on important social issues through personal human stories.
The Calling & The Path
I’ve always loved expressing myself and telling stories to an audience. It occurred to me during my theatre days in school that I was better offstage and more comfortable behind-the-scenes. Film-making has always been THE dream. When I was 14, I remember telling myself that I would become a filmmaker one day. I’ve always known in some way or another. Watching Spielberg’s films (repeatedly) growing up definitely had a profound impact on me. I was always transported by his films and became in awe of the magic of movies. I’ve always been grateful that I discovered my calling early in life. But growing up in the 90s, pursuing this passion professionally seemed unrealistic. And so I decided to first develop a career in TV.
Practicalities and Possibilities
I came to realise early on in my TV career that one could make a really good documentary on a lot less money than a really good fiction film. As one doesn’t have to rely on a huge budget for actors, writers, producers, locations and a large crew when documenting reality. So the plan was to first hone my craft and to use documentary filmmaking as a stepping stone to movies. But when I started making authored feature-length documentaries which are not restrained by the boundaries of TV programming (which is at the end of the day is produced for mass consumption), I fell in love with the potential and the possibilities of the genre.
Joshua Oppenheimer‘s controversial/Oscar-nominated films THE ACT OF KILLING and THE LOOK OF SILENCE have really inspired me to pursue BUYING HAPPINESS.
Understanding with Experience, & The Beginning of Tanzania
I was 25 and hungry for another big adventure after having travelled to Australia, Asia, US and Europe. I thought that volunteering might be a meaningful way to understand a foreign culture. And Africa then seemed like the ultimate frontier to explore. My experience in Tanzania was very profound and it remains challenging to put it into a few paragraphs of words. I feel like I wouldn’t be doing it justice! Essentially, it left me with a greater understanding of myself and my place in the world. And it planted a seed deep within me about the troubling facets of the aid industry.
John & The Return
(Mak returned to the same orphanage 12 years after his first voluntary work visit in Tanzania. Read full story here.)
It was very difficult to keep in touch with them back in 2004. But now with mobile phones having penetrated the African market, it is easier. John was one of my favourites and we were close. He was one of the better English speakers, arguably the brightest child at the orphanage, and with me being the first male volunteer there, I adopted the role of the older brother to the boys instantly. Like the rest of the children, he was innocent, happy and hopeful of a promising future. In 2014, I reconnected with one of the orphans and learnt that many of them, including John, were struggling in life. I’ve always wanted to visit them. And knowing that they were not well, it felt like the right time.
Buying Happiness, The Film
One of the key motivations behind making the film BUYING HAPPINESS is to tackle the cliche of African poverty and African orphans by sharing the personal stories of my friends and an intimate and relatable way. The idea to crowdfund and help turn their lives around came about also because it allows the public to be involved from the get-go. When one contributes to our campaign, one is directly impacting the characters and hence the narrative of the film. This is a way to engage future audiences by giving them vested interest in the film. The documentary ultimately aims to challenge the audience about their actions or inaction when it comes to helping the less fortunate.
The Filming Process & Apportioning of Funds
Our total crowdfunding goal of US$55,000 is the minimum amount needed for us to fund all the projects of my orphan friends (John, Jackie, Bahati, Upendo, Happiness, Amani, Rama, Daniel, Salima) and to move the documentary project forward into 2017. The more money we are able to raise through crowdfunding, the more it shows that the general audience wants this film made, and the easier it is to raise the rest of the production budget (about US$240,000) through conventional means (TV broadcasters, film foundations and grants).
Before distribution, marketing, festivals and the launch of social impact campaigns, there are 3 basic stages in making a film – pre-production (research, development), production (filming) and post-production (editing). An independent film requires thousands of hours of manpower. BUYING HAPPINESS is being shot over a few years So even without considering the fees of the team, costs for camera equipment hire, editing suite rental, music composition, legal services, insurance coverage, flights, hotels and meals are already significant. When you add everything up, US$240,000 is a relatively low figure for a film.
The World For The Storyteller
In many ways, I’m living my dream – travelling the world to make films. My hope is to be able to continue doing this as a profession. I’ve been based in Mexico City for over a year working on another documentary film which I’m equally passionate about. It deals with a hugely important social issue that societies around the world are afraid to talk about. I’m being enigmatic to protect the confidentiality of my character before the release of the film next year.
Start with The Heart But, Start
With the internet, one doesn’t really have an excuse to stay inactive. Information and communities with shared interests are highly accessible online. So I would simply advise one to keep researching until something compels one to act.
I don’t know of other effective ways beyond the conventional funding methods for films. There are a lot of individuals in this world with the means to help. The challenge is finding them!
The fact that you are reading this reveals your desire and belief in the project. Write to him if you are that ‘individual with the means to help':
Email Mak CK & Team: firstname.lastname@example.org
If you are feeling too shy, or aren’t sure about your means to help, there’s something you can do! Donate, or follow BuyingHappinessFilm on their social links below and share it with your friends and families, every bit counts. No it isn’t our part to move them into action, it is however within our ability to share in our own little ways how it first moved us, ourselves into action/sharing. On behalf of Mak & team, and the 9 orphans who will be helped, funded, and filmed, I thank you for first rooting for them, through fund, word, song, art or prayer. Thank you.
The Crowdfunding Project Ends in Less Than 15 Days, the perfect timing for meaningful gifts.
Gifts start from $10 for a mention as a sponsor, $25 to watch it online (before anyone else!), … $100 for your own DVD set, and if you are feeling so much for the project, join Mak as a co-producer for the film itself and be in the HEART of the project. You also can skip the perks and donate anonymously simply because. Thank you thank you thank you.