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Mohamed Azfaren

Mohamed Azfaren

Composer & Animator, Le Copaque Studios, 2009
Bachelor of Arts (Hons) in Creative Multimedia

In Malaysia, nobody dares to try to push the boundaries in animation because the field is deemed to be too high risk. The challenge is in creating characters that are truly appealing to the audience and are produced with high quality.

20 February 2009

Following One’s Heart

Written by Catalina Rembuyan

Mohamed Azfaren once failed to convince his parents to allow him to pursue a creative degree, and then later failed in his the second year of his studies in accounting. Today he flies high as one of those behind the scenes of Malaysia’s animated feature film, Geng: The Movie, which earned RM 2 million on its opening week. Catalina Rembuyan has a chat with him.

“If you ask me about my personal definition of failure, I’ll tell you that it’s nothing more than a necessary step for success. I can say this because I’ve failed once,” said Mohamed Azfaren, composer and animator at Le Copaque Studios, the studio behind Malaysia’s animated feature film Geng: The Movie. The animated feature film exceeded expectations when it earned RM 2 million on its opening week, beating Hollywood rivals Valkyrie and The Curious Case of Benjamin Button.

I enjoyed being among who were constantly inspired and moved to do something artistic or creative. I also spent many hours in the libraries reading the numerous books available on many other subjects, including Southeast Asian culture and traditions, which I was enamored with

As one of the people pioneering Malaysia’s high-risk animation industry, he has to commit himself to a job scope that involves composing, animating, and even marketing the film. Nevertheless, the challenges provided by his line of work are no concern for him. “I have always wanted to pursue something creative or artistic, but I was advised to take up accounting and sent to Warwick University, ended up miserable and even failed my studies.”

Returning to Malaysia, Mohamed Azfaren decided to start his future from scratch by enrolling in Limkokwing University under their Advertising, Design and Multimedia programme.

“I enjoyed being among who were constantly inspired and moved to do something artistic or creative. I also spent many hours in the libraries reading the numerous books available on many other subjects, including Southeast Asian culture and traditions, which I was enamored with.”

He also said that Limkokwing University provided an environment where one could interact with many international students that resembled the experience he had while he was in the United Kingdom. He also has many fond recollections, one being his final year project that was spent on the set of Afdlin Shauki’s Sumolah! which was partly filmed on campus.

Using his qualifications from Limkokwing University, Mohamed Azfaren went on to further his studies at the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology (RMIT), where he continued to shine. Not only did he win 2000 AUD for a digital mural that he created for the Digital Art Festival, his video on student life also won RMIT’s first video awards competition and his project, The Shadow Digital, was selected for display at the Australian Center for Moving Images. Returning to Malaysia, Mohamed Azfaren soon found himself employed as a composer under Le Copaque Studios.

The biggest challenge in my line of work is that it’s not a nine-to-five job. You have to rush to meet deadlines and push long hours, sometimes going without sleep or even spending overnight at the office

Explaining that he plays music by the ear, he had the opportunity to work with Wong Yuri in crafting out the main music score. After the production of Geng: The Movie, Mohamed Azfaren was involved in the marketing process that involved utilizing Web 2.0 strategies like maintaining blogs or utilizing Facebook, Friendster and Youtube as well as creating documentaries for the film.

“The biggest challenge in my line of work is that it’s not a nine-to-five job. You have to rush to meet deadlines and push long hours, sometimes going without sleep or even spending overnight at the office,” he said.

“But thank God, I get to do – and learn – a lot of things,” he added with a huge smile on his face. He believes that the business of creating animated feature films for the Malaysian market will only get better despite the recent economic slowdown, as movies are some of the cheapest forms of entertainment available for the masses.

“In Malaysia, nobody dares to try to push the boundaries in animation because the field is deemed to be too high risk. The challenge is in creating characters that are truly appealing to the audience and are produced with high quality.”

When you fail, you do not focus on how painful the fall has been. It’s not about how hard you’ve fallen and how painful it is, rather, it is about how fast you get back up again

He makes an example of the Upin and Ipin characters, who initially started out as minor characters for another series before gaining enough popularity to star in a series of their own. “At the end of the day, advertisers and television stations simply want a good show that they can broadcast on,” he explained.

When Mohamed Azfaren has time off from his work at Le Copaque, he travels to historic locations across Southeast Asia like Angkor Wat and Borobodur. “As Southeast Asians, we have identities of our own, yet we often find ourselves borrowing tropes from American or Japanese animation,” he said, citing an MTV Asia video he made that utilized wayang kulit elements.

“When you fail, you do not focus on how painful the fall has been. It’s not about how hard you’ve fallen and how painful it is, rather, it is about how fast you get back up again,” he said. Mohamed Azfaren has certainly gone a long way since he first tasted failure as a discontented accounting student. He has gotten back up on his feet a long time ago, and is now hitting the ground running.

 

 

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