Podcast Interview: Cinematographer Khairulhakim and the Power of Being Nice

Recently I sat down with Khairulhakim, a good friend of mine and a cinematographer in Singapore, on my podcast Write.Live.Talk. 

Khairul and I first met in an editing class in 2005, where we were both studying in Ngee Ann Polytechnic's Diploma in Film, Sound and Video. As we slowly worked together, I realised Khairul was one of the most driven people I'd ever met, and I've always admired him for his artistic eye, technical skill and warm personality. Plus, he's a great guy to eat prata with.

So, as a part of my ongoing quest to gain insights into different creative minds, Khairul was the perfect subject for my first podcast interview.

 Khairulhakim shooting and directing his directorial debut short film, KARA, in Malaysia.

Khairulhakim shooting and directing his directorial debut short film, KARA, in Malaysia.

In the podcast, Khai -- as he is known in the industry -- talks about how he began his career as a production assistant before crewing his way through various lighting departments. He then worked his way up to become a Director of Photography, and for more than a decade, has worked alongside directors and producers all over the world.

As a cinematographer or Director of Photography, Khai's job is to craft the overall visuals of a film. He utilises an assortment of practical, technical and psychological tools to create a specific atmosphere. And as we discover, in the world of cinema, all it takes is a single frame to convey what a character thinking or feeling. Khai achieves this through lighting, camera movement and altering colour tones with various post-production effects (eg. Bleach bypassing, grain, Sepia tones, colour isolation etc). You can see how Khai’s exhibit these skills in his showreel:

Later in the podcast, Khairul delves into his personal career journey. He explores how Singapore's media industry is challenging to work in because of shrinking budgets, and how video demands are getting more complex. Despite the challenges -- we used to shoot films on digital video (DV) tape -- Khai has crafted a stellar career that spans feature films, TV shows, online media and corporate videos.

Essentially, he's done it all. But I have to say, one of his more profound discoveries comes at the end where Khai shares his personal philosophy on working.

Be Nice

I won't say too much, but Khai believes that being nice can change the course of your life. How? Well, through simple cause and effect. It's worth listening to the podcast to the end just for his passionate explanation. It not only helped his career soar, but could help yours as well. And lastly, Khai tells us about his directorial debut KARA, a sci-fi short film, which he wrote, shot and directed in Malaysia. 

  KARA synopsis :  Trying to move on from a troubled past, June attempts to escape her life with her virtual phone assistant, Kara. The device brings June through a literal journey of recovery, until she discovers that Kara's intentions are not what it seems.

KARA synopsis: Trying to move on from a troubled past, June attempts to escape her life with her virtual phone assistant, Kara. The device brings June through a literal journey of recovery, until she discovers that Kara's intentions are not what it seems.

You can listen to the podcast on Anchor (above) or subscribe to the podcast on Apple Podcasts to listen to the full interview! Thank you once again to Khairulhakim for taking the time to speak with me.

Khairulhakim's bio

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Khairulhakim is a Director of Photography based in Singapore. For over a decade, Khairul has worked on various projects ranging from documentaries, television, commercials, music videos and narrative short films. Some of his works include: Charlie Lim’s Conspiracy Music Video (VEVO), Matilda (Short Film), Redbull Campus Cricket (Online documentary), Make Me A Super (Medicorp Okto), Growing Roots (Discovery Channel), Bootcamp Champs (Starhub TV [Online]), Grandma In July (Short Film), Hiccup and Sneeze Season 3 (Okto), Alba Botanica TVC (Online), and Forgotten Youths (Mediacorp Channel U).

In 2009, Khairul clinched the Student Kodak Cinematography Award under his film school in Ngee Ann Polytechnic. Then in 2016, he was a selected filmmaker for the prestigious Asian Film Academy (AFA) intake of 2016. Along with other cinematographers and directors from the region, they shot and directed short films with Asian filmmakers in Busan, Korea. The film titled “Hello Uncle” was the graduating film of AFA during the Busan International Film Festival. Khairulhakim continues to work in the industry, and recently wrote, shot and directed “Kara”, his debut directorial short film.

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