Amina Jindani

Amina was born & raised in London with Yorkshire / Zanzibar roots and has been settled in Malaysia for over twenty years. In 2017, she quit her teaching job to finish working on a film script, "Silap Mata". In 2019, she was the 1st Prize winner of the MPA Script to Screen competition with the film’s pitch, in Kuala Lumpur - which earned her masterclasses in L.A during the AFM. Since then, she has created an audio drama, “Derek Kong, Private Detective – The Zucchini Bicycle Case” and has plans to create a series for this character.

She runs her own company, MO ONE SDN BHD which focusses on drama education and production services.

What topic do you discuss in your script? And why?
Derek Kong, Private Detective – The Case of The Fishy Ghost is an audio play that discusses the topic of community hysteria revolving around occult practices of black magic. Occasionally, this happens in Malaysia and appears in news threads which go viral pretty quickly. There is a definite fascination with ghosts and magic in popular culture and I love how it sits awkwardly under the surface of everyday society.

A secondary theme which is not often discussed is the issue of the single mother status in Asian communities. This topic shares a taboo theme culturally but instead of unifying a community against a common enemy, it’s more divisive. A newly single mother tends to retreat socially to raise her children independently but her fragile status without child support means she has to learn to survive. As a single mother myself, I find that quite sad.

How do people feel after reading your script?
Best Script Awards – London are the first to receive this opportunity. Even the main actor & director, Gavin Yap hasn’t read it yet, despite being committed to play a role. The executive producer, Anita Woo, is also looking forward to reading this second story in the series. The three of us are scheduled to do a private reading in the near future before we cast the other actors. Maybe based on the pilot script which went out last year, they know what to expect but in my opinion, this one’s better than the first.

Do you think that films can change people for the better or for the worse?
I believe films are changing people for the betterment of humanity because most people are essentially emotionally connected and empathetic. People identify their surroundings through their emotional reactions and are drawn to a catharsis for their buried feelings. Film and stories of other mediums ultimately encourage self-reflection & inner expression. It is ultimately healing. What people do with that expression is a result of many, many other factors.

According to 3-act dramaturgy, how would you define your story?
I would define the structure as a classic 3-act story in 60 minutes mainly for the purpose of enabling it to be adapted for film, television or animation at some point.
I purposely wrote it chiefly for audio because I wanted to highlight the sounds of Malaysia. They become very nostalgic if you leave the country for a period of time. However, the story is developed in such a way that it can be later utilised for animation without much sound editing. I added small cliff hangers roughly every 10 minutes so that if need be it can be broken into shorts.
I like diverse everyday characters that somehow belong together in the same locality. I try to keep as much of reality in place while simultaneously creating a light-hearted narrative. I love adding a layer of comical, absurd noir tropes that breaks the fourth wall in an entertaining manner with the detective narration. It’s experimental but I’m quite pleasantly surprised how it seems to fit so naturally together as a style.

How does the main character develop?
Derek Kong is a misfit in Malaysian society who rules his own world. Realistically, he couldn’t exist with his 1950s sleuth attire in a hot Malaysia as an undercover detective - which is why it’s so absurd. He is an artist, a creator and a pragmatist. Due to his upbringing, his artistic merit doesn’t qualify as any achievement so he’s adapted his dramatic skills to a detective business where he plays undercover characters. They’re all called Derek but he gets away with it.
In this story, he begins by single-mindedly diving into the unknown with a “toyol on the loose” – a small goblin-like creature conjured up with black magic to steal small items of value. He is discovering what motivates people to irrational fear and with a sense of determination to find logic in the ensuing chaos. Ultimately, it is a sense of compassion that keeps him going, along with a desire to uphold his reputation as a smart and pragmatic problem solver. Yet, there is always a creative artist in the execution of his work and some madness to his methods.

What actors do you imagine in your project (typologically)?
Malaysia has some really great actors that do not have a lot of international exposure. We have Sharifah Amani who plays Derek’s young Malay side kick, Suraya in the pilot. During a radio interview with Joanne Kam on AFO’s Big Reel Conversations (hosted with fellow comedian Papi Zak), Gavin Yap who plays Derek Kong and is also the director, read out the logline and she was casted on the spot to play Madam Ong, the tai tai who loses her chihuahua. I was listening to the live broadcast at home and laughed because neither of them have read the script – yet, they automatically knew she was the best fit!

There are a number of really good Malaysian actors and comedians who have asked to be a part of this project and we’ll be discussing which work best for casting at our next meeting. Typologically, they’re capable of a style of acting I would associate with Malaysian Bangsawan theatre – very vaudeville in concept but toned down for emotional connection.

Which screenwriters are your favourite and why?
There are a few screenwriters which made me sit up for their keen sense of irony, character dialogue & style. I liked them because they were true to the way they portrayed the worlds they created. I would rent Tarantino films on VHS and watch them over and over again because he played with character arc and tension so well, mixing styles that pushed the limitations of what people generally accepted at the time. Guy Richie came next with a comic book depiction of characterisation and superb dialogue. Then came Ricky Gervais with his mockumentary style which brings any humdrum world to high entertainment so artfully well. Taika Waititi for being absolutely quirky but still having everything of essence in screenwriting intact. Each of these, I praise for sticking to their own conceptual vision and sharing it with the world without fear of criticism.

About which topics are your screenplays?
Usually, I write about obscure elements of everyday life and pay particular attention to the ironic aspects of the way we interact with each other and the world around us – including darker themes of the taboo. The feature script, Silap Mata, which won a Motion Picture Association Asia Pacific pitch competition was about the nature of celebrity in today’s world. It revolved around a low-budget horror film set and had themes of egomania, paranoia and suppressed guilt entwined into a dark comedy. Beyond The Gap is a psychological thriller based on a true story around a haunting at a guest house in Fraser’s Hill, Pahang. It delves into themes of inherited family ties with jinn and is set in the 1990s with tones of grunge, urban development and changing attitudes in Malaysian society.

What motivates you the most to write screenplays?
Life experience – I have a lot to share. I mean, I really do. I’ve had to learn to overcome so many pitfalls in life and because I’m adventurous and perpetually drawn to the mysterious, I’ve seen things – weird things. I’ve learned bizarre stuff in life. I’ve made mistakes and I often wonder if I did that deliberately to find out how hard rock bottom is – I am that curious. Outwardly, I’m a drama coach with my own school. Inwardly, I have stories to tell. They are screaming to be told and I’m only now learning how to tell them more effectively with my own style.

What are your plans in future careers?
I’ve opened my school, MoOne Drama for all type of drama learning – from childrens’ classes to teaching diplomas – I am even hired as a judge for other creative writing competitions which also compels me to write more. MoOne Drama has become successful even without any start-up capital which is amazing to me.

Last year, I started MO1 Productions. I’ve always worked on other peoples’ productions as an actor, acting coach, silat coach, martial arts choreographer, presenter and writer of other scripts. Now it’s time I do my thing. I want to write and produce my own stories. I have a great network of industry people and it’s time to make it happen. I have to do it.