Director Virginia Kennedy came to Malaysia 20 years ago as a special effects editor but soon found herself working as an advertising director. After dabbling in music video directing for artists like Ning Baizura, KRU and Poetic Ammo, she had a hankering to do something more than a 30 second video.
Having studied film course at Swinburne University of Technology in Melbourne, where she learned animation and directing, the Australian director was ready to helm a feature film.
"Girlfriend Kontrak" becomes that first ever feature film, a romantic drama that tells the story of a naïve village girl who becomes a dominant rich man's fake girlfriend in order to save her beloved fireflies.
The movie, starring Keith Foo, Nur Risteena, Bront Palarae, Farah Fauzana and more, opens in cinemas this 24 September.
Cinema Online recently sat down with Virginia and asked her about the movie's similarities to "Fifty Shades of Grey" as well as her experience of directing a local movie.
Cinema Online: This movie brings to mind the American movie, "Fifty Shades of Grey". Did you come up with the idea yourself and was it in anyway inspired by the movie?
Virginia Kennedy: I came up with it [laughs]. I was in L.A. at the time and everyone was reading Fifty Shades of Grey and so I thought "how would you write something like that but in a milder version?" What are we addicted to? We're actually addicted to fantasy and all that so that's why I wrote the story that way.
Was it hard directing a local cast?
No, no. We had rehearsals and I had a really good assistant director. By the time they were set, they knew exactly what they had to do. So I could just sit back and relax. The only difficulty was Azad Jazmin (Zain), who just goes off and says the funniest things. I had no problem with the new cast as well like Nur Risteena and Daiyan Trisha.
Were there times when producer Tengku Iesta and you did not see eye-to-eye?
We were in the writing process, so there were things that had to become 'Malaysianised' but I've been here a long time. I think it was just taste. I like to not say yes to everything, he Tengku Iesta] likes yes. We just clash, it's fun. That's part of the process.
The film didn't get any cuts but what about the scene where Bront sneakily showed a crude gesture?
I did not ask him to do that! Me being in advertising, I asked the others "is that okay?" and they just said "let it go".
Are you working on another movie at the moment?
I am. I'm writing at the moment. I'll probably change it up a little bit. This one ["Girlfriend Kontrak"] is sweet. I'd like to try something else. This time it's not under Grand Brilliance. It's top secret, so I can't reveal it yet [laughs].