With his more than a decade experience in directing, Syamsul Yusof is Studio Kembara's pick to helm its first ever feature, "Mat Kilau".
The 33-year-old director will be working with some of the biggest names in the local film industry to bring the story of the legendary warrior to the silver screen.
Datuk Adi Putra is starring as the eponymous warrior while Fattah Amin will be playing the character Awang, Beto Kusyairy as Wahid, Johan As'ari as Yasin, A. Galak as Pak Deris, and newcomer Ali Karimi as Berahim. Farid Amirul and Nadiya Nisaa, in unspecified roles, are also part of the cast.
Yayan Ruhian ("Star Wars: The Force Awakens", "Beyond Skyline", "The Raid") will play Captain Syers' bodyguard in the movie. The Indonesian martial arts actor will also be choreographing the fight scenes alongside Malaysia's Akmal, who is well-versed in silat and has previously worked in other Skop Productions movies.
Aside from directing, Syamsul also writes the script, alongside Shahruddin Dali, who penned an earlier version of it. Helming a movie for the relatively new production company (founded in 2013 by Shahruddin and his brother Rahman) marks the first time Syamsul is directing a movie outside of his father Yusof Haslam's Skop Productions (though Skop still gives support to the project alongside FINAS).
"Mat Kilau", set to tell the story of the great Malaysian warrior as he fought against Captain Syers during the British occupation in Pahang, has begun filming in the aforementioned state on 1 April. Slated to wrap up filming in two months' time, other shooting locations for it include in Ipoh and Hutan Simpan FRIM (Forest Research Institute Malaysia) in Kuala Lumpur.
Cinema Online sat down with Syamsul Yusof to talk about the upcoming movie during the movie's launch last Thursday at Dataran Karyawan FINAS.
Cinema Online: Epic movies haven't really done well at the box office, so why do you decide to accept this project?
Syamsul Yusof: I disagree. Take "Hikayat Merong Mahawangsa" for example, the box office collection for it was not bad. "Ip Man", another example, is about a Chinese warrior and it successfully commercialised the warrior element. So I am confident that this movie will do well as I will commercialise it as a martial arts movie.
So the martial arts aspect will be the highlight of the movie?
Even though I plan on commercialising it as a martial arts movie, I don't want that to be the only thing that audiences take away from it. I want this to be an impactful movie. Like my previous movie, "Munafik". It was all about the emotional element, how the movie touches the audiences' hearts.
Is two months really sufficient for you to produce an epic movie?
Realistically, epic movies need at least three months, especially because the stars involved in this project are all big names, it's quite hard to gather them all in one place due to their busy schedules. But since I've been given this responsibility, I'll do my best with the given timeline and budget.
How much is the budget allocated for it?
RM5 million. RM1.5 million is from FINAS and the remaining amount is from Studio Kembara. We've spent a bit on building a jetty, the British base and a mine, in Kuantan, Pahang.
You're actually picking up someone else's work for this movie?
Previously, Studio Kembara tried making a "Mat Kilau" supertele for TV but it failed. [For this project] the studio also hired a different director prior to hiring me. They've shot 50 percent of the project and they called me up to continue it. I said I would need to take a look at what they've done so far before agreeing. Once I did that, I decided that I would have to reshoot the movie instead of just taking over. The studio has been doing research on this movie for 2 years. I've also spoken to historians that are experts on the Mat Kilau history.
Do you plan on screening the movie in cinemas outside of Malaysia?
We will try to enter Singapore and Indonesia. But it all depends. Usually after a movie is finalised, there will be offers from other countries and even Netflix to screen it.