The duo behind (PLASTIK) explain why they shine a light on plastic pollution

Released on the occasion of World Environment Day, the short film (PLASTIK) touched the hearts of many Malaysians while raising awareness about the plastic pollution crisis and the effects of climate change.

The film, produced in collaboration with Mesh Minds, is short but punchy. Shot from the perspective of a 10-year-old girl, it reveals the apathy and carelessness of our daily lives in the face of single-use plastic and the lack of recycling efforts.

In less than three minutes, it manages to strike a chord with us while making us deeply uncomfortable with the plastic pollution crisis we face every day. The sentimental nature of the film was heightened by the sweet soundtrack, ‘Just A Dream’, composed by the Malaysian artist MKNK and made by JSN.

Although Malaysia has made progress in the fight against plastic pollution in recent years, there is still much to be done. Hopefully, with Malaysians like director Philip Rom and producer Sean Lin of Studio Birthplace – the duo behind the film (PLASTIK) – the current and next generation will be more vigilant in taking care of our environment.

Studio Birthplace’s projects are in the vein of sustainability as it is an area the founders are passionate about. The mission is to use creativity to create awareness around pressing ecological and humanitarian topics through storytelling to cultivate connection and empathy. Their vision is to cultivate a world where individuals and organizations actively innovate and make choices for a sustainable future, on the principle that change begins with awareness.

While making the film, the team went the extra mile to ensure that the production process has minimal impact on the environment. Leading by example, their efforts included restrict single-use plastics for production value as well as calculate carbon emissions to film transport and offset 150% through tree planting.

Behind the scenes of the film (PLASTIK). Image credit: Studio Birthplace

In an exclusive interview with Prestige Malaysia, Philip Rom and Sean Lin spoke about the creative direction being (PLASTIK) and the messages they aim to deliver:

Why did you choose to shoot the film through the eyes of a particular 10-year-old girl?

Phillip Roma:

There’s just something about the innocence, insight and sensitivity that children
own. It’s an ability that I think we tend to lose as we become adults. We tend to become numb and unconscious. A child sees things as they are without stuffed animals.
In the film, the world seen through Aisya’s (main character) plastic telescope seemed like fun child’s play at first, but eventually turned into something serious. She understands the seriousness of plastic pollution from an early age.

Sean Lin:

Children are the future, and this is the world that we adults will leave to them. She represents a generation where climate change is their greatest challenge. In the story, we see his journey from indifference like everyone else to awareness and leading change. It’s also the journey we hope audiences will experience, too.

How did the casting go ?

Phillip Roma:

We immediately knew that the story depended on the performance of the cast, especially the main role of the young girl in the story. So we invested a lot of time trying to find the right person.

Casting was done remotely as we were still in the MCO season during the pre-production phase. There were many potential candidates; personally, it was difficult to do. But in the end, I just had to trust my instincts and I’m glad Aisya made (PLASTIK) special. He was truly a talented and wonderful person to work with on set.

How did you find the creative direction of the film?

Phillip Roma:

I was thinking about how we always see images of animals choking on plastic waste and wondering if we see humans in this position. I wanted to show images of people consuming and being consumed by plastic.

Once we defined this theme, I worked closely with cinematographer Nicholas Chin and art director Taufiq Kamal to develop the telescope and plastic quicksand. The latter is one of the difficult aspects. We have sourced recycled plastic waste that has been thoroughly cleaned to create the climate scene of plastic quicksand.

In fact, a few shots of the plastic litter were already there before we arrived. We just had to point the camera. That says a lot.

Sean Lin:

Additionally, during a brainstorming session with MeshMinds, Jody Owen suggested looking through a bottle to see hyperrealistic glimpses of our future, and this eventually became the backbone of (PLASTIK). Fun fact – the title (PLASTIK) with the brackets is a play on the telescopic view through the plastic bottle seen in the movie.

How long did it take to shoot the film?

Phillip Roma:

The shooting lasted 2 days. We wanted to maximize the use of natural lighting as much as possible, so we tried to shoot mostly in the morning and evening when the natural light was softer. The weather has been kind to us and we are satisfied with the results of the visuals.

What are the ways to ensure that the film is seen by more Malays/children?

Phillip Roma:

I would like the film to be shown in schools and used as a discussion point on
single-use plastic pollution. But anyway for the material, the billboards, the restaurants. Anywhere with a screen, so anyone interested please get in touch!

Sean Lin:

Prestige online!

In your opinion, where is Malaysia in terms of plastic pollution and what more can be done?

Phillip Roma:
It’s great to see a lot of initiatives and awareness raising efforts in both the public and private sectors. For example, we have removed plastic bags from supermarkets in Klang Valley, but not nationwide. I think we need to act more collectively rather than in silos.

The other challenge is to turn awareness into action. For example, orders with food deliveries have certainly increased and that in itself is a source of a lot of plastic waste. Although we can’t expect restaurants to completely get rid of plastic containers. You can choose not to throw away the plastic container but to keep it aside for the recycling bin. It takes conscious effort. But starting small actions will reinforce better habits down the line.

Sean Lin:
I think the awareness and the urgency are pretty low. Much more can be done to educate
population on our consumption habits and their impact. Much more infrastructure and systems need to be in place for plastic alternatives and recycling.

On an individual level, we must take responsibility for being part of the solution, by first educating ourselves and continuing to talk about it, being an example and supporting those fighting the cause.

What are the similar projects to come?

Currently we are producing an exciting film for Greenpeace Malaysia on our regional haze problem for their campaign to hold polluters accountable. On top of that, we have several projects coming out this year, covering topics ranging from the meat industry, deforestation, climate change and sustainable fashion.

You can see them on our social networks (@studiobirthplace) and website

Bryce K. Locke