Written and submitted by Adam Majid.
Malaysia has never lacked for patrons of the arts, nor art for the sake of the arts. Some dabble, some adopt one art form. Some travel from one creative discipline to another art form for reasons all their own. From humble beginnings as a nurse, Venus would make her way to the top of the Malaysian Cosplay scene and then step back from cosplay and become the founder of Costurera Haberdashery back in 2013.
The haberdashery is highly regarded as the place for a bespoke tailored cosplay costume and attendant accessories. From there she branched out into fashion and clothing design that culminated in the First Star Wars Fashion show as a part of the 40th Anniversary of Stars Wars (#theforceis40) celebrations in 2017. Venus despite her claims to be of an “ancient and expiring age” is still on the right side of 30 and continues to do what she does best as a fulltime costume designer and a part-time “this-and-that.”
“Passions and bucket lists are funny things,” she said languidly during the course of my very short interview, “My bucket list is long and varied, and I’ve always wanted to make a short film or movie.” She had neither the qualification or the experience, but her first film project “Runaway Groom” has been nominated for Short + Sweet Film Malaysia. The event will be held on 6-7 September 2019 at the Kuala Lumpur Performing Arts Centre (klpac).
Venus runs her own ship and her own show, but she was kind enough to give me 20 minutes for a 10-question interview! Check it out below:
Q: So, what has it been like running your own business?
A: Well Costurera Haberdashery started out very differently. It was originally just me making costumes for myself. Then one day somebody asked if I could make one for them to wear to one of the ACG events. It started out as a challenge or dare and things just grew from there. The shop has grown with the business and I’ve been forced to relocate to keep up with the growing needs and demands of the business.
Q: From Nursing to cosplay, to one of the best cosplay costume makers and seamstresses in Selangor. Now film making? Why the change in path?
A: I admit that going from Nursing and cosplay in my free time to making cosplay costumes and working as a seamstress for a living was quite a change in my life’s direction. It was a big change and it took me a while to build up the courage to do it. As for film making, it’s not a change in my path, more of a small detour off the path – a leisurely side trip to explore and see what else is out there.
Q: People have long said that “Books inspire Books” and that “Movies inspire Movies.” For you making a movie was a side trip of exploration, so what was the inspiration for this detour?
A: One of my weaknesses is the Period Dramas that are made in Hong Kong and get released during the Chinese New Year periods, every year. I have fond memories of those dramas when my family would come together, watch TV, eat peanuts and drink Shandy in between one too many rounds of Mahjong. I miss the togetherness. The quality time with family. I guess you could say that this is my way of paying my respect to the TV shows that were a part of my childhood, and my Chinese New Years.
Q: If this was a case of a period drama inspiring a period drama, what would be the last great book you read, and I’ll double down and ask what are your top films as well. Ever consider doing something in that direction?
The last great book is an easy one. “The Six Wives of Henry VIII” by Alison Weir. But movies… and you ask for five of them. One of my favorites is definitely Orlando. Tilda Swinton proves just how great of an actress she is. Lord of the Rings – the entire trilogy is just one long live-action Dungeons & Dragons session. Rogue One with its cast of likable and somehow very relatable characters – especially K2SO, scariest yet friendliest Rebel droid there is. For comedy, I would have to say “The Emperor’s New Groove.” It’s a lighthearted comedy and funny as all hell. I swear I watched it at least two dozen times the year it was released. Lastly when I just want to scare the pants off myself: The Conjuring. It’s one of the horror movies that I respect because even though I’ve seen it, it manages to scare me every single time.
I don’t see myself doing a full-length feature movie. Writing a book is a different problem entirely: Too many ideas, plot lines, and characters and I never have the time to actually write. Maybe one day, that’ll be another detour on the path. In the near future, I’ve got another fashion show in progress and then… maybe another short movie.
Q: No feature films just yet, there might be a book somewhere in the future. If you are planning to write a book, I’m wondering what was it like to write the script for the movie?
A: I was driving and an old Chinese song that I like started playing on the radio. The next thing I know, I’m getting ideas and images. It was like I could see entire scenes suddenly in my head and then boom. I had the characters. I knew what my characters were going to be doing. I wrote down the plot and then started getting friends involved. I knew which of my friends I wanted in each role and managed to arrange everyone to come together. They were all a great help to come up with their own dialogue during our first table reading. We made a lot of notes and then it was just putting it all on paper. We had the script together in less than two hours.
Part of the challenge and what made it fun for me was that I was creating what I enjoy watching. Period Drama, a hint of romance, and a dash of comedy. Working on this with friends from so early in the process meant that everyone was invested in the project. We pulled together as a group. Just writing the script was a lot of fun.
Q: Your team got a script together in less than a day. No doubt your next big challenge was the logistics of everything else? How did you get a budget for the film?
That was partly challenging and part stress. We literally had no budget. At all! Each and everyone you see on screen contributed more than just their acting talent. Everyone brought expertise together to help sort out the props, and the costumes. We had to build a few things from scratch like the Tandu. Crystal was amazing at managing the props and decoration, and getting a lot of the things that we needed.
Sometimes I wondered how I get these friends in my life. Brb, got some onions to cut.
Q: A limited to no-budget production, no celebrities, and you got a cast, crew props and all together in a matter of several weeks. I’ve seen the photos and also the movie itself. Where did those talents come from?
For camera work and lighting I have to give thanks to Boomstick Studios and Vincent Wong. His company is a one-man army and handled the logistics of the filming and post-production work. Professional from start to finish, he got the lighting, angles and shots to make sure that the film would come out and require the least amount of post-production work.
For photography, I have to extend my thanks to Sahil from Limelight Photography, who very nearly got lost trying to find our filming venue. But the photos he took were really great and captured not just the seriousness of filming an entire short movie in one day but also the more fun and relaxed behind-the-scenes things as well.
Q: Do you like attending screenings of your own work?
A: I…don’t know. I mean this is my first movie and it’s been nominated for the nominated for Short + Sweet Film Malaysia which is taking place next month at KLPAC. I know I’m going to be there… and I guess I’ll find out whether or not I like attending screenings of my own work after the event is over! Get your tickets over here.
That wraps up this Interview with Venus, the mastermind behind Costurera Haberdashery and her short film Runaway Groom. If you would like to purchase tickets for the event, you can do so here. If you would like to get a cosplay costume made for the next Malaysia ACG event check out Costurera Haberdashery here, and don’t forget to follow Venus on Instagram or find her on Facebook!
Thanks for taking the time to read and enjoy as I shine a light on some of the many and varied talents who are a part of what makes Malaysia great. If you like what I’m doing, please feel free to support what I do via a PayPal donation!