Getting to know Directors Think Tank’s award winning director, Aiman Aliff

Malaysian-born and Indonesia based, Aiman Aliff, is an award-winning director at Directors Think Tank, Asia’s leading production company with offices throughout the region including Indonesia, Singapore and Malaysia.

When the 28-year industry vet isn’t directing – which sometimes includes editing and second camera – he can be found playing football with his local team (pre-pandemic).

The Enabler from Aiman Aliff on Vimeo.

We caught up with Aiman over a zoom call, to pick his brain and find out more about him as a creative.

1. What’s your favorite part of the job?
– My favourite part of the job is being on set because I love the adrenaline rush and being able to see my ideas come to life right in front of me is an experience that I can never get bored of. 

2. What is your most productive time of day and why?
– Between 8am to 12pm in the morning because I like to wake up early. Do my morning walk which is the time I use to think of ideas and most of my ideas actually come when I’m doing my walk in the morning. I feel that I have more clarity in the morning which makes me more productive. 

3. If you didn’t have this job, what would you be doing instead?
– I would probably be in a different kind of creative job. I don’t see myself working in a corporate world or anything similar to that. I always see that I would be working in a creative industry. 

4. How early did you know this would be your path?
– I have been watching film since I was 16 years old. I always wanted to tell stories and when I was 19 I did my first short film and that was the start of everything.

5. Can you name some recent jobs?
I recently moved to our office in Jakarta, I am now based here and it’s an exciting time for me despite the pandemic happening. My most recent job here in Jakarta was Bukukas, working with the FTW agency, it was fun and tough at the same time because we had, very little time to execute the film, but of course…I had great help from our Indonesian team. Therefore, we were able to deliver it on time and it looks great. It was also a great collaboration with the creative team, they were open to suggestions for me to tweak the ideas of the film and overall, it was a smooth process. Prior to Bukukas, I have recently worked on Nescafe and Astro Raya.

6. Do you put on a different hat when shooting for a specific genre?
– I think all Directors have multiples hats on set because you need to make sure everything is right, from the sets, to props, even the wardrobe. But at the same time you also need to trust your team and to let them have their space to create, based on their thinking & perspective. Sometimes ideas can come from anyone and I try not to step too much on other departments. 

7.Have you been continuing to shoot during the COVID crisis? Can you describe that experience?
– Yes, it’s challenging to be honest because sometimes when you’re on set you will be in this mode where you need to make sure everything goes well and it’s like a tunnel vision sometimes right. So, there are times where my mask is not properly covering my mouth and nose, I only realise it after 20 minutes. You don’t have the same luxury or freedom that we use to have before COVID, adjusting myself to that is an ongoing process. 

8. Do you have a favorite piece of kit?
– My black A4 sketch book, it’s where I throw all my ideas in, good and bad. Most of my initial ideas are not so great but eventually it heads in the right direction..

9. Are you often asked to do more than direct? If so, what are you asked to do?
– Editing and second camera. 

10. What are three pieces of technology you can’t live without?
– My Macbook, mobile and hard drive, because all of my references are inside these three things

11. This is a high-stress job. What do you do to de-stress from it all?.
– My morning walk, meditation and a ‘little’ football.

12. How do you manage producers’ expectations with the reality of what can really be done?
– The most important thing for me is to have a clear conversation with my producer in terms of what we can achieve within our limitation. Limitation can be time, money, locations etc. I always put my ideas out first and if it goes beyond the limitation then a discussion should happen on how we should solve the issue while still keeping some part of the ideas alive. 

13. How do you manage your time? Do you manage expectations or try everything they ask of you?.”
– I would have my to do list which I fill out in the morning, I try my best to have a discipline morning routine. I like to manage expectation and be truthful to the situation. If something is out of my control and it cannot be done, I will be truthful about it and offers something else that can still be achieved within the limitation. “Under promise, over deliver” this is what I learn from Rajay Singh (director and co-founder@Directors Think Tank) and It makes a lot of sense to me.  

14. When someone who is starting out asks what they should learn, what do you recommend?
– Learn to watch film/commercials religiously. That’s part of my morning routine, before I start my work, I will watch or rewatch 15 or more commercials every day. It’s not just about learning the visual but its also the ideas, each commercials have their own ideas and the more you watch, the more you learn.

15. How do you take criticism? Do you find yourself defensive or accepting of others’ ideas (good and bad)?
– I choose who I listen to, I’m not sure if this is the right way but it works for me because some people criticize just for the sake of criticising and some offers a constructive criticism towards your work. I prefer to listen to those who are more experience than me, they usually the ones that give a constructive criticism. 

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