Monday’s episode in Penang is, in my opinion, one of the best shot, best edited episodes ever. It helped that we were in what cinematographers call a “shot rich environment”—where it seems that everywhere you point, there are bright colors, characters, beautiful things. The food is generally thought of (even by many proud food nerds in Singapore and Kuala Lumpur) to be among the very best in the Straits— and I think you’ll see why. Penang is the kind of place that ruined me for an ordinary life.
I feel inexorably attached to Malaysia for many reasons, but one of them is that I got there early in my career as a traveler, wasn’t really ready for it, and was changed by the place. It seduced and overwhelmed me at the same time. The smells and colors and flavors—the look and sound of the place, the at times impenetrable mix of Indian, Malay and Chinese cultures—it ****ed me all up.
I tried to capture that in the first scene—a shot of a woman’s fingers, unwrapping nasi lemak from its traditional banana leaf package. That’s a particularly vivid image for me, and it’s yet another testament to the ZPZ crew that they were able to recreate it so perfectly. Scenes like this matter to me. And the ability to imagine a thing—and then see it executed brilliantly, that matters too.
It was never my intention on NO RESERVATIONS to be a reporter, a critic, an advocate. It was also never my intention to provide audiences with “everything” they needed to know about a place—or even a balanced or comprehensive overview. I am a storyteller. I go places, I come back. I tell you how the places made me feel. Through the use of powerful tools like great photography, skillful editing, sound mixing, color correction, music (which is often composed specifically for the purpose) and brilliant producers, I can—in the very best cases—make you feel a little bit like I did at the time. At least I hope so. It’s a manipulative process. It’s also a deeply satisfying one.
As you may or may not have heard, at a point in the not too far away future, the Zero Point Zero team and I will be moving on to do what we do elsewhere. We recently filmed the last shot of our last episode. That means you’ve got 9 new episodes of NO RESERVATIONS still yet to be edited, or waiting in the pipeline to be aired. We have yet to shoot 10 new episodes of THE LAYOVER, which we’ll do this June and July. After that, I’m planning on taking my first extended break in eight years. A “normal” family vacation—where I plan to putter to excess, dote on my daughter—and do what people are said to do on vacation. Also, I’ll be writing a book.
Rest assured that whatever ZPZ and I do in the future, we will not be dumbing it down, we will not change our basic natures, we will not be morphing into something we are not. We will continue to do what we do. And have a hell of a good time doing it.