"Acting is the ability to live truthfully under imaginary circumstances." -- Sanford Meisner



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Sunday, April 24, 2016

Online Casting Call Sites (Singapore)



This post compares Singapore-based online casting call sites that help freelance actors look for paid roles (those with dialogues), in stage/film productions. 


Asian Actor Database (AADB) vs FACEBOOK (FBCCS)

Statistics based on: 100 AADB casting calls from 21 January 2016 to 21 March 2016.

Note that the 100 AADB casting calls are also in FBCCS, barring those that are for unpaid work. FBCCS moreover has many more casting calls that AADB do not have. 

Note: FBCCS forbids unpaid gigs to be posted in the group and bars errant or dubious production companies. It also has a black list of companies who default or delay payments to actors. FBCCS is moderated by a group of volunteer administrators.

Of the 100 AADB casting call posts, it is found that only 81 are unique posts for paid work for actors (with dialogues).

In the 30 days from 21 March 2016 to 22 April 2016, there are only 56 unique AADB posts for paid work. This means an estimated:
1.87 posts per day; or 
683 posts per year; 
Given that AADB charges $150 for its basic services, this works out to be 22 cents per post.

In comparison, FBCCS has 126 unique posts on paid work for actors with dialogue. This means an estimated:
4.2 posts per day; or 
1,533 posts per year;
and all FOR FREE!

AADB may pride itself as an actor's database that casting agents may go to, but in the last year, I only got 1 paid assignment from this route. 

In comparison, I got about 5 paid assignments  from producers, directors and casting agents having found me on Facebook.  This means that my free Facebook profile page and my blog have worked better than my paid profile page on AADB.

At the time of writing, AADB has about 291 members.

In comparison, FBCCS has 11,778 members, granted that not all of them are actors, but even if 10 percent of them are, it makes a 1,178 actor pool. So apart from an experienced talent pool, it could well be a goldmine for discovering new talents and new faces.

Clearly, AADB is outflanked and outgunned by Facebook.  If the current trend persists, AADB will be history in 2 years. If it is any consolation, Facebook has been gaining ground in many fronts among a myriad of other online sites.

Other Facebook Casting Call Groups
Moreover, there are several other groups in Facebook, namely:

At the moment the above groups are not quite as well organised yet and look a bit cluttered, but there is nothing to stop anyone of them from becoming the next 800 pound gorilla giving the incumbents another run for their money.


Other Casting Call Sites worthy of mention:

MANDY.COM
I used to use mandy.com. They used to have more casting calls, but the number of calls had somehow dwindled. Recently mandy.com have stopped offering their services for free. So I am not using it anymore.

CASTINGDB.SG
Castingdb.sg came up briefly last year with profile pages, search functions, and a rating system for cast and production houses. Unfortunately, the site was not well tested and was paralysed by software bugs. It would have otherwise made a good alternative.

ONLINECASTING.SG
There is another site, an onlinecasting.sg, which displays casting calls, profile pages and search functions for producers to converge on the talents they are looking for. At the moment, the casting calls seem to have come out straight from the Facebook groups. But still, kudos for their efforts for coming up with a better site, and moreover a free one to boot.

Do you know any casting call sites besides those above that are worthy of mention? Or do you have any suggestions of how we can improve online casting call sites? Feel free to comment below.



Other posts that you may be interested in...

  • Film Reviews, click here.
  • The Future of Cinema and TV, click here.
  • About Acting, click here,

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Tuesday, April 19, 2016

The Bodyguard 2016 - Movie Review

Directed by Sammo Hung


First, the trailer:


Ding Hu, a retired Chinese Central Security Bureau officer suffering from dementia, struggles to protect a little girl from triad vendetta.

Sammo Hung plays the lead role, Ding, very believably, as the overweight and deceptively sluggish retired officer. Ding goes through his day in his usual routine, only punctuated by a little girl who sneaks into his house for sanctuary whenever she has a quarrel with her dad. The relationship is likened to be one between a grandpa and granddaughter, and hence the Chinese title which translates to something like, "Special Agent Grandpa".

Though overweight and old, Ding springs into astonishing agility as he defeats the gangsters in brutal knife attacks and gang clashes. This was delivered with extremely elegant action choreography and camera work, using extensive mid shots to bridge the rapid actions.

It is said that Jackie Chan was supposed to play the role of Ding, but at that time was too busy attending to his son's brush with the law for drug abuse. While I think Jackie would have delivered the action sequence well, I feel that Sammo has given the character the added vulnerability of an old man who has lost his hope in life and resigned to witnessing his own memory eroding away.

The main location was shot in Suifenhe, a riverside trading town in Heilongjiang, along the border of Russia and China; with some scenes shot in Vladivostok. The exoticism of the small town (population around 100,000) was adequately captured with the many beautiful aerial and crane shots.



The granddaughter Cherry, is brilliantly played by a lively 13-year old Jacqueline Chan, who despite her young age, has already appeared in seven other feature films. In the story, Cherry breaks Ding's mundane life and brings joy to him by sneaking into his house, chatting with him, and taking those long walks and fishing excursions - what many grandfathers can easily relate to.



There are several big names of the past making their cameo appearances, like Karl Mak, Shek Tin and Tsui Hark, who play the role of the three old men by the railway station watching the world pass by amid their idle banter. That not out of place at all if shown in a British skit like The Benny Hill Show, had they spoken English.



There are also newer big names, like Eddie Peng, providing eye-candy to the female fans and younger crowd. I suppose big names do boost box-offices, though I think just the engaging plot, touching moments and the great delivery by the lead actors are more than  enough to hold the audience for the entire length of the film. The producers, among them, Andy Lau, probably thinks it is no harm playing it safer adding those big names. Why not, when you can afford them?

The Bodyguard combines both drama and action, amid the exotic northern border cultures of Russia and China. The story eventually wraps up very cleanly with all the bad guys killed in gang clashes or arrested by the dutiful and efficient Chinese police force. That probably to appease the Chinese authorities to allow them to produce a movie with the background of organised crime.

It is said that dementia hits those who have such deep sorrows in their life that they strive to forget. This appears to be the case for Ding with the several milestones in his life that he would rather had happened differently. This is some food for thought.

This movie is both entertaining and inspiring. The inspiring part is a surprise coming from an action movie. It is also a reminder to some in the audience who ought to be choosing the healthier route of letting go of the past and to start living again.

For my other film reviews, click here.

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Stranger Times


Stranger Times? Strange? Or is it time travel?
Have you ever wondered how some things can appear to be such coincidence?



A fun one day shoot with Amy Yan and Christopher Yong, by Kranji Reservoir, Singapore sometime during September 2015.

Story written and directed by Arvind Jay. A Ngee Ann Polytechnic Production.
It was also like having a nice day in the park. :)



For other productions I have acted with the Ngee Ann Poly bunch, click here.

For other productions I have acted with Amy Yan, click here.


Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Please Be Strong



"Please Be Strong" is based on a true story - the director's  - dedicated to her father to encourage him to strive on so that the doctors can help him to recover from a car accident.


In the story, the lead character is a father who falls into a coma after a car accident. Much of the film depicts his 'inner world', cleverly represented by tunnels, rooms, colours, what he hears and what he touches, to encourage him to make the decision to live-on and break out of coma.



Tang Wei, the director, says that she prefers to make films that carry a strong message, so that it makes all the precious time and resources spent worthwhile. This is now my motto for film making too. That is, to make films that inspire and entertain.

"Please Be Strong" is a sincere story written from the heart, that I believe will gather a strong audience, especially those experiencing similar journeys.

Watch this space for the video, when it is ready for online release. AKAN DATANG (coming soon).

Trivia: This is also the second screen marriage I have had in the last four weeks. The other one was in another short film called, "Palace of Love", where I played an awkward, but kind and loving middle-aged man who marries a Vietnamese bride. More of that later.

There is also another short film, called "Dinner", written by a director, also dedicated to her father, about a father-daughter relationship. It is a Mandarin film, which is written and directed by an Indian girl.

Monday, March 7, 2016

2nd Michael Chua Evening of Short Films (2016) - Review



Thanks for coming to the 2nd Michael Chua Evening of Short Films yesterday. Click here.  It was a full-house.
11 short films (120mins) were screened. They took at least 30x10 hours of shoot time, many more days of pre-production and post-production, and many tedious hours curating the films, seeking permissions, locations, testing out the films, publicity...etc, to make it all happen.
There are many short films in Singapore that do not get screened much, if at all. Which is such a pity! So I thought I'd do my small part to help. Capturing the audience's spontaneous response live is priceless - critical feedback for actors and directors/writers, in my view.
It is different watching films live on a big screen. Synergies happen when like-minded people meet face-to-face. Online 'likes' is no substitute.
Yesterday, a member of audience suggested that I should look at making such screenings commercially at mainstream cinemas. Another wants to meet the director and cinematographer of one of the short films to collaborate. I also got to discuss about a collaboration with a cinematographer and action choreographer, myself.
I think the next one should also screen good short films that I am not in. So in time, this event will pride itself as a screening of curated good short films.
Last, but not least, a big thank you to Lasalle, the film makers, the event helpers and the two beautiful bouquets.
The next one will be in two years' time. See you then.
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The following films were screened (2 of original 13 were not ready in time.)
1. Mr Postman
2. Dispher
3. The Collector
4. Penghulu
5. Checkmate
6. AFLOAT  斗鱼
7. The Next Plot
8. 有情常在 BFF
9. I Could Have Been Happy
10. My Father's Smile
11. Hua

Feedback:

"Afloat" is the favourite among many, for its exquisite cinematography, strong story and realistic acting.

"Checkmate" is liked for the clever dialogue and metaphors, Some in the audience say that they like the believable insanity of the lead character.

"The Next Plot" - my friend notice that I had fleshed out the character very well. It looks very convincing that I was in pain. Well, the fact is that, I was really in pain. My back was killing me during the shoot, but the show must go on. Fortunately it helped with the performance.

"Dispher" - a cinematographer likes the clever use of camera angles and the postproduction. Evidently so, as many projects by Singapore Polytechnic film course students do. They love special effects.

"The Collector" is liked for its realistic backdrop and morbid story of a loving father who misses his daughter.

"有情常在 BFF" is liked for its Taiwanese feel. I supposed intentionally not made to look Singaporean. Meant to be exportable to China and Taiwan. So the producer's intention works.

"Mr Postman" - many laughed at the deadpan dark humour, so the writer's jokes work. Congratulations.

I did not gather much comments about the remaining films.

Some criticisms:

"Hua" - the audience was not clear that the older man is the step-father.

A general criticism that most of the films do not have good clear endings. Which I agree, including "The Next Plot", which I produced,

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Friday, February 5, 2016

The Next Plot



This short film is the first three scenes of a feature film. It is inspired by a true story. The full script is completed and peer reviewed. I am now sketching more of the visuals for the subsequent scenes. We will be seeking investors for the full-feature production soon.


 

So will he get to use the next plot when his time comes? How will his struggle against the bureucracy be?  Where does morality starts or ends? Why is there purportedly one god and many religions? Stay tune...


Below are the sketches I did during pre-production. I am sketching the other images and will post them online later. For more of my other sketches of other scripts, click here.



Finding suitable locations was the greatest difficulty, so I am very grateful for the owners of Gusto Napoli Restaurant at 328 Joo Chiat Road and HCAC at 22 Dickson Road, for letting us use their place.






















It's hard being the producer, director, script writer and lead actor. I would avoid that if I had a proper budget.


It is hard to focus on both the macro and the micro issues.


Unlike aging me to become an old man, she is making her look pretty to be one half of a loving couple in the restaurant. 

I am very delighted that these friends and friends of friends came by to help out as extras in the restaurant scene. They are brilliant.  Thank you guys.


HCAC was used as the office of the religious organisation in the story. It was very difficult to get a real religious organisation to let us use their place because of the conflicts in our story. So, we had to mock up the place to have some resemblance of a religious hall.  That costs money, a lot of work and some worries. Worries, because we only had the use of the hall on the day of the shoot and we had to hope that all the props and design work.



Thankfully, all the props worked, and we get a set that looks reasonably convincing.

It is great having this big flat screen to review footages. Easier to assess the performances and pick up mistakes. 

Can you guess what props we are making below?



Finally, we had some time to practise the script.

This is our only outdoor scene. The sky is grey, thanks to the haze from the forest fires in Indonesia - suits the mood. It is an emotional scene where the lead character visits his wife at the cemetery.






If you think I managed to mimic the posture of an old man very well, you are half right, as I was really suffering from acute back pains on the day and so the postures were quite real.


This shot is visually a transition shot from one of grey to some green.


Here is the other cemetery which is more grey than green. I needed the shots there to illustrate that there are different cemeteries for different religions.







I told you I can play a bent old man very well. Comes in handy when you have to review the footages when the monitor is very low. :)




And here are the pre-production activities of preparing the props.





Being the overall in-charge for logistics I had nightmares making sure that I don't miss out anything on set. On the first day in the restaurant, I forgot to bring the bottle of wine for the owner. Then at HCAC, I remembered the bottle of wine, but carelessly smashed it. Sigh!

For more about who my wine kakis (buddies) are, click here.

For more about my other productions, click here.






















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Monday, January 11, 2016

2nd Michael Chua Evening of Short Films (2016)

Only 80 seats available at the time of writing. ADMISSION IS FREE!
Priority will be given to Lasalle College of the Arts students and the cast and crew of the productions.

NO MINORS BELOW 16 YEARS OLD.

Number of seats available will be updated on Facebook (about this blogpost).
Admission by registration only.

Register by emailing "Name + Mobile Num" to: Mysticmichael@gmail.com
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Once in a while with the permission of the copyright owners, I would organise a screening of short films I have acted in. The last one was held two years ago. 

Some of the films are available online, but it is better to watch it on big screen in the presence of many, and to understand more about the films and how they were made during the Q&A session that follows.

SUBSCRIBE TO THIS BLOG IF YOU WANT TO BE INFORMED OF FREE EVENTS LIKE THIS ONE.

Event Details

ADMISSION IS FREE!

DATE: 27th February 2016 (Saturday)
TIME: 6.30pm
VENUE: Lasalle College of the Arts, Singapore. Room F201

Directions/Map: click here.


Map and Directions
LASALLE’s campus at 1 McNally Street is located between Short Street and Prinsep Street.
By MRTRochor, Exit A (2-minute walk)
Little India, Exit A (8-minute walk)
Bugis, Exit A (9-minute walk)
Dhoby Ghaut, Exit A (15-minute walk)
By BusSBS: 23, 48, 56, 57, 64, 65, 131, 139, 147, 166
SMRT: 66, 67, 170, 851, 857, 960, 980
CarparkThe entrance to LASALLE’s basement carpark is located along McNally Street. The carpark parking rates as follow:


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Some comments from the previous 'Michael Chua Evening':

"Generally well organized, get to see film clips completely different from the cookie cutter style comercial films. Displays how budget films attempts to wow audiences with subtle messages that address bigger issues in life"
--- Larry Lim


"I really enjoyed the short films - interesting, touching, entertaining.....Looking forward to the next screening. Thk u Michael for organising it."
--- Sally Teo

"It was a wonderful evening with a mix of talent and art from the film fraternity accompanied by the actor himself. Great work and an even humble and down to earth person. Michael truly was the star of the evening:). FABULOUS WORK! ! Looking forward to the next meet up."
--- Sankeshwari Deo


To find out about the previous 'Michael Chua Evening' (2014), click here.

Thirteen selected films in English, Mandarin, Cantonese and Malay. 124 minutes.

Restricted to audience above 16 years of age only.

List of Films

1. Mr Postman


A Ngee Ann Polytechnic Production
Directed/Written by Mohit Rajgopal
Actors: Michael Chua & Ronald Goh

A mockumentary of a father and son team in a reality show.

(In English, 12 minutes)







2. Dispher

A Singapore Polytechnic Production.
Directed/Written by Yap Wen Hui
Actors: Michael Chua, Patrick Ong & Daeng Amer

A night taxi driver tales surrounding a mysterious box and his dilemma.

(In English, 6 mins 21 secs)


3. The Collector

Produced/Written by Mark Alexander
Directed by Darren Tan
Actors: Michael Chua, Ali Khan, Cherie Tay & Kelly Lim


psychologically unstable man who is compelled to confront his inner demons when he discovers a small music box that sparks memories of his daughter. 
(In English, 6 mins 58 secs)

4. Penghulu


Commissioned for the Singapore Writers' Festival, Utter 2013.
Story adapted from Pak Suleh (from Penghulu) by Suratman Markasan.
Directed by Lillian Wang
Actors: Michael Chua, M Ramlee, Nurijah Sahat, Syafiq Akmal, Shaquille Daniel, Husnen Nanaz, Robiah Binte Murat & Mohd Bin Razali

Pak Suleh used to be the Penghulu (headman) of his village, but five years ago, the government relocated his family to an HDB flat on the mainland. Life is very different for him, cooped up in this “birdhouse”. Without a village to tend, Pak Suleh feels lost.
(In Malay, 16 mins 29 secs)

5. Checkmate


A Nafa Production
Directed/Written by Willy Tan
Actors: Michael Chua & Amy Yan-Luong

David Lee, a man disillusioned with life, goes through counselling in prison for the murder of his wife.
(In English, 14 mins)


6. AFLOAT  斗鱼


A Ngee Ann Polytechnic Production
Directed/Written by Reuben Foong
Actors: Kong Ling Jing Sherry Tao & Michael Chua

Xiao Wen and her mother are a close-knit pair, but the former’s wish to return to their homeland remains only hers. When her mother’s new partner enters their lives, Xiao Wen decides to take action.

(In Mandarin, 14 mins)


7. The Next Plot

A Michael Chua Production and Red Dot Filmmakers 
Directed/Written by Michael Chua
Actors: Michael Chua, Amy Yan & Joann Wu

Kit Lee is in deep grief over the lost of his wife and the complications that follows.

(In English and Mandarin, 5 minutes 28 seconds)








8. 有情常在 BFF


A Production by Revelation Productions
Directed/Written by Kelvin Sng
Actors: Michael Chua, Hui Xin, Shawna Wu, Sun Yifang & Daniel Moore.

Xiao Hui lives her life like many young people, living a busy and hasty life, until an life changing event hit her, as a reminder to cherish the people close and dear to her, and that life is after all, beautiful.

(In English and Mandarin, 11 minutes)

9. The Piano Teacher
A United World College, SEA, Singapore Production.
Written by
Directed by David Boot 
Actors: Michael Chua & Edmund Heng.

The story of a once well established piano teacher, now in dementia. 

(In English,  8 minutes)


10. I Could Have Been Happy

A Nanyang Technological University, School of Arts, Design and Media productions.
Directed/Written by Anson Goh
Actors: Michael Chua, Linda Goh & Rosemary Lau.

A middle-aged man futile attempt to seek love and happiness. 

(In English,  7 minutes)

11. Last Week My Brother Raped Me


A Lasalle School of the Arts, Puttnam School of Films Production
Directed/Written by Say Peng
Actors: Michael Chua, De Zhong & Leeiann

The trauma that follows the rape of the daughter in the family.

(In English, 12 minutes)




12. My Father's Smile


A Lasalle School of the Arts, Puttnam School of Films Production
Directed/Written by Marisa Goh
Actors: Michael Chua, Yolby Low & Kelly Lim

A divorced man takes his son to a journey of fantasy and make-belief to mask the harsh realities of life.

(In English, 12 minutes)


13. Hua

A Ngee Ann Poly
Directed/Written by Derek Ong
Actors: Michael Chua, Derek Ong, Kelly Cheung & Catherine Ho

A picture paints a thousand words and more, much to his astonishment in the barn.

(In Cantonese, 9 minutes)


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