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


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Friday, February 16, 2018

Caishen (财神)

"Caishen" (The God of Fortune, 财神), directed by Ding An, is a 20-episode web series in Singlish, shot in the year 2016 and released in time to greet the start of  the Lunar New Year in 2018.

Singlish is a version of English patois spoken in Singapore, often associated with the funny bits of a conversation and its informality. It is English spoken with Chinese speech structure, spiced with Chinese dialect, Malay and Tamil vocabulary.

This series is about the calamitous adventures of Roy Kee, a middle-aged anti-hero and gambling addict who is given a phone app that ironically can only make others, but not himself rich.

For non-Singaporean viewers, do not be put off by the quirky delivery style. Trust me it is quirky even for Singaporeans. That gives it the charm and uniqueness, amid the surreal nuggets of wisdom that you will find useful. They are usually interwoven into the recurring silly moments. Overall, it has this unexpected sarcastic undertones that cynics will  certainly love. I particularly like the deadpan moments.

Here is Episode 1 of the series [19 minutes]. After finishing it, click on the prompt to proceed to the next episode. If you are unable to link to the next episode at some point, then continue watching it via Youtube.


Wednesday, February 14, 2018

In Between Takes

Actors wait a lot in between takes. During that time, there is little we could do other than rehearsing our lines. Some actors read light novels and yet others get some work done on their laptop off their other full-time/part-time job. Mostly, time is wasted browsing Facebook and indulging in mindless chatter.

I tried exercising, but that will make me sweaty and ruin my makeup and costume.

Lately, I have started taking photos and videos of the crew while they are setting up. So they shoot me 'on-air', I shoot them 'off-air'- all just using my mobile phone to shoot and edit them into one-minute videos, on the same day - all in between takes.

Here are some of them...

4th Feb 2018 @ Changi, Singapore (lots of mosquitoes).
Production of "The Road", an original music video, directed by Lesha, music written by Yiam, with crew and cast supported by a bunch of students from Yale-NUS university.

I played the role of the father - an depressive one.

5 Feb 2018 @ a coffeeshop at 503 Jurong West Avenie 1, Singapore. 

"Silhouette", directed by Ashley Tan Han Wei, is a story about two boys looking for their missing father. A Puttnam School of Film, Lasalle College of the Arts, Singapore production. 

I am the missing father. :)

8 Feb 2018 @ 15 Kismis Road, Singapore.

"Stray Roads", directed by Royce Tan, is story of an elderly taxi driver who cannot cope up with technological advances and competition from private-car hire cabs.  A Ngee Ann Polytechnic student production.

I acted as the taxi association leader speaking out against the competition.

Incidentally, I found this online article: 

S’porean, 70, feels too old to study 298 pages for private hire driver license tests

Shooting and editing on 'rapid-fire' is addictive. I find myself doing more and more of it. I will post them here when they are done.

For more photos and videos, follow me on 
INSTAGRAM: jupilier.

Have a Happy Lunar New Year!

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

360 VR

My first shoot in 2018 - a 360 degree Virtual Reality (360 VR) government training video. After "action" was shouted out, everyone in the crew had to literally run into hiding, so that they will not be captured by the camera. The camera captures everything around it 360 degrees. There is no "behind the camera" and "framing of shots" in 360VR, a departure from conventional video production.

More about 360 VR
360 VR was the buzzword at the recent Asian TV Forum 2017.  An extension of VR is AR (Augmented Reality) - a live direct or indirect view of a physical, real-world environment whose elements are "augmented" by computer-generated perceptual information. 
If we combine VR, AR and AI (Artificial Intelligence), they bring enhanced and intelligent experiences to the user. These immersive technologies will enable businesses to market their products closer to reality online. A VR producer told me that we will see many VR videos made this year, not just for games but for various commercial and industrial applications. In fact, it is estimated that 85% of them will not be games.
While the budgets in the market for documentaries are dwindling, more money is being poured into interactive immersive content.
There are multiple experiential engagements that can be facilitated by VR, like:
  • Offshore oil rig scenario videos that can be used for training;
  • Action genre movies where the viewers' movements to follow the action sequences forms part of the excitement and experience.
  • Creating the inner world of mental disorders, to enhance the understanding of the disorders for the medical profession and laypersons.
  • Field Journalism.

What about storyboarding?
Traditionally, we are used to storyboard in frames. However, if you ask a four year old if he think in frames, he is going tell you the story purely, and naively so, from his perspective.
Similarly, in VR we define the storyboard relative to the audience, like user-centred design; and not by objects relative to frame.
This approach should come naturally to practitioners of user-centered design, but may feel foreign to those used to directing audience attention.
Instead of controlling what the audience sees in VR, we work with probabilistic areas of user attention based on ergonomic data.
For more about VR storyboarding, click here.
Six years ago, I was in a National Library Board (Singapore) corporate video shot from a Point of View (POV) perspective. It was a first step in VR, but using only one camera (instead of four cameras for 360).
This was how it looked like:

Sunday, November 5, 2017

Malaysian Film Festival in Singapore 2017

@ The Art House, Old Parliament, Singapore from 31st August to 3rd September 2017

The most beautiful movie tickets I have ever seen
Malaysia and Singapore used to be one country, so it is apt that the Malaysian Film Festival in Singapore is inaugurated this year at the Art House, Old Parliament Building. So now we can enjoy the curated movies this side of the Causeway. Films like "Ola Bola" and "Adiwiraku" bring back fond memories of what Singapore used to be.

"Ola Bola" (2015) directed by Chiu Keng Guan, depicts a time during the 1970s when religion, language and race needn't matter in the game of soccer. Everyone united to play for the country. The movie culminates in the match between Malaysia and South Korea, to qualify to play at the 1980 Summer Olympics in Moscow in the Soviet Union. While they did not explicitly mention the players' names, I could identify some of them based on their character traits and positions in the team, namely: Soh Chin Aun, Arumugum (the goalkeeper) and James Wong (from Sabah). 

"Adiwiraku" (2015) directed by Eric Ong, is based on a true story of Cheryl Ann Fernando an English language teacher and her struggles and successes in a rural school in Kedah, Malaysia. It brings to life the story of SMK Pinang Tunggal and how its students worked towards a choral speaking competition. While this may not seem much to city dwelling folks, it is an impressive achievement for a rural school where most students had a very poor grasp of the English language.

It reminded me of the time when I was in primary school in Singapore, when English was rarely spoken, if at all, outside the classrooms. Then, we all spoke Chinese dialects and some Malay. To force us into speaking English, teachers fined us five cents each time we were caught speaking dialects in school. So yes, while it is reflex to speak English in Singapore nowadays, we didn't start off that way. 

"The Kid from Big Apple" (2015) directed by Jess Teong, brought me back to my childhood memories in an instance, experiencing the world through the eyes and minds of those lovely children.  I love the innocence and the fine details depicted and expressed. As a film maker and actor myself, I know it takes a lot of time and perseverance to bring forth such beautiful nuances and moments. It was so good that I also watched Part 2 of the sequel last month.

Redha (2015), directed by Tunku Mona Riza, is about a Malay couple who find their life crumbles as they realised that their child is autistic and struggles to confront the harsh realities of raising a child disabled by the condition they hardly knew about. The father's inability to accept the truth causes friction within the family but his wife's perseverance & maternal instinct help wade through the difficult times raising the child.

The director put in a lot of effort in researching about autism and also training the young actors to act as autistic kids. They played their part very convincingly.

There were three other films screened, namely "Vere Vizhi Ille" (2015) directed by M. S. Prem Nath; "The Dream Boyz" (2015) directed by Ryon Lee; and "Jagat" (2015) directed by Shanjhey Kumar Perumal; but I didn't have time to watch.

I also attended some talks by some film makers. This is what I have learnt:
  • Films are more influential than books put together.
  • 20% of the 23 million tourists in UK visit the country because of the films they have watched
  • Happy ending in movies sells
  • The depiction of alcohol being drunk in films will put them into PG13 rating in Malaysia
  • Always tell your story from the heart, so that it can reach the audience's heart.
  • Distributors like to ask what the tract record of the lead actors are.

For posts about film festivals in this blog, click here.

 #cinema #cinematicket#cinematickets #malaysian #malaysia#filmfestival #filmfest #filmfestivals#filmfestival2017

Sunday, October 22, 2017

Hokkien Voice-Over

Still recovering from the crazy 11-hour voice-over in Hokkien (a Southern Chinese dialect) last Monday. I was drained and subsequently caught a cough and cold.

The voice-over is for a hospital app that caters to older patients who are only conversant in Hokkien - probably about 200,000 of such people in Singapore. 

First, a quick question...

Which one is correct in Hokkien, to say "I tell you"?

A. Wa ka li gong.
B. Wa kai ler gong.

According to a language expert, it should be A. The second answer, B, is influenced by Teochew, but is commonly heard in Singapore. Oh, by the way, as I learned later on, strictly, neither is correct, as to be fully correct it should be "Gua ka li gong".

While it is important to stick close to standard Hokkien, we also need to make the voice-over instructions intelligible to the recipients. That means choosing to go colloquial when appropriate.

For instance, while the standard Hokkien word for soap is 'teh-kor' (literally tea leaf cakes), I have never heard it used in Singapore before. Instead, the universally understood Malay word 'sapboon' is commonly used. The Malay word 'sapboon' is in turned borrowed from Portuguese 'sabonete'.

Some Hokkien words are trickier. For instance, how do you say 'money' in Hokkien?
Is it 'looi' or 'jhee'?

While 'Jhee' is used in Xiamen, Fujian, and therefore is correct, but (to my surprise)  'looi' is also used in different regions near Xiamen. Surprise because I had always thought that 'looi' is borrowed from the Malay word 'duit'. Which could well mean that the Malay had borrowed the word from the Hokkiens, and then to have the Hokkiens borrow it back years later.

Note: The word 'looi' also has an influence in the Cantonese spoken in Malaysia and Singapore, as now the Cantonese call money 'luooy".

Hokkien is an ancient language, pre-dating the common use of Mandarin, but is now declining in usage. Some words in Hokkien use very ancient Chinese characters and phonetically sound more like old Chinese. eg.

This voice-over assignment is the toughest I ever had, not only because it took 11 hours, but also we had to debate what the suitable spoken form should be vs the standard form. Besides, we also have to translate  technical terms of hospital equipment and personnel-on-duty  to terms easily understood by the old folks.

And that was why I was drained!!!

In all, it is very thoughtful of the hospital executive to implement the app with instructions that the older folks understand. This will definitely help the staff and nurses, many of them whom are from the Philippines and do not speak Hokkien.

I think these senior citizens have been denied their right to their true mother-tongue for far too long - a sacrifice in making Mandarin as the common Chinese language. Now we are experiencing the painful aftermath.

PS1: One fun (crazy) fact. While 'chiobu' is commonly used by young people in Singapore to honour a beautiful young lady, the original use of the term was used to describe a slut. Yes, the kind that sleeps around. :)

PS2: The Malays could have borrowed the word 'duit' from the Dutch, who used it as a unit of money during their colonial days in Indonesia.

For all blog posts that involves Hokkien, click here.

Friday, October 6, 2017

Film Review - Certified Dead

By Michael Lim. Before you can say, "another local movie" and dismiss it, "Certified Dead",  being an honest first time effort at movie production, by Doris Young, actually accomplishes several well deserved accolades. Young, better known by her nom de plume, Marie Lee, is best remembered for her 1970s role in the genre of action karate flick films "Cleopatra Wong" and shows that she can also be an accomplished movie producer and director in her inaugural feature film. 

Considering that this is her first feature made with a shoe string budget of $44,000 and volunteer actors, it would be unfair to compare this with a  Hollywood indie feature. Sure, there are areas for improvement but consider the difficulties and the learning curve the director, actors and script writers have to overcome to distill the end product of this feature, it is a triumphant accomplishment for Young and her crew. 

Helmed by a cast of mainly Singaporean actors, it tells the story of Ian Lee, a middle aged man, who in his earnest to live long enough to provide for his family, becomes a "rodent" for an experimental new serum developed by his best friend Dr. Charles Moore, played by Richard Muru. The drug that is supposed to help sustain Ian's athletic pursuits but has other unintended side-effects. For starters it triggers Ian's adrenaline and ups his athleticism and pheromones. This triggers his boss Hilary, as she finds him suddenly the object of her sexual attraction. Hillary,  played by Toni Ravelo, a Cuban Mexican actor, provides the love interest character to Michael Chua's Ian Lee.

Eventually the drug takes a toll on Ian's life and he suffers a heart attack, and supposedly drowns while swimming in the sea. But he is still walking around, seemingly alive only to be discovered by his doctor friend that he is actually dead and the serum is somehow sustaining his brain while the rest of his body is in a state of rigor mortis. Upon realizing this, Ian tries to fulfill his bucket list before the entirety of his body succumbs to complete decay. 

The movie showcase some fine acting by Michael Chua, who is a veteran staple of several locally produced independent films. Ms Ravelo also has some scene stealing performances as Ian's boss who asks Ian to remain behind after a meeting, if only for a post conference tête-à-tête. 

While being a generally dark drama, Certified Dead has some lighter moments, such as when the mediums visit to Ian's home in an attempt to exorcise him, and his supposed wake at the funeral parlour where he starts talking to his Doctor and his daughter Erin, played by an incredibly talented Shayleigh Koh. 

Eventually, the finale was sad as Ian realizes that his demise can only be resolved by his own departure from his family and he is no longer in the land of the living. In a way it reminds us that as Singaporeans when we yearn to strive too much for success, we get so distracted by what we think is important that we depart from and leave the things that most matter to us in our everyday life - family, friends and loved ones.

The last scene of Dr Moore's enticement of a new rodent may serve the possibility of a sequel.

Certified Dead (Final Trailer) from Reel Frenz on Vimeo.

Some photographs of the Singapore Premiere on the 30th October 2017.

For other posts about Certified Dead, click here.

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

In Conversation with Aamir Khan

Aamir Khan needs no introduction to any Indian. He is a Bollywood superstar that has consistently made lotsa money with movies he acted in, often also championing social causes.

He was in Singapore to promote his new movie "Secret Superstar" and to meet his fans at the event, "In Conversation with Aamir Khan" @ Mastercard Theatres, Marina Bay Sands, Singapore. 2 Oct 2017. 

4 things I learned from the interview:

  1. Aamir makes sure he gets 8 hours of sleep during shoot days. He loves sleeping.
  2. He is attracted to unusual things.
  3. It is more important that his audience loves his films, than if his films win awards.
  4. Between a camera take that captures the inexplicable magical moment but technically imperfect, versus one that is only technically brilliant, he will choose the former.