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

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Monday, May 23, 2016

Palace of Love

"Palace of Love" is a story of Linh, a Vietnamese mail order bride who marries Hock, a Singaporean Chinese, amid conflicting loyalty between her family in Vietnam and her marriage.

A Lasalle Production.
Producer: Engku Muhammad Iqbal 
Writer: Ho Say Peng
Director: Tang Wan Xin 

It is hard enough starting life in a new country and culture, let alone one where she does not even understand the language spoken in the home. Hock lives with his elderly mother and they speak Hokkien (a Chinese dialect), which is  totally alien to Linh (acted by Hani Binh Pham).

There must be many cases of 'Hock-and-Linh' marriages in Singapore. 

In the year 2002, Singaporean males marrying foreign brides account for 3,988  marriages, or  17.2% of all marriages

By the year 2012, the number of foreign brides had gone up to  5,599 marriages or 20% of all marriages. 

Wonder why?

Here is the trailer:

This was a difficult production for me, as I was still in the midst of an excruciating chronic pain. At times, I had to be helped to put on a  new shirt. Just stretching my arms out itself was unbearably painful. 

[I am well now. To read "How I Overcame My Chronic Pain", click here.]

The very energetic team. Besides lugging the equipment to and fro, they also dressed up an empty apartment to one that blends seamlessly to Hock's working class tastes and lifestyle. That is quite a tall order, loading up cupboards, tables, chairs, sofas...etc.

Sunday, May 15, 2016

The Piano Lesson

"The Piano Lesson" is a story about a son's frustrating attempts to reconcile with his father, who is suffering from dementia and who was  once an accomplished pianist.

This is a production by three students from the United World College, South East Asia, in Singapore. Writer: Malcolm Macdonald
Director: David Boot
Sound/Editor: Geoffrey Wu

The results turned out surprisingly well. Edmund Heng (who plays the son) and I, didn't know what to expect, as the scenes were captured in very short takes. It is hard for actors to hold consistent emotions in multiple short takes, and harder for the editor to stitch together multiple short footages. Anyway, it all ended well.

It was a pleasure watching the video. Very touching. It even made me cry. This film will touch the hearts of those who have lived with someone close to them, who had suffered dementia. It is currently sent to several film festivals and hence we cannot show it here yet.

But, I have cut a trailer out of the 7 minute film, so here it is:

For other films dealing with father and son relationship, click here.

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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:

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 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.

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.

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


"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,