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


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Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Father's Devotion

This is the shoot I was in, for Cine65 Season IV - an annual short film competition in Singapore - produced by a bunch of Temasek Polytechnic students. This year's theme is "Home Truly". I love this production because it gave me the chance to both act and sing. Wonderful. The title could well have been "Flamingo Once More", given the character's fond memories of the nightclub where he used to sing.
[Spoi l e r    A  l  e   r   t   !   !   !    ]

For other productions that I also sang in, click here.

The original story was of a middle aged man resisting his son's application to emigrate for a better life elsewhere,  as he  loves his little daily joys living in Singapore.

On hindsight, I think the new story is better - less in-the-face and more genuine about what a 'home truly' constitute. Okay, I won't spoil the show for you yet. Let's watch it first..,

 . .

The crux of the story is that, though the father is in a state of dementia, he resists to be put in an institutionalised home, and insists (though through his illusion) on providing for his family by singing at the Flamingo Club. The subtext here is that: to him a home is not just a roof over the head, but a place where love is. And he defends to stay put at where love is.

As an actor, my challenge was to seamlessly go in and out between the illusory and the lucid mind of the character. That is, of his obsession to support the family and of his fond memory of his wife, versus the present realities. These moments were interspersed between the lucidity of recognising the daughter and then forgetting her in a fleeting moment.

Dementia patients must be exhausted everyday just trying to catch up with themselves and their fleeting short term memory. Acting as the character itself makes me understand and empathise with them and their caregivers more.

So keep your mind positively occupied folks. Mental health is prime.

This is the third time I am acting as a person with dementia. For more, click here.

This is my first time acting with Carin Koh, a Mandarin theatre trained actress. She is amazing, being able to deliver the emotions and cry on cue. I love her diction.

The director chose the songs I happen to use in the audition. There were no rehearsals after that  prior to the shoot. The guitar and singing were recorded at a HDB void deck immediately after the principal photography. There was no time to do it properly in a studio. And the editor had only two days to finish everything after that.

I think it all turned out well. I am impressed! :)

Oh, incidentally something very special happened after the shoot. To find out, click here.

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Wrap And Jam

I love singing and acting, so last Thursday was splendid, as I did both for the Cine65 Film Competition.

After the shoot wrapped, on the way to quench my thirst with some Teh Tarik across the road, I saw a Malay guy playing the guitar and singing outside a Malay barber shop. Next to him was an Indian man and an Indian lady listening. As it is rare to see anyone playing guitars and singing in open spaces these days (thanks to karaokes and smartphones), I decided to stop and watch. Consequently, I couldn't resist the fun and sang along.

The Malay guy was delighted that I joined in, and after he finished with his song,  passed his guitar to me to play. And so I did. Then, we took turns to play the guitar and sang songs of our  choice - mostly those from The Bee Gees, The Everly Brothers and The Beatles era. It was surreal.

Passers-by were amused. Most of them smiled in support, some waved to us, a few stopped and some sat near us to watch. Some sang along after warming up. The spontaneity was priceless. It reminded me of the good old days, when people took their guitars out after work and neighbours passing by jammed in, some meeting each other for the first time. Friendships were forged like that then. During the good old days, we did not have the Internet and smartphones. Life was much slower and informal. Meeting the neighbours and community was impromptu. Then, we had more time to do so.

After our jamming session, the Malay chap invited me to his future fortnightly jams at the coffeeshop in the Bedok North neighbourhood, just a block from where we sat. I gladly accepted and am looking forward to it.

This could well be an inspiration for a short film script. I will keep you updated.

More about the coffeeshop jam in a fortnight's time.

I had a few other gigs that had singing. Click here.

Watch the short film that was made on that day, click here.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Emceeing Tech Conferences

Cloud Asia 2017 at Suntec Singapore, is a summit for senior IT and information security professionals from Asia Pacific countries to network and learn. At random, the attendees I have met were CIOs, information security professionals, IT quality assurance professionals, lawyers and compliance officers, from the region. While some are already security experts, there were those who were newly assigned to a security role and were there to learn more quickly.

It feels surreal hosting a tech conference. It is like going back one whole circle,  as  I used to speak at such conferences in Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, Manila, Hong Kong,  Prague, Montreux and Brussels.

This is what I have learnt as a host/emcee:

1. Research
Pre-conference research on the speaker backgrounds and subject matter had helped me guide the speakers and attendees to focus on key points that really matter.

I read up on the officially listed topics like e-business, Internet take up rates and Cloud adoption in regional countries, leveraging the Cloud to enter the world of the Internet-Of-Things (IOT)...etc., but also looked ahead to possible extensions, like the security breaches in the world of IOT; and the scary possible future of Transhumanism (humans with embedded computer chips).

2. Ground Check
Arriving early and mingling with the attendees during breakfast just before the summit started helped me to gauge the prevailing intellectual capacity and diversity, and steer the summit accordingly.

3. Housekeeping Rules
Besides the usual housekeeping rules of keeping mobile phones silent,...etc. I reminded everyone that while they were encouraged to ask questions, they were not supposed to make speeches. This saved everyone a lot of time and grief.

I also reminded the audience that the organsers had spent a lot time and effort making the summit possible and we should all show our gratitude by turning up on time. *hint* *hint*

4. Time keeping of speakers
Some speakers were slow and fluffy with their presentations. I should have reminded them before they started - that they should keep their talk short and sharp, and leave time for questions and answers.

5. Summaries
I listened and picked up key points in each presentation, relayed them to the audience with a comic twist, so that it was easier for them to remember what was spoken. It was more fun than a sterile regurgitation of the speeches.

6. Feedback
Feedback forms are important, but nothing beats gathering candid responses during the tea breaks and lunchtimes.

Three attendees came to me to thank me for injecting humour and fun in the summit, especially on some topics which were inevitably dry. I also approached a few other attendees at random to gather their feedback. They all felt that they have learned something and enjoyed the summit thus far, while one commented that some speakers were too slow and that their content were too padded with fluff.

Some of the attendees recognised me from "Hentak Kaki" and "Gift" and asked to have photos taken together. It was ok, there were not many,  otherwise it would be a little out of place.

What Went Right?
The summit was immaculately executed, from registration, tea-breaks and meals, sound to logistics in general. It ended on the dot at 5pm as planned. The meals were delicious. We even had round tables wiith table cloth and chairs to sit on to enjoy our meals. This was a stark contrast for me as an actor on set in Singapore, where commonly, we sit by the road kerb and eat our packet lunch bought from a nearby hawker centre. :)

In the era of Youtube and TED Talk where presentations are available freely, live face-to-face conferences must deliver more. This means making them more experiential and encouraging more audience engagement like having: 
  • More time for Questions and Answer Sessions
  • Role Plays
  • More Networking activities
  • Live Broadcasts via Facebook Live or WeChat Live to spread the net of audience wider.
Do you have other suggestions?

How did it feel like?
I enjoyed emceeing the event, particularly the challenge of finding the funny bits amid the sobriety, to help the audience recap and also keep them awake. Having done stand-up comedies before had definitely helped.

To refer to my live performances like stand-up comedies...etc, chronicled in this blog, click here.

If you are interested in technology risks in banking, the world of augmented intelligence, or banking made as easy as booking an Uber cab,... you may like to go to here.