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

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Tuesday, March 7, 2017

The Ninth Wave

This is a NYU Tisch Asia short film I acted in with Kelly Lim back in 2013. It was shot at the Peranakan quarters of Joo Chiat in Singapore. A lot of emphasis on the culture and colours of the place.  This is where I get to speak English, Malay and Cantonese in one film.

The story is about a man who realises that he needs to exit the stale marriage he is stuck in, after stumbling on a discarded painting by the bin.

Here is the video:

For more of NYU Tisch Asia shorts in this blog, click here.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017


"Reunion" (2013) - A NYU Tisch Asia Film, Written & Directed by Joseph Hsu.

- A family struggles to hide the demise of a family member from the matriarch during the Lunar New Year Reunion Dinner.

This is one of my favourite short films, rich in cultural context and acting. I love the last part - the revelation - delivered very delicately by Kelly Lim and Madam Low Heng Joo. This film won the Grand Prize (Student Category) in the 1st Taiwan Weifilm Festival in 2013.

I love the Tisch Asia scripts, as they are very thought provoking. Tisch Asia was the place where I learned a lot of acting from. The stories usually involve major transformations as the plot unfolds, requiring the actor to deliver a wide emotional range in a short time. A hallmark of good scripts. I wish their Asian campus is still here.

Here is the film:

This script is inspired by a true story.


The Yusheng (a very Singaporean Chinese New Year raw fish salad) was prepared by my sister with the finest ingredients. It was very yummy. We finished it after the shoot.

Here is another Reunion Dinner tragic story I did ... click here.

Sunday, February 5, 2017

Kungfu Yoga - Movie Review

Kung Fu Yoga is clearly a sign that Chinese movies have entered the market of big budget visuals involving multi-national co-productions, breathtaking sceneries, fast cars, fights and dashing good looking actors. 

Jackie Chan plays the part of a Chinese version of Indiana Jones, an archeology professor/treasure hunter that takes on the bad guys in exotic places  - a well tested plot.  Add that with Jackie's actions and humour and you get a sure winner.

What is most outstanding in this Jackie Chan movie is that it captured some fascinating and daring skirmishes with nature, like the dive into a deep icy lake inside a colossal cave in Iceland and the scene with lions and hyenas. The latter no doubt done together with CGI, but still it is impressive. It is probably the first Chinese movie to do so in this scale.

The dive into the icy lake is an amazing feat for any actor, let alone for Jackie, as he had a surgery just two days before the act, to realign his intestines. At 62, he is a legend,  still doing his own stunts.

Go watch Kung Fu Yoga. You will be entertained.

From Variety.com (5 Feb 2017):
Kung Fu Yoga” dominated the foreign box office, racking up a hefty $51.4 million. The action-comedy with Jackie Chan represents the union of two of the largest film markets — China and India. It was backed by companies in both countries and has resonated with audiences in both places, grossing $177.9 million globally. 

From Firstpost.com (5 Feb 2017)
Kung Fu Yoga earned US $ 138.8 million (around Rs 940 crore) at the box office in China alone during the first week of its release. That is double the estimated cost of the film. Notably, the film’s takings are already way higher than the worldwide collections of India’s most successful film, Dangal. More importantly, it reminds us of the size of the Chinese market and the drawing power of Jackie Chan.


Interview 1:

Interview 2:


Behind the Scenes:

And about the man himself - Jackie says that he is happiest when making movies.

For detailed data on the film, click here.

This is the 115th posts. To date, this blog has garnered more than 101,000 hits. Thank you for visiting the blog and your support.

For other movie reviews in this blog, click here.

Saturday, November 19, 2016

More Than Words That Touches

Pulau Ubin is Singapore's last offshore island that is still left alone in its natural state. There are no large scale commercial development plans for the island. I hope they leave this idyllic island the way it is, with the local inhabitants continuing life the way it has been for a long time.

There used to be more people living in Ubin, when the granite quarry was still operating and hiring people. Now those quarries are dormant and clear torquois waters have filled up the open cast sites. Thereafter, the inhabitants started leaving for the mainland to get jobs. Then there were not enough kids to fill the local primary school, so it closed, then some years later, the community centre closed. They were even contemplating closing the police post, but this idea was dropped after two foreigners were caught sneaking in across the Johore Straits, purportedly carrying explosives destined for terrorist acts on the mainland.

But other than that incident, the island is virtually crime free. Not much happens here. Some are fishermen, some run businesses that are supported by tourists, like bicycle shops and restaurants. Life is unhurried. The locals are friendly, mostly only the older ones remain behind. Even the dogs and cats are laid back, and they seem to be indifferent to human presence, as if taking us as 'stupid tourists' disturbing their peace. :)

This short film is about how a daughter's return to Pulau Ubin to tell her father that she is getting married. This after leaving him to continue her education and life in the mainland.

I am proud to be part of this film, as many similar stories must have happened to quite a lot of the islanders over the years as they moved to the mainland. It can be considered a documentary re-enactment.

This is the village square, with a permanent stage used during a time when Teochew operas and religious festivals reigned. Operas were major events and entertainment in their village calenders those days.

Now, the islanders rely mostly on the tourist industry. So come and visit and support the legacy of Pulau Ubin, the last kampong island of Singapore.

There are taxis in the village to get around, but the best way to see the island is to rent one of these bicycles.

This gentleman chooses to remain. He is in his 80s and still healthy and strong. He goes about his life growing herbs on his land and selling soft drinks and coconut water. I met him 8 years ago. For more about Ubin, click here.

For other similar stories about father and son/daughter, click here.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Film Making Collaboratives (Singapore)

With the advent of digital cameras, smart phones, social networks and the Internet, film making collaboratives are flourishing.

I know of six of them in Singapore. I may have missed out some, but these are the ones I have attended their events of, or read about. The description of them below are mostly summarised from their online pages.

Running a collaborative needs leadership, funds and tenacity, This is especially hard considering that most of the people in the collaboratives are hobbyists with full-time paying job during the weekdays. That is why only two of the six are still active.

They are all slightly different from one another, so take your pick.

1. Lens Rebel, Founded in 2012

We believe that there is still an audience for intelligent and alternative cinematography that veers of the beaten track championed by mainstream media.

Lens Rebels were originally founded by Dagomir Kaszlikowski and Karol Jalochowski under the name Gutter Twins. After a short stint with Suhas Bhat, a screen writer and producer, Lens Rebels are now an alliance between Jerry Koedding and Dagomir Kaszlikowski.

Lens Rebels has produced several short films and a feature-length film, called "Kopi-O".

2. Reel Frenz, founded 19 Nov 2012, 546 members, 139 past meetups


"A group with a passion”. It is the place where actors, directors, scriptwriters, lights, camera, sound, music writers / directors and arts students can call home. A place to discuss, pitch ideas and come together for film and video projects. See your ideas turn into reality. You can be a pro, an amateur, someone with creative passion or a movie goer with ideas. If you have an actor, singer, scriptwriter, producer, director, cinematographer, musician, animator, editor, makeup artist, special effects creator, special skills, critic or film industry specialist hidden somewhere in you, do come and join us.

Reel Frenz has produced 15 short films and a feature film, called "Certified Dead".

3. Red Dot Film Makers, 28 May 2015, 343 members, 16 past meetups

This is a group for anybody seriously interested in producing quality films. It's all about creating a team of filmmakers who want to develop, work, experiment and to find new ways to tell stories / move the audience. 

Task is simple and clear: Create emotional high end footage / scenes and impressive results that both crew and cast will want to include in their showreels.

This group is in a hiatus at the moment.

4. Cast and Crew 4SG, founded 3 Feb 2015, 318 members, 23 past meetups

All Singapore residents are welcome - with or without film experience.

If you are crew - lights, sound, camera, editing - and have equipment, that will be cool. If you don't have any equipment - that's okay too.

We also welcome actors, make up artists, costumers, scriptwriters, designers - anyone who has the passion to contribute behind and in front of the camera.

After three short films, this group seems to have stopped meeting since early 2016.


5. Singapore Film Makers Group 25 Feb 2012, 340 members, 22 past meetups

This group is for people who have some knowledge/training in filmmaking and would love to make short films regularly with like minded people!

This group seems to have stopped producing films.

6. Singapore Film Making Lovers, found 18 June 2016, 74 members, 1 past meetup

Meetup and network with filmmaker lovers,who are local in singapore or expats travel/locate in singapore. Brainstorm, pitch ideas to make videos/film on youtube/others social media platform.

This group is very new. As indicated in their meetup page, they have only two meetups so far.



For more articles about how technology is influencing the future of the arts, click here.

Monday, November 7, 2016

Disruption, Culture, People & Leadership, Reed Hastings, CEO Netflix

Organised by National Trade Union Congress (NTUC) U-Creative.

Reed relates how travel and living outside the US has changed him. He said that our school system is structured and success within a very structured system may not translate to success outside.

In the world of business, most entrepreneurs fail, but when  a few among the many succeed, they get to be invited to speak in panels like this.

He related that when he was in Pure, a software company he founded, he was promoted beyond as a programmer into a manager responsible for more and more people and also doing sales. Both of which he didn't particularly enjoy as the company was growing bigger and people were following rules more than they were being creative. He felt that he wasn't doing well and wanted to quit as he couldn't forgive himself for doing badly. Eventually he did quit, though the management was reluctant to let him go.

The sales in Pure doubled every year, but was bought over by their largest competitor. It was not fun any more. The creative people got less interested. Business became rigid. This is quite common among many companies. And then they have little ability to adapt and were just following the rules. Design companies should be  more flexible to changes.

In Netflix, there are no policies for somethings, but at the same time they are careful not to let things go crazy. So we need high performance individuals. The company should Inspire people instead of merely managing them.

In the industrial manufacturing economy, it thrives by reducing the variables. Too many businesses are influenced by this aspect of the industrial economy.

Employees want to help companies by not making mistakes. This stifles. Instead, we think of the team more like a sports team. We endeavour to hire the best person in every role. It is about performance and effectiveness, not just longevity or just adequate performance

Netflix does not use the bell curve on staff, nor has a policy to cut x number of people every year. It all depends on the market. If there are high performance individuals to be won over, you either pay and have the player in the team, or lose the player.

However, this practice does not cut across the whole company. For instance, customer support workers are structured and are based on different considerations from creative professionals. The former are measured by their reliability.

Question: It appears that the OTT space is now dominated by the giants. If you were to invest in a startup in this space, which one would they be?

At anyone time it would appear that the giants dominate. Look at the IT industry. At one time Microsoft dominated everything.

What are the biggest challengers?
88 million subscribers may seem very big in Netflix, but it is very small compared to the other players like Youtube or Facebook, that have subscribers running into billions.

We advertised on Youtube (a competitor).

Data analytics was something affordable only to the big companies previously, but now, it is accessible to small companies as well. How will Netflix adjust to this levelling of the playing field?

Data Analytics enables mass customisation, such that shows that are not interesting to you don't get promoted to you.  So virtually, we look consistently good to the customer.  Netflix is working towards making all content available to everybody.

How do you decide what gets made?
We use data analytics where we should. Picking content, however, is a creative leap.

Consumption data. How different globally?
A broad mix of taste in every culture. They are not culture dependent.

For more articles about how technology is influencing the future of the arts, click here.

Friday, October 28, 2016

Exploring the Arts & Culture Industry

26th October 2016 - organised by National Trade Union Congress (NTUC) U-Creative, at One Marina Boulevard, Singapore.

Speakers: Mr Jeremiah Choy, trained lawyer turned creative director, producer and curator; Mr Mathialagan, Asian TV Awards winner; Mr Juan Foo, a veteran film producer; and Ms Som Binte Mohamed Said, a dancer, diplomat and designer

Some of the things I learn from the talk:

  • Appreciation of Art: That we should teach the young to appreciate art, so that they will not grow up like a robot.
  • Volume to Value: In the commercial world of acting, we first work on volume (of work), then value. When we start out, we take any gig thrown at us. It is a learning period and a time to establish ourselves in the market. But we can't just continue on 'volume'. At some point, we have to decide what value we bring to the project - a value that clients are willing to pay more for. It is harder to jump straight into 'value', skipping the 'volume' stage as clients look for the three 'X'es - Experience, Expertise and X-Factor. Newcomers rarely have all three, if at all, though some may have an X-Factor so big it compensates the lack of Experience
  • A Discerning and Educated Audience: At the moment, we do not have a discerning audience in Singapore. We need an audience that can engage in constructive criticism, not just saying whether they like a piece of work, or not, but being able to say why. We have lost this ability, because we started emphasising less on literature in school, and soon the students lose their ability to think. (I think the autocratic political system has something to do to stifle this, in my opinion.)
  • Acting in India: What is natural acting, or not, has changed over the years. What was natural acting 15 years ago, is now considered over-the-top (exaggerated) acting. Mathialagan also related to us his experience working in India, where he had to start from the bottom, as nobody knew him there. Whilst in Singapore, he had already 15 years of experience and won awards when he went to India. But nobody cares about that in a new place. That was a humbling experience. It was nothing to do with the acting craft, as the craft is universal.
  • Let art be the reason and not the excuse: That means an artist create and when asked to explain, he must be able to articulate what his art is about. If he cannot, and use art as an excuse, then it doesn't work. Eg. "It is too difficult to explain, this is art."
Personally, I am convinced that it is easier to get into art today, than 30 years ago, as the smart phone and the Internet are great vehicles to organise, access information, network and learn. However, I was astonished to meet a group of university students who feel that it is harder today, giving themselves reasons, such as that the obstacles they face today are different from 30 years ago. 

Being born with the Internet and mobile telephony technologies,they have taken everything for granted. I told them that if they were to switch off the Internet and mobile phones, they will learn very quickly how handicapped they would be, and then will realised that they have not leveraged on them enough to gain access to the market.

Those days, we need a committee to organise a simple event. When we call someone, we call them at home and if they are out of the house, we had to wait 12 to 24 hours to be able to contact them. We had to pay to learn almost everything, and even then, less effectively. Now, one can learn almost everything through Youtube and connect with like-minded people online. Finding out audition and shoot locations is a breeze with Google Maps, We can record our rehearsals at home or anywhere using our phones. We can cast people on the streets without going on the streets... we can look for new gigs from the phone.... , buses were packed to the brim and had no aircon, during the rain, they usually leak,..., streets were not as safe,..., the market was also smaller than it is now,... the list is endless. Come on young people, wake up to the reality that you are not hungry enough and not trying hard enough.