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

Stop Press:

Search This Blog

Enter Your Email to Follow:

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.

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.