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


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Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Unemployed PMET Achieves



In Singapore, PMETs (professionals, managers, executives and technicians) form 55 percent of the workforce, but 72 per cent of the local workers who lost their jobs in 2016. 

PMETs also find it harder to re-enter the workforce. Only 44 percent of those who lost their jobs managed to get a new job within the year, compared to 48 percent for the rest. That means only less than one in two managed to get a new job within one year.

Officially, the unemployment statistics for Singapore Citizens and Permanent Residents is 2.1 percent in 2016. I suspect that the figures for Citizens alone will be much higher.

Long ago, a person without a job is simply called 'jobless', then they change it to calling him 'unemployed', as 'employed' is two positive syllables in a three syllable word. It sounds better, more positive. Then after some time, they realised that they can get away with reframing you as someone 'in-between jobs' - like you have just finished a job and as if the next one is just lurking around the corner. And it helps to give hope that the next job may happen as quickly as next month or the next day. Remember hope is more powerful than fear. Then after some time, they say that since you are 'in-between jobs' so frequently, let us label you as a 'freelance' - knowing that a freelance can be virtually unemployed or well be a billionaire forex trader. So there you go, everyone saves face and the government manages to reduce the unemployment figures instantly, without spending a dime.

So, if you include those who are not holding a stable job and are categorised as 'freelance', then the figures would be much higher. Politicians love hiding incovenient figures and exaggerating convenient ones. They figured that out long ago.

I cannot find statistics for unemployed PMETs above 40 years old, but I think the statistics will be horrendous. It is safe to assume that every reader here knows of at least one middle-aged PMET that has been out of job for more than six months.

Sadly, age discrimination is rife all over the world and particularly in Singapore. The Singapore Government allows foreigners into the country rather freely suppressing wages and intensifying competition. I am all for competition, but there must be a limit to things for long term stability and sustainability. The current state of play in Singapore is that employers hire mostly the cheap, young and willing, because they get away with age discrimination, then fire them once they hit 40 years old. This is not sustainable because no one, even the arguably hungrier foreigners will remain cheap, young and willing long term. They too will grow old, start families and spend time raising families (therefore turning 'less willing').

I believe this is a common story in most developed countries. 

If you are an employer or hiring manager, do give the older workers a chance. Judge them based on their merits and not your preconception. It is not only one person you are affecting, but entire families that rely on your decision. Older workers are usually more loyal and patient, and most of all more experienced. You can't accelerate experience. It takes 20 years to have 20 years of experience.

It is hard if you are among those long term unemployed. It destroys self-esteem and confidence, while you see your financial burdens pile up. However, never give up. There is always a light at the end of the tunnel.

Here is a video, an online commercial, illustrating the plight of one such unemployed PMET:




.

If you are among those struggling,...

1. Avoid going down the Downward Spiral of Depression
If you have lost your job and have been unable to find a new one and everything else seems to be falling apart - finding yourself insolvent, your relationship and health in a mess, your house in a mess, the people around you looking down on you, picking on you...etc, and you feel helpless, then you are probably already sucked into the spiral.

Remember you have problems to solve, but the problems are not you per se. Your thoughts are not you and your mind is not you, so do not allow them to control you. You have a soul, a peaceful loving soul.

Seek professional help immediately.

2. Avoid Depression
If you are not in depression, then avoid slipping into it inadvertently. Get out of the house, exercise, meditate, help others, volunteer, and/or keep a pet. Stay useful. By opening our hearts we avoid depression. By helping others, we help ourselves. Volunteer in charities.

To learn more about meditation and staying positive, click here.

3. Rearrange Payments
If you are running into a financial crisis, re-negotiate your bank mortgages and bill repayments. That will buy you more time.

4. Keep the Happy List
Avoid negative people. You know who they are. If you find yourself spending time regularly with the same people complaining about your ex-bosses, ass-holes, foreign competition or the government, then it is time to re-examine the list of people you hang out with. Keep a list. Harbour around positive thinking people. You will start to see your life change mysteriously.

5. Network and Mingle
Network and mingle, but keep your dignity. Do not give the impression that you are desperately rushing and clinging on to the first piece of flotsam to keep your heads above water. Trust that things will get better, and they always do if you are positive. It is hard, but it can be done if you are resilient and discipline.

6. Retrain
Retrain, whether on-the-job or through formal training courses. There are also government subsidies and schemes available, look out for them.

7. Seek Help
Don't be afraid to seek help. Ask and you will be given.


THE FUTURE OF WORK

The global economy is going through yet another transition. Technologies are persistently disrupting all industries and the future of work is going to be very different. Many jobs will rapidly become obsolete and finally disappear. Evidently, if we are to be honest about it, there is already a growing number of jobs that are useless, and are affectionately referred to as 'bullshit' jobs. Those holding these 'bullshit' jobs will be among the first to admit to the harsh reality. It is thus time to rethink the meaning of work. For more about this rethink, click here.

Also, read how technologies are disrupting us and the security issues that we will witness more of... click here.


FOR SINGAPOREAN READERS: The Singapore Ministry of Manpower's (MOM) Career Support Programme (CSP) provides for Singapore citizens, training allowances of up to $4,000 monthly for those attending training attachments. It also offers a wage subsidies to employers willing to hire PMETs aged 40 and above who have been unemployed for over a year.


Saturday, May 13, 2017

3rd AIFFA (2017)

  • Tuxedo by Rey Lee; Hair by David Theng
"Certified Dead", produced and directed by Marrie Lee, made its way for official screening at the the 3rd ASEAN International Film Festival Awards (AIFFA) in Kuching, Sarawak Malaysia, from the 4th to 6th May 2017. For more about the movie, click here.

AIFFA is a bi-annual event started in 2013, supported by the State Government of Sarawak. I heard the champion for the festival was the former Minister for Tourism, whom is now the State Chief Minister Abang Abdul Rahman Zohari Abang Openg.  For more about AIFFA and its programme, click here.

Hosting a film festival certainly does a lot to local tourism. It has brought me to this lovely city for the first time. Even though it is so near Singapore, I wonder why I hadn't thought of coming here previously.

Besides the official screening of "Certified Dead", Marrie was also invited to conduct a masterclass entitled "From Actress to Film Maker" to share her experience of making her first feature film and her kick-ass superstar days as Cleopatra Wong. She spoke of how we made a feature film with a shoe-string budget, involving over 40 actors and 40 plus locations, in 43 days over a span of 7 months (cos' we could only shoot only during weekends).  And also about her Cleopatra Wong days when she had to do her own stunts, including some that required her to smash through real glass and hang off a flying helicopter.

The Welcoming Party at the Airport
She was also in the panel of discussion celebrating the emergence of women film makers in ASEAN.


Given that we had a presentation every day, we didn't have time to watch the curated films which was screened at the Old Courthouse in Kuching, nor did we have the time for the Orang Utan and Wildlife sanctuary tour.

Now, the winners of this year's AIFFA awards...

1) SPECIAL JURY AWARD 
Recipient: Solo
Country: Indonesia
The Panel of Woman Film Makers from ASEAN

2) SPECIAL JURY AWARD 
Recipient: Ziarah : Tales of the Otherwords
Country: Indonesia

3) BEST FILM EDITING
Recipient: Imbisibol (Invisible)
Country: Philippines

4) BEST DIR OF PHOTOGRAPHY
Recipient: The Way Station
Country: Vietnam

5) BEST SCREENPLAY
Recipient: Ziarah : Tales of the Otherwords
Country: Indonesia

6) SPECIAL HONOUR AWARD
Recipient: Lav Diaz
Country : Philippines


7) BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS
​Recipient: Ana Capri
Movie Title: Laut
Country: Philippines


8) BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR

Marrie conducting her masterclass "From Actress to Film Maker"
Recipient: Ricky Davao
Movie Title: Dayang Asu (Dog Nation)
Country: Philippines

9) BEST ACTRESS
Recipient: Ai-Ai Delas Alas
Movie Title: Area
Country: Philippines

10) BEST ACTOR
Recipient: Pham Hoang Phuoc
Movie Title: The Way Station
Country: Vietnam

11) BEST DIRECTOR
Recipient: Luisito Ignacio
Movie Title: Area
Country: Philippines

12) BEST FILM
Recipient: The Way Station
Country: Vietnam

13) ASEAN SPIRIT AWARD
Recipient: Kanang anak Langkau
Country: Malaysia





He needs no introduction
- best in Singapore, JB and some say Batam. :)


14)AIFFA LIFETIME ACHIEVEMENT
Name of Recipient: Tan Sri Lakshmanan Krishnan

15) ASEAN INSPIRATION AWARD

Name of Recipient: Donnie Yen

Film making is tough and winning a film award is even tougher. I salute the winners for their hard work, particularly two film veterans and illuminaries: Tan Sri Krishnan and Donnie Yen, who have devoted their entire life to film making.

Tan Sri Krishnan is 94 years old and has been in films since 1947 and cast the legendary multi-talented artiste, the late P Ramlee. For more about Tan Sri Krishnan, click here.

Donnie Yen is 54 years old and has been in films for 35 years. We all know of Donnie as a martial arts exponent and movie superstar, but he has also gone through a very rough patch in his career. He said during the award that one day in 1996, after the production (probably 'Legend of the Wolf'') which he was directing wrapped, he realised that he had only HK$100 left in his bank account. He couldn't even afford to pay for his own dinner and someone else had to take him out for dinner. But he persisted and it has taken him many years, perhaps nearly 30 years, to come this far. For more about Donnie, click here.

Film festivals are great opportunities to meet other passionate film makers and artistes. I got to meet Phua Chu Kang (Gurmit Singh).  I asked him if Phua Chu Kang has evolved over the last 20 years, perhaps to have become one more sophisticated and reformed, he replied, "No,... still the original. Afterwards you see!" :)

And afterwards I did see, when he performed at the Opening Night of the Festival. He did a comic skit and also sang. And sang he did and very well too, true to the great reputation of the SAF Music and Drama Company.

I have acted with Gurmit in "Taxi Taxi" and have met him at wedding receptions, but have never seen him up close in the full Phua Chu Kang gear, complete with the permed hair, mole and yellow boots, so a photo was a must! I wonder if it has always been the same wig, mole and yellow boots for the last 20 years! :)  For more about Phua Chu Kang, click here.

The festival also saw SAAVA (South East Asia Audio Visual Association) signing an MOU with AIFFA to launch AIFFA Biz World in collaboration with an investment network comprising Singapore based film investment funds such as Aurora Media Holdings, Salt Media and Entertainment, Silver Media Group and Hub Media Group. A global media investment fund of US$30 billion is up for grabs for those who can pitch and convince the financiers. For more details, click here.

Night life is rather quiet in Kuching, with a few night market stalls along the river, sourvenir shops and some restaurants. I love this city for its tranquility, thank you AIFFA for inviting me here. 

I wish I had discovered this lovely city earlier, and perhaps the rest of Sarawak.

It is so near and yet  rather out of the way to reach, as many tourists nowadays choose to go to Bangkok, Phuket, and recently, even somewhere further away like Japan.

It is not known how the city got its name, it could be that the British in the 1800s had copied the name Cochin from Kerala India. There is another theory that Kuching actually means "古井" in Chinese meaning "old well". I think it is quite unlikely that the city is named after 'cat', as the locals usually refers to cat as 'pusak', rather than 'kuching' in Bahasa Melayu. 

Anyway, this doesn't stop the tourist spin of 'cat city' and their successful attempt in breaking the Guiness Book of Records for the most number of humans dressed in cat costume. That was done during the opening night of the festival .

Kuching is a small city with a population of 325,132 people comprising the Malays, Chinese, Indians and many indigeneous races like the Dayak, Iban, Bidayuh, Cayan...etc.
The streets are clean and safe, and the people are genuinely warm and friendly. People are very relaxed here. There is no rush. Even souvenir shop sales girls will not put any pressure on you. They will just smile to welcome you into the shop. Generally, people are happy, you can see that in their faces and their vibes.

Nothing much happens in Kuching. The city is mostly livened up when there are festivals, like film festivals and music festivals. Other than that, bar nature lovers, there are not many tourists coming here as it is perceived as 'out of the way'.

A good place to retire. Cost of living is very low and life is slow. Also, after converting my Singapore Dollars to the local currency, my wallet looked very fat. :)

For more about Kuching, click here.
At the 3rd Hanoi International Film Festival,
Sep 2016

"Certified Dead" has gone to a few festivals:


  • 4th Hanoi International Film Festival 2016 (World Premiere) - Official Selection, World Panorama

  • 14th Royal Bali International Film Festival 2016 - Winner - Best International Feature Film 

  • UK Screen One International Film Festival 2017 - Official Selection, Best Narrative Feature 

  • Utah Film Awards 2017 - Official Selection, Best Feature Film 

  • Brazil International Film Festival 2017 - Official Selection, Best Feature Film 

  • 3rd Asean International Film Festival and Awards 2017 - Official Selection, Special AIFFA Screening - 




Last but not least, some entertainment from the gala night:








Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Ward 4A


Notice how quaint the office is, with a typewriter, antique phone and clock! 


This is a Lasalle short film. It is about a patient who believes that he is wrongly institutionalised and tries to escape from a mental hospital with the help of other patients. 

The location - a disused Singapore Land Authority building - reminds me so much of 'Hentak Kaki'.

I love playing the role of the fictional doctor - the one that is allowed to be snobbish and overpowering. This contrasts with the other doctor role I have in the TV Drama Tanglin, as a Specialist Doctor in Emergency Medicine, that speaks in unusually long convoluted lines with bombastic medical jargons expressed in deadpan emotion.

I have also acted as a mental patient, so I have experienced it from both sides. :) See "Checkmate".



Here is the trailer:



The full film is not released yet. I think it will go around in the festival circuit first. I will post it here when it does get released.

The location is a disused school, built by the Singapore Government in the 1950s to prepare for the post-war babies that needed schools. Many of these buildings are now demolished to make way for bigger and better schools - those complete with covered assembly halls, computer rooms, hockey fields, running tracks,...etc. Such luxury compared to my time when we had to stand on the basketball court under the hot sun during assemblies and rushed for places in crowded canteens. These buildings bring back memories.




For other 'Psycho' short films, click here.

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. :)

Suggestions:
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.