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


Stop Press:

COMING SOON! AKAN DATANG! SINGAPORE PREMIER OF "CERTIFIED DEAD".

DATE: 30TH SEPT 2017
TIME: 7PM TO 9PM

VENUE:

Hall 1, GV Grand

1 Kim Seng Promenade

#03-29 Great World City

237994


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Friday, December 20, 2013

The Lying Theory

The Lying Theory, written/directed by Lauren Teo. Picture: Julie Tan
I was roped in for the minor role of the philandering father less than a day before the shoot, as I didn't put myself forward for it and I swear I don't have any experience in that department. But together with the lovely Sharon Hoo, who played the role of the mistress, we managed to pull it off, culminating with the mother  (Karen Tan) dropping the cake, beating the mistress up and young Claire's (Kyra Cheung) childhood bliss for a trusting father broken forever..

It was one of the many times I have acted with Karen and my first with Sharon and Kyra, and at that time didn't know that the older Claire would be played by Julie Tan, whom I later acted with in the movie "That Girl in Pinafore". Then, Julie was a student in NAFA, before her foray into mainstream acting at Mediacorp TV.

I didn't have any expectations from this film besides knowing what I had to do in the scene and that it is about  a cute 'Lying Theory'. So it is a pleasant surprise to watch it today and discover the more inspiring bigger picture.

If only more people realise that lies no matter how well hidden emit different energies and thought forms than truth does. Lies also compound matters into bigger unexpected ones, often with undesirable results. We can spot a lie by the weaker tone of the voice, the unnecessary longer pauses in between the speech, the defensive body language and the inconsistencies of data that follow. Sometimes, it would be just the inexplicable hunch that something is amissed.  If only everyone has Claire's clairvoyant abilities, then perhaps less people will lie and the world would be a simpler place without the myriad of falsehoods criss-crossing our lives and making them more complicated .

Post scriptum:

"The Lying Theory" is nominated for Best Script in the 5th Singapore Short Film Awards 2014.




 

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Film Review - Firestorm


At a film festival recently, Hong Kong actor Andy Lau said in jest that he is expensive because he is worth it. This is also why I feel "Firestorm" is worth watching. However overall, the movie fails to lead the audience into a believable action-thriller..

But after accepting some excesses and fantasies, I felt that I  need to draw a line at some point in the movie.

In a nutshell, the plot capitalises on the bad guys' superiority in the robberies and consistently keeping a few steps ahead of the game. They are better than the police in ground intelligence, technologies and  firepower, and moreover are a dab hand at shooting on target at the police, while they themselves would miraculously escape death and bullets. This despite being widely exposed to gunfire most of the time  - well, not until the very end when they too get gunned down.. But the real thorn in the eye is not the above-mentioned visual gimmicks, but the other logical contradictions that stand in the way. 

For instance, why didn't the police use their ability to trace IP addresses and GPS locations of the baddies; or simply arrest the crane operator that lifted the police armour car? Wouldn't that be easier than searching the myriad of CCTV footages from the cameras dotted around the city?

Okay,  I am no party-pooper, as afterall, movies are fantasies and we all need some. I did enjoy the great escapism that are expected of such movies - the gun fights; the grenade blasts;  the fist fights that fall several floors down and yet hit the ground running (pun intended).

What stands out in this movie is also the computer graphics (CGI) of the colossal damages by the bombs and blasts - very impressive by Asian cinematic standards.

I would consider "Firestorm" to be a big budget visual action-thriller rather than one that is character driven and inspirational.  If you go with such expectations, then you will probably be more forgiving and not be disappointed.









Monday, December 2, 2013

Comchest : Gift



With Jon and Daniel.

This is one of my favourite short films. It is produced by The Creative Room, directed by Daniel Yam, for the Singapore Community Chest (Comchest). Comchest initially wanted a corporate video style of presentation, but Daniel sold them  this compelling short story instead.

During the audition, Daniel asked for a monologue with my (imaginary) son going through his growing pains, his delinquency and consequential jail sentence. Next, Daniel asked for the contrary, that I celebrate this (imaginary) son's jail term and urge him to make the most out it - to test how far my emotions can stretch and my ability to take directions. 

The script was one of the more challenging ones as it required  me to be in a cheerful disposition, but with an underlying sadness that culminated into sheer dispondence. This, when he realised that he will miss out seeing his son again in his final moments.  I guess there may be many people that too live through such situations, given that it is common for one to leave their hometown for cities to edge out a career. So this is some food for thought. I can relate to some of that personally. In addition, I also learn that I ought to smile more in my own life off-reel, as it does make life feel a lot happier.
This was the first time that I have acted as a clown. It was energy sapping to deliver extreme expressions continuously to entertain. A clown cannot let his guard down for even one moment, as all eyes are constantly on him to deliver the comic. 

And so I wonder, "Can a clown be truly happy inside?"

Though I was exhausted and stretched by the broad range of emotions in this production, I really enjoy and treasure the experience. I am satisfied with the result as it tells a story that both entertain and inspire.

Post scriptum:
The scenes at the old folks home and children's home reminded me of my student days in the Polytechnic. Then, we visited and served the homes every weekend. It was also the time when I performed sobbing stories on stage to encourage freshmen to become volunteers to serve the underprivileged. Those were truly happy days. Happy, because we gave.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Detour






Written/Directed by Michael Kam
Produced by Mabelyn Ow
Shot by Amandi Wong
Edited by Alicia Lim






"Detour" has been selected in October 2013, for the 23rd edition of the Rio de Janeiro International Short Film Festival – Curta Cinema 2013 in Brazil (http://curtacinema.com.br/) International Competition programme.

I played the role of the impatient taxi-driver father who on a steamy hot day ferrying his boys around unwittingly led them into the unexpected. 

The dialogue is in the Southern Chinese Fujian dialect of Hokkien, which the boys didn't know how to speak and had to learn it during the rehearsals. I think they do brilliantly well as two loving but yet squabbling brothers, who in their hearts of hearts, want to care for each other.

Here is the trailer...





Post Scriptum:

DETOUR won the Best Short Film Award of the International Short Films Competition, at the
32sd IFF of Uruguay (2014)

"Detour" won 4 categories of the 5th Singapore Short Film Awards - Best Fiction, Best Director, Best Performance (Michael Chua, Presley Lim & Yolby Low) and Best Script. The full schedule and details of screenings for the nominated films should probably be up soon at The Substation's website (www.substation.org).

"Detour" screened at the 13th Mumbai International Film Festival for Documentary, Short & Animation Films over in India from 3 to 9 Feb '14. (http://miff.in)

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Dinner - 180 Short Film Competition - Frontliners - Winner of Open Category


Producer/Director/Writer : Lim Heng Le. 
Camera: Rudyanto Akil.

This two-minute film took two evenings to make in the suburbs of Tampines and along the corridors of Temasek Polytechnic. It was an enjoyable production that went smoothly and one of many that I have worked with Kelly and my second with Ezekiel. The first with Ezekiel was just the day before (for  Comchest), though he couldn't quite recognise me with certainty at first as I was heavily made-up as a clown. :)

This is the fourth film that I have acted in that have won a competition/award within the last three years (excluding "ilo ilo", that won an award at Cannes, but one which I only played a minor role in).

Thank you everyone for your support and for believing in the work I have been in. For more details, click here.


Note:
The "180 Short Film Competition" was conceptualised to heighten the appreciation and encourage respect for frontline workers in the Cleaning, Security, Landscape, Floristry and Social Service sectors, and the important role they play in society.

Organised by the Singapore Media Academy (SMA) and supported by the Singapore Workforce Development Agency (WDA) together with other industry sponsors.
See http://www.180shortfilm.com/

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Hired & Fired, episode 2

With Wendy Toh 

Watch me as I morph into a nasty boss in:

"Hired & Fired"
Monday 18th November 2013, 10pm
Mediacorp Channel 5

This is a docu-drama series that portrays the malpractices that occur in the workplace. This episode educates viewers about the prejudice against pregnant women and the reluctance of companies to incur the overheads of maternity leave and benefits.

The office scene was at Golden Mile Shopping Centre, some called "Little Bangkok" (of Singapore) with delicious Thai curry and retail shops. We chanced upon a friendly garment shop next door that was kind enough to lend us some extra clothes as costumes for the actresses. Thank you so much.

Stop Press:
After the broadcast of episode 1, Mediacorp has decided to take the series off-air.

 

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Surreality in the Act.

There are times when the story gets surprisingly surreal -  stories so close to my life that I get into character in an instance. But to have the story appearing right next to me is another matter and outright ridiculous. Here are some surprising coincidents:

Story One: Right next to the apartment where I played the role of the Karung-guni man (rag-and-bone man), is an apartment where an old man stored the house with mountains of junk right up to his living room. He is more than likely a real Karung-guni man!

Story Two: In a video about "Pandemic", I acted as a hawker who persisted to cook and prepare food despite being sick. In between the takes in the scene where my character sneezes and turns dizzy under the weather, I found a real life cook next to me preparing the day's food moaning about how he has to work despite being sick.

"Why are you not at home resting," I asked. "Nobody else here knows how to prepare the dishes," said he.

Well...
With Wendy Toh.



Story Three: In a TV docu-drama about unfair dismissal and draconian bosses, in the office where we used as location, there was a prominent slogan on the wall that speaks to the effect of:

"If you do not work hard today, you will be working hard to find a job tomorrow."

It is arguable if the slogan is meant to be motivational. My guess is that a truly motivational environment needn't be explicitly reminding their folks with such intimidating slogans. What do you think? 




But,... all is good! It goes to show that they got the stories right and that some people really need to be educated on some issues.


Tuesday, September 24, 2013

In Cold Blood Season 3 Episode 8

Mediacorp Channel 5 
10 pm, 7th October 2013.
 
In this episode, someone is going to die during the familiar HDB Residents' party. It is based on a true story, so watch it and see if you can figure out Whodunnit!!!!  

The plot unravels the surprising intensity inside the petty minds of some volunteers and RC members that leads to the tragedy; ironically amid their quest to serve and better the community.

This is one of the most enjoyable shoots I have done to date, with lots of laughter and twisted humour, particularly from our star, Henry Heng. :)  The happy chatters persisted via WhatsApp beyond the end of the shoot at 11pm... until I had to switch off the phone at midnight to catch up with some sleep.






For those who have missed the programme on TV, here it is:


Sunday, September 22, 2013

Justice Devil - The Big Project

The Big Project is on to get the BIGini girl, as The New Paper likes to call her, back to shape - the healthy way! This is no anorexia, so Ris will continue to eat, and eat ... :)

Wearing my fitness trainer hat.

I didn't know that becoming a co-producer will require so much more, but now I do. The Project starts today.


We will be keeping tabs on her progress...  :)

"Justice Devil" is going through the Singapore Media Development Authority's (MDA) rating process now. We hope to launch it by the end of October 2013. We will keep you informed.

As of Singapore Time 0935H 23rd September 2013, our trailer has reached 120,363 hits since 4th September 2013. It increased exponentially since the media interviews. Our daily hits now is about 10,000 a day. So there must be something that we are doing right. :)

Also, thanks to your valuable feedback about the sound peaking in the trailer. We are aware of that and have corrected that in the movie per se. 

Thank you for making "Justice Devil" a devil of a hit!




For all "Justice Devil" posts, click here.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

American Dreams in China

"American Dreams in China", directed by Peter Chan, is about three young men who grew up yearning to make it to the US for the American dream during the post-Mao era when China was going through sweeping economic reforms. As it resulted, only one of them, Meng Xiaojun (played by Deng Chao), managed to pass the visa interviews and board the plane to America. Ironically, after facing many trials and tribulations in the States, Meng returns later to join the other two, who had remained, to make their 'American Dream' happen in China. 

The film depicts the lead characters' struggles between the old system of communist education and bureaucracy versus the free market economy which is creeping into China at a breathtaking pace in the 1980s. Together with the opening up of the Chinese economy came the need to speak English and embrace the free market as espoused by the flagship of America, the Chinese people's symbol of freedom and prosperity, at that time.

The story of "American Dreams in China" is the epitome of the determination and sacrifice of the Chinese people to achieve what they want when opportunities arise amid relative chaos with the arrival of the free market. The motivation of the Chinese students to learn English and to do well in the TOEFL examinations reminds me of my own days as a student seeking to study in the West in the early 1980s. Many of the accusations by the American academics surrounding their suspicions of Chinese students' cheating in exams, didn't surprise me a little bit. I have heard those prejudicial remarks and worse before, first hand. Watching it on screen still evoke some anger, but at the same time a delight that at last we have progressed and are able to beat the West in their education system and their brand of market economy.

The three main actors fleshed out their characters very well in the movie. Meng, as one who has been transformed in the US and is now back to teach his old buddies about the American Way.  His hard and harsh assertions clashing with the conservative Cheng Dongqing (played Huang Xiao Ming), thus testing the relationship of the trio who are as close as brothers. The disputes occasionally moderated by the Bohemian and carefree Wang Yang (played by Dong Dawei).

I would recommend anyone who wants to experience the story of the struggles of three good friends who go on  to build a business empire, to watch this film. 








I had the privilege to watch it during the special screening on the 10th September 2013, courtesy of Clover Films. Thank you. I love special screenings and galas, as they are occaions when happy people gathers to celebrate, and in this case, to celebrate an inspiring movie.









Friday, September 13, 2013

Justice Devil - Press Interviews

This is  press conference day with The New Paper, Yahoo! News and Razor TV.

 






















Some clever answers...
Q: Do you have any regrets, given what happened in the past?
Ris: There is no time for regrets, just learn the lessons and move on in life.

And about her weight?
She said that it is more important to be healthy...
I think that is a good line and example for many young girls of today.




The New Paper clips:





















For other posts about Justice Devil, click here.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Justice Devil - the Devil in the Detail

 
It is said that when a young film maker wants to make a feature film so badly but ain't got the money, he would set up ten characters in a room and have them graphically and violently killed one by one. Typically, it involves a mysterious psychopath wielding an axe or a terrifying instrument of death, hunting them down at a jinxed destination. Perverse as it may seem, such films sell well  to a ready audience with the insatiable appetite fuelling a series of such films, now called the "slasher genre". Alfred Hitchcock's "Psycho" (1960) is probably one such front runner, and more recently, we have "Friday the 13th" and "Nightmare on Elm Street".

"Justice Devil" is a slasher film and is probably the first locally made movie of such a kind in Malaysia and Singapore. Its young director Harvaraj has successfully put together script, people, money and distributors to have us all, cast, crew, and audience alike, momentarily transported into the dark world of betrayal, deceit, revenge, torture, violence, blood, gore and sex. No easy feat. Perhaps a genre that the more established producers/directors would not want to thread into risking too much to break into and pioneer.

The movie is about a young Ellen (played by Ris Low) seeking revenge after she  got herself mixed up with an organised drug cartel and lost her boyfriend and baby. But lest you assume the movie to be just a mindless pursuit of blood and gore, think again. I too thought of  it that way until I got a comment from a Ris Low fan  who said that he sees the movie as a manifestation of "Ris Low's Revenge". (Yes, she actually have fans to her name.) Then, a coin dropped in my head. It provoked me to dig deeper to discover that masked underneath the seemingly superficial violence of "Justice Devil" is indeed the life of Ris Low. The devil being in the details and spoken in hidden metaphors. So be fascinated that there is a lot more philosophy and cynicism in the story than it meets the eye. But like a parable, how much one reads into the story would depend on the depth of one's understanding of the symbolisms and metaphors. So everyone will walk away with a version of the story they are happy with.

Remember, the story is about Ellen (Ris Low) fighting back after her regretable foray into narcotics (her credit card fraud) and is now up against the drug cartel (the media mob) after having lost her baby (her beauty queen crown).  So most of us would have participated in the Ris Low story, either as news reporters, critics, and for my case, as an actor. I wonder what my character Mr White, the drug lord who has a soft spot for Ellen, represents in Ris' life. Does he represent her father? Or a tantalising piece of rope tempting and long enough to entangle herself in endless knots? I wonder.  Are you a fan, critic or follower of Ris? How are you represented in the movie? Amid the swings of the axe, the slashes and the screams, you may discover.

Ris certainly lives a colourful life as someone only in her early 20s. I sometimes forget that and have to look closer to remind myself that in this young woman, there also lives a soul, who just like anyone else, yearns to live a normal life. Ellen's boyfriend in the movie symbolises this aspect of Ris - to want to live a normal life, get married and have a family.


Soon in Theatres near you in Malaysia and Singapore.


For other posts about Justice Devil, click here.






Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Justice Devil





Yes, this is the film that stars Ms Ris Low as the lead character and one that is on many people's lips for the last two years as it manifests itself from conception to screening. Finally, this is it! It is coming to a cinema near you. The tabloid press loves Ris, as she is a source of  unceasing controversies to help them sell their papers. Everyone knows Ris Low!  There can be a lot said about that, but first, let's talk about the movie.

"Justice Devil" (formerly "Magnum") is set against a backdrop of betrayal, revenge, kidnap, sex, torture, blood and gore. The sort of escapism stressed out executives and the mundane in the heartlands alike would love to watch seeking breakouts from their daily predictable grinds. It will certainly go down well with repressed employees who secretly harbour fantasies about grinding an axe against their bosses! So go watch it and enjoy! See how Ris can once again rise up to surprise you! :)

However, as you sit back and cringe watching the gory details, you may be pleased to know that it is actually the actors that suffered the most in the making. There are tortures galore. Among which, I was tied up in a hot and small room with no windows, splattered with fake blood and mud. With the unbearable heat generated by the lights on set, I hyper-ventilated and actually nearly passed out. Harvaraj, the director, not knowing better (about my state), thought I did well and remarked that it was brilliant!

That said, I didn't get the worst. At least I didn't have my head dunked repeatedly into a bath tub of muddy waters with the threat of axes and chain saws, or having to perform the sex scenes. Yes believe me, it isn't quite the same bonking out in the open on set. It requires a lot more resilience and patience; and also having to out perform yourself with every new take!  Challenging stuff, trust me!  Thankfully, it was my colleagues that had to do all that and more! :)

In the night forest scenes, our bare upper torsos were a feast and feeding frenzy to the mosquitoes. It was a scene when we dragged ourselves across the long rocky roads on our bare feet running away from the murderous Ellen (Ris Low) with an axe. I mean, do you trust her with that?! Eventually, Mr White (me) wears out and goes down flat on his face, and then crawling. It was agony!  I had to crawl in semi-prone positions along a narrow path illuminated by two car headlights in a spot otherwise pitch dark. And so it was - bare knees and hands roughened repeatedly against the gravelly road as I bled for real. I lost count of how many times I did.  After that, I realised that I had pulled a nerve in my leg.  The pain persisted for a few more days after the shoot and I had to go to my acupuncturist to get it fixed. 

But there are the fun bits too! Eventually, we stopped the mozzie attacks by painting our bodies in mud, way better than mosquito repellent.  And though we did not get to meet the Leopard Prinz, the scenery in the forests and the oil palm estates were beautiful.

We were the highlight of the day whenever we move into small towns for location shooting. Then, the landlady will bring along her friends and neighbours to watch us in action and later engaged us in endless conversations. I never felt so much like a star in my life! :) Even the local police were amused. In all, they are lovely people. Simple folks heralding their welcome to their hometown. 

Shoots normally went a long 12 to 14 hours and we would end up with supper in Johor Bahru. That's when I witness with much amusement some of my younger colleagues struggling with the waiters, not having a clue how to speak with them in Malay - Singaporeans' very own National Language. :) Singapore is a strange place. It is an economic marvel with a warped and a reconstructed culture. In short, it is culturally confused! The pressured multi-system of systems, the diversity of cultures, languages and social decorums both confuse and bond us as one nation. 

For instance, we have an actor who does not speak or understand Mandarin, but went on to successfully utter his lines and perform. And performed well he did! He didn't have the fear of doing it at all! I am truly impressed till this day! It is from him, that I now no longer fear any language I have to perform in. I am so inspired by him that recently I took it up to act in the Thai language, which I do not know a word of.

If you have read till here, I guess you would be wondering, how it was like to work with Ris Low. Is it Boomz or Shingz?

Much have been said about Ris Low by the press, but she is not exactly what you see in those videos that went viral on the Net. She does has her oddities and showmanship no doubt, but so do many of us;. Certainly I do. Perhaps many others choose to hide their eccentricities, living their life under wraps masking their unique individualism instead. Ris, on the other hand, chooses to be herself and be different, arguably unaware that it may not go down well with the common people. She is not what many would consider 'normal', but then, what does it really mean being 'normal'?

Ris works hard. She is highly tolerant as she puts up with the physically miserable conditions that I believe many actresses will not last a few hours for. In fact, I find some of the locations barely acceptable myself. I wouldn't like to go into the gory details here, but trust me, they were nasty! Shingz! :) There are times when we all have to be very patient with her, as she turns out unexpectedly. I take my hats off Harvaraj, whom I think has exceptional patience and skills in communicating with her. Perhaps she has a "learning difference" from the norm. A different way of looking at the world, which is not necessarily a bad thing!

On the balance, it is still a joy to work with Ris. So, it is a BOOMZ! She is different! :) Hey, she even made it to the Wikipedia hall of fame! Have you? :) Click here.  She is unique and there is only one Ris Low...



....I hope! :)


Coming to a theatre near you in Malaysia and Singapore.
Stop Press:

The movie is going through MDA rating at the moment. Premiere will be delayed for a few weeks.We will keep you informed of the new launch date which will likely be at the end of November 2013.

 

Read about the devil in the detail! Click here.


For other posts about Justice Devil, click here.


 











Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Ilo Ilo



The movie "Ilo Ilo" is about the relationship between a Singaporean family of three and their newly arrived Filipino maid, Teresa, who has come like many other Filipino women in search of a better life.

I got into the audition for the film that day after acting in two other productions and was really tired. A lesson I learned - no auditions on production days!

Anthony was there at the casting himself, though the part that I was going for wasn't a big part. Due to my fatigue, I don't think I did well and so got only a small part - as a friend of the lead character Teck (played by Chen Tian Wen).

In the scene, I was to walk Teck into my boss' office to demonstrate how strong laminated glass could be, only to be proven otherwise when the boss smashed it easily against the table corner - well, that is what it  looks like on reel, but on set, it was something else.

As Murphy Law has it, what normally breaks easily wouldn't do so on set and so we had to pre-cut the glass with a cutter before we smash it.  We did a few takes, the earlier ones admittedly had the usual quirks, and so were unacceptable, that is, the usual camera blocking/framing problems, the extras being too passive,...etc. But in the take before the final one, while everything seemed fine to me, it wasn't for Anthony! He rejected it because he could spot the faint cut line on the glass when we smashed it. It was a wide shot and that moving faint fine line, barely two centimetres long, gone in one second was caught in the act!!!

I haven't seen the movie yet, but I bet it would be a beautiful one, with such attention for details and  unyielding patience.

I met Anthony early this year in a film premiere and he told me that it will take some time till August 2013, before "Ilo Ilo" can be screened in local cinemas. He admitted that it is longer than usual  and joked that doing it properly is often not a good way to make money. I don't know what came to my mind then, but I told him that while others make money doing fast stuff,  those that do it properly will win it big.

A few months later, "Ilo Ilo" the movie won the prestigious Camera d'Or prize at the Cannes Film Festival. The first Singaporean to win it and now Singapore's favourite son.

I will be going to the Premiere on the 24th August 2013 at the Marina Bay Sands Theatre.

More about the gala evening later. :)

Meanwhile, here are some interesting clips...







Sunday, August 11, 2013

Mediacorp TV Drama Mata Mata Ep 2, Behind the Scenes


Singaporeans call their policemen "mata mata" ('eyes' in Malay) and this TV series specifically depicts the formation of the first Singapore Woman Constabulary in the 1950. It was a time when 'the police wear shorts', as we call it, and this phrase now used to express that one shouldn't romanticize about the past too much and live life by the practice of today.

I acted in episode 2 as Officer William and trainer of the women mata mata. I allowed my voice to hit the high decibels too much, forgetting that I was on set, and unlike real life had to repeat the same commands and yells many times. So, just before my voice cracked, I paced myself not shout my lungs out too much.

Singapore is a linguistic oddity. The marching commands are in Malay, the National language, and the dialogues are in English. If it were in real life during those days, the Chinese girls would likely be speaking to each other in a cocktail of dialects like Hokkien, Cantonese, Teochew...etc. But that will be too confusing for many today I think.

Here is the official TV trailer:




And here is a short clip I captured secretly on my phone.



It was a fun production. There were quite a bit of improvised dialogue for my role, much of which was of Officer William's motivational speeches or announcements to the trainees. Off-reel, the action didn't stop as these young  actors have too much  spare  energy and needed release... You will see what I mean...



On my last day of shoot, the assistant director handed me a small gift left by one of the mata mata girls. It was two bars of chocolate and a note, saying that she recognised me from "Hentak Kaki", as Warrant Officer Lee Teck Hong and that she was delighted to work with me.  What a pleasant surprise!!!

Thank you so much! You made my day! :)

Do support Episode 2. Watch it on Mediacorp Channel 5, at 8pm tonight (Monday, 12th August 2013). At the time of writing, I haven't watch it myself.

To help you catch up, this is episode 1:





For those of you who have missed it yesterday, here is episode 2...






Sunday, July 21, 2013

Reel Frenz - First Film


Below is a message by Marrie Lee, the founder of Reel Frenz.

It is an inspiring tale about how a group of people from different walks of life, mostly untrained in film making coming together to make films. Most in the group do not know each other prior to Reel Frenz.

To read all the  Reel Frenz articles in this blog, click here.
 
-----------
Dear Reelfrenz,

I would like to extend a personal invitation to each and every member in Reel Frenz to come for this meet up. Why?

I know all of you joined the group with one common intention in mind,  that is to be part of a film, whether in a minor or major role.  I know all of you wanted to make films but frankly don’t know where to start.  That’s the truth or you won’t be in this group, you will be out there making films already by yourself.

I, too, was like you.  When I first formed the group, I know I wanted  to make a film but frankly I don’t know where to start. In the first 2 meetings I called, a lot of people came and we talked and we talked but nothing was done. We were just happy talking.  I told myself, there must be something more than just meeting up and talk. We will never make a film this way.

And a film needs a script and at that time, we didn’t have one.  So I proceeded to attempt to write one, my very first script.  I don’t even know how to use a scriptwriting software so I used Microsoft Word.  I didn’t have a story. My mind was blank. I was running out of time as the next meeting date was fast approaching.  I wanted to write a story that involved more people because many of them came to the meetings. If the whole project only required 2 or 3 actors then the other members will lose interest. Think fast Marrie.

And then it hit me, the story that is.  And I wrote a script that had a cast of 22, a very ambitious feat.  And in the next meet I was able to present my story. And most seem to like my story. Maybe there was no other to compare then. :) 

Still I didn’t know where to move on from there.  But I know that I had to find my cast and my crew to make it happen. In that meeting I found many of them.  I had a DOP whom I was confident in as I had witnessed his work before.  Also, I met this quiet and unassuming shy guy who asked me softly “Who is doing your editing? Can I be involved in the editing team?  I had this dynamic full time actor who volunteered  to be acting coach.  And lastly, I asked around who would like to direct this film. A fresh faced, cheerful young lady stepped up and said she would like to do it.  I have never met her but somehow I trusted her. I said I would be the  co-director so I can learn from this just out of school, young enough to be my daughter stranger .

And so, with my sister and 2 long time friends, I found my key team.  And  we set out to plan auditions for the roles and drafted out positions for the other key players.

We had members who volunteered for roles whom they have no idea how to fulfill.  But it was a learning process for everyone.  We called for an audition and the big joke was that 18 came to audition for the 22 roles. So we casted all of them and even had to look for more people.

Over the course of more than a month, there was a lot of preparation for the first shooting day, fine tuning to the script, rehearsals, costumes, locations.  We had a lot of trials and tribulations.  Along the way, we weeded out some negative influences, some people who joined us with different expectations. At the same time, our team got stronger, with the addition of other team players, like one spunky lady who took on anything we dished at her. Nothing could stop her, YouTube was her best friend and teacher, whether it is in creating of hairstyles or doing a full bridal make up. 

Locations were a headache, some of the people were really nice, allowing us to shoot for free, others like the Zoo and Scape wanted a rental of $4K and $8K respectively.  Crazy, we are a non funded passion group.  So for some of the locations we could not have, we learn to use chromakey or green screen filming. We were so lucky to have a member and her husband who allowed us to invade her house for 2 weekend days, from 9am to 11pm.

We needed places to rehearse our lines and dance.  Earlier practice in places like Esplanade were not conducive and private. So, we moved to the comfort of function rooms of 2 condos that 2 of our members graciously helped us to book.

There are so many more encouraging experiences. I could go on and on and on.

At last, I had found my dream team, a dream team made up of so many different nationalities with so much color and ideas to give  Everyone was so enthusiastic.  Never had I expected to achieve what we have done over these 5 months. And by the time we wrapped on June 16th, this team had become one big family.

I am writing this down to let you, the newcomer,  know that it had not been a bed of roses but it is definitely do-able and rewarding.  I say with great satisfaction that we have done it.  We were amateurs in making films and we may take a bit more time to get there but nothing is impossible.

So if you want to do a film, you can be a part of our upcoming project or you can form another project within this group and tap on the resources and the many talents that you will find here.

You may have a script that you want to make a reality, do share it and form your team.   Usually I would say the storyteller would make the best director as you would have envisioned  the whole scene in your mind as you write it.  So if you have the confidence, then opt to direct your story. But not everyone knows how to direct, you can invite someone else to direct and be the co director instead, like what I have done and learn along the way.

There are many brilliant technical people within Reel Frenz, I have read many of the profiles.  We can film more than one film concurrently if more of  technical people will come forth -   directors, cameramen, sound, lighting, editing, special effects.

And for those who do not have experience or skills but want  to learn, please volunteer to help too. It won’t happen for you if you are not in the event itself.  No one is too insignificant or useless. Every bit of help is needed and you may be surprised to find how fast you learn along the way.

Please come to this meet. You will be glad you did.

Cheers,
Marrie Lee

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...and a short clip I took to replay to the actors so they know where they can improve themselves on.







Trailer of Reel Frenz's first short film.
For more details, click here.



Thursday, July 18, 2013

Crimewatch 2013 Ep04 Part 1 - Online Sex



Acted in this episode last month as the father of a boy who got tricked into showing his willy  to a crafty girl online and subsequently blackmailed. This is a reminder to the mischievous, adventurous and gullible.  Amid the lifestyle intensified by the Internet and smartphones, a little titillation and side track can lead one down the slippery slope of moral decay played out in accelerated time. It is amazing how our procreational instincts can often land us in deep waters. :)

Production was swift, executed chop-chop with the Mediacorp crew at a beautiful penthouse, conveniently near my home.. I think both the lead actors delivered their roles very convincingly. Applause!



Monday, June 24, 2013

Back Alley Bulls


Back Alley Bulls is a production of Naicoman Productions, an American Indie film company. It is produced and directed by Cynthia Rabinaico and Blainey Kaltman. The script is written by Blainey Kaltman and it is a story about an American English language teacher, Roman Jersey (played by Kaltman himself), who lost his job after he is caught sleeping with one of his students. Consequently, leading him into an intricate web of lust, greed, deceit, revenge and gang clashes.

I played the role of the gang leader Big Beng, the cause for Jersey's many nightmares. The production happened two years ago in 2011 when ironically, had me looked several years older! :)  Isn't it amazing how a bit of makeup and gangster bling had made the difference?

Here is a clip of a confrontation with Jersey, whom Big Beng is trying to squeezed some money out of.



I nearly stuck the real burning cigarette into Jersey's nostril, as his rescue came a split second too soon and nudged me forward involantarily, pushing the cigarette deeper than necessary into his nose. Lucky for Blaine, I had just pinched away the burning bit of the cigarette just a microsecond before. Otherwise, you would have seen the real pain and screams captured on film!!!

The locations were set entirely in Singapore with visible portions of them at Little India. Believe me it was actually strenuous being the big bad guy shouting profanities, threats and beating up people consistently for so many days. It felt like I was going through a therapy for releasing repressed anger and megalomania. The dialogues were curiously crafted as colloquial American English, and exactly for the purpose of communicating with the American audience.

Meanwhile on set, we were street entertainment to the crowds of Indian and Bangladeshi foreign workers on their day-off. We can see that they  enjoyed themselves thoroughly as they gave us a rousing applause after each take.

Production frequently took us to the wee hours of the morning with fourteen hour days not uncommon. Supper was usually Indian Bryani, packed with a mountain of rice, catered usually to local labourers more than carbohydrate conscious artistes. Nevertheless, they tasted great at that time of the night, as we devoured the packets of rice, as we sat by the roadside kerb healing our grinding stomachs.

After the production, I got a sore throat and a significantly diminished desire for aggression. I then turned quiet and placid for several days. :)

Another trailer....


For all my gangster gigs, click here.



Friday, June 21, 2013

An Evening With Lord David Puttnam



Feb 19, 2013, Lasalle School of Arts, Singapore

Lord Puttnam's talk went through the story of film, then his personal journey and lastly how film can contribute to society.  This is what I gathered from my notes and what I remember from the talk:

In the days of silent movies, the message was universal. The moment there was sound then films became culture bound.

In the early days, the US purchased all their films from Europe. They had people who watched films and ascertained if the films are saleable to the American public. This differs a great deal with European film makers who see film as an art. Even those who made films to sell those days felt that films rightfully belonged to the arts.

The need for films to sell is an old requirement dating back to the 50s. This is nothing new.

Lord Puttnam started as an advertising executive. He said that music changed his life - “saved by Elvis Presley” (in his words) – so, many of the films that he produced has an element of music in it.

He brought anecdotes of his journey by screening clips of the films that he produced and were major box office hits.

His early film was “Melody” (1971), he casted Mark Lester and got a then up-and-coming band called the Bee Gees to play the music. He was delighted but surprised that the Bee Gees agreed to come in with their songs. Some bands who have not been in films before may be interested to be, as it adds to their publicity. So he urged the audience to try. If you don't ask you wouldn't know.


"Melody" was a hit in Japan (and hence those subtitles), probably for its very English setting that the Japanese considers romantic. It is also released as "S.W.A.L.K." (Sealed With A Loving Kiss), in the UK and some other countries like Singapore. I remember Mark Lester was such a darling among the teenage girls in Singapore then. That is also the time when the Bee Gees songs got rapidly popularised.

He then showed the clip of the young Mark Lester as an athlete in the school sports day, running around the field to impress a girl that he fancies in the story.


 

Then he showed a clip of “Chariots of Fire” which he made 10 years later, also of the protagonist running around the university tracks. “Why waste a good idea?” he quipped.

The scene in "Melody" was captured during a school sports day with two cameras, but only one director. So, he asked his colleague at the advertising agency at that time, Mr Alan Parker, who took a day off to see the shooting, to man one of the cameras. After that scene, Alan came to him and said that he is quitting advertising and coming in to make films.

In Stardust (1974) he was to squeeze 24 songs in the film. He showed us a clip where six song clips were inserted in a mere three minutes.

 

In “Bugsy Malone” (1976) he ended up having five major investors, as he couldn't get a single investor to put money in a gangster film where the average age of the actors was only 12. I guess it must have been hard to manage five investors, compared to one.

When Jodie Forster was a child.

Midnight Express” (1978) was a turning point, as after Midnight Express, he felt that he was accepted by both sides of the Atlantic as a film maker.

In Midnight Express, he didn't want to cast a famous actor as he wanted the audience to feel the vulnerability of the actor, that the character may not make it through the torturous journey in the Turkish jail. If it had been a star, the audience would have somehow believed that he will make it through.


 

Though Midnight Express was a huge success, there was something that he thought he had misjudged the audience totally. That was the scene where the protagonist bit off the tongue of the sinister prison mate. The scene was crafted to show that the protagonist has gone through so much torture that he has lost his mind. This message seemed to have conveyed well in Europe. However, when shown in America, he was shocked that about two-thirds of the American audience actually applauded the gruesome scene.

Probably because of the success of “Midnight Express” the Turkish government subsequently agreed that American offenders on Turkish soil are to serve their sentence in jails in America. So you see films can have a tremendous influence and role in society. Films, unlike books and other forms of art, tend to hang around for a long time.

So in “Chariots of Fire” (1981), he made sure that he understands the audience and craft the more delicate scenes carefully to convey the messages that he wanted to. So, when the film came out during the triumphant scene at the end, it seemed that the messages were well understood.

The “Killing Fields” (1984), was conceived after the Vietnam war when many Western journalists were coming home and Lord Puttnam wanted to make a film about the stories that they bring back.

 

In the Mission (1986), is a film where Lord Puttnam worked with the a multi-cultural and multi-racial cast. He wanted to cast the then young Liam Neeson and signed a contract with the young actor, but was objected by Warner Brothers who funded the movie. So sometimes you have to compromise.

  



Memphis Belle” (1990) was made to honour the people who had fought in the earlier world wars. This was also inspired by his father who was a photo-journalist. They managed to get some B16 to fly. Given that at that time there were only 12 B16s that could fly, that was a remarkable achievement.

 

Questions from the Audience:
How to pitch for funds?
With difficulty. A belief. A belief that if this investor don't someone else will and it will make the preceding one feels that he has missed an opportunity. The belief must be strong. Even when he first started, he never believe that he will not win an Oscar. Call it arrogance, self conceit or however you want to interprete it,... it is this belief that will propel one to success. It is through self-belief that others will believe in you. Particularly so in his case, as he related, that his wife Patsy believes more in him than he has already has on himself.

If you believe that you have a message to tell and that this message will change the world, go ahead and you will succeed.

Given a good script, would he choose a new director or an experienced director?
If he knows the new director well, he will choose the new director. He finds that directors seldom improve after their second movie, as they get more concerned about their reputation...etc.

Will the West accepts Universal messages told by a non-western source?
At the moment no, but surely yes in time. In the Asia Pacific Film Festival, films like “Aftershock” is such a profound movie and yet it didn't receive much response in the West. It could be cultural and it could also be due to distributors who tends to prejudge the film.

Why didn't he direct the films?
He worse fear is that he had to fire himself from the job because he is not good enough. He feels that he is not as good as the directors that he hires. So why pretend that you can do a better job, when there are others that can do so. He said that he is not an artist but a facilitator for other artists.







Monday, June 17, 2013

Press Release: "The Hospital"


Lion City Film Studio

For Immediate Release                                                                  Contact: Michael Chua
14th June 2013                                                                                           Associate Director

Lion City Film Studio announce feature film project entitled "The Hospital", starring local band MICappella

Singapore: Lion City Film Studio is pleased to announce feature film project entitled "The Hospital" with vocal band 'MICappella'. The film is slated to be Singapore's first Chinese language slasher genre film. An effective harrowing thriller-cum-horror script whose yuppie portages weekend getaway runs violently afoul of the local hospital. Michael Chua, the 'Hentak Kaki' lead actor will also be starring in a prominent role in the film.

MICappella who gained a great deal of exposure from the Chinese reality television singing competition, The Sing-Off China, clinching the runner-up position will be releasing an original soundtrack for the film. The film is directed by Harva, written by Noella and Munawar Khan, co-produced by Mr Senni and Michael Chua.

About MICappella

MICappella is a passionate and original Singapore vocal band with contagious energy. With Lee Ein Ein, Calin Wong, Goh Junyi, Eugene Yip, Ng Wei Jin and Peter Huang, they deliver professional a cappella performances with an edgy spin. MICappella is managed by S2S Pte Ltd.

About Lion City Film Studio

 Lion City Film Studio produces and distributes wide ranging slate of some 2-3 films each year. LCFC global operations encompass motion picture production and distributionl television production and distribution; developments of new entertainment products, services and technologies and distribution of entertainment around the world. Lion City Film Studio is owned and operated by Jayam Ni Pte Ltd.



Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Tamil TV Comedy 2

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Finally, I managed to get hold of the video and edit my gangster scenes together. This was my first time acting in a comedy, and a Tamil comedy at that, so I was searching for my style - one that is hopefully  exaggerated aesthetically.
For more about the series, click here.


For my other acts in Hokkien, click here.
... for acts in Mandarin, click here,
... for acts in Japanese, click here.


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Friday, May 24, 2013

Film Review: The Great Gatsby



There has been some criticisms about the movie not doing justice to the book "The Great Gatsby", which culminated locally in Singapore's Straits Times Life Section article on the 20th May 2013. And so I gave my two cents worth and it got published! :)

Here is what the actors say:








Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Cathay Motion Picture Awards 2013: Refuge













Hour 0-2:
I was on my way home when I got a phone call from Mark Song about acting in "Refuge" as an entry for the Cathay Motion Picture Awards 2013, 78 hour competition to produce a 78 second film surrounding the theme of "Tomorrow". I have not met Mark or any of the team members before, so I took a U-turn to meet them.

Hour 3:
The team: Mark, Eddy, Daniel and Lydia, were seated around a table at Starbucks discussing the script when I arrived. They had just came out of Cathay's briefing and the clock had started ticking.

Then, we were still busy arguing about the script and calling friends to fill the daughter role. Daniel, the director, fills the role of the robber, I fill the father role and finally Aki came on board as the daughter. This, after many rejections and disappointments at the eleventh hour.

With the cast out of the way, it was down to pestering a friend to lend us a punching bag and agreeing on the location. We agreed to use my condominium gym and the park nearby, for the peace, quiet and convenience.
Hour 7:
I left the crew after dinner, while they sorted the story board, camera shots and call times for tomorrow.



Here is the film proper:




Originally, the father was to defend her daughter against her abusive boyfriend that motivated him to train hard to protect her better in the future. We felt that this conveys the unintended message of revenge and so we replaced the 'boy friend' with a random robber.

Hour 22 to 30:
We met up for breakfast at 10am by the condo pool after lugging the hefty punching bag up the stairs. Shooting started subsequently in a park down the road.















The difficult part in the park were the camera positions and angles, and the actors' movements since there was an action sequence. We repeated it till we got the correct frames without clutter in the background and without my falling onto a tree or seriously injured by stray punches. The ambient light was reasonable. It was not too harsh, neither was it cloudy. There were very few people in the park, if at all, so we didn't need to do any crowd control.















The difficulty in the gym was that we didn't have a ceiling hook to hang the punching bag, and so we sat it on a plastic chair.
















Funny enough, it was the noise of the plastic chair rocking away that enhanced that aggressive sound of punches. Some serendipity. The gym is also small and that is one reason you find many close-up shots.





Unfortunately, the make-up artist couldn't make it, so we relied on Aki and what Daniel rapidly learned from Youtube the night before.


Daniel proceeded to return the punching bag to his friend, while Aki and I went upstairs to chill and have a glass of ginger wine! :)

Hour 30-33
Straight after production, Mark and Eddy proceeded to the reading room to edit, while Lydia worked in tandem with the boys to compose the soundtrack.

Hour 34:
The first rough cut is done and we went for dinner before going home at 10pm. We still needed the refinements, a written narrative and a sound track. 




















Some other robber you may meet in future.

Hour 45-72:
After a good night's sleep  the crew continued their work in the morning and completed the film in the 72th hour.

In short, we scripted, casted, got the props, acted, shot, edited and composed the sound track, to produce a 78 second film about "Tomorrow", in 72 hours.


This is the first time I have participated in such a competition. The short deadline forced us to be focused and resourceful. The 78 hour deadline isn't the menacing part, but the 78 second screen time definitely is. It is a challenge to tell a story that is interesting, not straight-in-the-face and yet meaningful within the time frame. And also without long voice-over narratives and explicit dialogues, since films are essentially visual and human beings are notoriously known for making conflicting decisions upon vague desires. Such contradictions keep life interesting and perhaps is the impetus to tell stories that entertain and inspire. :)



Watch out for our voting link to help us win!