Almost addicted to smoking

Being an actor gives one the license to do all sorts of naughty things.

So, that’s gonna be my line the next time someone asks me (for the umpteenth time) why I decided to become an actress.

Some of the “naughty” things I’ve done in the name of acting:

  • Push someone into the Singapore River
  • Dance in a graveyard
  • Drink on the job
  • Do a mock strip tease
  • Slap someone
  • Kiss under a fountain
  • Scare an unsuspecting public with ghostly makeup
  • Blow cigarette smoke in someone’s face
  • Yell at someone older than me
  • Tell a lie in court

I don’t know why anyone wouldn’t want to be an actor.

Of course, then again, one would have to be able to take all the shit as well as the fun.

Example of shit:

Long waiting hours between shots, sleeping in all kinds of weird places because there is nothing else to do.

This isn’t an extreme example of shit but I’m not really going that direction today.

I promised to tell you what this guy was doing to me, some time back.

Only one person got it right. Mince Pye said, “Sound technician installing your wireless mic?”


The wireless mic usually goes under the clothes, around the chest area. But, for some reason, my wardrobe during that shoot kept causing a lot of sound disturbance, so this one time, the sound guy decided to hide the mic behind my ear, where it could be covered by my hair.

He went a bit overboard with the tape.

The mic was held in place by surgical tapes because the sound man’s gaffer tape had mysteriously disappeared (again, he claimed).

On the first day of the shoot, the mic was placed inside my hat, just above my forehead where my hairline is.

It wasn’t done nicely the first time and the gaffer tape stuck to my hair and refused to come off. I had to pull off quite many strands of hair in the process.


Well, I generally have no problems with losing hair, but it’s painful when done forcefully.

My co-actors didn’t have any mic woes like I did. Their clothes didn’t mess up the sound, so they had their mics in the regular spot.

I had my long smoking scene that day.

(No smoking photos because, like I said before, I don’t want to glamourise smoking.)

The smoking scene was done in a big, beautiful house.

Smoking in style.

Me taking a photo of myself on the screen:

There was a scene in which I had to enter the house with two bottles of beer. We did many takes of that, so I had to spend many long minutes waiting outside the door.

There was nothing to do but camwhore. I set my camera on timer and did a self-photoshoot.

After years of experience waiting on the set, I’ve developed several effective ways to entertain myself, besides sleeping.

The smoking scene didn’t happen till late at night.

It was a very long scene. A five-minute scene done in one shot. That means there had to be many takes to get it perfect, because if there was even one small mistake anywhere in the five minutes, we had to do it all over.

I was literally chain smoking that night as we did take after take.

By my fifth cigarette (although I didn’t have to smoke each stick all the way), I started feeling high.

It was a nice sensation, actually, my first time experiencing it. Thoughts running through my head:

“No wonder people get addicted to smoking.”

“Oh, no, am I going to be addicted, especially since I hang out with smokers?”


That last one was me feeling happy and giggly from the smokes.

I lost count of the number of times we redid the scene. By my 10th or so cigarette, I started getting seriously giddy, like I had drunk too much alcohol, which actually kinda helped because I was supposed to be partially drunk in that scene.

But after way too many cigarettes, I started feeling not very good. My hands turned cold and I felt like I might break out into cold sweat any moment.

By about 1:30 am or so, we finally wrapped. I grabbed a cab and felt sick all the way home.

When I got home, I complained to the Goonfather, “I’m going to die.”

He informed me that I was suffering from nicotine overdose and asked me to drink a lot of water to dilute the nicotine.

I was nauseous and giddy and just generally horrible. So I cooked a packet of instant tom yam beehoon because I always feel better after eating something sour when I have a hangover.

After the tom yam, the nausea got a teensy bit better, but I still largely felt like shooting myself out of misery –

The next day, when I finally felt normal again, I decided that the sickness was a blessing in disguise. It had totally turned me off smoking. The ordeal I had gone through had given me a huge distaste for smoking.

But still I love being an actress and doing things I otherwise wouldn’t get to do under normal circumstances.

I think it’s an interesting way to live, anyway.

Quite a disastrous shoot if ever there was one

So, I’m going to be brutal today and unglam the glam.

Not that I’m saying my films are very glam, but some people do have that idea, occasionally.

I’m taking you behind the scenes of a short film called Beatnik Sweetheart, which chronicles the dysfunctional relationship between three friends in an uncaring world.

The wardrobe, makeup and art people went all out to make us look impossibly good and I think they did a great job.

But beyond the painted faces and pretty sets, a multitude of unglam hiccups plagued the production on Day 1.

The first scene took place at the abandoned police headquarters at Eu Tong Sen Street.

The location also just happened to be home to an army of invisible bloodthirsty mosquitoes. You won’t even know of their existence until itchy welts mysteriously appear on your skin, just minutes after you arrive on the scene.

I started scratching subconsciously.

“Why my arm so itchy?” I mused aloud.

The art director suddenly yelled, “No, no, no! Don’t scratch!”

He stared in alarm at the mounting redness on my arm. Then he leapt away and came back ferociously wielding a spray can.

Liberally doused in a thick layer of insect repellent, I tried to ignore the itch while the makeup artist gunked up my face.

Then it was up to the rooftop.

We had to walk up five very long flights of steps, followed by this long, intimidating ladder.

The landing was cramped and scary, with that gaping hole in the middle.

But what a beautiful rooftop it was outside. I mean the view was beautiful.

The crew spent some time setting up the lights and cameras and mic-ing the actors. And then we were ready to roll.

That was when it started to rain.

Suddenly. Heavily.

You can’t really see from the picture, but the director was standing in the open, getting rained on, while we took shelter in the crammed little landing area.

I’ll bet you saw that camwhoring photo coming, savvy blog reader.

When the rain finally let up, about half an hour later, we had to sit on a picnic mat for blocking and rehearsal purposes as we waited for the ground to dry up a little for the take.

In the film, we’re all cool youngsters and cool youngsters don’t use picnic mats.

What we had were beer and cigarettes.

I was stressed because I had practised smoking (minimally) only three days before this shoot and still felt awkward holding a cigarette.

But I managed to smoke without coughing while the tape was rolling, so I think that counted for something. Nobody complained about my smoking skills.

The only complaint I received was from the camera assistant, who decided to speak out after seeing me throw out five half-smoked cigarettes with each take.

“Can you don’t throw away?” he said, eyeing the dumped cigarettes heart-brokenly. “Just pass to one of us to finish it.”

“But it’s got my lipstick all over it,” I said. “And it’s Virginia Slim VERY LIGHT.”

“A cigarette is still a cigarette,” said he.

Couldn’t argue with that.

A beer, though, is sometimes not a beer.

My poor Corona was topped up with chrysanthemum tea after each take, until it became more tea than beer.

An hour later, I started feeling severe gastric pains.

I realised belatedly that I should have taken breakfast. Beer and tea are a recipe for disaster for my weak stomach.

I went to the producer and made an apologetic request. “Sorry, can you please get someone to grab my gastric pills from downstairs?”

“Shit.” she said.

She went down herself. And I felt really bad because that meant five long flights of stairs and one long rickety ladder, times two.

We finished the scene a few hours later and ate packet lunches right here, sitting on the ledges:

My gastric pains went away.

Next location was Changi Airport for one very short scene.

It went relatively smoothly, except that the airport was too empty at the time for the director’s liking.

“It wasn’t this empty when I last came to recce!” he proclaimed.

But it eventually filled up, somewhat, and we got our shot after endless takes.

Here’s me taking a photo of the DOP framing me for the shot.

I love doing that.

Close-up of the picture feed from the video camera:.

By the time this very short scene was done, it was almost 5 pm. We had only completed two scenes (since 7:30 am). We had two more scenes scheduled to go.

But then the director said, “It’s a wrap!”

“Huh?” we all went.

It turned out that we couldn’t do the next two scenes because:

  1. The owner of the first location (a pub) had overslept and told us to postpone our shoot to the next day.
  2. The owner of the second location (a boutique) changed her mind and decided not to let us to shoot there.

So, I was about to change out of my costume when the director suddenly made a new announcement.

“Hey, let’s shoot the tunnel scene tonight, instead.”

The tunnel in question is the new expressway tunnel next to Fort Canning Park.

The plan now was to go back to our “base” (the DOP’s apartment) to rehearse our hot lesbian action scene (yes), have dinner there, wait till about 9 pm when there will be fewer cars on the road, then travel to the tunnel.

My gastric pains came back.

Worse, I was getting the worst backache I’ve ever experienced.

I could hardly sit still in the car as we travelled back to the apartment. My front and back were both killing me.

I had run out of antacids and had to wait till we reached the apartment. From there, I walked out myself to the nearest supermarket to get more antacids.

Our costumes for the tunnel scene:

I didn’t realise that I was wearing the wrong shoes for this photo until I got home and saw the photo.

I was supposed to be wearing black pumps for this outfit but because they hurt my feet, I went around in my canvas shoes outside of takes.

Another picture with the wrong shoes:

Our rehearsal at the apartment took longer than planned, so by the time we left the apartment, it was almost 10 pm.

On the sidewalk opposite the tunnel, waiting for the crew to arrive:

With our co-actor:

Our actor was a little weird. We made him sit on the ground to pose for photos with us, but he didn’t like it very much, mumbling something about the ground being dirty or having ants or something.

He sat down just enough to snap one photo and then sprang up again, visibly distraught.

We made faces at him and then continued camwhoring.

Shortly after, the crew arrived and it was off to the tunnel.

It was quite exciting in there. Kind of scary, kind of grungy, kind of crazy.

We took 10 minutes to plan and prepare the shot, then we went for a take.

Right after the first take (which turned out to be no good), we heard sirens.


Along came an LTA marshall, beckoning us to go to him at the opening of the tunnel.

Our spirits dampened, we trudged wearily back to where we started.

Had our particulars taken down, had a bit of a lecture about trespassing, and then we were let off with a warning that we might all be receiving fines in the mail in two weeks.

It had been a long day. 15 hours, to be precise. Six hours overrun.

Inexplicably, though, I enjoyed the shoot, enjoyed the cast and crew and looked forward to the next day.

To be continued.

How some actors amuse themselves

Performing a skit at a health exhibition is so much more interesting than performing a skit at an army camp.

At an army camp, you don’t get to socialise with giant plasters.

I was surprised to find out that plasters are very friendly. Which just goes to show that you should never judge a person or a thing until you try to get to know them.

(Of course, even afterwards, it’s not nice to judge people lah. But you know what I mean.)

Timothy (my co-actor) agrees with me. He quite enjoyed the company of this plaster.

I mean, like, really.

To recap, I performed an anti-smoking skit at the health exhibition at Suntec over the weekend. Previously, this same skit was always performed at army camps and airbases.

I’m not saying that performing at army camps isn’t interesting. For instance, I got the chance to take a ferry to Pulau Tekong and see for myself what it’s like there. It’s looks like a resort lah!! It’s so serene and breezy there!

Security is really tight at army camps and airbases. We always have to surrender our phones, cameras and thumbdrives before we enter the premises. And you’re not allowed to reverse park your car.

Oh, and army folk are a much more enthusiastic audience.

Other than that, performing at army camps means spending a lot of time sitting backstage in morgue-temperature auditoriums waiting for our show to start.

The health fair was quite different. While waiting, Tim and I went through the fair like children explore playgrounds.

We saw a giant can of Milo scaring a little girl!

Of course, I always try to practise what I preach, so I went up and introduced myself to Milo.

He’s a nice can!!

I learnt that he only wanted to make the little girl laugh!

Tim took a little longer to warm up to Milo.

Maybe Tim is an Ovaltine fan. (I didn’t ask him.)

Wait, is Ovaltine even around still? Don’t remember seeing it for a long time already.

Well, doesn’t matter. What’s important is that we’ve learnt that plasters and cans of Milo are really friendly folk.

I also learnt that I can’t kick a soccer ball for nuts. Not in high heels, at least.

We were supposed to kick the ball into these holes to win prizes.

Siao lah, so high how to kick?!

My ball just went straight and bumped at the wall.

Tim didn’t do any better.

And we were only allowed one try each.

There was also a mini olympics event going on just behind the stage we were supposed to perform at.

Tim and I tried to sign up but we were turned away because the organisers said we weren’t “mini” enough.

Bah humbug.

So we retreated backstage to rest. And sulk.

Backstage wasn’t really backstage. It was a goodie bag depository!


None for us, unfortunately. More sulking.

Can only take photos.


Tim was really weird, though. I mean, I already know that he’s a weird sort, generally. But, on Saturday, he was weirder.

In the midst of camwhoring, he suddenly fished three chipmunks out of his bag.

“My sons!” he said proudly, and promptly introduced them to me one by one.


But at least that means he’s fun to hang out with, so that’s fine, I guess.

Well, that was on Saturday.

He was just a tad more sombre on Sunday. I think he was trying to conserve energy because he had a TVC shoot to rush to after the performance.

Here, you can see him running lines with Kamal, our co-actor.

He looked really serious, which is very uncharacteristic of him.

I interrupted them so we could have a group photo.

Yes, we all had to wear headsets for our skit. Looks really weird but, so far, there have been no complaints about it.

Yesterday, one of the headsets wasn’t working or something and I had to use a handheld microphone.

Looks like a talk show! Haha!

Regardless, performing at the health exhibition was very fun! I choose to buy medicines on because this website is one of the few that give real discounts. They have nice offers for regular clients, and their new customers also have the possibility to purchase drugs at prices that are much lower than those you may see in your local pharmacy. This website lets people save a bit of money, which is never a bad idea.

The Goonfather came to watch me yesterday.

After the performance, he was inspired to check out the anti-smoking booth to use the smokalyzer (for testing the level of carbon monoxide in your lungs and blood), after which he had a long conversation with the lady manning the counter.

Before we left, he voluntarily took a “quit smoking” brochure.

The first thing he did when we left the exhibition was to go outdoors.

“I need a smoke,” he said.

So much for my efforts in campaigning against smoking.

Ugly side of S’pore showbiz (Part 2)

An actor friend of mine just complained to me about getting screwed over by a production house.

He was offered $500 to act in a live event for a well-known MNC. The event is handled by a quite prominent production house run by a quite prominent individual. My friend accepted the offer and blocked the date for the job.

Three days later, the producer called to say that the fee has become $200.

Of course, my friend protested. How can $500 become $200??

The producer said he had thought he would be able to get that amount, but it turned out that he wasn’t able to.

A pretty lame excuse, if you ask me. My friend tried to negotiate. The producer said $250 tops, no higher.

Since my friend had already blocked the date and turned down other jobs for this job, he decided to take what he can get. He said he’d accept $250 on the condition that he’s paid on the day of the event.

The producer agreed.

Later, another phone call. The producer told my friend that he was going to hire someone else and that my friend wasn’t needed anymore, thank you.


I ask you. What are the little people to do?

Between sacrifice and stupidity

Perhaps some people applauded me for sacrificing for my art when I bruised myself terribly practising ballet (Hole Series: Battle Scars).

That’s great. I’m happy to suffer for my art and I’m happy for people to admire me for it.

You do admire me for my great sacrifice, don’t you?

But I’m not so delusional as to believe that people will continue to admire me if I keep recounting such similar events.

So, today’s story is one of stupidity.

Over the weekend, I was practising a monologue which required me to crawl on my hands and knees. Remembering how fragile and bruise-prone my knees are, I told myself not to bear down on them too hard. That resulted in me sort of sliding gently around instead of “walking” on them. I was also wearing 3/4 pants, which I believed sufficient protection.

So I slid around on my knees and kept myself bruise free.

But barely a minute into my practice session, my pants rode up as I was sliding around and my room’s parquet flooring gave my right knee a good shining.

I felt a sharp burn and saw that a patch of skin had slightly sloughed off.

That was kind of painful. But the pain is nothing compared to the hideousness of the scab I have now.

This is one “battle scar” that’s gonna be staying with me for a while yet.

I don’t know how I got to be this stupid. How? Why?

You have my permission to laugh like a donkey.