When work is fun and games

I can finally look normal again after three months of looking like a dorky teacher.

I’m still filming the kids’ drama. I’m still a teacher, but we’ve moved on to the later episodes where my character’s personal life outside of teaching comes into play. I have the chance to wear non-dorky clothes and look normal! Yay.

I realise I’ve never mentioned the title of this drama. So, here are a few details:

The title is SNAP, but it’s a Chinese drama. It will be shown on Sunday mornings on Channel 8, possibly starting on Sep 30. There are 14 episodes, each lasting 30 minutes and I’m in 12 episodes. I think.

This drama series has many directors, each taking charge of different episodes. I think it’ll be very interesting to watch because every episode is going to have a different flavour.

Today’s director is Martin, who is also the overall project manager and the person who normally helps me take photographs using my camera while I’m filming.

But since he’s the director today, he doesn’t have time to horse around with my camera, so I’m my own photographer today and Martin is my subject. Haha.

Martin has a tough job managing the kids today because they have a fun toy as a prop.

A wired laptop!

You know how kids get engrossed when they’re having fun.

It’s just them and their world.

Well, since this is a kids’ drama, the production is full of kids.

Here are two big ones.

On the left is Ler, who directs other episodes. He looks into the camera defiantly because… I don’t know. Because it’s fun?

I love working with creative people. They’re like boxes of chocolates, like, you know, you never know what you’re gonna get.

On the right is Melvin, the producer, and this is his house we’re filming in.

Tell you one secret.

Melvin’s house is so big that it’s used as the prop house for two different girls in the show (to save them the trouble of finding two separate houses to film in.) Of course, the audience won’t know it because different parts of the house are used for each girl.

But I know and I think it’s funny. Hahahaha!

Yeah, I know. I’m very easily amused.

For example, I amused myself playing around with my camera’s macro function while waiting for the crew to set up the lights around me.

I like photos with foreground/background compositions. Not this particular photo I’ve taken, of course. It’s a stupidly composed test shot just for illustration.

I couldn’t do very much because I only had my fingers to use as foreground, plus the crew started to look at me weird for taking photos of my own fingers.

I’ve learnt a lot from this shoot. Especially from my favourite girls, Jiaxuan and Almond.

They’ve taught me all sorts of cute games and riddles and stuff that girls do to amuse themselves.

Ah, but no fun and games for now because it’s back to work.

Then again, acting is fun and games.

Once, I was filming a scene in which my character was listening to a student’s sob story. It was a serious scene, even a little touching.

During one take, as I delivered my last line, and with the camera focused on my face looking at my student empathetically, and just before the director yelled “cut!” to wrap the scene, someone’s phone rang.

The music was the chorus of “Killing Me Softly”.

The song came at such an apt moment, at the exact time a real soundtrack might appear in a movie. But it was hilarious because of that and because the song ringing out turned our drama into comedy.

I tried to keep a straight face because the director hadn’t yelled “cut” but then the entire crew started laughing and I had to join in.

Moments like that make great NG footages. But, more specifically, they make working on a TV or movie set so magical and heartwarming.

I love watching NG footages because they allow me to experience the fun and the magic behind the scenes. But being an actress is even better! I get to enjoy these moments not only vicariously, but also in person!

I think all movies and TV shows should show NG footages at the end, don’t you?

Anyhow, in the next couple of weeks, I will be alternating between looking dorky and looking normal as I film the later episodes. I can’t wait for the show to wrap because it’s really very tiring being a teacher. But I think I’m gonna miss it, too.

People never know what they want, huh?

I look like teacher meh?

I’m a happy actress.

I have booked a drama series that will keep me occupied till the end of June, and then some.

I have acting classes once a week (fun!).

I have many new acting books waiting to be read.

I’m happiest when my life revolves around acting. It makes me dance around and smile lots and generally make people around me go crazy putting up with my nonsense.

I thought I had lost the role because they called me like two weeks later than they said they would. So I was quite happily surprised when I was told I got the job. That’s the 13-episode drama series I mentioned in the post about measuring myself. There are plans to make more episodes if the show is well-received, which would be so cool.

Although it’s not a dream role, it’s good enough to feel happy about because it’s almost a leading role. The main leads are a boy and a girl since it’s a kids’ drama. The secondary leads are two adults, one being my character (teacher) and the other being the boy’s father. My character is also involved in a romantic subplot, so that’s one more dimension than most of my MediaCorp roles.

Me!

My teacher image. Not that different from the real me — duh — because I wore my own clothes (only for this one episode because the sponsored clothes aren’t ready yet).

This was the exact same outfit I wore to the audition. Haha. After I arrived on the set and changed into the outfit, the project manager was amused. “Hey, isn’t this the same outfit you wore to the audition?” LOL.

Fine! I’m pathetic! I have like one mature outfit in my wardrobe!

The first day of shoot went well (for me). I don’t know about the crew. I think they were really stressed out because we were filming in a primary school during a normal school day. Absolute pandemonium, especially during lunch time. Kids yelling from all directions all the time, making the sound people’s jobs very difficult.

We were prepping for a shot, and this is so deja vu-ish. I’ve been a teacher in a feature film (I Not Stupid 2), in an English drama (Like My Own) and in a TV commercial (Toyo Klic Correction Pen).

And now I’m a teacher in a Chinese Drama.

Do I look so much like a teacher? I don’t know. And the shoot came so suddenly I didn’t even have time to study the script, much less go observe real teachers in action.

I wish my dear cousin Faith were here in Singapore so she can give me pointers. I think she’s the best teacher in the world beause she knows exactly how to handle kids and kids just love her to bits. She’s got a cushy teaching job in Hong Kong now, which is great for her, but I miss her!

My kids:

Kids are so precocious these days. They are more vocal than when I was a kid myself. During the shoot, I had kids trying to talk to me even while the director was giving all of us directions.

My director (one of them, anyway):

This drama series has many directors who take turns filming different episodes, which is typical of drama serials. It’s kind of nice getting to work with so many different people. But it makes it hard to develop a close working relationship.

But that doesn’t really matter because what really matters is that I’m a happy actress!

Milipede murderer

I don’t know what I’ve done to deserve it, but I seem to be getting more than my fair share of roles requiring me to be bed mates with creepy crawlies.

First, I had to lie on a wet forest floor infested with all kinds of icky insects burrowing among dead leaves.

Second time, I had to lie on a cemetry road owned by whole continents of ants. All kinds of ants. Red, black, brown, tiny ones, giant ones. (And during the times I didn’t have to lie down, the swarms of mozzies had their turn at me.)

And yesterday, I had to roll around and lie on a road covered with milipedes.

I never knew until yesterday that milipedes came in so many different colours. There were black ones, reddish-brown ones, light brown ones, black ones with yellow stripes. Long ones, short ones, baby ones, giant ones.

I only managed to take a photo of one, though. Wanted to take more, including squished ones (there were plenty of those, too) but the director called for me just after I had taken my first picture and I was put to work all the way right up until we left the place.

And then I was a milipede murderer for the rest of the day.

Actually, I can’t say for sure whether I did, or did not, murder any milipedes. But I had to skate on the road the whole morning and there were so many of them going about their merry way on the road, I could have just rolled over any number with no effort.

When I was off my skates, though, I always made sure to look on the ground and step around them carefully.

But despite the milipedes, the shoot was fun. I got to do my own stunts! Not rollerblading stunts, mind. I’m not good enough to do those without making a laughingstock of myself. But I was strapped to the outside of a moving lorry, I was knocked off the lorry, and I tumbled and rolled a few rounds on the road.

I didn’t know I had to do some stunts myself because I had a stuntman body double, so I didn’t do any warm ups. As a result, I am now aching a million places in my body. Even body combat class didn’t make me ache like that.

I also acquired two bruises.

The other bruise is at a place that can’t be shown publicly.

Fortunately, the place where I had to roll around and play comatose on was largely clear of milipedes because the lorry had already driven up and down the road a few times, creating a sizeable number of milipede deaths.

Yep, this is the leadup scene for the show in which I am comatose for five episodes.

I would have enjoyed the shoot much, much more if there hadn’t been any milipedes, and the rollerblades they gave me hadn’t been three sizes too big for me. But that’s just the story of my life.

Now showing

My gamer friend Chak tells me that I’m on TV.

I think I ought to watch more TV because I never know when I’m on. It’s always:

“Hey, I saw you on TV just now!”

“You did?”

And I’m, like, racking my brains trying to think what it could be.

Anyway, the current one is the Channel 8 drama, Measure of Man, showing at 9pm on weeknights. It’s the one where I play a vice president of a bank, a role I had much difficulty with because, on my first day at the studio, I had to keep going back to the makeup unit to redo my hair and the wardrobe unit to change my clothes.

Each trip was about a 10-minute walk to and fro and I had to do it about four times before the director was satisfied that I looked old enough for the part. Actually, I think it still wasn’t all that satisfactory in the end, but the day was slipping by and we had to shoot.

I appear in 16 episodes (out of 20) but in most of them, I only have about five minutes (or less). So don’t bother trying to catch me in it unless you actually want to watch the show. It’s a pretty good show.

I have four scenes tonight, so tonight’s the night if you want to catch more than a fleeting glimpse of me.

Oh, and Happy National Day. =)

On why I am an actress

I am stoned out of my skull.

Yesterday, I put myself through something worse than the time I had a job packing brochures into envelopes.

I spent an entire day reading 10 episodes of a Chinese drama script.

Chinese! Aaaaah!!

Each episode is about 65 pages, so that’s 650 freaking pages of Chinese text I made myself read in one day.

My head is still swimming from squiggle overload.

And I have about a thousand pages more to go.

(On a side note, though, I found the plot really intriguing. That’s why I couldn’t stop reading until about two in the morning, despite the difficulty of reading Chinese and the nausea from reading nonstop an entire day.)

This is what a typical page looks like. I’ve shrunk and blurred it so you can’t read the words, haha (assuming you can read Chinese). Scripts are confidential lah.

Anyway.

This is in preparation for an upcoming drama series. I don’t have a huge role. It’s a 25-episode drama and, out of the roughly 1600 pages, my involvement is only about 50 pages’ worth.

But it’s an important enough role for me to want to read the entire script, although I don’t really have to, since my character is only involved in one small sub-plot.

I don’t know what the industry norm is, but I personally like to read the entire script whether my role is big or small. Even if it means having to struggle through 1600 pages of Chinese text.

I like going on set feeling familiar with the environment, story and characters, and knowing what’s going on every step of the way.

Because of the way I get involved in stories, I like big roles.

Small roles depress me because they are one-dimensional and don’t give me a sense of ownership in the creation process. It’s like being invited to a party where you are only allowed to sit in the courtyard and watch the activities in the house through the window. You’re there but you’re not really part of it.

One of the big reasons I so love being an actress is because I love stories, whether in books or the movies. I get personally involved with the main characters in the story so much so that I want to BE them, step in their shoes, live their lives, share their triumphs, taste their disappointments.

Getting a big role is a chance to satisfy this deep yearning I’ve felt since I was a child.

Even when I get a small role, I try to get involved by reading the entire script (if I’m given it) and imagining an untold story for my character. But because I do not get to act out my imaginary story, I will go to the shoot, do my job and then go home and get depressed because the party is over for me.

In contrast, the sense of fulfillment I get from playing leading characters gives me a high which doesn’t go away for weeks.

This is the high I live for. This is the high that I suffer through countless auditions and humiliating small roles for. It’s a gamble because I can never be sure where I will end up. I get depressed whenever I imagine that my payout never comes. But I am still compelled to take the gamble.

That’s why, I think, I will be an actress till the day I die.