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.

“Weee-ooo-eee-ooo-EEE-OOO-gonna-get-joooooo!”

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.

Taking on an ugly role

For a limited time only, come and watch Sheylara in an ugly role!

I’m performing in this 10-minute play called Rats, in which I’m an ugly rat.

Sort of.

I’ll be dressed kind of like a three-way cross between an old spinster, a dominatrix and a rat (if there’s such a thing as a three-way cross, which I believe not, but which is also beside the point).

I haven’t tried on the full costume but I can imagine I’m going to be a frightful sight.

The character I’m playing is also the most un-me character I’ve ever played. I shock myself during rehearsals. I’m, like, “Where the hell did that come from?”

I know acting is about not being yourself. But in most roles to date, I’ve always been able to find something in each character that I can identify with, in order to play it with some truth.

But this role really stumped me and it took me quite a while to wrap myself around it.

Nevertheless, it’s a freaking fun role and I’m enjoying the hell out of it, even if it makes me look ugly.

Here’s a rehearsal photo:

[It didn't work, no matter how many times they tried]

(I’m the one in the middle, in orange, in case you can’t recognise me.)

We’re not in costume, of course. And I was wearing my kunoichi hair because I had a Ninja Gaiden II press visit to attend right after this rehearsal.

Here’s another picture:

[The library fine was too overdue to be overlooked]

I have a zillion ugly expressions in this play.

You can probably tell that it’s a comedy.

An amazingly obnoxious comedy at that.

I bet you want to watch it!!

I’ll be performing at NAFA (Campus 3) nightly from June 5 till June 8 (with one additional matinee performance on June 8), as part of the Short+Sweet festival.

Buy your tickets here!!

Be forewarned that my play is only 10 minutes long, so don’t say I cheat you! If you buy a ticket, you’ll be getting 10 10-minute plays, totalling two hours including a break.

Come and support me! Limited time only! ;)

[Smile and everlasting smile, etc]

By the way, I’ll be a Funan today (12-2pm and 4-6pm) making my last appearances as a kunoichi.

Rehearsing nonstop

Wow, Wireless@sg is actually impressive today. Got connected without fuss. Is it location? I am now at the Arts House. Last day of preparation before opening night.

Some people having lunch, some people busy building sets and rigging lights. My director isn’t free at the moment (cos he has more roles than just directing) so I am taking a breather from rehearsing.

Unfortunately, I can’t post photos today because I’m blogging from my DS Lite. So, only words. My brain is filled with words. Lines running through my brain every waking moment. I mean lines from my play.

My director told me that theatre practitioners have no life because they rehearse and rehearse day and night. I have an inkling of this now after just a few days.

I wake up in the morning and rush to location.The day is spent acting, rehearsing, learning, going shopping for props and costumes.This goes on till late at night, then I go home and I’m fast asleep in an instant. Then I wake up again in the morning and the cycle repeats,

What a wonderful, marvellous life!

I think our show will be really great, although I can’t say if my performance will be. Haha.

Oops gotta go. Breaks over, back to rehearsing!

I’m so busy I’m turning psychotic

And now, I’m going to recap my past two weeks, in case people don’t believe me when I tell them that I’ve been busy to the point of psychosis.

Starting with a party.

Nov 24 (Sat) — Drunken Guitar Heroes

I organised a party for my delinquent friends, luring them with Krispy Kreme donuts (all 3 dozen of ’em, courtesy of my favourite Hong Kong-based cousin who goes by the endearing moniker of Monster).

At the party, I made everyone play battle mode in Guitar Hero 3. The loser of each battle had to drink a shot from an unwanted bottle of raspberry vodka that had followed our group from party to party for two years because nobody ever wants to drink it.

We all ended up pretty drunk (because I made sure everyone took turns to play and lose) and had to crash at J&J’s place overnight. Was planning to blog about this (I have incriminating videos! Wahaa!) but haven’t had time to sort out the pics and vids yet.

Nov 25 (Sun) — Free And Easy (Not)

I say free and easy because I had no appointments. But free and easy is not as free and easy as it sounds. It just means I could stay home to nurse my hangover work on any number of things piling up on my metaphorical in-tray — advertorials, scripts, blogs, rehearsals.

Nov 26 (Mon) — New Project In The Works

Met up with some folks to discuss a video blogging project that was supposed to have started this week but got delayed due to technical setbacks. (Which was actually fortunate because I don’t know how I would have found the time to work on it otherwise.)

Nov 27 (Tue) — Playing Truant To Work

I skipped ABT (gym) class for the fifth consecutive week. Not because of laziness (as is usually the case) but because I’ve been so busy meeting deadlines that exercise has to wait.

Spent the day slaving over my script for 3 Men Meet 3 Women, instead, because I needed to cough it out, pronto.

Nov 28 (Wed) — Anti-Smoking Crusade

I’m acting in this anti-smoking play designed to persuade staff in the civil service to quit smoking. Yes, it’s an educational play but we try to make it funny so that it distracts our audience into forgetting to be annoyed by the messagy nature of the play.


(Rehearsal picture taken at Health Promotion Board auditorium)

We go to exciting places like airbases to perform. (Actually, it’s a pain to go to those places because of all the security procedures at entry and exit points.)

On this day, we had two shows to perform at two different locations, one of which was Tengah Airbase. I made a discovery there: If you park your car backside in, it will get towed away. An officer kindly alerted us to that fact when we made the mistake of parking our vehicle like normal Singaporeans do. But he didn’t want to explain why.

Nov 29 (Thu) — First Rehearsal

I had my first rehearsal for 3 Men Meet 3 Women, which I already blogged about.

Nov 30 (Fri) — Trying To Plug Holes

I was able to get properly psychotic today because I didn’t have any engagments. So I was forced to stay home and work on the damn script, which had just been shot full of holes from the previous day’s rehearsal. Spent all day stressing over plugging the holes. Didn’t make much progress because I was too panicky to concentrate properly.

Dec 1 (Sat) — Crying At Auditions And Laughing At Parties

I auditioned for a feature film and cried real tears when performing a monologue which I only had 10 minutes to prepare. It’s really liberating and fulfilling when that happens. Actually, I always find it easier to cry on fresh material than on prepared pieces. I don’t know if other actors are that way.

After my audition, I rushed to Morte’s birthday dinner. (Late again.) The plan was to surprise him with dinner and a birthday cake. But because Morte is an inquisitive dongo who likes to sneak up behind his wife and peek at her MSN conversations, which, during one inopportune night, involved secret birthday party plans, he already knew everything even before the day arrived.

After dinner, we came to my place for Drunken Guitar Heroes Part 2.

Don Juan de Porko (picture, left) showed us the alternative way to mash buttons. (Check out his left hand.)

The Goonfather commented on this photo: “F**king Stamford Raffles or guitar hero, siah??”

Well, I don’t know who or what The Goonfather himself was trying to be when he struck this pose (below).

But I do know it’s the best pose to strike if you’re in the mood for cramping both your arms before the song is done.

Dec 2 (Sun) — Meeting Ate My Social Time

A technical meeting was held to discuss – duh – technicalities and logistics for 3 Men Meet 3 Women.

I wanted to discuss my script with the director, producer and my partner, but there wasn’t enough time and I had to rush off to watch the Slingers. I even sacrificed half the basketball match by leaving the meeting later than I’d planned.

Dec 3 (Mon) — Mission Complete

Today was the ultimate do-or-die day. I absolutely had to rewrite a passable script even if it killed me. Countdown to performance: 11 days.

So I sat down and forced myself to keep working at it no matter how many times I got stuck. I would write one page, then get up to walk around my room complaining, “I’m stuck!” and pulling my hair out, then sit down again and write some more.

Using that method, I finally completed the script despite being horrendously tired from lack of sleep. I did-and-didn’t-die!

Dec 4 (Tue) — Happy Big Project

Met up with a bunch of happy people to talk about starting a new theatre/media group so we can create our own platforms to do the things we love to do. There are already several ideas we want to work on as soon as we have time. This is the way to live life, is it not!

Dec 5 (Wed) — Hobnobbing With Elites After A Long Day Of Work

I had a corporate photoshoot at Singapore Polytechnic. Not for SP but for Ministry of Manpower (related to my Promoting Singapore video). Photoshoots are generally boring because they don’t engage me actively, since I have to stay still in specific poses. Staying still too much makes me want to jump and dance and run around a football field yelling at the top of my voice. But photoshoots are easy jobs that pay well for minimal effort so I like them for that.

From the photoshoot, I had to rush to NYU Tisch Asia for a party. I was half an hour late. Then again, is there such a thing as “late for a party”?

Wasn’t really a party, actually. It was a mixer, the purpose of which was to allow potential future hotshot actors and potential future hotshot directors to network. Many of those potential future hotshot directors came up to me to say they recognised me from the two short films I had acted in for their coursemates, and to congratulate me for doing a really great job. I hope they were all genuine compliments.

Dec 6 (Thur) — Qiaoyun The Blogger, Qiaoyun The Model

Was invited to Samsung office, together with a small group of bloggers, to talk about blogging, new media, gadgets and yet another project, which I can’t reveal now. It was a fun meeting. Strangely, no one took any photos.

Right after that was a 3 Men Meet 3 Women rehearsal. We did hotseating today. In theatre terms, that means an actor gets into character and has to answer questions thrown at him by the director and/or other actors. All questions must be answered in character. It’s a cool way to explore a character deeper and to test how much an actor knows his role.

Throughout the hotseating, my director claimed, the way I physically sat screamed “Qiaoyun the model” instead of my character. Well, I sat the way I thought my character, a high society lady, would sit, like all proper and posey, you know?

Dec 7 (Fri) — OMG Reshoot

We had to reshoot an episode of Snap! (the kids drama now showing on Channel 8, Sundays, 10:30 am) because one episode was dropped for inappropriate content (which is subjective, in my opinion). So we had to shoot a new episode with a new script to replace the dropped one. My hair is now four inches longer than in the other episodes. I hope no one notices.

Today — No Rest For The Weary

Attended a Philips press event for bloggers (I’m really tickled and a little disconcerted that bloggers are more and more being recognised as an alternative for conventional press). I’m sure you’ll be reading about the event pretty soon from some popular blogs in the Singapore blogosphere. I can’t talk about it now because I have to rush off (yet again) for a rehearsal after posting this blog.

SEE I NEVER BLUFF YOU ALL.

I’m working on so many things at the same time that I don’t have time to tidy up my wardrobe, which is now looking like a tornado hit a clothing store and dumped its spoils into it.

I don’t have photos for many of the activities I mentioned above because all the rushing about saps my energy. I don’t have any strength left to even take my camera out. Haha. I mean, I do enjoy every meeting, every rehearsal and every project. But the fact that they’re all clamouring for my attention at the same time is killing me.

I’ve been rushing from one thing to another so much that it’s a wonder I can keep track of what’s going on.

When I bump into people recently and they ask, “How have you been?” I give a tired look and say “Busy.”

If they ask, “Busy with what?” I’m speechless because I don’t know how to start answering.

Next time someone asks again, I’m going to answer, “I’m so busy I’m turning psychotic” and then give them the link to this post.

If my muse doesn’t show up, I’m dead

Six weeks ago, I auditioned for a role in a theatre production. Three actors got the job and I was one of them. Woohoo. What a happy occasion because I hardly get theatre roles.

And then Jack jumped out of the box and punched me in the face.

I had to write my own script.

For a solo performance.

(The production is made up of three solo performances.)

Ouch.

An insane fear gripped me. Elation at getting the job evolved into a monster that gnawed at my intestines.

I may be a good writer, in general, and even have a passing knowledge of scriptwriting techniques, but I hardly think I’m qualified to write a script good enough for a paying crowd. (If I were, I would be churning them out and making money.)

And I hate monologues. I must have mentioned that somewhere in my blog before. Probably more than once. Monologues just kill me.

Of course, I tried not to show the fear. One must always appear confident and in control in front of one’s employers. But whether or not the fear is well-hidden is another matter altogether. Some directors are so perceptive they can see right through makeup, skin and bone, right into the marrow of your soul.

I was tempted to opt out of the production. But of course I didn’t.

I’ve done amazing things before. Like cough out a 3,000-word essay discussing the sanity of Jean-Paul Sartre in one night. And after performing amazing feats like that, I can never remember how they happened. They just did.

Humans are apparently capable of more than is apparent. So I’m always accepting projects beyond my apparent capability, hoping that my proverbial muse will possess me in the nick of time and do all the work and save my sorry skin.

So it was with this mindset that I accepted this scary project. It’s not every day I get a chance to perform in a theatre production. If I pass up this opportunity, I might as well make a quick phone call now and have myself measured for a nice Brazilian rosewood coffin.

After that, I stressed over it every chance I got. I mentally brainstormed ideas while jogging, I scribbled thoughts while commuting on the MRT, I emo-ed to the Goonfather on a daily basis about how stressed I was.

One month later, I finally completed my first draft.

Relief. Mixed with a bit of shame over how long it took me.

But you can’t imagine the relief.

I went for my first rehearsal today. It was part script discussion and reading, part acting training to work on areas I’m weak at.

My mentor-director gave me a lot of food for thought, a lot of ideas. I wish he could rewrite the script for me because he has all the tools and experience and know-how. But it’s my challenge and my responsibility so it seems he can’t do that.

Before today, I was really pleased with my script. But it’s like that. When you’re elated over completing a gargantuan task, it will always look like a pot of gold to you at the moment.

Now I think my script is junk because there were so many things I didn’t consider and so many ways in which it can be improved. Ok, it’s not totally junk. It has some good points but it’s not good enough to work, on the whole.

So, back to the stressing board. I mean drawing board. Writing board. Whatever.

I’m going batty nuts psycho because the performance is two weeks from now.

Hahahahahaa! (psychotic laughter)

Now would be a really good time to get hysterical for my muse to show up and perform a miracle. But the way things work, I think she will let me stew in my own sweat for a week first, and then jump in when I’m teetering over the edge of insanity from desperation and panic. Muses are like that. They like to screw with your mind. But I guess it’s better than if they don’t appear at all.

What the hell. I’m an actress but here I am stressing over being a playwright. Where is the justice?

Besides this project, I also concurrently have other projects and tasks to stress over. So I’m even stressing over which project to stress over first.

Can’t blame a girl for getting a bit psychotic.