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.

Who the hell wears toe socks?

First of all, why in the world would anyone buy and wear toe socks?

I was at a shoot last Friday. The wardrobe people gave me a pair of toe socks to wear with the canvas shoes they issued me (because I didn’t have my own socks).

Well, they were very sweet to give me brand new socks and all, but toe socks look damn hideous can?

AUUGGGHHHH!!!! MY FEET LOOK TOTALLY RIDICULOUS!!

It was my first time wearing toe socks, so maybe there’s a trick I’m not aware of, but both the socks were left-footed ones!! That’s why my right foot looks weird, big toe squeezed into little toe pocket and little toe dangling in big toe pocket.

No, I couldn’t flip it the other way because the bottom has that bulging segment for the heel. It’s like gloves, isn’t it? Each side is made for each hand/foot, and I had what looked like two left sides. They were still sealed when I got them.

But never mind the glitch. Even if I hadn’t gotten two left socks, I would still be of the fervent opinion that toe socks should be banned.

Let me list the reasons:

  1. They’re downright ugly.
  2. They’re unbearably uncomfortable. (Like got stuff stuck between your toes.)
  3. They make your feet bigger with all that extra material.
  4. They take too damn long to put on.
  5. They’re harder to flip over after washing cos you have to turn out each toe individually.
  6. They’re just plain stupid.
  7. Nobody wants to see your little toes nicely wrapped up in individual toe pockets!!

To make sure that I’m not weird, I asked a few people on my MSN this question: “What do you think of toe socks?”

And here are the responses:

“Yucks. Looks weird.” – Nanny Wen

“Stupid. Hahahahaha.” – The Goonfather

“Cute…. Seriously ugly but adorable.” – Anonymous

“Hygienic but uncomfortable if the toe size isn’t right.” – Chong

SEE?? No one likes them.

Even people who pretend to like them won’t wear them, as shown in this following conversation:

Qiaoyun says:
    What do you think of toe socks?
Swordplay says:
    cute lor
Qiaoyun says:
    it’s not cute. it’s ugly
Swordplay says:
    ok what
Swordplay says:
    but ppl wear it not to show off
Swordplay says:
    they wear it for protection one
Qiaoyun says:
    so you would wear them?
Swordplay says:
    no
Qiaoyun says:
    why not?
Swordplay says:
    coz it is not me

See, nobody I know likes them or wears them. So why are toe socks still around? Every time I see them, the little hairs on my back stand. They’re so weird they’re beyond weird.

After my shoot, I threw the socks away. I kinda feel bad about it but what else could I have done? Given them away? Kept them as souvenirs? They weren’t even matching sides lor.

I hope I don’t ever have to wear them again.

I hope you don’t, too.

P.S. Apologies for the lack of updates over the weekend. I’ve been outrageously busy! But stay tuned because I’m back on schedule again!

Not made to measure

I kinda dread receiving phone calls from stylists.

It usually means only one thing: that the production I’m going to be acting in has little or no wardrobe budget and would need me to wear my own clothes, at least for some of the scenes, because they don’t have enough to dress me up for the entire shoot.

I don’t know if that only happens in Singapore, but I think it’s a sad state of affairs when actors have to wear their own clothes in productions. Then wouldn’t the actors be themselves and not being someone else as they’re supposed to be?

I just got an offer for a teacher role in a 13-episode MediaCorp children’s drama serial (in which I will appear in 11 episodes).

So, last night, the stylist rang me and the conversation went something like this:

Stylist: Hello, can I speak to Qiaoyun, please?

Qiaoyun: Speaking!

Stylist: I’m the stylist for [show title] and preparing the wardrobe. Can I know what size clothes do you wear?

Qiaoyun: XS to S.

Stylist: XS to S?

Qiaoyun: Yup.

Stylist: What size top you wear?

Qiaoyun: XS to S.

Stylist: What size bottom?

Qiaoyun: XS to S.

Stylist: *nervous laugh* So petite?

Qiaoyun: Yeah. :(

Stylist: Hmm… a bit hard to get such small size. How about you wear your own clothes?

Qiaoyun: Um…. I don’t have any teacher-like clothes…

Stylist: Oh. Actually just something simple will do. Do you have basic skirts?

Qiaoyun: I only have one.

Stylist: Oh. Like that…

Qiaoyun: My clothes are all very youngish, not very suitable for teachers.

Stylist: Er… may I know how old you are?

Qiaoyun: [censored], but I look younger than that, so I don’t wear clothes that age.

Stylist: Oh. Hahaha. In that case, I’ll try to find something for you. We’re trying to get sponsers but it’s not happening yet. For now, we’re just trying to settle the pilot episode first.

Qiaoyun: I see.

Stylist: What’s your shoulder measurement?

Qiaoyun: Um… can you wait a while? I measure myself now.

Stylist: Sure.

For the next 5 minutes, I fumbled with a measuring tape while the stylist made me measure myself all over. It’s hard because I’ve never really had to measure myself. We usually get measured by stylists, and they would write little numbers in their little books and they don’t exactly give us copies of those. And I think it’s rude to peek into their books while they’re writing, so I never know my measurements.

Every time I measure myself, I end up getting different numbers because I’m not sure if I’m measuring myself correctly. Like, how do you measure your shoulder length? Exactly from which point to which point? You could be off like two inches if you don’t get the points exactly right.

Anyway, that traumatising phone call kinda dampened my glee of getting the role. I think it’s quite a good role, but I’ll talk more about it later when everything is more firmed up.