Saturday 15 September 2012

TV Drama

When the gods told me that I had to 'plant eggs' when I paid them a visit for Chinese New Year, I didn't realise how many eggs would... grow!
I received an emergencey message from my friend Lisa who asked whether I would be willing to act in a project the next day. What project she did not know. It was all very vague. We are rehearsing intensively with Huang Yui, so I told her that I would, only if the time would match. Only in the morning, I told her, for I had a long rehearsal with Huang Yi in the afternoon until late at night.
What was I thinking? I should save some time to rest or practice my piano. 
"I can... but I don't speak Mandarin..."
"They say it's okay. You won't have much to say anyway."
Before I could think twice I gave a positive reply.
"The director would like to meet you tonight for an interview. Can you come?" Lisa asked.
At 7:30 pm I was picked up by a big van at an MRT station near their office. The driver was a cheerful and talkative young chap from Malaysia who was studying film production in Taipei. 
"On my last month! Then I'll stop being a student... But I don't want to go back to Malaysia..." The situation sounded familiar. Visa, papers, working permit... I went through all that, and still have no official permit to stay in Taipei, except as a visiting tourist...
Once at the office, I was introduced to the assistant director who gave me a script. So the project was a TV drama. I was to play an important client of an international firm. (it's still unclear what kind of firm it is...)
"So in this scene, you see this girl and you have been wanting to talk to her so you grabe the occasion to tell her your feeling and seduce her!"
Then he started checking other documents as I was reading the script. Just a few lines. The dialogue sounded a bit trite to me. I was told to rehearse the scene with the Malaysian chap playing the girl.
"You have to be more seductive. Body language, intense stare... you know!!!!"
I followed his instruction and played the scene that way but wasn't help by his wooden delivery. I did the scene again for the assistant who gave me opposite direction.
"No, not seductive. Not like a playboy...You love her, but you didn't dare to tell her. But now it's your chance. So even a one stand stand would be good for you!!!"
That didn't make sense to me. I tried my best, but obviously, it wasn't very convincing. 
Long gone were my days of acting classes so I was completely rusted. My self confidence was at its lowest and the contradictory instructions made it worse. 
"What if you play the scene in French? The actress can speak French!!!" the assistant director exclaimed.
"Nah!" someone said. "She can barely speak..."
So the idea was dropped.
As I was waiting to leave, the Malaysian chap told me that I would actually play another character. He didn't tell me why or what, but I had an inkling that the assistant director didn't judge me suitable for the scene.
I was given a new sheet of dialogue. This time I only had two lines to say.
The Malaysian chap must have sensed my disappointment. But I didn't care about the scene. I was more annoyed with myself, for not being able to rise to the challenge.

Once back home, I went to bed early. The shooting was to start at 7:00 in the morning, which meant that I had to get up at 5:30.
I couldn't sleep. I had the music for Double Yellow Line playing incessantly in my head, and of course, I reviewed what happened earlier in the evening. Even if I wasn't to play the scene the next day, I still rehearsed it over and over in my head. 
"And what if suddenly, the director changes his mind and asks me to play the scene eventually?"
I coudn't fool myself. I had to stop this battle of ego. Remember what my acting teacher used to tell me: "If you don't enjoy yourself, the audience will not enjoy watching you."
Did I enjoy playing the scene? No. I was too busy trying to be... good. That was not the right way. So  that was something to keep in mind. 
I finally fell asleep around 3:30 to wake barely two hours later. I hate alarm clock so I opned my eyes half an hour before it rang.
I prepared a few shirts and a jacket as requested and left with a thick fog in my mind.
We were to shoot the scene in one fo those luxurious offices in Neihu. The crew was there already, of course - how can they get up so early every morning when they go to bed so late...?
I was picked up at the station as well as a French man. He looked familiar. I immediately knew why he was there. And my suspicion was confirmed when I saw him take out a sheet of paper from his bag and start to  read his lines. He was my replacement! I felt as low as the ground. But then... I am not an actor, so why should it matter? 
A group of youngsters was already there, sitting on a bench. Two boys and three girls. Certainly the other players. I was led to the tenth floor then to what seemed to be a meeting room. Another boy was at the table, checking his phone. As expected, the shooting didn't before few long hours later.
I've had bit parts in some films in my younger days and the long waits were an unavoidable part of the experience. For one or two lines of dialogue, one would have to wait a whole day.
I was supposed to have only one scene, but the director seemed happy with me so he added more scenes. Nothing major to do. But I witnessed with some amusement how the assistant director's attitude changed as the day progressed.  The Malaysian chap seemed happy to see that everything was going well for me, and that I had eventually ended up with more to do than originally intended. I was mostly pleased with myself for being able to handle everything they asked me. To me what mattered was not how good I was, but how I could react to any given situation. When the shooting was over for the day, I felt elated.

I ran straight to the theatre for a long rehearsal with Huang Yi and Hu Chien. We didn't have that much time left. CloudGate made it understood that Huang Yi's presence was more than needed for a promotional tour next week in Beijing, which meant that four days of our precious rehearsing time were to be sacrificed.
As far as my part was concerned, there were still a big chunk of music to complete, in particular the one that Huang Yi calls Main Theme, an eight minute baroque sounding piece that I had started to develop during our first rehearsals in April. So far the development followed a Theme & Variations structure and the more I would work on it, the more I felt stuck and uninspired. I wished I had the skills and talents of someone like Stravinsky who could manipulate any musical style and come up with something extremely personal. Why did I come up with this Bach-like theme? Huang Yi is so demanding when it comes to music that I had to find a way to reach a satisfactory result.
I realised that I had once again trapped myself in a situation where I would get entangled in web of contradictory rules. Baorque theme didn't mean that I had to compose music the way Bach or Handel used to. Until now, I have always tried to find my own musical language and vocabulary, given any  situation.

Release and let go...

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