寫意人生

Posts filed under 寫意人生

Goodbye L.A. Hello H.K.

Filed in L.A. (Sept 2006), Travel, WorkTags: , ,

I'm back in Hong Kong, back home with my wife and our kids. It's great to be back although the trip back was a little sudden and rushed.

Before going to L.A., I was filming 寫意人生 at TVB. Because filming took longer than previously hoped, I had to delay my trip to L.A. until September 16. Furthermore, TVB had another series planned for which I would need to be back in Hong Kong by October 16 or earlier if possible. This placed strict limits on the time I could spend in L.A., but the trip was important to me; improving my singing technique is always on my mind; so I worked around the limitations as well as I could and left for L.A.

My time in L.A. with my teacher was fabulous. My teacher and I clicked immediately, as if we'd known each other for a lifetime and my learning was significant.

While in L.A., I received information from TVB that the new series was willing to guarantee six half-episodes of work for me. Previously, I had expected a higher guarantee. Six half-episodes is not a lot of work, and the series would still lock me down for six to eight weeks. It was then up to me to balance the potential benefit of staying with my teacher in L.A. for another four days against the possibility of losing my role in the new TVB series if they couldn't wait for my return.

Sometimes, it's that little extra time, that small extra push, that final extra effort, that makes all the difference. I felt this would be true for me during this trip and therefore decided to stay the extra four days with my teacher, four days because my teacher had to leave L.A. on October 19 to go to New York for the 17th Annual Cabaret Convention and various personal reasons.

On October 4, I sent an email to TVB informing them of my decision to stay in L.A. an extra four days, and that I would accept the new series if they could wait for me.

Those extra four days in L.A. turned out to be invaluable. With my teacher's help, I did something which will likely have significant consequences in the future, something that you will all learn about soon. I am absolutely confident that my decision to extend my stay was the correct one.

Two weeks after sending that email and two days before I planned to return to Hong Kong, I was sleeping soundly in my motel room (sleeping soundly was unfortunately very rare during my stay in L.A.). I had just finished my last cabaret workshop with my teachers and student friends and I was preparing for the inedible good-bye; happy nonetheless. My time in L.A. with my teacher had been wonderful and well worth the expense. At one-thirty a.m., I was awoken by the phone. It was my wife. TVB needed me back in Hong Kong by midday October 20, one day earlier than I was scheduled to return.

When we explained to TVB that I wouldn't be back in Hong Kong until October 20, they became upset. Understandable. Every time they plan any filming, a lot of people are involved; i.e., a lot of money. Trying to change anything for the sake of one actor is never a good thing.

I felt obligated to change my plans and leave L.A. immediately. I was moderately upset because I had informed them two weeks earlier of my plans to return to Hong Kong on October 20, but certain people at TVB are very talented at moving the blame to the artist. It was later discovered that an unfortunate misunderstanding at TVB resulted in my email being read but not forwarded to the relevant parties. Therefore, the producer of the new series was not made aware of my changed schedule.

Fortunately, I was able to suppress my feelings and think about the problem at hand logically. If I had reacted purely emotionally, I'd have stubbornly refused to change my schedule; partly out of defiance, and partly out of anger and retaliation at being manipulated. Instead, I realised and admitted to myself that my final day in L.A. did not contain anything essential to my trip. My last lesson with my teacher was to be a summary of what I had learnt and while valuable, it would not be indispensable. Other than that one-hour lesson, nothing else was planned for the day. It was therefore an acceptable trade-off to leave one day earlier (even though changing my flight would cost US$100 for which I would not be reimbursed).

At six a.m., I woke up and called Cathay Pacific reservations. We were lucky. There were available seats on that day's flight and I was able to move my flight one day forward. I was also able to reschedule my airport shuttle bus ride without financial penalty. Ten minutes later when my wife called from Hong Kong, I informed her of the situation and she was able to inform the TVB personnel who subsequently breathed a sigh of relief. Two hours later, I had packed all of my belongings and was ready to leave. I had just enough time to rush down to my teacher's home and say my final good-bye.

I caught a cab down to her home and asked the cab to wait for me outside. I couldn't afford to be late back to the motel. The airport shuttle bus was due to pick me up one hour later and I knew that it wouldn't wait for me should I be late. Cabs are few and far between in L.A. so it was better to have him wait for me than to try to call another one later on.

My teacher was getting ready for a special TV appearance; taking a shower and getting her hair styled. Ten minutes after my arrival, she came out to the living room to see me. It was difficult for both of us. We'd seen each other almost every day for a whole month and it was now time to go our separate ways. We had become great friends. Fortunately, the internet and cheap international phone calls from Hong Kong has made the world a much smaller place so we will never be far apart, and I believe that great things are destined for both of us.

From the motel, my ride to the airport went well. With me in the shuttle bus were several other Caucasians destined for China. Some of them had lived in China for two years and spoke Mandarin. It's always a happy thing to meet other non-Chinese who have taken the time and effort to learn one of the Chinese dialects. It's almost as if we belong to a special club.

The Cathay flight was delayed two hours, but that wasn't a bad thing. Because of the delay, we were each given a US$15 food coupon which I used to buy an authentic meat loaf meal and the last cappuccino I would consume at L.A.

The flight was painful. Fifteen hours in a seat just wide enough and with very little leg room (especially for anyone six feet tall or taller) is very difficult to endure. The movies are ok but not great. The Cathay video system is still the older one where you have to wait until all the movies have finished before you can begin to watch the next movie and there is no pause/rewind/fast-forward functionality. Additionally, when the person in front reclines their seat all the way down, the cheap LCD monitor with limited wide-angle visibility is lowered so far that it's almost impossible to view. If I was five foot eight inches tall, I'd probably be ok, but I'm six feet tall and I almost broke my neck trying to view the monitor. Japan Airline's video system is soooo much better.

The next day at two p.m., I was on location in Fenling 粉嶺 shooting my first scene from the new TVB series 獄焰驚情, almost feeling as if I'd never left Hong Kong.

Everything was back to normal, everything except for one thing: I was now a better person, an improved person because of the knowledge and talent passed on to me by a very special one-of-a-kind teacher. Thank you Peisha!

On vacation?

Filed in L.A. (Sept 2006), Music, Travel, TVB (H.K.) 香港無線電視, WorkTags: , , , ,

It's been a while since I've posted any articles here, but you can be sure that I'm still here, and you can be absolutely sure that I've read every one of your comments, even if I haven't responded. And I appreciate the comments. Even if it's not obvious, your comments are important to me and provide an important source of support.

In the time I've 'been away', I've filmed a new series at TVB. The name of the series is 寫意人生 and I'll talk more about that in a later article. It was a pretty busy part, including two sessions of five nights of continuous studio filming involving nine to eleven hours of filming each night.

Strange and interesting things have happened in the least few months. Perhaps the most important event is my decision to go back to Hollywood for more training, this time for singing ;-)

From September 21 until October 15, I'll be in Hollywood, taking daily singing lessons with a teacher who I have come to know by chance. I'm nervous, apprehensive and excited all at the same time. Daily lessons will be tough. It's also difficult to know how much I'll learn during my stay there, but it's possible that I'll make a break-through in my singing technique (two break-throughs would be better) and that would make me the happiest guy alive, if only for just a short while until I begin fighting for the next break-through.

In my lifetime, I've known a few singing teachers. I had two teachers in Australia when I was small but those teachers did nothing for me. I had another teacher here in Hong Kong and she did nothing for me either. I even had a few lessons with the incredible Roman 羅文 but learned very little even though I enjoyed my time with him.

Not every teacher is right for every student and finding the right teacher for you is normally hit-and-miss. I was lucky. After having had so many not-so-helpful teachers, I finally met one who helped me a lot. 鮑老師 took me on as a student after I was introduced to her by another of her students/fans. She took me on even though she was retired. After teaching for more than 20 years, she just wanted to relax and enjoy herself, but she took me on anyway, and I learnt more from her than from any other teacher I'd had. I only had the occasional lesson with her but every lesson was full of information and techniques which required time to absorb, understand and practise and over the three years or so that I studied with her, my singing improved immensely. I'll never be able to thank her enough.

But you can't learn everything from one teacher and a few months ago, I decided it was time to take the next step and find my next teacher.

It was difficult. Finding the right teacher is a case of chance. Only one of my friends has ever had singing lessons and she wasn't enthusiastic about the teachers she knew. Historically, I feel that there are many 'self-qualified' teachers in Hong Kong who either developed their techniques themselves or became singing teachers because they themselves were successful singers. Neither qualifies these people as real teachers and I felt that it would be difficult to find what I needed here in Hong Kong.

I should emphasise though that this situation of 'self-qualified' teachers exists all over the world, ironically possibly more in Hollywood than anywhere else.

In any case, I was considering finding a new singing teacher; possibly in the U.S.A.; when out of the blue, I received a phone call. A director in Hong Kong wants to stage an English musical here next year, and he wants me to star in it!!! As far as I was concerned, that was the sign that my decision to go to the U.S.A. to study singing was the right one. If I was going to do well in the musical, my singing would need a lot of work.

I have more than a few problems with my singing. My biggest problems are that I know very few songs, that I get extremely nervous in front of an audience, and that my voice gets raspy after the second or third song.

I have been working on the first two problems by going to a local karaoke three times a week. The more I sing and rehearse the songs, the easier I'll remember them, the better I'll sing them and the more confident and comfortable I'll be in front of a crowd.

My karaoke sessions are very unusual. People often ask 'how can you sing by yourself for 2 hours?'. It's easy actually. I love singing and when I find a song that entrances me, I will sing that song four, five even eight times before moving on to the next song. I do not get bored repeating the same song over and over again although I'm sure anyone else in the room would. Some of the songs on the top of my list are 你把我灌醉, 該不該, , , 愛如潮水 and 愛如刀割. One day, I'll have enough for a concert ;-)

The karaoke sessions have also helped with the raspy problem. Singing for two hours three times a week helps to strengthen the voice but I'm also looking forward to my lessons in Hollywood where my technique will be further improved and I'll be able to sing better for longer.

Anyway, you can look forward to more updates on my blog. While in Hollywood, I will probably have lots of free time, time that I'll use to learn more about the basics of music and music theory, work on a pet proposal of mine, and write more for my blog ;-)

In the meantime, I've encoded and uploaded my guest performance in the Teresa Tang 50-year Memorial concert, held at the Cultural Centre in Hong Kong in 2003. I hope you like it, and hopefully I'll have more clips for you in the future.