Hollywood

Posts filed under Hollywood

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.

沒預料的回報(上集)

Filed in General, Memoirs, Music, Press, 中文文章Tags: , , ,

去年,我為了能夠演更好的戲而到荷里活去了三個月。雖然我差不多半生在無線電視台從事演員,但是我依然覺得我的演技還可以好得多。始終,一邊工作一邊學習可以學到的的確有限。只有專業的導師(和一點緣份)才能學到最好的。所以,去年年初,我終於決定上學正式學習演戲。

我在荷里活的時間非常開心,但是因為我很久沒有跟我的太太和狗狗分開那麼長的時間,所以亦有一點想念他們。幸運地,那時候,香港打電話打到美國的費用很便宜讓我每天都可以跟我的太太通兩三次電話,而每星期天還可以到我美國住宿的房子附近的蘋果電腦商店借用他們的電腦和「iChat」軟件跟我的太太通視像電話見面,讓星期天成為我正個星期最開心的一天。

在荷里活上學,我當然學了不少,演技也有一定的進步。但是我也得到非預料的回報,使這個旅程成為我生命中特別重要的一個。

學生們在學校報名的時候需要選擇課文。有些課目就是必上的,而其他的課目就任你選擇。所有的課目都是關於演戲的,除了一個之外。

這個課的老師是一個很精神的八十五歲的名為 Elizabeth Sabine 的女人,恰巧跟我一樣是澳洲人。由於她的年紀不少,所以有時候就會忘記了她剛剛說的話而不知不覺重複說一次,可是她非常可愛的,而我們每個學生都喜歡她。

Elizabeth and Me

Elizabeth was a wonderful person. As far as I know, this was the last class she taught at the Lee Strasberg Institute.

For a 750x500 version, click here.

她教的是唱歌的技術。她曾經在澳洲,英國,美國,甚至香港(還沒有現在的灣仔的時候)都唱過歌,所以對唱歌非常熟悉。學校請她教唱歌的目的卻不是希望學生們能唱好歌,而希望學生們能學怎麼大聲說話。 Elizabeth 的名氣就是來自教人怎麼大大聲聲唱歌,也因為這樣而得到她的花名,就是「The queen of screech」。

一課為三個小時。首四十五分鐘就是鬆身和開聲的練習。十五分鐘休息已後,學生們就一個一個地在班學生們前邊跟一個鋼琴家唱歌,一邊唱一邊聽著 Elizabeth 的指示。

老實說,一般學生選擇課目的時候也都會選擇一兩個不用做那麼多功課的課文,甚至希望可以不上課也有。Elizabeth 的課就是這種課,所以很多學生就會當她的課是一種娛樂,一堂 karaoke,不用學甚麼東西,不用主意老師的指示,不用為了下次上課而作準備。Elizabeth 都知道這一點所以每次遇到努力的學生,她就會特別用心去教那個學生。

Elizabeth coaching one of my fellow students

Elizabeth would coach each of the students as they sung their chosen songs.

For a 750x500 version, click here.

TVB series. They’re special too.

Filed in Hong Kong, TVB (H.K.) 香港無線電視Tags: , , ,

With reference to the TVB soaps, there are a few things I feel I should say, especially after reading the comments to my previous article Hail Hollywood TV.

First. Most of the main actors and actresses are really very good at what they do. Working for TVB is not easy, especially for them. While filming any one series, the average main actor works 18 hours a day and sometimes more, averaging perhaps just 2 or 3 hours of sleep a night. Between scenes or between showers, they have to read their scripts, understand what's going on and work out how they're going to act the scenes. They carry their own scripts around with them (these days usually in an aircraft hand-luggage suitcase on wheels), remember what clothes they wore for each scene and do lots of other stuff that the actors in Hollywood never have to worry about. It is also not unusual to get the scripts only hours before the scene. That makes it very hard for the actor and there's nothing they can do to change the situation.

When working on location, the meals provided by TVB are usually low-cost rice boxes, usually Chinese BBQ assortments so that everyone will have something acceptable to eat, occasionally something a little more special like 茶餐廳 spaghetti. No seating is provided so the actors either eat in the minibuses or sit on any available surface while eating. Actors in Hollywood get buffets.

At the same time, the actors and actresses still have to master the politics of working for the dominant television company, making sure that they're friends with the right people and don't tick off the wrong people. Rumors includes gifts to higher ranking personnel and sometimes other more personal things. These artistes, as a friend of mine calls them, work damn hard. They're worth much more than they're paid by TVB. If they worked this hard in Hollywood, they'd be USD millionaires. Unfortuantely, their contracts make it extremely hard to work with non-TVB productions so it's very difficult for them to make decent money outside of TVB. Occasionally, they'll get one or two well-paid commercials to supplement their incomes.

Incidentally, there is no such thing as residuals in Hong Kong so the actors and actresses make nothing out of a series if it's re-broadcast anywhere in the world or if it sells on VCD or DVD.

Second, the TVB series are never going to compare in terms of quality to those made in Hollywood. TVB is the dominant television station here and no other television company can compete. The audiences crave non-stop for new series and TVB doesn't buy series if they have a choice so they make series non-stop as fast as they can, but there's no competition, so the quality doesn't need to be great; just acceptable. The actors have no time to prepare for their scenes so you'll rarely see their full acting potential. The writers never have time to contemplate the scripts so you'll never see their full potential either. The directors and their assistants rarely have time for sleep and are as fabulous as anyone else could be under the circumstances.

Third, Hong Kong people are different. The daily pressures of work (with super-human requirements and usually more overtime than is healthy), travel, crowding, pollution and mortgages means that they don't want to think when they watch tv. Hence, many Hong Kong people really enjoy the non-intellectual TVB series. I remember hearing one couple tell me how much they loved to watch a show on TVB just before they slept. To me, the show was garbage with corny scripts and extreme over-acting, but to this couple, it was just what they needed to get a good laugh and put the daily pressures out of their minds before sleeping. I'm pretty sure that TVB knows what the audience wants most of the time. In this respect, there are a few actors at TVB who are really good as making the audience laugh and I think they're a valuable asset to TVB. One that immediately comes to mind is 梅小惠. She's one very clever girl.

So while Hollywood productions are obviously better than TVB productions in many aspects, there are still many things about TVB series that deserve respect. For many people, Hollywood series will be the preferred choice. For others, TVB series will do more to brighten their lives if even just a little and that makes them worthwhile.

One last thing. Within Hong Kong are many many very talented actors, actresses, directors, writers, camera-men, lighting technicians and others related to the film profession. With the right opportunities, without a doubt, they could create films and television shows equivalent to those produced by Hollywood. Unfortunately, the market was damaged by greedy members of the profession who wanted to make a quick buck. The market was also damaged by piracy, initially by protected powerful syndicates in China and now also by various internet technologies. Without a market, these talented people can do nothing. My hope is that the internet will change this situation soon, that new online markets will emerge allowing Hong Kong-made film and television to be sold and seen all around the world. The introduction of video to Apple Computer's iTunes store may be the beginning or a new era in television and film distribution. I hope so. I truly want to see Hong Kong's film and television industry thrive again soon. The world of film wouldn't be the same without it.