Sunday, February 27, 2011

What makes a great music video is the same as a movie. Could this be the best music video of the decade?

There's hundreds of movies and music videos out there. But personally for me, a good music video shares the same qualities of a good movie. Like the recent Janet Jackson music video "Rock with U", wow, fantastic. It does not receive as much hits as it should say her more popular counterparts like Lady Gaga and Beyonce, which I feel is way over-rated in some aspects. I found this jewel of a music video by Janet Jackson and would love to share with my followers here,  with the hope that we also get to learn what qualities that constitute a great music video.

1) Singularity in vision
Music videos and movies are a form of visual medium. Therefore, a lot of techniques and editing are involved in creating that visual. Taking the example of the "Rock with U" music video, the shot were seen as one continuous take, without any cuts. Here's where the "trick" is borrowed from another favourite film of mine by Alfred Hitchcock "Rope". In that film too, Alfred Hitchcock tricked the viewers into thinking they are watching one continuous take of the film. But if you watched carefully the music video, the set consisted of 2 different dance floors with a walkway connecting the 2 rooms. Whenever the light dims, there's where the cut happens. But the continuity of the visual is maintained and seem like "sustained" in a continuous shot.

2) Defined dance choregraphy
For a music video, especially a dance number, the choreography is very important. In the music video, Janet Jackson hired a number of dancers and the moves are seen in uniformity. If you were to analyse the dance moves, it actually runs concurrently with 2 different choreographies at the same time. This is a wonderful trick so as to layer the dancing moves, and keep a story running. In the beginning of the music video, you'll notice a group dancing a specific choreography and then when the camera reaches Janet on the stage, she has a few dancers with her remaining static until when the music beat heats up and her turn to change the choreography. For a good movie also, the body language needs to be specific in order to convey the various types of chararcters.

3) Strong,catchy music coupled with fashion
For a movie, the dialogues are vital. For a music video, the music/lyrics are the audio part of the medium. If you were to listen to the song, it's actually a very simple piece with 5-note melody and a basic chorus line. Not a complex song, hence it's very easy for the audience to listen and dance to the beat. But with a simple catchy tune, therefore the dance moves can be slightly more imaginative and helps bring out the visual spectacular immediately for a music video which is only 5-minute, say compared to a movie which is longer and takes up more time. Instant, attention-grabbing visuals are needed for a music video with their limited screen time. Costumes play a role too, but for a dancing video, you'll notice the fashionable embellishments are kept to a minimum in the music video above, and upper body only. Nothing fancy from the waist down because a lot of intense leg works involved in the dancing.

4) Diverse cast
This is the most important element to make any visual medium successful, and that is the cast. Notice the various types of people in the music video: in terms of race you have Asians, Hispanics, Africans, Caucasians. In terms of sexuality, you'll notice transvestites, gays, straights and all the colours in the rainbow. Diversity is key because the more diverse cast you have, the more viewers you'll able to attract and the audience will relate to. Diversity also makes the piece look international. One great box-office hit movie that is recommended for its cast diversity is "Inception". You'll notice the team consists of a Japanese, Indian, British, French and of course Americans.

Last year's acting skid team: diversity in casting
So there you have it, the secret ingredients in making your next feature film/music video a success! Bear in mind that music video and film production requires as much layer of skills and diverse interest and learnings. So open your mind and learn new things. Do not be a skeptic and narrow your thinking to what you think you know. In Malaysia, we have so much diversity, why don't our local producers and directors use them? Why don't we see more Chinese and Indians acting in Malay movies? For me, I've always like to hire people who are different from me. An example was last year's event acting skid roadshow. In my upcoming project, I'll be starring in a foreign film (read post before this). Remember that diversity always make any project more exciting and colorful.

Friday, February 11, 2011

My first "Hollywood" movie, with my name to the credit. Aaaa, the recognition of being international is good enough already for a humble soul like mine...(still in pre-production)

My name in the credit for a movie
IMPORTANT NOTE: The name of the movie which I'm credited is THE LODGER (still in pre-production). The reason why I added this is so other people reading this don't mistaken me for their film instead.

Why movie credits are important to an artiste?
Movie credits are a great way to give an artiste his/her recognition in the industry. It's a way to show that your work is appreciated and valued. Not only actors, but people behind-the-scenes matter just as much. The reason actors are usually first billed in the closing credits of any movie you watched is because they are considered the face, due to their visibility on the finished work - that is the movie. An international movie is altogether a much elevated experience, say compared to a local film because a Hollywood movie is being distributed around the world. Their audience base is so, so much bigger, raking in millions (some even nearing a billion) of box-office receipt. Depending on the type of movie, some are very much a director's brand-driven movie, hence the credit of the film director would appear first. Looking at my name featured in the credit among the other international actors is simply amazing. One of the actors was in a recent Hollywood blockbuster action movie! Others from a strong theater background.

Why do you go abroad for work, instead of local?
A lot of people may wonder why I decided to pursue my acting career abroad, instead of local. The reason is very simple: I go where the work takes me. Someone once said that an actor is like a traveller. He will have no permanent home, friends or families. A work offered, no matter how small or big, is still work (provided the money is respectable). There's money involved, and I as an actor have to respect that. And it's not easy to get noticed like that and being offered a role, no matter the size for a Hollywood movie especially. If I'm a good actor, I need to expand my portfolio abroad. Somebody did asked "But why?". Then I answered very simply, "Because I can" Sometimes an actor has to be realistic too. Earning a living through your work is very important. If your home country has no job to offer (or if they do offer but it's peanuts), then one has to go where there is work. An actor has to eat too, right? Starring in one international (Asian region, at least) commercial does not make an actor's living.

Bags all bought and packed
An appreciation and gratefulness for this short life
I cannot reveal too much about the movie yet, for it is still in production. But I have already bought my bag, shown here in the picture. Hopefully the negotiations come through amicably. Like what I always believe, it is always good to share your knowledge. An actor like myself seek only to accumulate experience. What is life but an appreciation of good acting experience with directors and producers who trust in your ability? 100 years from now, none of us will be around, and what do we leave behind? For me, I wish to leave my experience, a legacy through my writings here. My humble little footsteps of notes and jottings of how I feel and view this acting world, in this journey we metaphorically call life. Extraordinary? Hopefully. Exciting? Always. I am simply thankful that my name is out there in the world, and people respect me to offer me a role with the right amount of compensation that I can be happy to accept.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

The second tool an artiste needs: a good travel bag. An analysis of what constitutes the best luggage for you.

An artiste sometimes have to be like an air steward. Working round the clock. Sleep at uncertain times. Travel around the world, or for local artistes, travel between states. The spirit of travelling is once again bidding me, for I received an offer to travel abroad for a movie shoot. I cannot reveal too much about the movie, for it is still in production, but God willing, I will show you pictures to you all soon. Here's some interesting tips I can share to all aspiring artistes, the second tool you need (the first being a diary) and it is the travel bag.

Before you buy a travel bag, think of WHAT to bring
Enough of the normal duffel bag, where you have to carry around your shoulders. Nowadays, I see a lot of my air steward friends using the roller luggage with 2-wheels. Before I go to my trip abroad, the first thing I need to assess is WHAT to bring. For an artiste, it is best to ascertain how many days of shoot you will be doing. Sometimes you may not even have a definite schedule yet, but need to plan ahead. So the best assumption is to pack for 1 week. Clean underwear, check. Also be aware of the country you'll be travelling to. Like my trip, the weather there now is freezing cold, so a few extra sweaters is good. If the film production is providing you the wardrobe, then the hassle of packing extra clothing is not your responsibility. To save space, roll all your clothes like in a sausage-shape where possible.

Determining the type of travel bag
So off I went to the various shopping centres for travel bags. At first I was captivated by the colourful bags on display KLCC Isetan, for it was on sale. The bags can be divided either hard cover or soft cover. Since I have decided early on the pack very light, I've learned that the ideal size for a bag to be taken into the cabin with you is 20cm. I prefer to take my luggage with me because then I will not have to wait at the terminal for my bag and save time. Then there was the handle which I liked, so I can carry with me while I walk. The duffel bag where I carry with your hands can be tiring. So another wonderful feature I like is also the backpack with the shoulder straps which can prove useful in certain roads where rolling your bag is not possible. ( I read in certain part of East European cities, the roads are so uneven and bumpy)

Shortlisting the travel bag in terms of size and features
For a travel bag of my type, I believe the exterior needs to be sturdy enough with wheels and handle that is easy to pull up to roll. I went to another shopping mall, and discovered a pleasant choice of travel bag with all the features I have in mind. But the problem is, they are all sold out with only the display unit for sale! But again, its good for me to simply just place the top 3 travel bags together and for me to determine further which I would like.

All the bells and whistles - good and bad
Firstly I look at the wheels. The inverted wheels with an iron centre looks much more steadier compared to a plastic wheel that seems to be very standard these days. Then, there is the wedge in the front bottom part of the bag, which is the support to level the bag when rested onto the ground. The inside of the bag is also important. Bags with many compartments can be good and bad, depending what you may bring along with you in the trip. Be aware of the zippers too. Some travel bags have only a single zipper per compartment, which is not advisable, if you cannot ledge a padlock. But a bag with too many zippers can prove to be troublesome too, for you may get confused of the keys you need to keep the locks. So choose a travel bag according to your most basic needs. Do not carry too many stuff with you, only the essentials. Don't bring shampoos or other cosmetics where you can buy in the country you're visiting. Saving space is key for travelling in comfort and at ease.