March 06, 2004

1st of 2 Parts

I'm freakin' back! :) I just got back last Sunday from a one-week out-of-the-country shoot and I freakin' survived! Aaaaaaah! Thank you Jesus!!! It was definitely one hell of a shoot. Man, it was topsy-turvy! I was ecstatic that I was able to go to these amazing countries (Singapore, Malaysia, and Thailand) for the first time. But you know what, we didn't go there for vacation. We went there for work. And when you're understaffed, overworked and working for a limited amount of time in foreign conditions, chances are conflicts and troubles will definitely arise. (Cue in Survivor theme). And I wasn't spared from these being the assistant director and script continuity for that shoot. Whew!

Saturday, February 21
I went to the airport slightly not feeling well. No, it wasn't a case of anxiety attack (like what one of our lead actors felt when she almost had the shoot packed up) but really more of a feeling of not having much energy. It was probably because I was just bumming around the house the week prior. (We had no shoot because of script revisions.)

Since we had excess, and I mean excess baggage (camera and stuff), we were the last to let in. We actually caused the flight's delay, would you believe?!? When the pilot apologized to the passengers pointing out the excess baggage as the main reason behind the delay, I couldn't help but smile to myself.

The flight was pretty much uneventful. I slept through the film showing of "Intolerable Cruelty". Three hours after, we arrived at Singapore's Changi Airport. Our PA Grace stated the obvious that we're already in a foreign land when she said something like, "we're seem to be in a subtitled movie." And she was right - with people everywhere speaking in different accents and languages.

After the tour guide briefed us about Singapore, we proceeded to check in our hotel, ate at a Chinese "carinderia" nearby, and then went to bed early to prepare for the following day's shoot. (Well, at least I did, since I eventually found out the others went to Clarke Quay, Singapore's version of Libis, and gimmicked.)

Sunday, February 22
Aaaaah! The first day of shoot! My nerves were killing me. The producers are shelling millions for this, there's no excuse to screw up. I was so tensed.

Direk, our DOP and another crewmember left early to shoot the establishing scenes of Singapore. The rest of us would proceed to The Harbourfront to check in our pieces of luggage for the cruise ship. (We would shoot the cabin room scenes after.) We got at the pier way too early so our EP sent our actors to the nearby mall to relax first. Unfortunately for Grace and me, the rest of the staff followed. And when Direk arrived to shoot the establishing shots of the cruise ship, the remaining crew also went with him. It ended with me, Grace and our EP carrying ALL the heavy pieces of luggage and unused camera equipment to the Check-In Area. Our EP was obviously fuming mad for the lack of help by other staff and crew but I kept my cool. I was also frustrated and tired, yes, but I didn't think having an outburst would alleviate the situation. In my mind, I was just hoping the others would notice the work that we did (this is foreshadowing) and you know, do my work as quietly as possible. In shoots like this, there's no time for drama. Or so I thought.

Monday, February 23
This was definitely the hardest day for us as we had to shoot multiple sequences over a 5-hour stop in Langkawi, Malaysia. We started the day having a hard time controlling the crowd. It seemed that aside from the many Filipinos who were part of the liner’s staff and crew, there were also several Filipino passengers onboard. We also got the surprise of our lives when we found out that one of our actors has fans from Brunei, Singapore and Malaysia, thanks to her soap opera being shown and very popular in those countries. And all of them, as in all of them, want to have their pics taken with our actors!

The next blow came when our transpo coordinator had a miscommunication with our EP. The transpo waited downtown instead of fetching us in the pier. And when they arrived, we soon found out that we couldn’t bring packed lunch to our first location – the cable car station. We were so freakin’ hungry but we had no choice but to shoot since time’s running out. What more, we had to ride the cable cars whose final destination’s so high, it drained all my energy. What can you expect, me having phobia in almost everything. (It was an experience, to be fair.)

By the time we went to our next location (The Anna and The King movie set), we were all exhausted, hungry, thirsty, and tensed. (I was all those, most certainly.) And claws definitely came out from some staff and crew because of the situation. Having watched Survivor a hundred times, I remained to play under the radar. (Stay away from the drama Teddy, stay away from the drama!) Finally, and thank God, we were able to eat lunch after that shoot. (Some "chili" pansit).

We went to The Viewpoint next (just near the Pier) where again, I had difficult time controlling the crowds. Argh! (“No! Don’t Look! Camera, don’t look!” “No flashes! No camera flashes!” “Don’t look, actors! Actors, no!”) :) Nevertheless, we were able to shoot all of our Langkawi scenes in the day (even if there’s a minor blooper involving one of the actor’s parent being left by the bus in The Viewpoint). LOL!

The biggest blow on my part came dinnertime. I thought I was doing well. Not ruffling feathers and everything. I was obviously mistaken. My under the radar strategy didn’t work. I was noticed. Our DOP (who’s of the same age as me, but verrrry rich) approached me and told me what Direk told him about me. He said that Direk’s drained just by looking at my forever stressed face. He also said that there’s something wrong with the way I command (I forgot to ask him to expound). And then he also said that sometimes I’m just standing on the set doing nothing. I would like to protest on that last one but I controlled my emotions. Foremost, being a first timer that he is, he probably didn’t understand that I was not only working as assistant director in that trip, I was also the script continuity and doing crowd control. When he said “nakatunganga lang ako”, I was observing the actors movement and dialogue for continuity purposes so I’d rather not argue with him on that coz it’s definitely not true. Overall, it all boiled down to me always having the depressed look which drains Direk and me not stepping up a notch to play the leader role. He said those to me pointblank and I was surely taken aback. I mean, I understand about that facial expression thingy draining the energy out of Direk coz I’m the transparent kind. What you see is what you get. If I’m tired, I look tired. If I’m stressed, I look stressed. About the leader role, I’m not the EP, I’m the assistant director. I wasn’t the one who coordinated all these location stuff. Still, I put every comment in mind. The roles are clearly not delineated in this shoot so I guess I really have to step up and play some sort of a leader role. After some angst sharing with my PA Grace who was also pointed out (Man, she’s in charge of the film rolls, equipment and stuff! Just because we are silently working, doesn’t mean we’re not working. We had been working ever since we carried all the pieces of luggage in the Check-In Counter but of course they didn't notice), I put on my game face. You want me to be perky?! Okay, fine! I’ll be perky. I donned my orange jacket and plastered a smile on my face during the remaining evening shoot. I worked loudly this time (turning up my volume even if there’s no need to) because that’s what they wanted. I became so suddenly happy and energetic, I think I appeared like, I’m high on ecstasy.

Tuesday, February 24
My perkiness continued and it paid off, actually. The Phuket, Thailand shoot was just so amazing, we actually had a great time. I had a great time! I loooved the people in Phuket coz’ they find me cute. LOL! :D I stepped up the location manager role by talking to our tour guides and coordinators about the logistics. Whew! But I think my biggest achievement in that shoot was persuading some Norwegian tourists to act as extras during the Elephant Show sequence. I don’t know how the sequence will appear on screen but I just like the fact that the movie has some sort of “international” appeal because of those white tourists. Heh.

Dinnertime, Grace and DOP told me separately that Direk noticed my sudden burst of energy. Good for me. Heh.

Then came the Captain’s Ball evening shoot inside the cruise ship. It was a very challenging shoot coz we will just “steal” the shots. The problem was, the crowd went gaga upon seeing the actors. They didn’t even mind the captain who was speaking at the podium. It was crazy!!! And that's also the way to describe the shoot so far.

To be continued...

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