Monthly Archives: November 2010

Injecting local flavour in TV serials

Please click to enlarge the image.

It’s always easier said than done, but what do we know of the limitations faced by content providers in trying to inject local flavour into local content?

I once spoke to a certain official from a particular government organisation who said he would like to see more colour in our local dramas, especially since we are a multi-racial society, so that should be reflected in our shows. But it’s excruciatingly painful for  someone whose mother tongue is not Mandarin to memorise lines based on hanyu pinyin, and have to act and react at the same time. Also I think there could be a certain rule set by MDA that limits the percentage of alternative languages that can be spoken in Chinese drama. So unlike in American dramas where you see people of different skin colour in every setting, we don’t have a common language to unify us.

But this lack of a common language is what defines us.

In fact, I think the way Singaporeans speak is very uniquely Singapore, (but I’m not sure we are exactly very proud of that). The truth is when we speak Mandarin, we inject a bit of English here, a bit of Hokkien there, and throw in a Malay adjective once in a while, and while we don’t have terrible pronunciation, we are not Beijing-accurate either. Yet we are not encouraged to speak this way on TV, which I think could be due to a certain guideline, but then again I never asked to know for sure. I think though, that even if we are allowed to do so by our directors and executive producers, it would certainly anger some disapproving viewers who think we should be setting a good example instead of perpetuating a less-than-perfect speech pattern.

From what I see, it’s a sticky situation.

It certainly doesn’t taken one person or even a panel of decision-makers to alter the status quo of our local television content. It needs a revolution (or miracle, depending on how you want to see it) that won’t take place overnight. But I think that shouldn’t deter us from recognising the need to solve the fundamental problem that is causing  lacklustre audiences’ response.

Results don’t come if you don’t start from somewhere.

我在回复这位朋友时,认为或许可以与更多人分享我的看法。

读者认为应该多制作具有本地风味的电视剧,比如《出路》和 Channel 5 目前还在播映的 “Fighting Spiders”.

我呢,则认为,不是以那种年代当背景的电视剧,并不代表它就没有本地风味。毕竟我们的国家已经成长了许多,现在的环境,人民所面对的压力和挑战都和以前不同。那我们要怎么样把这个年代给搬上电视,制作一部脍炙人口的电视剧, 才是接下来应该关注的挑战。

我认为本地电视剧就好像是一个国家的相簿,记录着不同年代的环境,也描述了国家和人民的进步和成长。80年代的代表作有《雾锁南洋》,《红头巾》等,就算不是出生在那个年代的人,看了电视剧也能对当时的新加坡大概有个概念。可是十年、二十年后,人们想知道我们这个年代的思想和环境是如何的话,如果所观赏的都是年代剧,那我们不是好像没有前进吗?

不过说来容易,我们又对制作组所面对的限制了解多少呢?

曾经听过某个政府机构的高层说,希望在我们的电视剧里看到更多色彩,既然我们是多元宗族国家,电视剧就应该凸显这一面。可是要一个母语不是华语的演员靠拼音背台词,然后又要演戏,又要作反应,真的会要了他的命! 况且听说有某个政府条规,限制在华语电视剧里能说其他语言的比例。所以我们不象美国的电视剧,能靠一个统一的语言让不同肤色的演员在同一个环境切磋。

虽然我们少了一个共同语言,但这也是我们独特的地方。

我们大部分新加坡华人的其中一个特色,就是平时的对话里常常参杂了不同语言,发音不很差,但也不是特别标准 。(这或许不是每个人愿意接受的特征。)电视剧不鼓励这么做,应该是因为要按照条规吧,我也不清楚,也从来没有人提过可以还是不可以。但是我想就算可以,播了出去也会惹来观众的批评,认为我们应该给下一代树立好榜样。

我在此又在强调的是,要让本地制作包含着本地风味,要制作杰出的电视剧不是靠一个人的努力,或是一个条规的调整,而是整个大环境的改革。这也不是一朝一夕能发生的事。

不过如果能意识到我们必需从最基本的根源下手,那已经是一个开始。

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Actor vs Director/演员vs导演

Not too long ago, I posted an article written by a local journalist about how directors need to direct. Recently, our local productions have also been under fire for unoriginal content, incoherent plot, inaccurate facts and poor performances. So much has been said and clearly the problem is glaring at us defiantly. It’s not about to go away and leave us alone.

If people are losing interest in local content, it is a worrying phenomenon, not because it impacts my job, but because local content helps shape our media scene which is something unique to us. If it’s strong and vibrant, it helps puts our country on the global stage, and allows us to bask in collective pride; if it’s unworthy and disconnecting, we lose a common relation.

I feel strongly that something needs to be done to revive the passion but I don’t know where to start. What I do know though, is that it’s going to take a lot of people and a lot of effort.

What are your views?

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I have always admired Clint Eastwood as both an actor and director. He has the ability to transform ordinary stories into emotional journeys. He doesn’t milk moments to evoke sympathy, he doesn’t abuse close-ups to prove his actors’ suffering, he doesn’t need fancy cinematography to create mood and atmosphere. That is what makes a remarkable director.

If we put the acting chops aside and look at the production process, you will realise a lot of what we see, is the result of various decisions made by the director.

It is the director, not the actor, who decides whether any take is ok or not. It is the director and editor, not the actor, who finally piece the rushes together to tell a complete story. It is the director, not the actor, who decides what music and sound effects to put in, fading in and out at which point and to sustain for how long, that can complement an actor’s performance or create mood; It is the director, not the actor, who eventually decides out of so many takes for one particular action, which one to use; whether to cut an expression shorter; or what shots to include before and after a moment that can change the dynamics of the story. These decisions all impact the final product and performance of actors. Being a director is not easy because it comes with heavy responsibility.

While actors are important assets in a production, the role they play in the production process is very limited.

As such, what does an actor turned director like Clint Eastwood have to share in an interview in the latest issue of Men’s Journal (US)? I think much can be learnt from the maestro.

Excerpts from the interview can be found below.

我一直都很尊敬 Clint Eastwood,也很喜欢看他导的电影。因为他可以成功的让一个很平凡或很乏味的故事,在不煽情的情况下,感动观众,扣人心弦。

他不需要让他的演员大哭,不许运用大特写来表达演员的伤感,不需靠漫长的镜头来搞气氛,却还是能很清楚的表达主角的内心挣扎和痛苦, 我想这就是他身为导演的功力。

演员本身的演技是另一回事。毕竟在拍摄时,决定表现ok不ok的人是导演,不是演员;最后把原本拍摄时没有次序的画面拼凑成一个完整故事的人,是导演和剪辑师,不是演员;加入什么音乐和效果来配合演出也是导演的决定,不是演员;决定选用某个take,决定在某个表情的前后加入什么画面,要剪还是要保留也都轮不到演员。而这些选择都会影响故事的节奏和演员最后在银幕或电视上呈现出来的表演,所以可想而知,导演所要扛的责任如此重大。

演员在制作环节里所扮演的角色重要,但却非常有限。

以下是身为演员也身为导演的Clint Eastwood 和 Matt Damon在美国杂志“Men’s Journal” 里访问的语录。

Men's Journal November 2010 (US Edition)

Cover Story

“He [Damon] knows. He instinctively knows. When he directs he’s going to be great at it. Because he understands actors, and all you have to do is have some compassion for the process.” – Clint Eastwood, predicting success for Matt Damon.

“如果 Damon 当导演,他将会很棒。他的直觉敏锐。他也了解演员,所以他只需要对过程表示同情。” - Clint Eastwood 相信 Matt Damon 会成功

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“It’s easy to fall into that trap of following what’s being made now, what people like, but if you fall into that calculus, you’re already completely fucked. You have to do something that you believe in and that you like.” — Matt Damon believes that the proper use of power is the pursuit of independence.

“我们如果跟随大众的喜爱,和目前现有的作品来决定制作的方向, 我们就惨了!你必需跟着自己的直觉,自己的喜爱。” -- Matt Damon

Clint Eastwood

“Budget-conscious Eastwood — beloved of money men, crews, and actors alike because he doesn’t squander precious time, needlessly tinker with the script, or cover his artistic ass by shooting every scene from multiple angles”

“Eastwood 精打细算,非常受到台前幕后工作人员的爱慕 -因为他不浪费时间,不无谓的修改剧本,也不会为了发挥个人的创意而多余地从每个角度取镜。”

Eastwood 说:“如果你听别人的,他们都有办法说服你放弃你原本想做的事。一直都有人这么劝我,从The Man with No Name 到 Gran Torino.”

“It’s futile to follow fashion — not because fashion is contemptible, but because it’s unpredictable.”

“跟随潮流是没用的 -不是因为潮流惹人争议,而是因为根本无法预测什么会流行。”

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“Go placidly among the noise and haste.” — Morgan Freeman summing up Clint Eastwood’s philosophy. In other words: “Do your job, help others do theirs, and then relax and let what happens happen.”

“在吵杂和仓促之余,温和地前进。” -Morgan Freeman 谈 Clint Eastwood 的哲学。其实也就是说:“做好本分,帮别人做好他们的本分,然后就放轻松,让一切该发生的发生。“