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?


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。



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


“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。”


“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。“

17 responses to “Actor vs Director/演员vs导演

  1. Local shows are not as bad, there are some heartwarming stories at times. There are some show that lack of originality, hope there are more creative talents to raise our media corp name =)

  2. It is important that we are able to weave these tapestries becoz it also forms a part of the memory of the whole. In each show is a time capsule of an era gone by, a generation that’s passed in this our home.

    The problem is the local media industry has become more of a commercial tool that churns out show after show with no unique thumbprint, no heart and no soul. Did Samsui Woman “sell” a product? Was it a marketing tool? Was it preachy? No. It told the story with a heartbeat and a unique voice of it’s own. Samsui women are a unique part of our culture but their tale of toil and overcoming hardship is universal.

    Likewise we need to give voice to our story as Singaporeans but embrace universal themes in our shows. We need to care more about the soul of the story more so than just making it a commercial entity. There must be a balance struck btw the commercial aspect and the story aspect of the show.

    And we need to respect that the audience is a thinking audience that has evolved in their idea of what makes a gd story. Globalization has matured our audience n exposed them to better story lines, better shot/ directed shows.

    Sure. Aunties n uncles are still watching some Local TV but the lure of Korean dramas n Hollywood series is strong. And we are losing generations of Singaporeans to cable networks.

    We need to think beyond SG into creating an impact overseas… Like the Jap wave n Korean wave.

    We need to tell stories that are rich with Singaporean culture but that have universal themes that are far reaching beyond our shores. MCYS preachy dramas, & half hearted writing aren’t going to take us into the next lap.

  3. Supporter of S'pore movies

    It’s not just that people are losing interest in local content, it’s also the losing of interest when there is too much imports of FT (the thing that make us disconnecting). It is a worrying phenomenon because it impacts yours and that of the local artiste’s job. Right now there are lesser local content that helps shape our media scene which is suppose to be something unique to us and about us. We the audience also wish that mediacorp could produce original local production and helps puts more of our original local artiste and our country on the global stage as well and to allows us to bask in collective pride. Perhaps, a Singapore wave?

  4. I beg to differ with some of the points raised.

    Director may decide on many things but he has to adjust his wants based on resources he has. One of the problem i could raised is the acting skills of local actors and actresses. I could name many who seem to capable of giving only a few form of expression, regardless of the emotions to be displayed. With such skills, i doubt any director has the luxury to ask for too many re-takes. If one cannot ask for perfection, one has to settle for the best the actor or actress could offer.

    In my humble opinion, success come slower for many then and during the process, gained humility and experience. Nowadays, it seems that fame comes too quickly and many think too highly of themselves, which may suggest that many may not humbly accept pointers from others.

    Having said the above, i am glad that you are one of the few actors/actress that i think can portray the character well.

    I look forward to your shows and i am exceptionally excited about the one you will be doing with Rui En!

  5. I think its quite gutsy of you to post this. Yes, I think many people feel the quality of local shows are not up to par, to say the least. And I agree- I think the director makes all the difference. Whenever I talk to my mom or my aunts they mention that when Mediacrop flew over directors from HK in the past, the quality of shows were much better. I still remember alot of old favourites- Condor Heroes, Do fu Street, The drunken monk guy (can’t remember the actual title), and many more. There were a couple of good shows when two entertainment companies existed too I remember. I guess part of the problem is that Mediacorp has no one to compete with, so it can rest on its laurels, so to speak.

  6. In my opinion, as a uncle of 40, I feel that I still have a nostalgia for watching many local TV productions of the past, in the 80s, 90, etc… As I re-watched a few of the shows recently, I feel in today society of Singapore, our culture as a whole is not as homogenous as in the past where we understood and felt appreciated the way shows were made.

    Now with the cable network, internet and the changing demographic of Singapore, people are exposed to diversity of productions from all parts of the world. So, the competitions and comparisons are greater. Criticisms and comments will be so as well. If we are to follow the Jap, Korea, Hollywood waves, we will lose the entire Singapore or Nanyang favour. Like the Little Nonya, Samsui Women, Pirates in Nanyang(80s), Awakening, etc have strong Nanyang favour which are unique to Singapore and Malaya. Thus, our history is a good research base to get the uniqueness in our productions though our history is not very long, lah.

    If we are to follow the show classics, again we will be side lined due to originality. So, we should have a local Nanyang favour productions, so that our identity in Singapore is not forgotten or be lost. That’s will be terrible.

    Last but not least, I am in some way agree with the quote “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 f**ked. You have to do something that you believe in and that you like.” — Matt Damon.


  7. No ah, I think that local productions are quite good lei.

  8. if u are not working for mediacorp, would u, in all honesty, watch local shows on ch 5 or 8?

    sometimes the plot gets so bad and characters so cheesy i just wonder “seriously?? do the directors/script writers think so lowly of us viewers that this is all we can appreciate and is worthy of???” it baffles me.

    it’s not difficult to understand why people are losing (actually i think they have lost it) interest in local productions. viewers are simply expecting more than cheap plots and cheesy characters.

    • Hi Y,

      Appreciate your honesty, I am planning on writing another entry though, about what viewers want but got to do a bit more homework.
      Share with me your thoughts though!

  9. go watch this video…

    smile and spread the smile~ =)

  10. In all honesty, I strongly believe Singapore has great talent and room to improve in the local showbiz.

    Look at the good ol’ Singapore drama 出路 that tugged the heartstrings of locals; this example I cite stood out from many other local drama shows because it contained a Singapore essence and flavour, something many local dramas do not contain nowadays. Another example is Fighting Spiders. It is this that causes me to frown at the common and contemporary drama serial of a typical family with grown-up children having their lives revolved around work, getting caught up in drama to the extent they almost always get an affair, etc etc- which makes modern Chinese drama serials so predictable and not worth watching. As far as I know, people (around me) agree too. We used to rush home to catch the 7pm and 9pm Chinese drama serials, dinner plates in front of the television. However, now we would rather use the computer instead.

    That being said, I hope for more directors who will create storylines that contain the local flavour. Thank you very much.

    • Hi Wenn,

      Something to think about.
      While storylines that are set in the era of 出路 and Fighting Spiders are nostalgic and heart-warming, I do feel that we can’t always rely on that backdrop to create moving dramas.

      Singapore has progressed a lot since then and just because dramas are not set in those times doesn’t necessarily mean they don’t contain local flavour. Our nation in this time has new problems to deal with, our landscape has changed and our people are facing a whole new set of challenges. How do we successfully capture this current time and age in our dramas is what we should be focusing on. Forget about trying to stir nostalgia. I think TV shows are like the photo album of a nation. Look at the 80s and all those familiar dramas that come to mind like 《雾锁南洋》 and 《红头巾》. For anyone not born in that period, they can still get an idea what our country was like then.

      But imagine 10-20 years from now, when our children look back at this time, it would seem like we never moved forward if all we have are nostalgic dramas to show.

  11. hi joanne

    great job on activists journey, first of all. it’s pertinent, current and important though i feel that we could have started from home to look at the activists in our own backyard first before we travelled overseas. Some of the social activists in Singapore do great work which should have have been highlighted. Might be too political, i guess.

    anyways, as someone who;s been in the media profession for the last 15 years (i head up a cable channel) and an avid tv viewer, i see the development of channel 8 dramas as a sad state of affairs. Sure, there are some hits, but definitely far and fewer than in the golden age of the late 80s and early to mid 90s.

    the last really good TV serial i saw in recent years was actually the Christopher Lee drama “You Fu” about 5 years ago.

    what tv serials lack these days are compelling scripts, interesting characterization and good storytelling. scriptwriters today seem to be talking to kids rather than to a cross section of the population. every character has the same speech pattern, every parent character speaks to their children like they were mentally slow, there is no variation on tone, no difference in how the rich and poor speak and every character’s dialogue can be forecasted before they deliver them.

    characterization is lacking, because you’re either good or bad. there is no real grey characters in the serials. the naggy, penny pinching housewife, the goody two shoes lead female character, the hen pecked husband, the money grabbing materialistic supporting female character, etc. these are stereotypes, rather than flesh and blood characters.

    storylines are predictable, sets look cheap, packaging looks tacky. if you look at the recent serial, The Score, you could really see how low the drama department has sunk to.. I really pity the hard working actors and actresses who had to be a part of the serial. I pity Xiang Yun and Huang Wen Yong, who waited so long for lead roles to be laden with such a crappy production. The mansion looks like a pretty decrepit wooden set. Even if you spent hundreds of thousands on the props, the set still looked quite sad looking.

    What we need to do is to invest in talent, invest in training and invest in development. Invest in scriptwriting classes, acting classes and technology. Learn from the best and from the worst. Go out and expose yourselves to how people speak. Observe how rich people live, if you are doing a melodrama on the rich. If you are doing a serial on detectives, go see what the CID office looks like. A detective wont be able to bring all the corporate portfolio shots of their suspects home to put on a flip chart in her bedroom for goodness sakes!

    You are right. it’s not about doing period serials like Samsui Women and The Awakening that will advance the industry. It’s about doing stories and having characters that resonate and audiences can identify with. Do you remember Pickpockets in the 80s with Ye Sumei as a retarded girl abused by her pick pocket family? Do you remember serials about firefighters, traffic police, ITE (VITB then) students, artists, xinyao singers, teenage dillinquents, etc? It’s the pulse of a nation captured on TV and winning the hearts of viewers.

    Today, prodcers are more concerned with which of their shows can get sponsors, who to groom and what positive messages they can convey from the government’s blueprint of must do’s.

    Lets branch out. Lets get novelists to write stories for us. Lets get the inputs of playwrights, stage directors, journalists and industry leaders. do focus groups, test new shows, get a panel (not the MDA assigned panel) to give their feedback. We need to progress.

    It’s a passionate topic with many people, and many people would probably love to contribute to this. Lets get them involved.

    I definitely have much more to say, but i got a TV channel to run….later! 🙂

    • Hi Leslie71,

      I’m flattered that you spent some time to share your views. I do agree with the characterisation bit, but from what I read so far on scriptwriting, it takes a writer who has acute observation to transfer what you see and hear in everyday life onto paper.
      For instance, I watched “When Hainan Meets Teochew” at Arts House last weekend, and I thought to myself, this is how Singaporeans speak, there’s English mixed with Mandarin, the occasional dialect, and syntax error in speech! But that is so real and so natural! I do wonder though, if we move that to our television screens every night, would that be a bad influence to the children? That they might think oh, if my favourite actor/actress can speak like that, it’s ok for me to speak like that too.

      What are your thoughts?


  12. I think it’s great that you think about this issue as an artiste. I think it shows that you do care about how people see the productions churned out by the company you belong to, whether or not you are in them.

    I think Mediacorp could do better with investing time and effort in uncovering and growing writing talent even as the company is bringing in more artistes. In fact, looking at the state of things, the former is ever more important before we lose more audiences.

    If you look at the equation:
    Better scripts + Beautiful faces + Good acting=More/Better audience=Stronger command of ad-dollar.

    Of the 3 basic ingredients, Mediacorp is anorexic on the 1st, a tad overweight on the 2nd and—without support of the 1st ingredient— fast losing credibility on the 3rd.

    Of the 3, I think “better scripts” should be of a heavier weighting.
    With that, you retain more and get “better” audiences (i.e. folks who want to be respected as a thinking-viewer and who want to watch non-cheesy, real thought-provoking/emotion-inducing dramas. Incidentally, most of these people fall into categories that many advertisers want but local TV is currently incapable of delivering ) .

    And frankly, I think “better scripts” would retain good artistes as well.
    Place yourself in some roles of the most recent productions and it’s not that difficult to wonder why some people leave (Maybe not all leave because of that but then again, I bet few artistes would stand up to say they love the lines they have to say in their job)

    So it’s really not that hard to figure out?
    If you can’t find good scriptwriters, grow them organically. Look hard at theatre? Look within Mediacorp’s artistes (maybe we have Clint Eastwoods amongst the actors)? Train current scriptwriters? Do events/contests to get the public/specific audience segments to contribute ideas?

    Or if we can’t find/ grow scriptwriters, let’s move some money for bringing in/up artistes to buying good scripts from overseas?

    Local drama may not have lost yet but unless there’s action taken to address the imbalance of emphasis on the 3 ingredients, it’s not that far off from becoming irrelevant.

  13. iThug on the Loose

    Hi Jo,

    Personally, I think the importance of promoting our local culture transcends the issue of national pride; it cuts right to the heart of our identity as Singaporeans, which I strongly believe is continuously under attack.

    We are a small nation. And young. And hence, incredibly vulnerable.

    Nature abhors a vacuum; and in the absence of local fare that excites and captivates the general populace, we run the risk of being overwhelmed by foreign popular culture, be the source of said culture, Hollywood or South Korea.

    It may seem like a small thing… but think about it this way: Embedded within most popular media vectors are often the ideals, opinions, and beliefs of the original source. These inevitably comprise a hidden agenda that may be aggressivly promoted to influence the receiver. For example, by continually portraying a certain group as evil and depraved, a nation with a strong popular culture machine (TV, Movies, Music) may push the idea that it can justifiably occupy the high Moral Ground in its expansionist foreign policy, even when said policy includes armed invasion.

    Sound like a country we all know, doesn’t it now everyone?

    How many of us look favourably upon that country, and view its Military Machine as the rightful Global Sheriff?

    Sobering isn’t it?

    To conclude, if we are entirely subsumed by foreign popular culture, then I fear we may end up the brainwashed pawns of those who have mastered the Art of Propaganda. That’s why I think we need to beef up our local TV- and movie-making capabilities; to act as a healthy counterbalance to the insidious influence of other nations.

    iThug out

  14. wow….this forum is turning out to be such a great intellectual discussion! fantastic!

    joanne, with regards to your question on the speech patterns of characters in series, unfortunately, singapore is bogged down by too many rules and regulations about use of language in the media that it’s getting a little bit stiffling.

    have you watched Tayong Dalawa (The Two Of Us) on Channel 5? It’s a Filipino series about two feuding families (one rich and the other poor). The speech patterns, use of words and delivery are entirely different. The rich speak with a mixture of both tagalog and english while the poor struggle with communicating with the rich when using english…very well done and natural. i wish Channel 5’s serials adopted this approach. Janice Koh would be a lot more natural as the kampong housewife in Fighting Spiders then. But they are definitely on the way to improving. Much more than Channel 8.

    I work for a kids channel, so i do share your concerns about influences on kids with regards to language. i also believe that you can do proper colloquial sounding Mandarin without bastardizing it. if you watch disney channel’s upin and ipin (a made in Malaysia animated series set in a kampong, originally produced in Malay language) in mandarin, you;ll know what i mean. it’s done naturally without resorting to dumbing down the language.

    one of the better channel 8 serials, made in singapore (with liping and wenyong) a couple of years ago was great in the sense that it reflected quite well, the pathos of the lower income, while not resorting to dialect or incorrect/improper mandarin.

    i am just asking for a more accurate reflection of how people speak in singapore. it can be done. just need the writers to observe and adapt.

    the bigger challenge is really coming up with more compelling stories and interesting characterization beyond the stereotypes. Watching Mrs PI last month, i cringed when i saw Zhenghuan getting stabbed towards the last couple of episodes. Havent we seen this plotline in so many many Mediacorp dramas in the last decade? I remember it happened to Hanwei in that serial about HIV Aids as well.

    In Breakout, I cringe at the bad bad dialogue spoken by Guo Liang and his kids….who speaks like that in real life?!??!?!?! and is Elvin autistic or mentally handicapped????

    more soon..


    PS: Great job on Love In A cab…it was a good effort, and a wilful indulgence on my part. fluffy, low calorie way to spend two hours in front of the tv.

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