Posted in bloggers, Celebrities, london, Medical, Movies

A Day in The Life of a Wannabe Film Star

Lights. Camera. Action.

Yesterday I had the opportunity to work with the crew at BBC to do some test shots on a documentary that they’re planning to pitch to Netflix. The idea is to go into operating theatres around the world and follow surgeons around to give viewers some insight of what they see and go through on a daily basis. Needless to say, they needed the perspective of a subject matter expert, which I just happen to be.

The production team emailed us to say that call time was at 8am, far too early to be out of bed on a Saturday morning when you’ve been drinking the night before, but what do you do when the promise of fame awaits? My friend (another subject matter expert) and I arrived at the mock operating theatre to find it mostly empty because the crew were still figuring out how to get all their fancy expensive equipment into the building.

So, just like Robert Downey Jr probably does when he’s on the set for a Marvel Film, we said we were going to get coffee and breakfast and asked them to please give us a ring when they were ready for us. Only, unlike RDJ, we actually had to pay for our coffee and breakfast.

Around 9am we got back to the “set” and met the producers, our director, and the very intimidating director of photography. We also met the. man who designed and made the body we were going to pretend to be operating on for the day, a body that was an eerily accurate and anatomically correct replica I might add.

We got into our costumes. I say that as if this was a special moment but what it actually entailed was putting on scrub suits and caps, the same thing we do day in and day out for work. The other extras (production managers who got roped into playing some of the roles because they didn’t have the budget as yet for real actors) got a huge kick out of it though, and they were really chuffed at the thought of being part of the surgical team for the day. It came as no surprise to me when they admitted to being huge fans of Grey’s Anatomy.

Thank you Shonda Rhimes for single-handedly making our profession more attractive than it probably is.

We didn’t get a script so my friend and I sort of had to make things up as we went along. He had the starring role because I volunteered to be the nurse, so he ended up playing the surgeon. They took lots of shots of him walking in corridors, gazing at the horizon and scrubbing up. I spent a lot of time tweeting and facebooking the entire experience while I waited for my five minutes of screen time.

I imagined that was how Jeremy ‘Hawkeye’ Renner probably felt on the set of the Avengers movies, constantly waiting for them to finish capturing yet another shot of Captain America and his shield. Lol.

I have to say, from watching behind-the-scenes footage and documentaries, I already had the vague impression of the amount of hard work that goes into making any kind of tv episode or feature length film. I mean, the Game of Thrones crew subjected themselves to doing 55 night shifts just to give us the Battle of Winterfell.

Talk about dedication. I’ve done night shifts and at the end of three nights you almost start to lose your sense of self. I really could not imagine doing 55 of them. I don’t care if I get to work with Jon Snow or dragons, night shifts are brutal.

The cameramen, the grips, the lighting director and all the rest of the people who are basically in charge of making the actors look good really are the unsung heroes of the film industry. I’ve seen a small sliver of the precision and attention to detail that goes into making these things and I was very impressed. A bit annoyed that they were nitpicking over each and every shot so much that we overran by about an hour, but impressed nonetheless.

Every shot had to be perfect and stylised. It took about ten takes just to shoot a sequence of Russel washing his hands, and another ten of me dropping a scalpel into a kidney dish. They were using lingo that I didn’t really understand, talking about how the shot needs to be sharp and the camera needs to be slanted and they needed more than a thousand frames – they might as well have been talking Latin for all I knew.

There was also a bit of tension and drama. Artistic people have an artistic temperament. Also, put a bunch of perfectionists in the room and you will inevitably end up with an argument or two, but its the kind of professional bickering that leads to something productive.

I didn’t realise how drained I was until the director finally said “Cut!” on that lost shot and I realised we were done for the day. I wasn’t even really acting, just miming something I did and have done for so long now that I can probably do it in my sleep. Can you imagine having to shoot an emotional scene, (or a love scene! lol) over and over again because the lighting was wrong or the director didn’t get the angle he wanted? I don’t know how actors do it.

We packed up, said our goodbyes to the crew, and made our way to Leicester Square and ended our short-lived stint in the entertainment industry over Chinese food. We looked back on the day and laughed over the experience. It was a glimpse into a world that is beyond our reach, a taste of what life would have been like if we’d been blessed with the self-confidence and talent of a movie star.

We came to the conclusion that there was a reason why we weren’t Hollywood stars, and we had better stick to our day jobs.

So, that’s a wrap on Angela the actress, folks. Thank you BBC for the experience and good luck on the documentary!

Posted in family, Reviews

Mary Poppins Returns…and so does my childhood

My father used to keep a collection of VCDs (remember those?) that we watched as a family during christmas and summer holidays. One of the movies we had on continuous repeat was Mary Poppins, starring the delightful Julie Andrews and the often maligned Dick Van Dyke.

I grew up learning that a spoonful of sugar will help the medicine go down, and that Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious is a magical word that will help me get through anything. When I first came to London and saw the dome of St Paul’s, I remembered that little old lady on the steps of the cathedral that fed the birds, tuppence a bag.

It was such a huge part of my life, and I expect its the same for every other kid out there who grew up in the 80s and 90s. As an adult, I probably appreciate it for very different reasons, reasons that have nothing to do with the quality of the movie itself and everything to do with the memories it evokes.

You see, watching Mary Poppins (and any Disney film really) feels a little bit like getting back the joys and wonders of childhood, before cynicism and realism had time to sink their hooks into our consciousness.

I often wonder at what age it starts becoming inappropriate to dream and wish and hope. I know I often get laughed at (good-naturedly) for still getting excited over all things Disney.

I get called out a couple of times a month for having my head in the clouds, and I’ve learned to hide the (many) childish things I still get a delight out of because I’ve been told its no longer appropriate for a woman in her early 30s.

I find that really sad.

I find it really sad that we’ve put a time stamp on childhood and have somehow forced ourselves to grow up and get over the sheer happiness that comes when you still look at the world with wonder.

What’s the use of getting up every day if you no longer believe something magical might happen?

Just to be clear, I don’t expect birds to sing whenever I walk down Oxford Street or for my Prince Charming to come charging down Marylebone High Street looking for me while I’m at work. Nor do I go to St. Paul’s to feed the pigeons, because they truly are the most annoying creatures.

But I still find joy in believing in all the possibilities that life has to offer. I think that growing up is essential, but growing out of imagination and dreams is a crime.

And that’s where Mary Poppins Returns come in.

I know people’s opinions are split right down the middle. Some people loved it, some people hated it (mostly because they kept comparing it to the original). For me, I think if you go into the cinema with expectations, then you’re going into it thinking like an adult – which is the one thing you shouldn’t be when you’re watching this movie.

I think if you go into it just waiting to be amazed, if you allow yourself to be taken back to the simpler times of your childhood, you will find that this is a fantastic movie with very strong themes of love, family and keeping that sense of childhood wonder alive.

It pays tribute to the original in subtle ways that don’t detract from the fact that this is a sequel, not a reboot. The songs, while not instant classics, touched me in ways that I can’t explain, except to say that I had tears streaming down my face at several moments during the movie.

It was like taking a trip back in time to the room my brother and sister and I shared with our parents, in a small town in the Philippines, and hearing Feed The Birds for the first time. With a little imagination, I’m right there with Papa and Mama, singing along to the songs I’ve always loved best.

Sometimes I lose my point when I get so into the topic I’m writing about, but somehow I always manage to find my way back to it. I wasn’t really intending to write a review about the movie. My only review is this: I LOVED IT.

Last week, my orthopaedic boss was telling me a story about his wife and how she wrote a strongly-worded email to their son’s teacher. This teacher somehow took it upon herself to tell the children in her class that Santa Claus doesn’t exist. He’s not real. Grow up and get over it.

I’m not a parent but I am outraged on their behalf. 

No one has the right to shatter a child’s precious illusions. They will find out how harsh the reality of the world really is in due time, we shouldn’t deprive them of the chance to be children for just a little while longer.

I think that this is ultimately my point, and the point of this blog.

Every once in a while we should remember what it felt like to be children.

I know that a return to childhood is difficult, if not impossible. But I think that it is possible to keep the simple joys and beliefs we all felt as children, to still allow ourselves to dream and wonder even as adults. Its possible.

As Mary Poppins said, anything is possible, even the impossible.

Posted in bloggers, family

Thank You For The Music

My sister and I went to watch Mamma Mia 2: Here We Go Again over the weekend and while I don’t usually do movie reviews, I can’t help but feel obligated to write a blog about how watching this film made me feel.

mm2poster

You see, I grew up listening to ABBA. My cousin recently tweeted that she is of the opinion that ABBA has a song for everything, and I absolutely agree. Apart from maybe Taylor Swift, I can’t think of any other artist/s whose music instantly transports me back to a time of my life that, for lack of a better description, feels like its perpetually in hazy sepia.

ABBA always makes me feel nostalgic for a much more simpler time when I used to spend summers with my family in the province. For two whole months in April and May, I lived in a place where time almost seemed to stop. Technology was minimal, at the time I don’t think we even had a mobile network up and running, and we had to find a way to entertain ourselves during those hot summer nights.

It was a time before Facebook, Instagram and Twitter when you actually get to have conversations with people. We would ride on cars and motorcycles and go to the beach, have barbecues and do karaoke, laugh with friends and flirt with boys that our fathers would not necessarily approve of. 

Our family used to own an old Mitsubishi L200 that only took cassette tapes, and for some reason the only tape we used to have for those summer road trips was an ABBA Gold Album, a favourite of my dad, my grandfather, and uncles.

I can still remember singing Chiquitita and Fernando while feeling the breeze in my hair as we drove with the windows down (because the other thing that L200 did not have was a working air conditioner).

When summer ended, we would ride that beat-up L200 to the port where the ship would take us back to the city, and back to reality. I would always play “Dance (While The Music Still Goes On)” while trying to hide my tears from my parents and my siblings (I’ve always been careful to hide how emotional leaving the province made me feel from my family, I don’t know why).

Hearing that song still makes me think of those long ago summers (and those long ago summer loves). 

In 2008, when the first Mamma Mia film came out, I had just graduated from university and was waiting for a job application to come through. It was a point in my life where I was at the cusp of adulthood, but felt like clinging to my childhood for just a little while longer.

The future was uncertain, I had no clue where I would eventually end up and how my life would turn out. To say I was at loose ends would be a massive understatement.

In the middle of all that, this utterly glorious, shamelessly sentimental and wonderfully senseless film came out. My family being a generation of ABBA fans, we all piled into one car and went to the cinema to watch it together. Uncle, aunts, cousins, parents, brother and sister,  it was the only time I could ever remember us all watching a film together. ABBA did that.

So yes, I am pre-disposed to love ABBA. I am unashamed to say I know the words to most of the songs and I would listen to it every now and again when I feel like reminiscing. I know its not cool, but what the heck. I don’t think there’s such a thing as being too cool for ABBA. I defy anyone to not sing along whenever someone plays Dancing Queen.

I read the review for Mamma Mia 2 and I feel like the critics mostly agree with me. We are at a point in our lives when we all need a little of the optimism that ABBA’s music can give us.  While at the cinema, people were laughing, singing along and just generally having a good time.  I don’t think there was a dry eye in the house when the movie ultimately reached its climactic and emotional ending.

The truth is, you just have to put aside the question of taste and accept the movie and ABBA for what it is: unabashed sentimentality and the need to just feel good about life in general. If only for that, this band deserves our unequivocal appreciation.

So as a girl who grew up listening to these well-known songs, thank you ABBA, thank you for the music. 

Posted in Movies, relationships, Self-Discovery, Young Adult

Flashback Friday: Now and Then (the movie)

Today, I actually woke up hours ahead of my alarm and decided I wanted to watch an old movie before I have to haul my ass to work. Something comforting, something that will take me back to my childhood and to remember that feeling of innocence and wonder, that feeling that the world is full of promises and you have your whole life ahead of you. (Jeez, sometimes I think and talk like I’m approaching middle age! This turning 30 thing is really getting to me. Moving. On.)

So I decided to watch Now and Then. Back then, it was my go-to movie when I needed a boost. In those days before Netflix, one actually had to go to an honest-to-goodness video store to rent a movie. They even had them on those plastic case thingies with the movie poster on the front and the synopsis at the back. The movies were in VHS format and back then that was THE height of technology.

For most of the year, I went to school in the city. I was raised by my aunts and uncles because my parents had to stay in the country most of the time to run our business. They alternated months to come visit myself and my siblings. It was a rare privilege to have them both over and I can count on both hands the number of times they’ve done so when I was growing up, weddings and graduation ceremonies mostly. Not even for our birthdays – mum usually came to that one. 

It sounds sadder than it was but it actually never bothered me that much, at least when I was younger. Do I wish I had more time with them? Sure. But I guess that sense of obligation and responsibility was instilled in me early on, and I always knew at the back of my head that without their sacrifice I wouldn’t have all the privileges I was enjoying: going to a good school, having everything I needed and most of what I wanted. I wouldn’t have had the opportunities that I had if it weren’t for that arrangement. 

Together in London, our first family trip. 🙂
So even as my brother and sister bawled their eyes out every time one of them had to leave, I tried to keep a stiff upper lip and put on a strong front. I did all of my crying in the toilet after, in private.

The point of all that backstory is to illustrate just how glorious and how hotly-anticipated summer vacations were to me between the ages of 10 to 15. Mostly because it was the only time my entire family could be together in one setting for an extended period of time. Back then, I was young enough to be excited over staying in the country. I used to like the fact that I’d be staying in a small town where everyone knew everyone else’s business, where simple pleasures were appreciated because there was nothing else to do, where the ocean was literally on our backyard (we had a seawall built to keep it away). Maybe because we were apart for most of the year, my parents – mum especially – tried to spoil us for those two months. We get to request what we wanted for lunch and dinner so she could cook each of our favourite dishes. We mostly get to do what we want – my brother could go hours and hours on the Playstation and no one would bat an eyelash.
Of course there were drawbacks. The place was a province and back then there were no phone lines built in town, let alone cellular services. The Internet was some futuristic invention and nobody could even dare imagine that someday we’ll have something like 4G. In a way that was a good thing, people actually had real face to face conversations instead of status updates on Facebook. Electricity was a fickle thing, and because it was a coastal town we were so frequently visited by typhoons even during the summer. My family had a generator at the back of the house so that we could still have some light during those extended days of rain and blackouts. We couldn’t keep it running for 24 hours though, so there was nothing we could do about the nights. 

So it wasn’t perfect, but we were all together. And watching films is one my family’s favourite things to do so my dad would encourage us to go to the video store and rent the movies that we liked and we’d take turns picking a movie to watch. He always looked so dismayed when I came back week after week with Now and Then in hand. He could not understand why I was so fixated on the story of four girls growing up in a small town in Indiana. 

Its set a time when they were no longer children but they’re not quite teenagers either. Everything is new, every experience is delicious. You start keeping secrets from your friends, especially when it comes to boys, because no one wants to be the first to admit that the enemy has suddenly become incredibly attractive. Its a story about enduring friendships and how important it is to have something constant to cling to when everything just seems to be changing.

All of my little adolescent crushes and youthful romances happened during that summer. I have to say, most of the time I was caught up in my imagination of what could be; nothing really happened between me and the guys I liked except for a few flirty conversations, a dozen secret smiles and a thousand longing looks. Everyone was scared of my dad, as he was one of the more well-known businessmen in town and had a reputation for being – well, not as friendly. Stand-offish. Strictly speaking, I wasn’t really allowed to interact with the locals. But my cousin was, and we used to ride around in a ladies’ scooter, cruising through the spots in town where the guys we liked were gathered just to see and be seen. I used to get so giddy during those moments and I’d come home with windswept hair, a slightly guilty demeanour and a secret happy smile.
I started writing a diary and pouring out all my teenage emotions and sweet little encounters. My God, i could fill pages and pages back then. I was blogging before I even knew what blogging was. I must have at least 10 volumes starting from the age of 9. I still re-read them sometimes, they give me a laugh. Its nice to remember that there was ever a time where my most pressing problem was how to catch a glimpse of the cute guy next door. 

Watching Now and Then brings back the memories of all those summers, before I was old enough for cynicism to set in, before I became a bit selfish and unappreciative of the simple pleasures of life in a small town. Before i grew up and moved on to wanting more complex things. Its nice to remind ourselves once in a while that we don’t have to make life so complicated, that the secret to happiness probably lies in keeping things simple. Let’s all take a trip down memory lane with Christina Ricci and the rest of the girls.

P.S. i was gutted to hear that the actress who played the young Chrissy died of drug overdose. Rest in peace. 😢