The mark of a great actor?

Filed in Entertainment Ind.Tags: , ,

I was watching a television program and they mentioned micro-expressions. Since watching that program, I've come to realise that micro-expressions could very well be one of the significant distinguishing qualities of a great actor, especially a screen actor where everything is up close and personal. Micro-expressions are extremely small expressions, perhaps lasting one fifth of a second or even less. Consciously, we don't notice them. Unconsciously, we do and we're very much affected by them.

Most actors can reproduce expressions, some better than others, but even the best expressions may not trigger an emotional response in the viewing audience. I remember one of our teachers at Lee Strasberg commenting how tears from actors in general didn't do anything for him. Without the underlying pain, crying was simply an indicator without compelling emotion.

Actors who can reproduce the emotions of their character's situation will unconsciously reproduce the micro-expressions that come with those emotions. Those micro-expressions will then be unconsciously broadcast to the audience, making their acting captivating to watch and enabling the audience to empathise with and feel for the character.

Unfortunately, there's not a lot of emotional expression coming out of Hollywood's blockbusters today. Emotion seems to have taken a back seat to action (and the associated money-making franchises), and the English seem to be producing more emotionally sensitive movies and television programs than Hollywood. If Hollywood is not careful, a big chunk of the movie industry might just find a new home in England.

Anyway, today's point is that micro-expressions could very well be the mark of a great actor.

Finally; my first showreel

Filed in Entertainment Ind., WorkTags:

After nine months of research, selection, editing and education in Final Cut, my first showreel is finally ready. I hope you enjoy it.

Note. It's entirely in Cantonese except for two scenes in English, and one scene in Mandarin.

If you have difficulty loading and viewing the video, it's now also available on YouTube here.

Interview on RTHK 2 晨光第一線 細味歷練 2009年1月

Filed in Entertainment Ind., PressTags: , , , , ,

Last week, RTHK 2 broadcast a multi-part (Cantonese) interview in the 「細味歷練」 segment of their morning program 「晨光第一線」.

The original recording was around 40 minutes long. Alyson 侯嘉明 did an excellent job of editing and splicing to produce the five segments.

Here it is for those of you who missed it.

晨光第一線 細味歷練 2009年01月05日
晨光第一線 細味歷練 2009年01月06日
晨光第一線 細味歷練 2009年01月07日
晨光第一線 細味歷練 2009年01月08日
晨光第一線 細味歷練 2009年01月09日

Persian hurts!

Filed in General

I have slowed down somewhat for various reasons, but I'm still progressing with the five languages I set out to learn in August last year. It's not easy. My brain does tire but that's to be expected when you're trying to absorb alien pronunciations, grammar and words. There are differences in difficulty between the languages.

Hebrew has a lot of 'sh' sounds, but the grammar is very similar to English so that makes it a little easier to learn.

Japanese is going ok because I studied it for a few months many many years ago here in Hong Kong. Much of that study still exists in my brain somewhere and that makes learning Japanese now easier.

I tried to learn Spanish while I was in Durango last year. Unfortunately, I didn't have Pimsleur Spanish course material with me at the time so progress was difficult but combined with actually being with Spanish-speaking people did lay down some groundwork for when I began to learn it again with Pimsleur many months later. I was learning from Living Language, which like so many other retail language course institutions simply includes a list of new vocabulary and a 'dead' conversation with each chapter, and puts everything on CD to give it more appeal. The Pimsleur courses are very different. Each lesson introduces new vocabulary but does it within the conversations that occur during the lesson. Sentences and conversations are not 'dead' because they will alter the grammar of the phrases and sentences when it's possible so that you become accustomed to the various possibilities. Word endings and other elements that change the meaning of the words are introduced and explained when necessary and at a slower pace so that you are not overloaded with information, something which normally results in scaring the student away. By design, without realising it, students learn to assemble full sentences from multiple phrase elements simply by following the lesson. The Pimsleur people really put a lot of effort into making their courses work. It's no wonder additional levels can take so long to be released.

Italian is a little difficult because I have absolutely no background in it except for a very few similarities with Spanish; feminine and masculine objects and verbs, etc.; and because Pimsleur doesn't explain everything at once, you sometimes have to accept what you're learning at the time and have faith that an explanation will eventually come. For example, the variations of the 'want' verb take a little while to get used to. As you progress through the lessons though, patterns in the way the language works become evident and you begin to fully understand the language without realising it.

They're all difficult in one way or another but the one that literally hurts my head is Persian. It is completely different to English. Both the pronunciation and the grammar are completely alien to me. Furthermore, they sometimes use phrases and words to say things that we would say completely differently in English. Persian will take a while to get used to. Unfortunately, Pimsleur has only released level 1 of Persian. When I finish this level, I'll go through it again and hopefully soon after, level 2 will be available.

Levels is the one limitation of the Pimsleur method. I tried studying Indonesian with Pimsleur (actually while I was on set in Durango) but the only course available is the 10-lesson "compact" course. You can do very little with just ten lessons. Standard Pimsleur levels contain 30 lessons. Only level one of Persian has been released (perhaps for the armed forces and U.S. corporations working in Iran?) which is fine if you want to learn enough to travel with, but not if you really want a conversation. Fortunately, two levels of Hebrew are available so I should have a decent foundation on which to build once I've completed that course. Italian, Spanish and Japanese are languages in high demand so three or four levels are available for each of these languages.

When contemplating learning additional languages from the Pimsleur library, I now check to see how many levels are available. My minimum requirement is two levels. Other languages that I'm considering include Korean, Russian and Arabic with emphasis on the word "considering".

For those people more dedicated then myself, most of the Pimsleur courses also contain reading exercises. I haven't used them yet. I'm too lazy. Maybe one day...

Oh, and one more thing. My biggest challenge in learning these languages? Rolling r's, used extensively in Spanish and Italian.

Where can you buy/sell LDs in Hong Kong?

Filed in GeneralTags: ,

I have quite a collection of LDs (LaserDiscs); over 600 of them. I'm considering letting them go although I'll keep them if I can think of a way to get my friend's 35kg professional LD player from Sydney to Hong Kong.

Does anyone know of a place that buys and sells LDs?


Our neighbour (who at one stage had over 1000 LD discs) has informed me that there's a repair service in Shatin that repairs LD players. Our Pioneer player is beyond repair because the carriage is warped, but the Sony MD-1 might still be serviceable, just not by Sony. I'll take the Sony to the repair service and with any luck have a useable LD Player very soon.

An honourable kill?

Filed in General, MiscellaneousTags: , ,

From TwinCities:

The famous Field and Stream buck won't set a world record, but the antlers of the deer downed two months ago by Bob Decker, of Eau Claire, Wis., will bear another significant honor.

Wouldn't it have been more honorable to let the buck live and watch it thrive? Where's the honour in killing an innocent non-threatening creature? I'll never understand these people...


Over at AliveNotDead, I have been informed about the deer population problems in certain states in the U.S.A. Without natural predators (bears, wolves, mountain lions), the deer population continues to increase at an inconvenient rate. Hunting is considered the only way to keep the population at a healthy level.

Even so, I would hope that a more humane method of population control could be found, or at least a painless one. Very few hunters are accurate enough to guarantee a painless kill with just one bullet or one arrow. Some people suggest that does (female deer) should be killed in preference to bucks (male deer). If we were talking about dogs or cats where one female usually gives birth to several offspring, then I'd agree, but deer rarely give birth to more than one fawn (baby deer) so killing does in preference to bucks will not make a significant difference to the deer population.

Like heavy snowfall (hello Vancouverites ;-), those of us not encumbered by the deer problem would love to see deer roaming free and cringe at the thought of killing them, while for the people living in deer territory, deer culling is a necessary part of life.