well, it's about time my lazy-ass wrote about this really cool experience i had last summer. most of you know about it by now, but it's something i haven't really talked about a lot in detail. i'm sorta the shy type (really), so for me to do what i did last summer, it was definitely a huge leap. ok ok, enough with the suspense ... [drum roll please] ...
last summer, i starred in a feature-length independent film.
what? huh? jamie, an actor? yeeeeeeaah right!! i know he tries to act all the time when he bets big on the river, but we all know he's bluffing with a busted flush draw. so i repeat, "yeeeeaaah right!!"
well i kid you not, it's true. last summer, i starred in a feature-length independent film!! and i will show you proof at the end of this blog, so read on. how did this all happen, you ask?
last march, my friend sarah (who majored in theatre arts and dance in college and is currently involved in a collaborative theatre company called boxcar) received an email through the "bay area theatre bums" mailing list about a casting call for an independent film about asians. she thought it was a perfect opportunity for me to realize my "secret" acting fantasies, so she forwarded it to me.
excerpts from the email:
"This film is a comedy about dating. Four Chinese friends gather to play poker on Friday nights. After talking about their various dating experiences, they decide to try something new."
"Compensation: Unfortunately this is a very grass roots effort, so there is no pay. However, this film will be entered into various film festivals, such as Sundance, Caanes, Toronto, etc. You will also get screen credit for your efforts."
now my initial reaction was like yours, "yeeeeeeah right!!" but then i figured it couldn't hurt to at least audition. i mean ... poker? dating? chinese!! that's all me. soooooo i took the leap, and went in for an audition. and let me tell ya, it was probably the worst rendition of mike mcdermott from rounders of all time. i was HORRIBLE. ugh. but amazingly, i got a call to come in for a 2nd audition, which involved reading sides from the movie in a group setting. i was a little better this time, but far from decent, as i was still incredibly nervous. i left the 2nd and final audition pretty much resigned to the fact that i wouldn't get a part, BUT i had a great time and had no regrets. then about a week later, i get a call from dave "db" cheng, the writer/director/producer of the movie, and he tells me that i got the part for "james tan"!!
description of james tan from the casting email:
"James Tan: early to mid 20s, is thin like the typical Asian, but not overly thin. (Please note, those auditioning for this role will need to be able to speak Cantonese or fake it very well.)"
holy shit!! are you kidding me?! wow, i couldn't believe it. my auditions were terrible. how the hell did i get the part?? well according to dave, i really "looked" the part of james tan, and he said that although my auditions weren't great, he saw some "potential" and felt that i could pull it off with the help of some coaching. well hallelujah, sign me up!!
so from may through august of last year, i spent just about every weekend in santa clara working on the film. we spent the first 5 weekends rehearsing the script at santa clara university, where dave got his bachelors and is currently working on a masters. initially, i was really nervous and self-conscious, which is obviously a bad combination for acting, but i slowly started to let go. luckily, memorizing the lines came naturally to me, so i just had to concentrate on the actual acting. just. yeah.
finally it was time for the real thing. we spent about 4 weekends shooting the entire film. YES, WE SHOT AN ENTIRE 1.5 HOUR MOVIE IN 8 DAYS!! dave was really ambitious with the schedule, but he realized that with a limited budget and the difficulty of getting a film crew of 20+ to work for free, he had no choice. so we worked LONG hours but we pulled it off. i drove home every weekend from santa clara to san francisco around 2am, and i remember shooting one day from 8am til' 2am. but not once did i feel tired. i mean, this was a once-in-a-lifetime experience, so i was on a continuous high!!
we shot at various locations in the south bay area, including "fantasia" at santana row, quicksilver park in san jose, santa clara university, and the "monte carlo" club in mountain view. as mentioned in the casting email, this was a very low-budget grassroots project. dave used his own camera, and built a makeshift camera dolly and track. dave only spent money on rental fees for the lights, tapes for the camera, and food for the crew. i believe the entire movie was shot on a $1200 budget. pretty amazing.
it's been about a year since the whole venture, and my memories are still vivid and fond. the experience was very challenging and rewarding. it allowed me to conquer certain fears, and to learn a lot about myself. i also bonded with several members of the cast and crew. i guess spending every weekend together for 3-4 months will do that.
on march 11th, "so beauty" was screened at santa clara university in front of an audience of about 120 people. although initially reluctant, i invited a few of my friends to watch my big screen debut. nelson, mary, dallen, and ranee were there to witness me squirming in my seat everytime my big head was on the screen. all in all, i thought the screening was a big success. the vibe was great, and people were laughing at parts that weren't even intended to be funny!! and of course, the climax of the night was when i kissed the girl of my dreams in the movie. yes, i had a kissing scene!! afterward, there was a short q&a session where the entire cast and crew was on stage to answer questions and to describe their experiences. it was definitely a surreal night for me.
after the event, several people shook my hand, and was like "great job", "you were really good", "are you gonna be in dave's next movie". hahaha. cracked me up. i almost felt like a celebrity. and a couple of days later while getting lunch during work, some guy approached me and said, "i know you probably get this a lot but ... were you in a movie that premiered this past weekend". i was like, "whoa" (think keanu). i guess he was a friend of the girl i kissed in the movie, and he was there at the screening. how funny is that? i almost offered my autograph but then i realized how stupid that would be. hahaha.
for those of you interested in seeing my horrendous acting, let me know. dave is planning more screenings of "so beauty" throughout the bay area. until then, you'll have to settle for the first 15 minutes online!! yes, dave uploaded the opening scene onto myspace and google video. what better way to generate interest?! so here you go:
myspace: http://vids.myspace.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=vids.individual&videoid=626838590&n=2 (the aspect ratio is a bit off, but it works the best.)
(you will want to view this in its original size.)
here's the synopsis of "so beauty" from dave:
"From the sly villain to the noble sidekick; from the wise sage to the overachieving student, Asian males have long been confined to secondary roles in Hollywood. Alongside their Caucasian counterparts, they would aid in battle, work to solve the mystery, help to save the day, and often times stand by only to watch the other guys get the girls...until now.
So Beauty, a comedy that follows four Asian friends in their separate quests for romance, opens the window into the mind of Asian men and their outlook on dating."
so there you have it. that's what i did last summer. definitely a summer i'll never forget ...