Thursday, March 31, 2016

This Movie Thing Might Actually Happen

I got the script for the Jerusalem movie in the mail. I thought they were going to e-mail it, but they sent an actual copy. I think that's a good thing. In my mind, you make movies with physical scripts. I suppose sooner or later everyone will just hold phones during rehearsals, but for now, I'm glad to see they're still doing it the old fashioned way.

The good news is that it's an interesting story with characters that I wanted to know about while reading it. The bad news is that it's a small, independent production with no special effects and a main character who's well over 50 years old. If everything goes forward as planned, and if this thing gets filmed, and if it's distributed, this movie will never play in China.

Very few foreign films play in China, and almost none of them are ever small, independent productions about old ladies and their families. People criticize China for their protectionism, but how many foreign films play in the United States? Probably a lot more than in China, but how many are playing at your local megaplex? I always had to go to the Landmark or all the way up to the Heights to see anything not in English. American theater conglomerations are just as guilty as China of catering to computer monsters and explosions.

This movie has no dinosaurs, no pirates, no vampires and not a single comic book superhero. It's about an old lady and her family. Most of the scenes take place inside houses and restaurants. The exterior scenes will probably be filmed at those actual locations without green screens and CGI backgrounds. Nothing explodes and the planet is never in any danger. I doubt any computers will ever be used. On screen, at least. I'm sure everyone uses computers in editing now.

This is the kind of movie I want to see. I only hope I'll be able to someday.

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Labor Contractions

I have three jobs, technically, and now I've been offered a fourth. Of course, to take the fourth job I'll have to take a vacation from two and quit one. So I'll go from three jobs to three, but it's still more than anyone really needs.

A lot of people are unemployed. I keep reading about how the economy is getting better, but I don't see that when I talk to people who are looking for work. Statistically, things might be better than they were in 2009, but if you don't have a job, how does it help you if unemployment is at 6% instead of 10%?

Americans complain that all of their jobs have been outsourced to Asia. There's probably a lot of truth in that. But it's not like there are a lot of jobs floating around Asia. Unemployment rates in East Asia are usually pretty low, but those only include citizens. The unemployment rate for foreigners has to be at least 50% from what I've seen. Japan makes foreigners jump through all kinds of hoops, China wants people who speak Chinese, and Thailand and Indonesia bend over backwards to make it difficult for foreigners to find jobs. There's a Thailand government website with a list of jobs that are not eligible for visas. It's a long list.

Lily can always find work here, but it's not steady and it doesn't provide a visa to stay in the country. She needs one of those stable jobs that are so hard to find these days. I can't just give her one of my jobs. The only one she's qualified for is the one she left. It's pretty bad when you think about it. She's found work for me, but there's nothing I can do for her.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Who's Afraid of Jerusalem?

I just had one of the most interesting phone conversations of my life. The director of this movie in Jerusalem called me and we talked about it. You could say it was a phone interview, but that's not how people audition in this business. It's definitely not how I've ever gotten a part. They always want to see you face to face.

We tried to do Skype, but that didn't work out. I don't know how well Skype works in Israel, but in China, it's hit and miss. It only took a few disconnections for him to suggest we talk on the phone.

I've definitely been offered the part. No further auditions are necessary. Apparently, the producer I met in Hong Kong has enough pull and the director liked my “American attitude”.

Why would they even want me in the first place? That's a good question. The character is an American who goes to Jerusalem and disrupts the lives of the main characters. I think I can play American. She's also a dancer. There's only one dance scene, but it's pivotal, so they need someone who can actually dance.

How did I even get the part? That's a more interesting question. One of the producers is in Hong Kong on vacation. He saw me dance onstage and wanted me to fly to Jerusalem for an audition. To make life easier, I suggested he come watch me play Honey. That was my audition. The character in this movie isn't the same as Honey, but she's a similar outsider who doesn't fit in with everyone else. If I go to Jerusalem to film a movie, I think I could play an outsider who doesn't fit in.

I still haven't signed anything, but from talking to the director, he seems to think it's a done deal. A million things can still go wrong, but it looks like I might be taking a trip to Jerusalem in the near future. Assuming I can do it without losing my job.

Sunday, March 20, 2016

A Bird of My Tongue

In the category of things that pretty much never happen to me, I was offered a part in a movie. It's a small part in a small movie, but it's a real production with real people who show up in Google searches. The catch, since there's always a catch in this business, is that they're filming it in Jerusalem.

The story takes place in Jerusalem and most of the people involved live in Jerusalem, so that makes perfect sense from their point of view. For me, that's not very convenient. Taking a day or two off work to do a movie in Hong Kong is one thing. Taking a few weeks off to fly to the other side of Asia isn't ideal. And that's assuming they can film my part at the same time. They might want to do one scene one month and another scene in another month. That wouldn't work out very well for me.

I haven't read the script, so I don't know the details, but I think they want me because I'm similar to the character. From an acting point of view, that only makes it easier. I can play me.

I also haven't signed any contracts, so this might be much ado about nothing. But it's interesting to think about. I've only talked to one of who knows how many producers are on this thing. Independent movies usually have multiple producers and/or financers who all want to be in charge. The guy I talked to might be on the low end of the totem pole. I'm a little worried I might get offered the part and fly all the way to Jerusalem only to be told that I still have to audition. The last thing you want to hear after a 12 hour flight is “we'll let you know”.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Econ Yi Ling Yi

Lily is looking for a job. Unfortunately, now isn't the best time to find work in Hong Kong. Most companies want Chinese people. Lily is most definitely not Chinese. There's no such thing as racial discrimination in China. You put your picture on your resume and if they don't like the way you look, they won't call you. That's perfectly legal here.

Chinese companies don't look up to foreigners the way they used to. Once upon a time, hiring foreigners was a status symbol. Now that the locals are better trained and educated, hiring foreigners is considered a hassle. Foreigners almost always leave the country sooner or later. Even if they stick around for a while, they need more paperwork and almost always expect to be paid more.

The banking industry is hiring right now. Lily is not a banker. They also expect people to speak Chinese a lot more than they used to. Lily's Chinese is ok, but not good enough for high finance.

Lily's old job is no longer an option. She pretty much abandoned it without notice. That's not the kind of thing most employers go for. It's one thing if you work for someone who's understanding and can empathize with your situation. But Lily worked for a multibillion dollar international conglomerate. They tend to have rules that don't like to be broken.

I can't do anything to get her a job. I work for the corporation that she abandoned. I can't really do anything to get anyone a job anyway. You need a specific set of skills to work there, and if you have those skills, you don't need my help.

Sunday, March 13, 2016

The Prodigal Daughter

Lily is back in Hong Kong. She doesn't have a job, which means she doesn't have a visa, but for now we're all just glad to have her back.

Canadians can stay in Hong Kong for 90 days without a visa. If she doesn't have a job by then, she'll have to leave. The good news is that she can go to Macau or Japan or somewhere close and just turn around and come back. The bad news is that doing that every 90 days gets expensive after a while. I've met people who live in Hong Kong and go on visa runs every 60 to 90 days. One of them has a visa for Mainland China, so he has it easy, but for everyone else, it's pretty ridiculous. It's so much easier to just live here legally.

Unless you're British. They can stay for 6 months without a visa. Two visa runs a year wouldn't be so bad. I usually leave more than twice a year anyway.

Monday, March 7, 2016

Wild Honey Pie

I'll be playing Honey in a Central production of Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?. It's not the best part, but the only other option is Martha, and that's the lead. I played Martha in a student production a lifetime ago, so I don't have to study as much as I would have to otherwise. Every production is different, and a different cast makes a different experience, but doing a play you've already done is always easier than taking on something new. This will be a very different experience from Pygmalion. Hopefully, in a lot of ways.

I kind of like Honey better anyway. Martha has a bigger part, but she's an annoying character to play. I love watching actors like Elizabeth Taylor in that role, but I'd rather play the character who doesn't get the jokes. Playing someone in denial is more interesting to me than playing someone who lets it all hang out. You know who Martha is right away. There's a little mystery in Honey.

Thursday, March 3, 2016

Winter in Winnipeg part 6

I'm back in Hong Kong. The flight from Hong Kong to Toronto was on time, but the flight from Toronto to Winnipeg was two and a half hours late. That's not a lot of time when you're flying to the other side of the planet, but you notice the difference between arriving at 11pm and 1:30am after 18 hours on planes. I'm glad I picked a hotel right next to the airport. The flight out of Winnipeg left in the morning, so even with delays I was going to get home at a reasonable hour. But, naturally, those flight were all on time. We actually landed in Hong Kong half an hour early.

It was an interesting trip. I've never flown across the world for a funeral before. It was more emotional than a standard vacation, but I enjoyed spending time with Lily and I got to see more of Winnipeg than I ever thought I would. It's never been on my list of places to see, but it's one of those cities that has a lot more to it than you expect, especially when you have a native showing you around.

Lily took me to a lot of places, but one of the most interesting was the Forks, arguably Winnipeg's main downtown place to see and be seen. It's named after the bend where the two rivers meet and it's where Winnipeg was founded. Today, it's basically the city's main public square. It's the starting point for a wide variety of outdoor activities, has the city's main market, a couple of museums and a few theaters. It's Winnipeg's Times Square and Central Park combined into one much smaller and far less crowded site.

In warmer weather, there's a long walking and bicycle path along the river. At times like this, it's a frozen wonderland of ice skating, cross country skiing, toboggan runs and any other winter activity people can think of.

We looked at the market, and pretty much everything else, but we spent most of our time skating. I don't remember the last time I went ice skating. We both grew up with it, but now we live in a place where there's never an inch of snow. If you want frozen water, you have to take it out of the refrigerator.

It was mostly sunny on the day we went, with a few clouds here and there, so there were more people than the rest of the week. It snowed the day before we went and was overcast the day after. Everyone knew this was the best time to be out on the river.

Not only was the river far more frozen than you'll ever see in Hong Kong, but it was much colder. Lily's been in Winnipeg for a month, so she's used to it, but I had to adjust. I grew up with real winters, but this is the first time in years I've seen thermometers read negative in both celsius and fahrenheit. I saw one with -24°C/-11°F. After skating around for a while, I didn't even notice. It was a beautiful sunny day.

We also went to a place called Sky Zone. It's a huge indoor space, basically the size of a warehouse, with large trampolines everywhere. There are different zones for different trampoline activities. They have sports on trampolines, games on trampolines and exercise on trampolines. The trampolines are huge and can fit enough people to play a game of trampoline volleyball.

Safety is a big issue at this place, so you can only go on trampolines based on your size and age. In other words, Lily & I were not bouncing around with children or sumo wrestlers. It's a family place, but you can't really do everything with your entire family. But it's all indoors, which is great on days when the sun refuses to shine. It didn't snow much while I was there, but most days were overcast and it never got above freezing.

Since living in Hong Kong, I've taken trips to Paris in spring, Europe and Japan in autumn, The United States, Japan and Thailand in summer and Bali in winter, which was technically their summer. The closest I've ever come to a winter trip was Tokyo in November. The coldest it got was 10°C/50°F and it only rained once. Until now. I left Minnesota right after a blizzard and haven't seen anything even close to a real winter since going to Winnipeg. Canada reminded me of home.

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Winter in Winnipeg part 5

I voted today. That's not so interesting, except that this was definitely the first time I voted in Canada while living in China. As an absentee voter, I could have sent in my ballot earlier, but I waited on purpose. I wanted to see what happened in this circus election.

I'm not going to say who I voted for. As soon as you talk about politics, people go crazy. I can't say if this is the most divisive time in American history. Since there's no current civil war, it's probably not. But with the internet and a million talking heads on TV, there's an awful lot of rhetoric and hyperbole getting thrown around. People get very hateful when they talk politics online.

One of the great things about Minnesota is that we don't have to register for any particular party. We can vote for anyone we want in the primaries just like the general election. In some states, you have to register as a member of a party and you can only vote for someone in that party during the primaries. I like having choices. Isn't that democracy?

I wouldn't want to be a Democrat or a Republican. Both parties are owned by giant corporations and just as corrupt as the other. But a lot of the more fanatically loyal members of each party think anyone who disagrees with their choice is either crazy or ignorant. I think that's just stupid. If you honestly believe that you're smarter than everyone who disagrees with you, you're probably not that bright. Those of us who aren't forced to be a member of any party in order to vote can be open minded. That doesn't make us any smarter. Plenty of elections have shown that Americans are not the smartest people in the world. But at least we don't have to toe any party lines and parrot all the talking points.

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Winter in Winnipeg part 4

Lily showed me the sights today. I'm more than willing to sit around and talk about her father all day, but she wanted to go out and not think about anything for a while.

Winnipeg is similar to Minneapolis in a lot of ways. It's about the same size and has pretty much the same geography. Winnipeg is at the Red River/Assiniboine River junction with more than a few large and small lakes nearby and a couple of really big ones out the back door. Minneapolis is at the Mississippi/Minnesota River junction and is completely surrounded by lakes, including a couple of Great Lakes. We get more rain and snow than they do, but our weather is pretty much the same. People assume that both cities are frozen tundras, but they get hot in summer and more humid than people expect. I used to think our summers were very humid before I moved to Hong Kong.

Winnipeg has a skywalk system that connects a few dozen buildings downtown. Whichever downtown buildings don't have the skywalk are connected by an underground tunnel. Naturally, part of the tunnel is a shopping mall. The Minneapolis Skyway is 11 miles of bridges that connect I don't know how many different buildings over 69 blocks. You can get to pretty much everything there is to see downtown without ever going outdoors. My first apartment was directly connected to a bank, hotel, Catholic school and the YMCA. I could almost walk to school without ever leaving the skyway. Up until I reached the school itself. Then I just had to cross the street.

Just like Minneapolis, Winnipeg has plenty of parks, especially near the river, and a million things to do and see outdoors. This has been the coldest day by far, but it stopped snowing. The locals didn't care how cold it was. The sun was out, so to them, this was the perfect day to go outdoors.