Saturday, July 30, 2011

Fancy 1000 strategies in your pocket? - How to navigate & stay on top in a world full of chaotic turmoil

Being the main star needs to be strategic to get on top
The world is not as you imagined
Taking a cue from Steve Jobs when he first introduced the Ipod in 2001, as Communications Strategy Coach, I always keep a variety of strategies in my pocket at any one time - 1000 songs in your pocket?. Now teaching over 80 students at any time, I have found the strategies I've learned over the years as an artiste have truly helped me in managing different people of various temperaments. Learning the hard way is not for everyone, but if you have the money, then hire a Communications Coach to cut the way shorter. The world is full of turmoil. Do not live under the delusion that everything is fine and dandy, all glamour and lights. Our world is a hostile place, squeezed by hostile corporate takeovers, bankrupted by bank mergers and changing political in-fighting for more power resulting in social unrest. Personally for me, I have been "unfortunate" to have bumped into many wrong walls - taking a look at my past various performances both in TV dramas and films. Local dramas/film productions are so full of turmoil, chaos and hardship for the actors.

Ignoring communication in an industry that should value communication at its core
Being an actor, in Malaysia, you'd faced so many hardships. For example, I've starred in quite a highly-rated medical drama series a few years back. According to a source, the episode where I've starred in had surpassed the 2 million viewer points, the highest ever of any episode for that series. After these years, let me say it was NOT a happy experience for me. For this episode, my character was to play a gay character (controversial role in a society like ours), and my co-star was someone I don't respect much in real life because he came off as someone very arrogant and selfish. Worst, I have to play the character who loved him on screen. Here's where an actor has to literally bite the bullet and act. When you watch the episode, you wouldn't even notice that I actually balked at the idea of "loving him" - at least not superficially. You really get to watch my acting skills whenever I have to face someone I dislike.

Confusion and favouritism on set
The second hardship is with the local production crew for this particular drama. The Production Manager acted all like she's the director, producer and goddamn producer - shouting at the talents, directing and using abusive words against them. And you know what - she's only 24 years old that time. Who on earth has the right mind to put such a person as the PM? Now, you'll be surprised how many of these "young punks" are put in the so-called casting director's chair or production manager, simply because they're cheap to be hired. Besides, who wouldn't want to be in the position of shouting and acting like the director? That's another problem with local producers - they like to hire cheap. But cheap only gets you cheap quality. Local producers simply don't care about the working condition - no ethics in managing people, last minute changes and throwing blame at each other instead of owning up to their responsibilities. Turmoil. Looking back, I'm thankful for that experience for it makes me appreciate my own abilities in communication skills.

Doing the best with what you have
The third hardship is the constant switching and changing of clothes and dialogue. A lot of favouritism is placed, when it comes to giving whom the most dialogues. A lot of eager actors would go after roles with plenty of dialogues under the false impression that they'll get more screen time. Like in that particular episode I starred in, I was supposed to play the character who's bed ridden in the hospital. But at the last minute, they switched the role. But good for me - because then I'm able to rest more. Many thought I would be frustrated, especially the PM, but hey, I was actually relieved! I may not get the sick role, but I'd do just as best I could with what I have. For that part, I have to bring my own clothes, same like everyone else - and look what I wore. A striking red. Got just as much attention as any other actors in that scene, if not even more.

Plan all the way to the end
Mind you, that TV drama episode was aired way before the KFC commercial came out just last year. And see who has the last laugh in the end? A lot of people may belittle you, say bad things about your looks, height and weight. But remember - only the end that matters. A lot of times you have to stand up for yourself when it becomes too intense and the injustice is too glaring to be taken lightly. A lot of my students are afraid to offend or displease the producers and directors. But that would only give them more leeway to intimidate you and use you to their advantage. Aspiring artistes, you must be strong and patient to strive on. Your time to shine will eventually come. Here's where the communication strategies learned are most important. Not only for actors, but CEOs and managers can benefit from these strategies too. To all my muslim students, friends and clients, I wish you all a Happy Fasting Month. Only do it if it makes you happy.