Monday, August 25, 2014

Single Digits Gone - A TV Commercials Star is Born!

Familiar Face with a Milion
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Houston, we have a triple digit coming.

A USD500 million worth of space rocket has been launched recently and it's already way passed its single digits stratosphere. The rocket I meant is my acting career in TV commercials. I was called up for a wardrobe fitting recently for a new commercial. When I sat on the couch waiting for other talents to arrive, I did some calculation on the number of past commercials I've starred in. I came to this gigantic realisation that it had already way surpassed the single digit range and moved to double digits already. Has it been that many TV commercials already? I still remembered my first TV commercial and it feels just like yesterday!

Complete footwear
As I sat there, I began socialising with the other talents since it was boring to sit alone like a mute. It was very apparent to me that they were all still new. Except for 1 guy who is now doing his second commercial appearance - even that he's not too serious about it. This guy commented that he's seen me somewhere before. I get that a lot from other people on the street. But I didn't mention what commercials I was in, but asked him instead about his first. It's strange that talents began to see me as a familiar face. I've always see myself as one of them, and now analysing his awkward expression makes me feel a bit like Alice in Wonderland on the other side of the mirror looking out. All my roles in TV commercials have a very specific outtake - either through body and facial expression (without dialogue) or with dialogue. Some commercials hit on certain types of audience, and he was one of them.

All the wardrobe assistants were busy scurrying around the floorspace - bringing the football referee jerseys and shorts in and out for me. I've been to this wardrobe office before for the short film "Talent House" and knew that the upper floor is decked full of all types of clothes! A cheerful wardrobe lady came to the lounge where the talents were waiting and quipped directly at me for my wardrobe. She said quite proudly that my wardrobe were all specially tailored made! The rest of the talents only wear ready-to-made clothes already available.

Look No.1 - specially tailored
For the first time, I felt strange that the lady said it out so openly. This makes me feel even bigger than my role (and other talents might feel jealous too). I supposed since you're the only one more experienced in terms of commercials acting, you get these tailored-made "couture" - one talent commented in jest. But I quickly make a joke out of my wardrobe for I do not want to appear more superior than others. Shooting a commercial is after all, a collaborative effort. At the same time, it's also extremely hierarchical. I'm sure the wardrobe lady was just proud to have make these clothes from scratch....all the trouble for little old me. I thanked and praised her for a job well done.

So what makes a commercial star? I sat down on my bum and contemplates some more, which I tends to do a lot while waiting on set. I like to think back what makes me do certain things and took risks on certain projects. Then slowly, I condensed them into a few qualities that I actually possess which ultimately puts me where I am today. The first important star quality (at least what I think for the benefit of my readers and fans here) is:

Look No.2
1) "I can do anything"
Seriously, a commercial star is not afraid to try anything. There's literally no fear in me  because I've been through it all. You can ask me to hop, skip, wear a yellow shorts (and became famous for it) or sing - I've done it all. For this particular commercial, I have to run in a certain rambuctious way and stopped with such dancer-like flamboyancy while raising a red card. You can never afford to be afraid of how others think about you or fear of being labelled as a degenerate or negative of some kind. I think that is also why great stars in Malaysia is non-existent. My role was of a football referee and it's mentioned that I need to portray such qualities - and I did. It's a job and I'm a professional.

2) Sure-fire Sell
We are all born with little horns and if we don't blow them, nobody will. The single apparent function about the commercials media vehicle is to sell, sell, sell! Sell a burger, luxurious serviced apartment, ice-cream, clothing line, prepaid call card, internet services - I've done them all. So when hiring a star talent like me, it's evident that I possess the track record that sells. If not - why would international advertising agencies come back to me again and again? I'm only convinced of this fact after I've done the calculation on the number of commercials I've done in the past. Business is about numbers. Numbers show your achievements and I have the numbers to back me up that I'm a sure-fire sell.

Look No.3
3) Full Package
I actually started as a commercials talent quite accidentally. My forte is more on acting for theatre and films. But somewhere along the journey, my skills crossed over to commercials. Commercials actually do pays better. Come on, actors need to survive too. There's also lesser political tightrope on the commercials industry because essentially it's a money-driven industry that focuses on selling to the masses. Unlike the local entertainment and film industry where racial lines are very apparent and full of nationalistic agendas of their own. In the context of commercials acting, I do come with the full package - meaning I have been covered on TV, newspaper and radio as an artiste, starred in a few local movies (and a number of TV dramas), modelled in an international photo exhibit and finally recognised in a few awards shows. Of course having good looks too should be mentioned, but that to me is secondary .... and I'm still not convinced that I'm really that handsome actually.

* BMW Film Awards Best Actor
* Jury Duty
Worldwide Photo Exhibit
Endorsement Value
World Cup KFC commercial
Controversial but Most-Watched Episode
The Golden Shorts Fame

Reward for a job well done
4) Great Attitude
On the set of my latest commercial, I was instructed to be at Stadium Shah Alam 6am! I've never been there before and to me, the trip will be an adventure. I did as instructed, arrived and waited patiently - thankfully not too long. The commercials industry have plenty of professionals with great attitude - that's why we have a wonderful marriage. The commercials industry is extremely well organised - starting with casting, wardrobe fitting, principal photography and finally the release of talent fees (very critical to a full-time actor relying on his trade to survive like me). I remembered on the set of my shoot, an agency executive boldly came towards me and suggested a few moves on the way I should run on the field - which was hysterical! Personally I prefer to run like one of the Baywatch babes - hair flowing in the wind and ready to take off my clothes. But the director was thankfully there to draw the line. Nothing bad about it and personally I felt very cherished by all the attention on me from both the agency and director. If I am poor, that doesn't mean I have to behave poorly too.

For every commercial I've completed successfully, I would reward myself with a nice dinner or buy myself an expensive gift. For this commercial, I treated myself to a delicious Japanese meal. Kanpai (cheers) everyone! Here's to another 100 more commercials!