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Saturday, April 15, 2006

My Acting Career Goes Down the Toilet

Happy Passover to One and All!
{Love this photo from the states, sent by Tina Fisher. Thanks Miss Tee!}

I arrived on set on Friday all prepared for my acting debut. I had washed my hair and packed my one and only skirt.

I got to the location and there was no golf cart but I did not complain. I had worn sneakers and used deordorant. I trudged up the hill like the professional that I am.

Today on set the work was about as exciting as flushing a toilet. No, I am not speaking in metaphor. There is a scene in the script where Adam, the leading man (played by Ian) has second thoughts about poisoning his wife with a white substance called DCP. He decides to flush the DCP down the toilet.

So our camera shot was looking up from the bottom of the bowl. Imagine the point-of-view of, say, a water bug (which is the least rude example I could think of.)

In this shot, we see Ian’s face through an oval shape as he lifts the lid of the toilet. From our POV (point of view) as a water bug, we see Ian pour the poison into the bowl. (A special pin light illuminates the powder as it pours out of the sugar bowl.) The white powder floats to the surface, the water swirls, turns a milky white and drains out of the bowl.

You know how in movies, there is that scene from the inside of the refrigerator or the back of the oven. I always wondered how they made that shot. Now I know.

To create this effect of the flushing toilet, a clear glass sink was mounted on a wooden platform and connected to a drain that emptied into a big garbage can. Water was pumped into the bowl using a clear plastic tube. The camera is positioned underneath the bowl and the actor stands on a crate and looks down into the camera. Sound easy? The set-up for this scene started at 2:50 PM and it was 5:30 before they were ready to test-flush the toilet. No, wait, first they rehearsed it dry, without the water.

Ian had to figure out how to hit his mark and get the powder in exactly the right spot in the bowl. Also, he had to determine how far into the fake toilet he needed to bend in order to get into the frame of the toilet seat.

And they say acting is a glamorous profession!

Ian was a trooper, he worked with that toilet until the two were in perfect synch and we finally got the shot that made everyone happy. The director yelled cut, the crew guy cut the water and Ian walked off the set.

“He looks a bit flushed,” remarked Johan, the audio mixer.

The tragedy of this scene is that it took so much time to set-up that my scene was bumped to tomorrow. I mean, it is one thing to get bumped by a more important actor but you really know where you are in the hierarchy when you are upstaged by the flushing of a toilet bowl.


MG decided that once a week we should have movie night on the rooftop of our apartment building. The other night he screened THREE NEEDLES, a movie that he partly financed.

I had already seen this film when I attended the premiere at the Museum of Modern Art with my sister Susan and my brother-in-law Peter. Kacy had gotten us tickets to the event.

I don’t know how many of you will have the opportunity to see this very important movie because I am not sure what kind of distribution it will receive. But if you can, do go see it. This is such an important and moving film about the AIDS epidemic and how it is changing cultures in Asia, Africa and North America. Yes, it is a difficult subject but this film is beautifully conceived and executed and has a message that everyone needs to hear.

On a lighter note, I was reminded of my favorite Groucho joke when Gren, one of MG’s young assistants from Cebu, revealed that he has four children. When Groucho was hosting YOU BET YOUR LIFE, one his contestants said that she was the mother of 14 children and Groucho asked her why she has so many children.

“Well, I love my husband,” said the woman.

“And I love my cigar,” Groucho replied, “but I take it out of my mouth every now and then.”


We had a hard night of drinking last night to celebrate Johan’s 35th birthday. Johan is our Belgian audio mixer and is quite shy. As he says, his job is to sit in a dark corner and listen to other people have conversations. Still Kacy was determined to get him a birthday cake at lunch and take us all out to dinner to celebrate the occasion. (No one loves to throw a party more than our Kacy!)

{Me and Kacy on set, as seen through the lens of my laptop}

At lunch, we discovered that the crew had made this a "$20 Day." That meant that everyone threw money into a box and the winner won the contents. Apparently, you are supposed to write your name on the $20 bill (about $2.60 in US), a fact that our lovely Lisa missed. She had thrown $40 in the box without writing her name on the bills. No matter. Johan got to draw the winner and when he chose his own boom man, everyone thought the fix was on.

For dinner Kacy took us all out to a Mexican restaurant in Soho, the super trendy, party-all-night-and-way-into-the-morning part of town. The streets are narrow and winding and filled with one fabulous restaurant and club after another. Apparently, many ex-pats live in this part of town.

We ate at a restaurant called Carumba! I thought it was kind of strange that I had traveled more than 8000 miles to eat food that I can get a block from my house. But you know what, the Mexican food here was as good, or even better, than LA and, for sure, the margaritas were just about the best I have ever had. Unfortunately, I had far too many of them.

I was with a bunch of folks who thought nothing of knocking back shots of tequila with beer chasers. Oh, I remember those days when I could keep up with the best of them. Now it’s one shot and I am fast asleep under the table.


This weekend is a big holiday in Hong Kong so they are short staffed in the apartment and there is no maid service. Yikes! I had to make my own bed.

I decided to do a laundry as I was staying home to work in peace and quiet. There is a laundry room on each floor. So I bought some detergent and went to use the machines. So far, my clothes have been in the dryer for more than 2 hours and they are still damp. I must be doing something wrong. I am pretty sure I followed the directions on the sign in the laundry room as it was written in English.

Now I know why there is laundry hanging from every apartment window in Hong Kong. The dryers suck.


Did I mention that the original idea of this movie was to shoot two versions at the same time: one in English with an American cast and one in Mandarin with a Chinese cast.

Although the idea of doing a dual language production is not common, it has been done before. THE BLUE ANGEL, in 1930, was simultaneously filmed in English and German, using the same cast; Marlene Dietrich being, of course, the most well-known actor in the cast. Both versions of the film were directed by Josef von Sternberg. Interestingly enough, the German language version (with English subtitles) became the most popular version in the US because the German accents in the English version were so difficult for people to understand.

And that is your movie trivia for the day. That and the fact that one of the actresses who auditioned for the Marlene role was Leni Riefenstahl who, as we know, would become a famous Nazi filmmaker.

That just goes to show that I have indeed done some research for this book.


I just had my first ichat tonight! It was thrilling!

I heard the ringing on my computer, answered it and there was a video of my dear friend Mary sitting at her desk in Arizona. She had just gotten up, it was 8 AM for her (and 11 PM for me.) I could see her but she could not see me. I could not figure out why my end of the video was pitch black and then it occurred to me that, hey, I was sitting here in Hong Kong in the dark and perhaps the camera needed some light. I hit the overhead and, presto, there I was on screen.

I was looking into the future and it was totally in focus.


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