c t o r, .d i r e c t o r, .p
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Films (Z-BF) is an independent film production company dedicated
to offering acting and production opportunities to Shanghai
locals and sharing profits (if any) according to each individual’s
input in each film project. Z-BF aims to produce 2-4 feature-length
films (including musicals) per year.
CLIP OF MY BENZ COMMERCIAL
view my Mercedes-Benz ad click on this link:
2nd article below for full story.]
My first Chinese TV Commercial ...
(photos by Iris Bi)
22 December 2007, I joined the Shanghai Real People
Modelling Agency run by Iris Bi. It’s something
I’d always thought about doing but didn’t feel confident
with until I met the East West Theatre
actors when we were performing our play, Our Country’s
Good, in November, 2007. Many of them were with
a modelling agency and getting lots of work for photo shoots,
TV commercials and even acting roles for TV and films.
in bowler hat
one of the actors told me, “I’m an actress, but
I can’t get any work in New York because there’s
just too much competition. But here in Shanghai they’re
short of westerners so I’m getting acting and modelling
work all the time!”
after rejecting a few offers for roles as a movie extra (because
they clashed with my normal English-teaching working hours)
I finally auditioned for a local TV commercial … and got
were looking for someone who looked like an artist. Someone
who would be dressed in a tuxedo and play an imaginary piano.
Someone with a Beethoven look about him. And I guess that my
long, grey hair was something they just couldn’t refuse!
course, immediately I began to imagine that once the commercial
was released on TV I’d become instantly recognisable in
the streets of Shanghai and be hounded for autographs from that
moment on. It was so nice to fantasise. But at the very worst
it was going to be one more thing I could add to my list of
achievements. And what’s more, who would've thought I'd
become a model at 53? It was such a buzz!
30-second TV Commercial (for a flooring board company) was shot
on March 28. It was a full day's production, shot in a huge
movie warehouse, with about 100 people involved.
were 2 characters in the commercial: me, as an artist playing
an imaginary piano; and a leading Chinese male model, playing
an ordinary guy who's mesmerised by my music.
to my agent, the commercial is still being edited and isn't
expected to be released until October, 2008, when it will be
screened on TVs throughout China.
from taking about 100 photos of me during the day of filming
my agent also said she'd give me a copy of the commercial once
it was released. She also confided in me that the director had
mentioned that the commercial would make me famous in China
because my character was so unique.
maybe my fantasy wasn’t so fanciful after all!
Benz Internet Commercial ...
(photos by Landy)
half-way into my conducting role.
second Chinese commercial came about when I was discovered by
a talent agent on Facebook! On June 18, Landy sent me a text
message at 11am asking me if I could go for an audition at 1pm
that day. Luckily I'd just finished teaching my morning classes
and wasn't due to teach again until 2.35pm. "Dress up in
a suit", she suggested. I'd be auditioning for the role
of an orchestra conductor.
with red flowers
I went home first (just a 10-minute walk from school), showered,
changed into my cool black suit and black shirt, and made my
way to the address she'd texted me. It was just one stop from
my home by metro, then a short taxi ride to the studio. Actually,
I could've walked there in 10 minutes, but at that time I wasn't
too sure of the exact location.
was already there when I arrived: always a good sign of a professional
and reliable talent agent. Amazingly, so was Ben, the Hong Kong
Director from my first TV commercial!
soon as he saw me he started immitating me playing the air piano,
just as I'd done 3 months earlier for his TV commercial. I didn't
recognise him, of course, because on the day of the shoot he
was wearing a mask all day to keep the dust out of his lungs.
Could he be directing this commercial too? Not so, was the short
I was in front of a photographer having photos taken according
the the shots that matched the commercial's story board. The
movie camera came out shortly afterwards and I was asked to
give a short self-introduction so the (absent) director could
know something more about me. This is exactly what I'd done
for the first TV commercial audition too, so I was a little
more prepared this time.
waiting in the dressing room, "au natural".
knew that my appeal to them was primarily the visual image I
presented, namely my long, grey hair. It was the same feature
that got me my first TV commercial. I mean, how many mature
Western actors can you find in Shanghai that have that seasoned
artist look ... or rather, the Beethoven look?
I knew that wouldn't be enough to guarantee me the job. They'd
have to know that I was truly an entertainer with a feel for
music ... a critical requirement for both my commercials.
this was my quick and simple introduction:
guess professional actors and models know their measurements
off by heart.)
Friday, 27 June, it was a very wet day, yet I still managed
to make it to the fitting by 4.25pm (school hours finished at
4pm). The streets were flooded and even though I had an umbrella,
I arrived at the studio soaked from the knees down. They'd hired
a genuine orchestra conductor to teach me how to hold the baton
and make convincing conductor motions. In fact, later they filmed
him using 8 different conducting techniques and gave me a copy
of the CD to study at home.
after that, I got my hair styled and changed into my tuxedo.
The shoes proved to be a challenge, probably due to my thick
socks being soaked (I was wearing Nikes which were not waterproof!).
However, my dresser (yeah, we have a dresser!) just suggested
I take my socks off. That worked fine and because my pants hung
over my shoes, no-one could tell I was wearing shoes without
suit and shirt fitted perfectly. The only adjustment required
would be for the vest, which needed to be taken in a bit at
getting into the music mood
handed me a contract to sign. It was in Chinese so she gave
me a quick verbal translation which I was happy with. There
was no mention of money. As with my first TV commercial, the
finer details would be negotiated afterwards. (Yes, I know ...
but it all worked out well in the end.)
until then, I still didn't know exactly what I'd be advertising.
"It's a car", Landy had said. It wasn't until that
day that I was told I'd be acting in an advertisement for Benz,
promoting their S-class Mercedes. Wow! How cool, I thought.
Then Landy added, "By the way, it's not a TV commercial,
it's an internet commercial that'll go on their web site."
The ad, she said, would go online in September. So I'd get to
see it before I saw my first commercial job. The other benefit
was that once I got the link to their web site, I could send
it to all my family and friends! (I can't help it ... I'm still
could give me a concrete time for turning up for the shoot on
Sunday. "Probably about 8am", Landy had said. But
then on Saturday she said, "Meet me at LianHua Rd subway
station at 11am".
at 10.10am I set off from home, knowing I'd get at our meeting
place about 15 minutes early. At about 11am I was met at the
station and driven to the film studio, arriving at 11.30am.
The ballet dancers had arrived at 6am and were still being filmed.
The opera singer and orchestra players (violin/flute, trumpet
and double-base) had arrived at 8am and were still waiting to
be filmed. And I wasn't due to be filmed until after all of
them had finished.
14 hours later, taking the final shot.
to cut a long story short, after spending all day reading a
magazine in the dressing room and stuffing myself on their take-away
Chinese meals (neatly packed in plastic trays and cardboard
boxes that looked like bricks) I waited until 10.10pm to start
my shoot ... and finished at 1.30am ... TOTAL: 14-hour day!
... and I was being paid by the hour!
to say, a few more jobs like that would be a lovely way earn
a living in Shanghai!
Konka "Black Diamond" Cell Phone Infommercial ...
(photos by Landy)
commercial was first televised on January 4, 2009. Since then
it's been shown on many channels, including; XingJiang TV, DongNan
TV and GuanXi TV, TV 030-067. As it's a 5-minute infomercial,
it's mostly screened on late night TV, but I've also seen it
screened during lunchtime.
not my real hair!
last I got an assignment where I didn't have to wear a tuxedo!
as you can see from the photos, maybe a tuxedo would've been
a nice alternative!
zooms in for a close-up of the cell phone.
got this job through Landy (Benz ad).
the Black Diamond cell phone.
Pilsner Beer TV Commercial
(photos by Julie, my make-up artist
and hair stylist)
was another assignment I got from Real People Modelling Agency
(Iris Bee). The quality of this production was superb! Everything
from the set design to the make-up. All first class!
played the role of the founder of Pilsner Beer, back in the
mid 1800s. The set was a replica of the Pilsner Beer factory
back in the old days, and I was filmed while inspecting the
quality of the beer being produced.
the shots took a while to set up (I was on the set for about
4 hours) the glass of beer I was inspecting had to be replaced
dozens of times because the bubbles stopped fizzing and the
"head" of the beer kept going flat while we waited
for each shot to be set up to perfection. I don't know if they
were throwing the beer out, but there may have been some lucky
beer-pouring assistants who couldn't bear to see all those glasses
of beer going to waste!
contract stated that the commercial would run on TV for 2 years,
so I'm sure that I'll eventually become quite a familiar face
on Chinese TV.
make-up and hair style yet! (by Julie)
the rest of the cast. All Russians!
TV Commercial for Furniture Plaza in Hangzhou (Hangzhou) ...
19 Dec '09
(photos by me and Rafael)
got me this job.
This TV commercial will feature many (about 10?) different snippets
of historical events.
It was all filmed in the shops within the Plaza it was promoting.
I was playing a French
Noble Gentleman. My Noble Lady was played by Elena, a Russian
girl. And the butler was played by Rafael, from Brazil. When
TV commercials are shot you get to meet people from lots of
We met at
the Agent's Shanghai office at 3.30am. After a quick Chinese
breakfast, we departed by mini-bus at 4am.
By 7am we were at the Plaza in Hangzhou.
producers agreed to shoot my scene early so I could catch my
plane to Beijing that night.
make-up started at about 9.30am ... and the filming finished
at about 12.30pm.
TV Commercial for Skyworth TV (Beijing) ... 20 Dec '09
(photos by Laura)
Iris got me this job. I was promoting Skyworth (chuang wei)
LED TV ... a large flat-screen TV.
Fortunately I cut 5 inches (12 cms) off my hair a week before
auditioning for this role.
Luckily it matched the look they were looking for and I got
my 55th birthday (January 26, 2010) I found this "lantern
advertisement" at the elevator entrance of a friend's building.
I finished the Hangzhou TVC in the afternoon, then I caught
a plane from Hangzhou to Beijing at 7pm.
I was met at the airport
by WeiDa, my hair and make-up artist, who took me directly to
a studio for a dress rehearsal.
I tried on 3 outfits, and was photographed in each one.
My measurements were noted and adjustments to be made were noted.
I was in my hotel
by 11pm. All my expenses - airfare, hotel, meals - were covered
by the client.
The next morning,
Sunday, I was picked up by the WeiDa and the crew, and we headed
off for the film studio about an hour away.
Hair and make-up started
at 9.40am ... 8 hours later, at 5.40pm, the job was over.
Apart from the TV
commercial, a photographer also took about 200-300 photos of
... probably to use in brochures or magazine ads.
had a plane to catch at 9.30pm so there was no time for dinner.
Beijing was FREEZING!
Serial ... 16&23 Dec '09
got me this job.
I played the role of CEO of Deisel Theme Parks.
It'll be screened on CCTV1 in April. Once I know the name of
the program I'll post it here.
It was filmed
over 2 days.
Day 1 was filmed in a board room in Pudong.
Day 2 we went West Lake (Hangzhou) and shot the entire scene
on a boat on the famous lake.
I had the only speaking role of all the foreigners (in English),
but I guess they may dub it for the TV show ... we'll see.
to Choose" Short Film ...
(photos by my son, John)
my lines with Susie.
in Credit to Choose (a film by Robert Rapoport) was my first
speaking role on film. Robert found me through the SAA (Shanghai
Actors Association) web site (http://saa.planetkarl.com).
John, was visiting me for 2 weeks in January. He was happy to
assist with the clapper-board.
This toddler was so approachable that we got him in most of
our riverside shots.
films are usually non-commercial, low budget films which are
often made by film-makers, crew members and actors who are looking
to try new ideas or simply hone their skills to a much higher
level. This being the case, nobody gets paid for their participation.
Let's just say that we all like to help each other out. In my
case, I was just happy to finally get a speaking role on film.
Once I get a copy of the film I'll then be able to use it to
promote myself for paid speaking roles.
are just a few more shots taken during the filming, which was
done in and around Moganshan Rd, the art gallery centre of Shanghai,
near Shanghai Railway Station.
Filming always draws a crowd. They also tend to cooperate
whenever asked, whether it be
participating in the film as extras, or just being quiet when
we're shooting the scene.
Robert Rapoport (director) and Isabella (producer) discussing
the Chinese shop scene.
Susie and I played the roles of Petra and Jones.
We had a fun kite scene for a flashback segment. Luckily
the wind was up.
Sitting on the riverbank eating oranges.
find, and irresistable addition to the film, was this guy smoking
a cigarette bong!
scene was taken inside the Island 6 Shack gallery.
the voice-over for Petra's beach scene.
/ Stage Actor
The Glory Of Athens
Performing my play in a London theatre
While I was in Shanghai in June, 2003, I wrote a play, The
Glory of Athens: an 80-minute, funny and inspirational
one-man show (true to form!), where I had to memorise 10,000
words of monologue for the 7 roles I was performing. It's one
of the highlights of my life, and my career, and I performed
it in 10 countries while I was on a 400-day public-speaking
tour through 13 countries on 5 continents. The highlights of
that tour were my theatre performances in London and Hollywood
(The Lee Strasberg Theater). Anyway,
the play is really all about my life motto:
Everything is possible if you truly believe!
acting performances of my play, The Glory of Athens
(29 performances in 10 countries and 19 cities)
... City/Country ... Venue/Type
2 0 0 3
Jul 17 ... Athens, GREECE Out-door Reading
Jul 24 ... Helsinki, FINLAND Lounge-room
Jul 28 ... Stockholm, SWEDEN Lounge-room
Jul 30 ... Gothenburg, SWEDEN Lounge-room
Aug 26 ... Sisteron, FRANCE Lounge-room
Sep 12 ... Bressuire, FRANCE Hall Show
Sep 30 ... Amsterdam, HOLLAND Theatre
Nov 9 ... Kingsbridge, ENGLAND Hall Show
Nov 21 ... Bridgend, WALES Lounge-room
Nov 24-25 ... London, ENGLAND Theatre
Dec 14 ... Utrecht, HOLLAND Lounge-room
0 0 4
Jan 9 ... Welland, CANADA School Show
Jan 10 ... Welland, CANADA Lounge-room
Jan 22 ... Kitchener, CANADA Library
Jan 30 ... Welland, CANADA Church Show
Feb 2 ... Kitchener, CANADA Office Show
Mar 5-6 ... Montreal, CANADA Lounge-room
Mar 7 ... Granby, CANADA School Show
Apr 11-12 ... Kitchener, CANADA Lounge-room
Apr 15 ... Ottawa, CANADA Hall Show
Apr 30 ... Kitchener, CANADA Lounge-room
May1-2 ... Kitchener, CANADA Lounge-room
May 17 ... San Francisco, USA Lounge-room
May 22 ... Los Angeles, USA Theatre Show
Jun 12 ... Brisbane, AUSTRALIA Lounge-room
Our Country's Good
was my first stage performance in Shanghai.It was presented
by the East West Theater and 10 actors played 20 roles, everyone
taking on dual roles (a couple even taking on 3 roles) except
for the lead actor who had his hands full with his one role.
played the parts of Major Robbie Ross and James "Ketch"
started learning my lines in the first week of October, 2007.
Luckily it was China's National holidays so I managed to learn
most of my lines. For the next 3 weeks we had our formal rehearsals.
Then we performed the play for 2 weeks, from November 1-10 (Thursday
- Sunday each week).
Major Robbie Ross (Lieutenant Governor and Commander of
James "Ketch the Hangman" Freeman (a convict).
The whole cast is here, where Major Ross reprimands the
There's even a fight scene between 2 convict women, which
Ketch is able to break up just in time.
One-Act Plays Festival
festival, produced by quality replica watches sale Zuloo Productions, took place at the British
International School Shanghai (BISS) on Friday and Saturday,
April 24 and 25, 2009.
directed 3 plays, wrote 2 of them, and acted in one.
But is is Art? (written by Liiz Carroll) ... cast Mark Edwards,
Catlin Smith, Rami Abunameh
(emotional woman) and Rami (artist).
(Reverend) and Rami.
(horny old lady) and Rami.
(losing control) and Rami.
and Mark (cleaner).
(auctionier), Rami and Mark.
2. Pericles (written by James Taris) ... cast Dave Earl and
(narrator) and Dave (Pericles).
3. Homer (written by James Taris) ... cast James Taris and Jubal
(narrator) and James (Homer).
as Homer, who is poor and blind.
The 3-Quickies Team at our first Cast Get-Together
Party (26 May, 2008)
Directing Paul and Jenn for Lend Me A Mentor.
I'm directing 3 short (10-minute) plays for the 8
Quickies stage production by Missed