My Johor Stories - Think City video shoot

I was having lunch with my aunt and sister when my phone signaled a message. It was Faezah Ayub from Think City Johor Baru, asking if it was convenient to have a quick chat.

My Johor Stories: True Tales, Real People,
Rich Heritage
, is featured in Think City
Johor Baru's corporate video
My sister and I were with our Aunty Sylvia for the past few days to help her sort out her things as her family was vacating their property in JB. It was indeed, an overwhelming task to pack away 30 over years of treasures and memories but that’s another story.

So there we were enjoying the meal of my aunt’s choice and talking about the next phase of our packing project when I read this phone message. It made me wonder what Think City wanted from me, so as soon as I could, I replied asking her to call me.

She called without delay – which further increased my curiosity over what was the urgency – and when she explained the purpose of her call, I let out a whoop of laughter!

Think City JB was making a corporate video and it will feature some of the grantees. She asked if I could avail myself in the next two days when the crew was in JB to shoot this video – which would include an interview with me!

View from the staircase in Think City JB's office
Quick thoughts flashed across my mind because this is yet another new experience for me. 

In the course of my work, I’m the one asking the questions and interviewing people but now the tables are turned and I was to be interviewed. Usually I'm the one behind the camera but now, I would be in front of it.

I recalled setting up an interview for a crew from Kuala Lumpur to meet Uncle Roland for his input to make a documentary on the Thomas Cup team of 1949, and how I had to prepare uncle with a list of possible questions to keep him focused and for the video shoot to go more smoothly.

Another view of filming the interview from the staircase
Bearing this in mind, I asked Faezah if the producer can provide some questions so that I may prepare myself before the interview.

I’m aware that the segment that will feature my book project with Think City would probably be hardly a few minutes but producers may record as much as three hours of interview in order to select the bits that they want!

Nevertheless, it was still helpful if I was given some idea of what I should speak about before the interview. I don’t have a problem talking about a topic which I’m passionate about but it was different because it was an interview that was being recorded.

The next morning, I received a list of possible questions and while I gave it some thought and jotted down a few points, I found out [later] that the producer had something more in mind for me to talk about in the interview!

Taking a close-up shot of a stack of my books
The weather was scorching as I walked over from the parking lot in front of the City Council office. I could see the crew was already setting up their equipment in Think City’s office when I arrived at the appointed time on Friday afternoon.

The first thing that struck me was how stuffy it was inside the office, not because of the crew and their equipment, but because the air-conditioning downstairs was out of order!

I don’t have a problem with warm weather – I’m more than familiar with the heat in South India – but this was an enclosed small space and when the spotlight was switched on and focused on me for the duration of the interview, I almost melted…

Taking the uncomfortable situation in my stride, we just carried on regardless of the poor ventilation because – as they say – the show must go on!

Director & Content Producer, Corinne [Right] with me;
That's her note book filled with questions to quiz me!
The Director & Content Producer, Corinne, did her best to make me feel comfortable as we spent the first few minutes doing a crash-briefing [if there’s such a word!] about what she would be encouraging me to talk about.

When the crew was ready, I was fitted with a microphone pack and asked to sit on a tall stool at the required angle in front of the camera.

Corinne was seated opposite me, tucked in the shadow of the camera. She had briefed me about the other subjects on which I should share my opinion so I was ready for the onslaught.

So with the spotlight trained on me, the camera rolled and I started talking to Corinne and along the way, she prompted me to get me to elaborate on certain points.

We only paused once to have a sip of water to drink and carried on until Corinne had covered all her questions [she had a note book as well as notes in her handphone!] and was satisfied with my replies.

After we wrapped up the interview, we took a break while the camera captured some close-up shots of a stack of my books.

Then we were off for a walk through JB’s heritage area [where Think City’s office is located] with me holding a copy of My Johor Stories: True Tales, Real People, Rich Heritage.

It was already late afternoon but the sun was still shining and the humidity, quite stifling. Then Corinne told me that when they started filming, I should remove my sun-glasses because they wanted to see my eyes…

Filming along Jalan Dhoby in JB's heritage quarter
The crew took a while to organise two cameras and when they sent up a drone camera, it almost got crashed by a flock of pigeons that flew up in shock at this alien object in the air!

It was good to be outside again and as I walked the pavement along Jalan Pahang and turned into Jalan Dhoby, I could hear Corinne’s voice reminding me to slow down because I was striding way too fast for the cameraman who was walking backwards ahead of me.

I was familiar with these old streets but when I thought about the un-user friendly and uneven pavements, I immediately slowed down.

We paused at the Jalan Dhoby - Jalan Trus crossroads where the camera was set up to film me with the fa├žade of JB’s iconic Hwa Mui coffee shop as a backdrop.

The cars illegally parked along the double yellow lines were of no help as it narrowed the road and slowed down traffic. And the drivers, curious about the cameras, slowed down even further to ogle. And the cameraman had to wait for them to pass before starting to film again…

Filming at the Jalan Dhoby - Jalan Trus crossroads
Corinne patiently directed me to “act” the part she had in mind but I failed at capturing the essence of what she desired. Publishing this book was a deeply personal journey and it was difficult trying not to express it to the camera simply because it is just so personal.

While she wanted me to feel the pride and smile in a certain way, I was feeling the entire opposite because the thoughts evoked made me sad and I had to swallow rising tears.

Finally Corinne and the cameraman reviewed the several takes and she called it a day, satisfied with what the camera had done. Whew! I was just relieved that it was a wrap!

The crew then went on to film another Think City grantee at Jalan Tan Hiok Nee.

Thanks, Think City, for letting me have yet another new experience with this video shoot. I can’t wait until all the editing is done and we view the final video that may comprise just a few minutes of the many hours the camera was filming each grantee.

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