Sunday, September 25, 2011

Lights, Camera, Action!

The cameras are about to roll, and I get into position

               This was my 3rd full week here in Hanoi, but it feels like so much longer, it feels like time is starting to go by very fast, and with October rapidly approaching, that means that there are only 2 and a half months left in the semester. To put that into prospective, I have been away from home for almost that amount of time before. But enough talk about the past and future, this week was an interesting one, I was in front of a camera twice this week, and at school we had a famous guest speaker.

Me preparing for the broadcast, doing a couple practice runs
            The school week started on Monday, as it has a tendency of doing, it was pretty average nothing too special, just going along with my typical schedule that has already been explained, so let us skip ahead to the exiting stuff. On Tuesday, our school director was talking to us during our class, and said that the English department here at the Vietnam National University was working on a film project, in coordination with the Dept. of Education, and that they wanted to know if any of us, the SYA students, were interested in helping them out by reading and acting out some scenes. Thinking it would be interesting, and because I am in the MAD academy back Stateside, I volunteered, along with another student. So after school got out, we headed over with our director, Thay Vuong, and trekked over to the studio, a grueling 1-2 minute walk. It looked a bit sketchy on the outside, but inside it was actually really nice and modern. The studio staff greeted us, and gave us each a copy of the script, and talked to us about what it was we would be doing. They said that this was going to be part of the teaching program that will be shown to all Vietnamese English teachers all over the country for the next 10 years or so, so that they will know how native speakers pronounce words and sentences that will be used in class, and to help the students pronounce words better. So basically, anyone learning English in the next 10 years here will talk like me! (I am known for my perfect prononciation, spelin and grammer as many know) So my assignment today was to sit in the studio sound booth, and for the first part they would be filming me as I read a few set paragraphs in English
"Stay classy San Diego!"

Looking in from the control room

about meta cognition or something like that.  It felt like I was a news anchor, sitting at a desk, with my teleprompter, sound people, the director saying ACTION and motioning with his hand to tell me when to start, several different cameras, and with guys sitting on the other side of a glass panel in the control room - along with my make-up and wardrobe people (what would I do without them!), and the lighting guys. It was a very surreal experience. Before they started filming, they showed me the exact way to position myself and my head and how to fold my hands in a natural position, and the wardrobe person would come in to straighten out my shirt. Then they said ACTION and after 3 seconds the director signaled to start, and I began to read from my teleprompter, which was a big flat screen located right under the camera, with my lines so I could read directly from there while I talk. All the big names use one, and now I shall be added to the list of teleprompter users. Next was a bit more casual, they recorded me reading words and sentences from the teleprompter, just stuff that you would here in an English class, like, “what did we learn” or “did you understand”. I read a few pages of those, and then it was time for me to act out a skit. Now both of us American actors took the stage. I played the role of the angry customer, wanting to return a shirt, which I discovered, was missing a button, a role that I have no doubt will win me an academy award. Anna, my co-star, played the role of the pleasant and helpful saleswomen who was not shaken by my mean demeanor. The script was supposed to be written as if it were just your average everyday language that you would use on the street if you were a native speaker, but it was painfully obvious that it was written by someone not from the US. But even though we, and our school director, who has lived in the US for many years, told them that that is not how anyone in the US speaks, they wouldn’t budge and told us that they pulled that conversation from a linguistics book. It sounded like a super exaggerated New Jersey or Brooklyn accent. But we went along with it anyway. After the filming was done, we headed back to school, and I went home, now an accomplished actor.
Viewing our work of art 

            Thursday was another busy day at school, we had a famous guest speaker come today, and the cameras were rolling once again, but this time it was the national news! Our speaker was a famous Vietnamese author who has written many important cultural books about Vietnam and other countries. He is in his late 80’s, and has lived a very interesting life. He was an officer in the North Vietnamese army in the 50s, and after leaving the army he became an author, writing about Vietnamese history and culture. He really knows his stuff! He also speaks English very well so there was no translation required, I could  tell just by listening to him that he has been around the block a few times. He was a very interesting man to have met. The cameras from the news showed up before he formally spoke, and they filmed him and us during the presentation. Afterwards, the TV guys interviewed a few of us, and I was selected for an interview. They asked me questions like what was your first impression of Vietnam, and how do I like the School Year Abroad program. Just your standard interview questions. Then they filmed us walking around the school, and also talking to some Vietnamese students outside the campus. It was pretty awkward. Actually, that’s an understatement, it was extremely awkward. But at least we got to be on National TV…

Take 12! (actually it only took 3 takes)
            It was a busy week, and at the beginning of it I had absolutely no idea that anything that happened this week was going to happen, so it was a week full of pleasant surprises. 


  1. Thats really cool! Was it scary being in a room who didnt speak your language? Were you scared you would mess up? I sure would be!

  2. Thats really cool good thing you dint mess up