After filming at the chapel at the Carmelite Monastery (see Part I), both the school assembly and class photo scenes at St. Joseph Secondary School were switched to Sunday, the final day of filming. All the extras—Garret-another Brother, Leslie-the photographer, and about three dozen Form Five students from St. Joseph—were brought it for the shots.
There was some drama in the school assembly when the Taib and Annuar characters arrived late and Annuar collided with Brother Charles who was wielding his cane. My opening lines addressing the school assembly went well, just needed to work on the cadence. The tiles, however, were slippery from the early morning rain for my dress shoes, so I had to be careful while walking and then climbing onto the platform (they had to remove the makeshift steps which were even more precarious).
Jocelyn would assist me coming down, which I didn’t mind. One take, I even had two ladies helping me, one for each hand. Wouldn’t look good if I fell since they didn’t have a spare cassock. What did fall was the top portion of an old gramophone that was being wound up to play the school rally. The two previous takes went fine, but then the whole top portion of the gramophone dropped off.
Still, the school rally had to be sung.
I made the announcement, put my hand on my heart, as did all of the students, and we sang the school rally. I had been rehearsing all week and had it memorized, but I kept screwing up the lines and then picking it up later and screwing up again, although no retakes were done for my sake, which I found…well, surprising and relieving. Then I got an idea. I asked Alester, our director, to ask all of the students to put some school spirit into the song, since they all knew the song by heart, and to sing loudly, too, which I hoped would drown me out (and cover my mistakes). It worked!
While waiting for the class photo scene, I ran into Donjie, the kantung seller, who Alex and I knew from Road to Nationhood: Sarawak.
|Donjie Pixbugs Studio|
By the time the class photo sequence was ready to begin, the sun was directly above our heads and we were all melting. Although I acted cool, the bald spot in the back of my head could feel the heat.
This was where the film ends, just as the photographer called out, “One, two, three…” He had no flash in his camera, but in the film, it flashed, and the class photo morphed into the actual class photo with Taib Mahmud taken in 1955.
|Taib's Class Photo 1955|
I thought we were done, but we were called in for an ADR—Additional Dialogue Replacement—to dub in lines that weren’t clear on the film for a variety of reasons, some out of our control like that passing ambulance. I immediately dreaded redoing the school rally, something I was still singing inside my head, and desperately wanted out! Then I figured, since they were no longer filming, I could read from the script, so no problem. No, the school rally was fine and the close-ups on me were at the beginning before I had time to mess up.
We arrived at Momentum Studio Thursday evening. Since I had the longest drive home, and it was a school night and I had to be up at 5:15 a.m. the following morning, they let me go first.
“Are you ready?” asked Amos as he led me to the sound room.
“When have I ever not been ready?” I replied jokingly.
My wife would’ve laughed at that. “Now what?” she would say, after another delay whenever we were rushing anywhere.
“Wait,” I told Amos, “I forgot my backpack…”
On the monitor was me from the church scene, kneeling in my pew. I needed to redo the prayers. Bernie keyed me in with a series of three beats. On the fourth non-existent beat I would begin. It was weird speaking to myself, trying to match the words with the lips that were moving in front of me. All I had to do was say my prayer a couple of times and then I silently prayed it would be over before they changed their minds about redoing that song.
One month to the day of my audition to play Brother Patrick I happened to be in Sibu when I heard that Sarawak TV would be airing our film that evening; however, they weren’t sure of the time, anywhere from 7:30-9:30. The hotel didn’t carry that channel, but I was told it could be watched live online.
We watched the news at 7:30, and kept glancing at the time as the program, a tribute to Taib Mahmud dragged on…a variety show of speeches, singing and dancing that culminated with the presentation of our film by Pixbugs Studio—his special birthday present—at 10 pm! By then both of our boys were sound asleep. Nevertheless, my wife and I watched the program on her phone in bed. Luckily, it didn’t put us to sleep.
Here is a link to the 15 minute video:
What really jolted me awake was the first shot of me—a closeup of the balding spot on the back of my head as I stood on the podium about to address the school assembly. It was not a good look. Shocking to say the least since I never see that particular angle when I look at myself in the mirror, nor do I want to see it, let alone millions of strangers. Other than that, the film was nicely done, shot in black and white in a nostalgic style befitting Malaysia in the mid-50’s. For Malaysians, think P. Ramlee.
The boys got to see it the following morning.
“You look weird,” one of them said. So much for making a good impression.
An astute Catholic friend, other than pointing out the bald spot, noted that the sign of the cross before the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965) was: In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost (not Holy Spirit as I had said.) Oh well, for me it was still a wrap…in the can…and launched onto TV land and into the realm of Social Media throughout the world…and into infinity and beyond...
Next time, I just pray I don’t have to sing that school rally again and maybe they could cover up that bald spot for me. A nice stylish hat would do.
—Borneo Expat Writer
Beheaded on the Road to Nationhood—Part I
Beheaded on the Road to Nationhood—Part II
Somerset Maugham and Me—Part I-V
Joseph Conrad and Me