The making of a cheongsam video

A couple of weeks ago, I received an email from a multimedia journalist, Razinah, from Razor TV, the media arm of Singapore Press Holding, which publishes the major newspapers and magazines in the country. She asked if I would be interested to participate in the filming of a cheongsam program for the Chinese New Year, which is shown on the Internet (and not on TV). They wanted an interview with a cheongsam enthusiast. To be honest, my first reaction was to decline because I didn’t think I could show my face to the public. In fact even if it was a print interview, I wasn’t plan on getting myself photographed. To me, it was like exposing myself, and I wasn’t sure if I could take the publicity.

I told my husband about it, before I responded to Razinah. Contrary to me, however, my husband felt the publicity would be good for my blog and might increase readership, so I should go for it. After all, who knows when I might get another chance. I thought he had a point, and after thinking about it, I accepted the video interview.

Razinah asked if I could do the filming the following week, which was the days before CNY and I proposed the eve when I was on leave. I also asked how long it would take since I had to pick up Buddy from day care which only opened for half day. She replied that it would be 1-2 hours and likely to be completed after an hour. She had also earlier mentioned that I had to model or show some of my cheongsams. I thought that was pretty alright; I only had to wear a dress and showed the others to the camera, and it would likely be a straightforward process.

As the date drew closer, Razinah started to make more requests, like I had to bring along 5 dresses and model them for the camera, and I should also put on makeup and wear heels. After further probing, I found out that the filming would take 2 hours, if not more; and I was supposed to pose for the camera in my dresses. To be honest I was tempted to say forget about it. But since I had already given my words, I had to follow through. But I asked Razinah what kind of poses were they expecting because I wasn’t going to do anything cheesy, like no way was I going to do some cat walk. She assured me that it would be nicely done (though I wasn’t so sure then.)

On the morning of the filming, I arrived at SPH building on time. It’s a huge complex and frankly I’ve no idea why they require such a large building when no printing work is done at this location. Anyway Razinah came to the reception to meet me; and I realized she is pretty young, probably newly graduated, which explains why she seemed rather raw. In fact she later revealed that she had only joined SPH for a few months. She took me to the studio which was rather cluttered with furniture and various props, and introduced me to the crew. They, on the other hand, are more experienced, and was able to guide me during the filming.

I wore the Bitsy Prints cheongsam to the shoot, since it’s more casual and the flare bottom makes it easy to move around. Separately I brought along four cheongsams, three from Blum and one from Tong Tong. Initially I had wanted to include one from Miz Apparels and another from Lady Xiang, but I was wearing my orange platforms and didn’t think the green Lady Xiang cheongsam would go well with it, and the MA dress was at the laundry. The camera guy asked me to show all the cheongsams against the backdrop to see which would go best against it on camera. It turns out the orange and blue cheongsam with Japanese motif of bonsai from Blum was the standout dress. So I changed into that for the interview. There was no proper changing room; instead I had to go to some office room to do so, but I guess since the company isn’t in the broadcast business, the makeshift set-up is to be expected.

Next was the OBP dress, a modern design with flare bottom, which I had to hold the skirt to do a slow twirl. So far so good then, until I was told we were leaving the studio to continue filming outside. I was brought to the Executive office part of the building where the CEO office is located. There is restricted access to the office of the CEO and the executive management team. A door, that requires pass code, separates their offices from the rest. I wonder why the tight security, are they afraid of some sort of attack? Anyway I digress. It turns out the reason we were there, or least outside the door, was because the area is the nicest part inside the building, other than the reception and the outdoor Koi pond. This was where I was filmed wearing another Blum dress, a straight-cut cheongsam with a modern floral painting print. The crew brought along a chair, tables and other props like teapot and cups. I was told to sit down and sip the tea (which was actually water), and pretend that I was having a leisurely afternoon while enjoying the scenery outside. I was trying not to laugh while I stared at the wall, imaging that I was looking at cars passing by (suggested by the crew).

The camera guy (think he was the producer) was trying to guide me to pose like the Maggie Cheung character in the movie ‘In The Mood For Love”. So I had to stand with my back against the wall, butt sticking out and one foot on the toes. A crew told me to remove my glasses to see how I looked, and decided that I looked better without them. Then there were various poses of me in akimbo, and I got a little dismayed when I was told to look up at the camera and smile or do a slow turn. This was getting to be cheesy! I thought I only had to sit down or stand up showing the dresses. All the while Razinah kept assuring me that the end result would look good, though I was doubtful. After this shooting was done, I had to have another change where there would be more interview, followed by an outdoor shooting at the Koi pond. It was already close to two hours by then, and I told Razinah that I wouldn’t have time for the fifth dress. I wore the black Blum dress with embroidery details on the collar, sleeves and hem for the final filming. I passed over the Tong Tong cheongsam since there are too many buttons along the bodice to do up.

Over at the pond, I was told to stroll along it without glasses. (The crew checked with me beforehand to make sure I could somewhat see where I was walking; after all I might fall into the pond.) I had to eat my words about the catwalk as I followed the crew’s instructions. Thought it wasn’t exactly strutting down the fashion walkway, I was still awkward about it. The crew even tried to shoo the fishes to me so that they were in the background view of the camera. But I bared my teeth and grinned, since it would wrap up soon. By the time we were done, 2.5 hours had gone by, and I only showed four dresses.

Razinah told me she would let me know when the video would be put up. To be honest, I was afraid it would be rather cheesy, what with all the posings, and I didn’t think I would check it out then. I asked Razinah how she found out about me. It turned out she was doing research on cheongsam after receiving this assignment, and found my blog. She also tried contacting this other blogger, Ms Glitzy, who also has a passion for cheongsam, and the author of the book “In The Mood for Cheongsam”. At the time of my filming they hadn’t responded to her.

I told my husband about the poses and he said that was to be expected. If it was only me sitting or standing while talking about the cheongsams, it would be so boring. Oh well, guess it was an eye opening experience for me. Anyway last Friday, Razinah sent me the link. I didn’t have time to look at it and forwarded to my husband instead. He likes it and thinks it’s better than expected. After I checked it out, I’ve to agree with him. Though I still think those scenes of me smiling at the camera and making slow turns seem a little cheesy, the overall effect is not bad. But one thing though, I disagree that I look better without my glasses. So, here’s the link to the video. If it doesn’t play when you open it, click on the link “play all related videos”.

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