I admit I do have some random interesting things happen in my life. I’m used to it now but my friends remind me it’s not the usual ho-hum life.
While in Chiang Mai, Thailand, one of the places I frequent, two American women sat next to me and as per usual I started a conversation with them. One from New York was a director and one from California was a producer. They were shooting a commercial in three different locations for Air China Airlines. I do run into the most interesting people on my travels! We chatted over our coffees, exchanged emails until it was soon time for them to get back to work.
Two days later while on the other side of Chiang Mai in a different coffee shop, the producer called out my name and I turned to find some of the same crew there, director included, what a coincidence! She asked if I received her email and I told her I was having problems with my phone and no I had not. “Well the woman hired to play the mom in the commercial can’t make it, do you want the job?” she asked. “What does it entail?” I asked. You would have to go to the Chinese embassy, get a VISA for a few days, don’t tell them you are working and we’ll pay for that, your flight, accommodations, food, and pay you for your time in front of the camera. “There’s a small speaking part too, she added.” I had a friend coming to visit me from the states soon and we had planned to go to a wonderful monastery in the north of Thailand at the same time I needed to be in Beijing for the filming. We were also traveling through Vietnam and Laos for a month afterward so I made a quick decision, knowing she’s a seasoned traveler, would be fine with herself at the monastery and we’d have loads of time together traveling, so I replied, ok, sounds interesting.
It was a rush job to get the Chinese VISA, but I got it in the nick of time and flew to Bejing from Chiang Mai, not without some hiccups along the way. The flight left so late from Chiang Mai, I missed my connection in China. No one spoke English at the airport and I felt like a true foreigner more than any other time, I can remember trying to figure out what was going on. Without a way to communicate with the man in charge of “talent” (me included, funny enough) I couldn’t tell him I had missed my connecting flight but assumed he would find out from the airlines when my name wasn’t on the manifest. Wrong assumption. In the meantime I was driven out somewhere in a car from the airport, I don’t have the vaguest idea where, but to a hotel, for a complimentary overnight to presumably catch a flight the next morning. This was all communicated via sign language and a lot of pointing in different directions. Honestly, this is the first time that the thought of no one knows where I am, including me and I’m getting into this car, not sure where to. Is this safe? In all the years of my travel, I honestly have not experienced this feeling before. I wasn’t freaking out but I was aware this could be a dicey situation. Ages before I started traveling I had an experience during meditation that’s difficult to articulate, but the bottom line is I got a knowingness that I’m always protected and it seems to have been true.
The next day I made the flight to Bejing, convinced that everyone that needed to know my whereabouts would, but no one was there to meet me so I was wrong. I asked a local standing there waiting for someone if he could dial my contact number for me on his cell phone . He was fluent in English and spoke in Chinese saying he was with Alexsandra at the airport. Peter, the man in charge of talent, had never learned I missed the connection, had been at the airport most of the night, had contacted police, hospitals, etc etc. but somehow didn’t know I was at a complimentary overnight at a hotel! He was frantic by morning as he was responsible for me, he said when he arrived to pick me up fifteen minutes later.
At the airport, he took me to get a Chinese SIM card for my phone and dozens of messages popped up from everyone on the crew looking for me the night before. I stayed in a five-star hotel, ate from a delicious buffet and went to “wardrobe” on another floor, tried on clothes and modeled them for the others who were in charge of that. I got a good night sleep and the next day met the other cast members in the commercial at breakfast. All were professionals, registered with agencies and were warm and friendly to me, the novice.
Those needed for the first shoot were going to be picked up soon and taken out to the location. My screen daughter and I didn’t need to be there until much later but we asked to go along as we didn’t have anything in particular to do. It turned out to be a twelve hour day, much longer then we imagined as things at the location were still being delivered and put together. An entire gym was being set up in the garage, where my “daughter, ” was going to be working out for her scene and most of a kitchen, where another scene with different actors would be shot, everything delivered from Ikea. Caterers were bringing in food through-out the day, the wardrobe and makeup room were in full swing, camera men were checking angles and lighting. It was a beehive of activity in the private home rented for the shoot in a gated community. I had never been on a set like this before and I found it fascinating the first few hours but as the day dragged on into night waiting for my turn, it got a bit tiring from doing nothing all day.
Around 10 PM I had been made up and coiffed. Jason the stylist had worked on many movies, most recently, Crazy Rich Asians, a box office smash. He was professional but fun and it was a rare experience for me to be in the chair instead of standing behind the chair as a hairdresser and makeup artist for many years. So enjoyable to be worked on instead of working!
A beautiful full moon hung above the location house, as I was called onto the set.
According to the script, my “daughter” had been in a rock climbing accident in China a year prior and felt she had to go back for a re-do, training her body and mind for the big event, she now felt ready. It was implied that her boyfriend had a fatal accident there. My line was, “Liz, are you sure you’re ready?” Easy acting for me as a real-life mom, still, it seemed like I had dozens of takes repeating that line over and over before I said it the way the director wanted it.
The next day with no ideas of future stardom in my head, but fond memories of lovely people and a once in a lifetime experience, I boarded the plane back to Chiang Mai, via Bangkok and met my dear friend, Jean, to explore Vietnam for the first time and Laos for the third time.
Recently, I got a clip of the commercial from my beautiful screen daughter, Christiana Chaiwanna, a professional trainer in Bangkok.
To view the entire commercial and my five-seconds of fame click on the line below. I think it used to be 15 seconds of fame but now people have the attention span of a goldfish. Remember, don’t blink or you’ll miss me in the opening scene walking into the gym and asking, “Liz, are you sure you are ready?”