A little over a year ago, I ran into 發哥 and was subsequently given a photograph of myself taken by this amazing man. It was in fact a chance encounter. 發哥 had not planned it, nor had I, but the encounter happened, and just as he was about to leave, it suddenly occurred to 發哥 to ask me if I'd teach English. If it was anyone else, I'd have immediately replied no, but this was 發哥 and I instead answered yes.
Perhaps it was pre-destined that 發哥 would not be able to contact me multiple times in his earnest attempt to deliver the photo to me. Perhaps this repeated failure to locate me kept me on his mind, so much so that when he needed an English coach to help him with his dubbing work on the new The Children of Huang Shi movie, he thought of me and tried to contact me yet once again. For the first time in 4 months, I was able to answer the phone and we spoke.
I had never heard of the dialect coach vocation, and yet, I had now become one. I was uniquely qualified. Twenty years of acting in a second language gave me unique insight into the challenges faced by someone like 發哥 working in Hollywood. Twenty years of acting gave me great understanding of the work of an actor, and twenty years of rarely speaking English while watching Hollywood-produced television and movies had eradicated all but a pinch of my Australian accent. Being fluent in Cantonese was also going to be invaluable, more so in the interpersonal relationship than in the act of teaching itself because 發哥's conversational English is quite good.
At the end of May, I began working with 發哥; almost on a daily basis; in preparation for the movie dubbing. When we arrived at the dubbing studio for the first day of dubbing, the director didn't recognise me and asked who I was. 發哥's assistant replied that I was his dialog coach, and that I was Australian. Whoa! The director's face sagged almost all the way to the floor. He was incredulous and concerned. Who would want an Australian dialect coach??? He was not happy, but his entire demeanour changed over the next few hours of dubbing and by lunch time, he was very pleased. 發哥's work was impressive and dubbing was proceeding smoothly.
It was coincidentally at this very same time that I was contemplating going to London to audition for the Musical Theatre degree at the University of London, but it was also a time when my singing voice was completely shut down as a consequence of overuse in the "They’re Playing Our Song (2007)" musical. Other factors beyond my control also conspired to stop me going to London, and so it was that I remained in Hong Kong and began working with 發哥 instead.
After dubbing had been completed, 發哥 requested that we work together weekly, and our long term working relationship began.
November came, and I was asked by TVB to renew my contract which was due to expire in January of 2008. For two years, I had contemplated my future and the only future I could see if I remained at TVB was that of a saddened unfulfilled elderly Caucasian actor still performing the bread crumb roles that occasionally fell my way. Over the previous months, 發哥 had repeatedly hinted that he would like me to work with him on location in his future Hollywood projects. Nothing was guaranteed, but it was a possibility none the less.
Twenty-one years ago, I took a gamble and bought a one-way air ticket to Hong Kong to follow my dreams. My life has been incredible. I met and married my wonderful wife. I have an incredible loving family, both human and canine, and I have made some wonderful friends over the years. I've had an unimaginable acting career with TVB and am recognised and thought well of by numerous people both in Hong Kong and overseas. I have no regrets, only gratitude. Now however, I felt that it time to once again buy a one-way ticket, this time away from TVB to destinations unknown, and I therefore submitted to TVB a letter of intent not to renew my contract.
It was the first week of December, and I was working with 發哥 in his home. Not more than fifteen minutes into our session, 發哥 informed me that he had accepted a role in the new Dragonball movie, and that we would be leaving for Mexico within the first week of January. I was in complete shock! This was totally unexpected and it was going to take some time to get used to the idea. I knew that 發哥 was considering one or two projects but I had no idea that we would be leaving so soon, and that we would be going away for so long; three months!
The future is not ours to plan, only to prepare for. We were scheduled to leave Hong Kong on January 1 but my contract with TVB was not due to finish until January 6. I could logically leave without consequence because I was not obliged to film any more episodes at TVB. I had fulfilled my contract obligations for the year. However, things could always become sticky if TVB wanted to make a point so it would not be prudent to leave before my contract expired. I wanted to leave with absolutely no strings attached and no concerns. I wanted complete freedom to move on in my life. Who could have guessed that because of continued negotiations with the movie's producers, our date of departure was pushed back to January 9! Perfect timing and none of it was my doing. Some things are meant to be.
So it is that I find myself sitting in a hotel room in Durango Mexico, working for one of the Hong Kong masters of acting, and well and truly taking the first steps of the next stage of my life.