Dunkirk - An Experience

So I finally watched Dunkirk with great anticipation, despite the fact that I'm not typically a war movie fan, but went because it was a Christopher Nolan film. 

Personally I really liked it, I didn't love it per se, but it was fairly consistent with Nolan's style of bending timelines. Ever since Memento, most of Nolan's standalone films (disregarding the Batman trilogy) have a concept of time attached to it. Whether it's moving from the end to the beginning in Memento, or going into people's dreams for 15 mins (yet seemingly lasting hours within) in Inception, or like Interstellar where the characters are going through time space, Dunkirk makes use of different time frames to converge in the middle of the movie. I think this is why I like his films, it's because he doesn't really do it in typical linear fashion.

As for the story of Dunkirk, little dialogue is actually said, in fact it was thanks to Hans Zimmer's intense music that had me on the edge of my seat, or at least generated a lot of tension in my jaw and neck, lol. While the scale of the war isn't anything like bodies falling left and right like Saving Private Ryan, I liked the different focus of land, sea and air. As I've mentioned, switching between each focus, which themselves were on different timelines, made you piece together the whole picture as you went along. In this regard, I felt it was more of an experiential film rather than a gripping story, as most characters didn't have names, and the big stars of the film felt more like cameos (except for Tom Hardy, who had his face covered again for 99% of the film, and Harry Styles had more lines than anyone else). It was the unknown actors who stole the show, they looked more shell shocked and stoic, half expecting them to breakdown in some fashion, but strangely they never did. It's why you don't feel much attachment to any of the characters because you don't know their back story, you don't know where they're from. You're basically there taking a glimpse into the last days, hours, minutes of their lives. 

The film is shot on location at Dunkirk in France, so the long stretches of beach are absolutely astounding, imagine with 400,000 soldiers lined up in the sand like that. The capsizing of ships, the oil slicks in the water, the fleet of civilian boats coming to rescue them, all well done with minimal CGI. Obviously they won't hire 400,000 extras to be on the film, so they cheated a little, but I don't think scale and size were the focus of the film. It's not Saving Private Ryan and I don't think it would be fair to expect another war film of the same vein, it's not like Nolan was trying to do a British version of Saving Private Ryan (how boring would that be?).

I equal Nolan's approach to war movies as Wong Kar Wai's approach to kung fu films, you're expecting the mainstream formula of it being a certain way, but they present you something completely different. I like directors like that! Not for the sake of being different, but this is just the way they've always done it. I personally find Nolan's thing is the concept of time, or a non-linear film. He shows us that no matter what the subject - dream invasion, murder mystery, war, and sci-fi - can all have his concepts of time applied to the storyline. This is what makes his movies interesting and different. Tarantino's films also has non-linear plot lines, but clearly his style heavily pays homage to vintage films. 

Anyway, I'm looking forward to Hans Zimmer's concert this weekend as it so happens, and hoping to hear some of that suspenseful soundtrack from Dunkirk!

Little Surprises

The Broad (lower right hand photo) featured in a Lonely Planet spread.

The Broad (lower right hand photo) featured in a Lonely Planet spread.

I just randomly found out that one of my photos that I've uploaded to Unsplash was used and credited in Lonely Planet's Summer in America 2017 sample issue! Eventhough I've done so voluntarily to submit photos for free, I haven't really used Unsplash too much as a portfolio site since I haven't had any plans to go pro in photography. But it's nice to see that my Broad Museum photos have been well liked and the Maison de la Littérature has also been used on a couple of occasions.

In other news, I've been watching The Bold Type and still can't get over seeing the crew working in MY office building! They definitely worked during the weekend to get those shots done. It's funny how they turned the outdoor staircase into a lounge area, when there's actually nothing there. The show has been getting a lot of positive reviews from the NY Times to Refinery 29 so I'm pretty sure they're banking on a season 2. If they're up for shooting early next year back in Montreal, I will definitely try to make time for it!

There's a trio of movies that I'm dying to see in theaters this summer. My #1 pick is oddly enough, Dunkirk, the war movie by Christopher Nolan, with stars attached like Tom Hardy and Cillian Murphy, both whom I loved in Peaky Blinders and Taboo. Luc Besson's sci-fi saga Valerian is also another film I want to watch. It's been 20 years since he released the Fifth Element, so I'm pretty eager to see a new alien world he's created with this film. Finally, Atomic Blonde with Charlize Theron and James McAvoy, though it does seem like Wanted 2.0. But I'm typically drawn to strong female leads, especially in action films and I like Charlize enough to go see it. Though, who can beat Linda Hamilton in Terminator 2? She had arms like guns and didn't need to wear five inch heels or mascara to kick ass (just sayin').

The Last Shoot

My favorite Cate Blanchett dual role in Coffee and Cigarettes. #idol

My favorite Cate Blanchett dual role in Coffee and Cigarettes. #idol

After sitting for 5 hrs in holding since 7pm, we finally filmed our last scene and wrapped up for good at 3am. Last week there was already a wrap party, but for some reason we got called back the following Sunday to finalize everything. I was thankfully sleeping in my seat out of camera range during the last bits of filming, when I heard "Aaaand, that's a WRAP!" everyone cheered and clapped for a job well done. The director and Katie thanked everyone for their hard work, and the extras got a special shout out from Katie, which was very sweet of her. 

After 3 1/2 months of shooting nearly every day, the set did begin to feel like a work family, like most productions do (or always talk about). I can see why it can get pretty emotional for a crew and cast to go on for several season with the same people, and then finally say goodbye. I didn't spend nearly as much time on set like the others, so it was still difficult for me to adjust and bond with them (I technically only ecked in 7 days), but I found the crew was very nice and chill even when extras made mistakes like having a cellphone ring on set.

Everyone was asking each other what they had planned next, a couple of them were already working on the set of the new X-Men film. I'm sort of kicking myself for not submitting anything when they emailed me, but we'll see what happens now that I've sent them something. If not there's another big production in the pipeline in the fall. I'm trying to get 8 more days to qualify for background union and I'd be set. 

However, working a late shift is significantly brutal, and I can't imagine how much tougher it would be with outdoor conditions. I was also thinking of how I can kill time in holding. As far as I've observed, other than reading, talking to people and sleeping, many others brought in sketch pads, card/board games, and some even their laptops (despite no internet). It's like a preview of what retirement home life could look like. You have limited resources and you can't really leave the premises. I don't know how retirees don't go crazy from being locked inside a place day in and day out. The light inside the holding area are fluorescent, so it's not the best light to read a book in as it can really tire out my eyes. The moment we stepped on set, they had fake lights imitate golden hour and it was like an instant mood booster - also, I wasn't freezing to death on set unlike the holding.

Anyway, as I've mentioned before, being an extra is more about physical endurance, and some mental adjustments. You don't need to think too hard, but you also need to keep it engaged while you wait. It's tricky for sure. At the same time, you wonder if you're really being productive by just waiting around, so I always feel conflicted whether to continue the gig or not. For the time being, I need the extra income and it's really helped pay my debts of a little faster. Once I get in the black again, it would be good to save up for another vacation and finally get the bed frame, lol.

Just Deleted 10,000 FB Posts

I've spent the last few days deleting over 10,000 Facebook posts with the help of a small extension on my browser. While I was seeing the traces of my past slowly delete itself, it dawned on me how embarrassingly attached I was to this platform. I'm disappointed in myself that it has taken me this long to realize how pointless it all was to share so much about my interests when the truth is no one cared about that stuff except, well, me.

Of course there are way more than 10,000 posts, it didn't count the numerous likes and comments that I've done over time, and that I'm not too concerned about deleting. But it's nice to be able to get rid of everything, so that I don't have some embarrassing "memory" popping up and read through these old posts and opinions I've made over the years. 

No matter what your level of authenticity is, most people just want to read about positive things. And I get it, there's only so much of Debbie-downer attitude many people can take and most people just don't have the time to care about the lives of over 500 people they know, let alone go deep diving into particular subjects, it's just not possible. So we resort to the lighter things, like photos and funny videos. That's about as much most people can take nowadays. So, off they went. 

A Possible Side Gig

So the premiere of the TV show I've been working on finally aired this week. The first episode was more of a pilot, so I found the pacing of it to be pretty choppy and quick, but I suppose as a pilot, it was never meant to be a proper first episode? Anyway, I watched Episode 2 and was surprised at how some bits actually made me laugh out loud. So, yes, it actually surpassed my expectations as when I was on the set, it was difficult to say if anything was funny, or maybe I simply wasn't around enough to catch the funny dialog. 

Anyway, I have one more shooting day to film and then it's a total wrap. I pulled a grueling 16hr shift the other day and it was made worse because I had to stand in high heels the whole time. By the time 10pm rolled around, all the extras that had shown up in heels were kicking off their shoes whenever the cameras weren't rolling. It's one thing to look cute in high heels, it's another to try to stand in them for all hours of the day. Luckily I didn't have to stand the whole 16hrs, but I think I stood in them for a good 6-8hrs total, when midnight rolled around, I was ready to leave, lol. It's one thing if you're a featured character on set, but when you're amongst 400 extras, you're nothing but a spec on the screen.

Which got me thinking, or researching, more deeply into the industry. I delved into that rabbit hole of a background actor/actor's life. I can see the appeal of being part of a union - the higher rates, the privilege of eating with the crew (eventhough technically this whole time we've eaten the same thing as what the crew was eating), and perhaps eventual health benefits (the latter which I don't need, as I'm under my husband's benefit plan). So I suppose it's all about the money.

It's an exciting and sad thing. So many people I met seem to be doing it for the money, they can easily get jaded on what seems to be an exciting project. But after that 16hr shift, no matter if there were limos, sports cars and a red carpet at a hot club, there is nothing glamorous about having swollen feet in high heels, redoing the same scene for 2-3hrs. I wonder how the others put up with this kind of lifestyle for so long. One girl I befriended, Laura, was the absolute social butterfly, talking to everyone. I think some people are in this business because they like the social aspect of it, and, from a certain perspective, doesn't really require you to think much - especially if you're an extra. I think in part why I took on this gig was that it was easy money that didn't require me to think too much, thus a nice change from my current job where brain power and seeking solutions to put out fires are in high demand. Background acting requires more physical endurance more than anything, and obviously something to keep your mind occupied during the dead times.

I did research the pros and cons of doing this full time if I decided to get into it. I read an article in the LA Weekly about background actors doing this for a living and earning somewhere between $80,000 to lower six figures if they were really liked and part of the union. I doubt I'd be making that much to start, but after talking to Laura, she said that after quitting her financial job, she was making nearly just as much as her old job with these gigs as an ACTRA Extra. She also said she was much happier for it as there was less pressure and stress, and she loved talking to people. So I guess it can really work out for certain people.

The cons of these gigs though are obviously the long hours and inconsistent work schedules. Another girl, Karine, kept an agenda with all her bookings. It was colorfully highlighted and had little post-its here and there. While the rest of the city goes into slow mode for summer time, the filming industry goes into full gear during this season. Gigs are plentiful and after a long winter of little work, the industry seems to come back to life. So a major con would be finding work during the winter months, which is dead for film, but bountiful in white collar jobs. Had Montreal had a climate like Southern California, the filming industry would technically be non-stop and much more vibrant. Toronto has that kind of benefit as it does technically have a slightly warmer climate than Montreal, a bigger industry, thus more jobs available. I have a feeling that in Montreal, it's always the same people you see at nearly every major filming project, so the industry does remain small. It's a good and bad thing, good because you know the same people, bad because it's always the same people.

Of course, if I'm non-union, I am susceptible to pretty horrible conditions if I take a random bookings. Although I have to say, the current casting agency I'm with seem to be pretty good, and eventhough I'm non-union, I would rather work on a union project. Granted, I've been spoiled rotten on this TV gig, and can only hope it can be this good every time, but I have to keep my expectations low. Ah la la....

My husband is surprised that I'm accepting so many shooting days on this gig, but I mainly need it to pay my debts and I have been searching for a long while for a side job I could do to get some extra cash that wouldn't encroach on my day job. Graphic design jobs are incredibly labor intensive and lots of micromanaging can happen during the designing stage, and I don't like dealing with clients. I'm already mentally exhausted when I come back from work, it wouldn't be possible for me to devote more brain power to a graphic design gig. So I scratched that off. I thought about going into photography, but after assessing my commitment and my lack of connections and photo projects - it would be very difficult for me to turn this into a paying side gig without a great amount of effort being put into this (maybe when I'm older). A part-time office job or other miscellaneous job would definitely burn me out.

Thus coming to a conclusion I didn't quite expect to get to. I might keep this side gig of background acting in my back pocket. I don't get called every week, so far it's been every two weeks that I've been called in to work a day or two on the set. I'm actually pretty good with that. I did the math, and if I only worked around 4 days a month for a year, I would earn enough days to be part of the union for background actors, thus bumping up my rates. Combined with my current job, I can earn a pretty decent and comfortable living. It's sort of like the best of both worlds. I can also decide not to taking any side gigs if I don't want to or feel overwhelmed with my day job. This would be pretty sweet. Although I have to say, it's not absolutely guaranteed I can even book 4 days in a month either, especially in the winter. And - do I need an agent? Do I want an agent? Agents are the only way they can get you gigs that aren't publicized. I know all of this seems a lot of work for a low paying (so far) gig. But I suppose it's better than nothing. Also if I get tired of it, I can stop at any time.

So, I'm viewing this more as a part-time job. We'll see how this goes!

It's Time To Get Frugal

The past two months have crippled me financially. With extra spending on an unplanned plane ticket and a broken computer, with miscellaneous other spendings, I'm in the red for the rest of the year. I can't imagine if we had a mortgage, a car and a baby hanging over our heads, I would be crying.

So! To reign in my wild spendings, I relied on a couple of my budget apps to see that besides my large ticket purchases, the biggest area that I spend the most on is food. I've seen plenty of budget sites that people don't seem to spend more than $250/month on food, which to me makes me feel like I've been splurging way too much on food (I spend double that amount on myself). Also, how does one only spend that much in a month?? lol Ok ok, I need to pack my lunches, though thankfully I only eat out 3 times a week for work since I'm only in the office for that long. The weekends are a big write-offs, I eat out with my husband and can easily spent a lot of money in one sitting. Plus our grocery bill somehow easily balloons to $150/week, and that's me not making lunch at home, so go figure.

I've rarely splurged on clothes, though for the past two months, I've bought new clothes and shoes, which I thankfully only do once a year. This year was exception for all the wedding gear I had to buy, but next year I should fare much better though. 

We have still yet to buy the furniture I had planned on getting, which was a bed frame and some IKEA furniture to store away all our crap, but that sadly won't be happening this year. 

Travel expenses are another big thing, we both like to travel and I personally never mind splurging a little more for nicer digs. This year we still have two more trips planned, so we're not quite out of the hole yet. Italy will surely put us back in the red, but I will deal with that in October. Next year's plans look to be shaping up to a beach location, we're looking at a Costa Rica/Panama combo. I would've preferred somewhere more in the Caribbean like Anguilla, but it's expensive and there's not enough for my husband to do, as he likes to have more options other than beach activities. We both want to go to Australia/New Zealand, but that would require us to save a lot of money and go for at least 3 weeks to make the grueling +25 hr trip worthwhile. Although I've traveled to Asia for a far shorter a time. But until I have more rights to have longer vacations, I wouldn't be able to go to on such a trip anytime soon. 

Anyhoo, I leave you with a couple of shots that I've been doing in Black & White and after looking up on some tips and tricks to adjust a high contrast, and using just my 35mm lens, I'm liking the new results!

Who says black kitties can't photograph well? I can see the dust and flying fur on this one! Bilbo doesn't clean himself at all and relies on us to brush him, that's why he always seems unkempt, lol.

Who says black kitties can't photograph well? I can see the dust and flying fur on this one! Bilbo doesn't clean himself at all and relies on us to brush him, that's why he always seems unkempt, lol.

Spinach (?) leaf after the rain from our garden.

Spinach (?) leaf after the rain from our garden.

The Winds of Change

Sometimes the universe hears your cries for change and sends opportunities your way. 

So it's been no secret that I've been wanting to jump into something different than my current job, and funny enough, something happened within my work place today that may allow me the opportunity to grow differently in what I'm doing now.

I'm currently an open book and willing to try anything at this point. So, I've been given the opportunity to do baby steps into something new and that would maybe include a business trip abroad (!). Of course I'm kinda scared because I'm not sure what I can bring to the table during a business meeting, but my co-worker seems to think that I'm more than capable of doing it. We'll see how this goes but I'm excited and eager to do something different and out of my element of training. I can only go on personal experience and observations, so we'll see how that goes. If I do well in this and enjoy it, I could be looking at traveling more for business - i.e. more than once a year. It's not so bad if the travel doesn't require much of a jet lag of say 6hrs and less. But the moment that those business trips includes 12-14hr time differences and +25hr flights, we're gonna have some serious jet lag issues. But I've been able to adjust to jet lags and long flights before, the 12hr jet lags are easier to get over than the 6hr ones. There's an easy trick for me, whatever time of day that I arrive in a new location, I try to stay awake until it's night time local time so that I can crash and get a full night's rest before getting up in the morning. That method hasn't failed me yet, so I think I can deal. 

But it's cool that I have the opportunity to grow in this work place and not force myself to leave to find another job at a different company and start all over again. Sometimes as a person, you just need to grow and change, you know? Or maybe my attention span is shorter so I need more stimulation? It's hard to say.

Off topic, I finally got a dongle for an SD card for my new computer, but realized I can't transfer the data without a dongle for a USB-A 🙄 I'm going to have to go to the Apple store again and transfer the data there. The good news is that I'm loving the new laptop, it's much lighter than I thought, and I love the portability of it. The sound that comes out of this little thing is impressive, it makes my old Macbook Pro seem like a dinosaur.

Iceland Photos Finally Up

I finally am able to put up photos I took of Iceland. I think in the future when I travel, I'm going to have to carve out some time to set up my shots better, get up earlier to catch better light and less crowds. However I'm super proud of these considering the crazy weather conditions Iceland has and how they turned out was much better than I had expected. 

I've added a new Portfolio section, where I'll be publishing my photos. I obviously have older ones too and will eventually put those up, but considering that my old computer still needs to have all of its data transferred to this new laptop, I haven't gotten around to doing that yet.

My goal for the moment is to improve my photography skills and really just work with what I have on hand in terms of photo equipment, which is really the lowest DSLR you could get. All pics I took were on a Nikon D3200 with a 18-140mm lens. The camera body is discontinued and I got it at a pawn shop in L.A. for $250. Not bad for a second hand camera. I'm starting to think it's not about the equipment but truly your eye and your creative vision. Lots of photographers don't need fancy equipment to take amazing photos. Just a thought.

Let's See What Happens

I think I've made a personal decision about a certain area of my life, but it will take time for it to take shape. Especially if I'm thinking about making babies, somehow that's just gonna have to be worked around à la Sheryl Sandberg's Lean In, but in a not-so bawse kinda way.

I think that if you don't do something that scares the daylights out of you, then you'll never learn anything. Of course there's a difference in wanting to take a leap at something that scares you than really not having any interest at all. I like to perturb and destabilize my life in grandiose fashion eventhough that scares other people. Otherwise, it feels too easy, too settled, too predictable. I just have these wild life-changing impulses, typically it's a strong indication from the universe that I need to do something NOW before it all goes to shit.

But I'm a calculated risk taker. Meaning, I don't do the drastic stuff without careful thought and planning. My decision to move to L.A. took a whole year of research and savings. My decision to move back to Canada, though decided after a couple of months, still took a good 6 months to get my act together before really taking the leap. So whatever I decide, seemingly on the fly, is usually months if not at least a year in the making. So whatever it is I've decided now, probably won't manifest or come to fruition for another year or so (factoring in a possible baby in the mix). However, this feeling of restlessness has been slowly building up for the past year.

I always thought 2018 would be the year to change things around, and I believe that change will happen for certain now. Call it my intuition. It hasn't failed me when I predicted my own temporary stay in L.A. would be no more than 2 years. In this instance, the moment I came back to Montreal, I gave myself 3 years to stay. Perhaps the staying part was wrong, but the change is real. But let's see what happens. When you plan too far ahead, you're just setting yourself up for disappointment. So I'm doing this with an open mind, ready to learn, ready to grow, ready to jump. 

Explore Canada

Pingualuit National Park in Nunavut, Northern Quebec

Pingualuit National Park in Nunavut, Northern Quebec

It's no secret that I've been wanting to explore more of Canada ever since I made my first trip east to Halifax a couple of years ago. As the country celebrates 150 years, I think a lot of Canadians are reminded that we are missing out so much from our own back yard that we don't even realize it's even there!

It's one thing to always want to go to the major cities and do some shopping, but it's quite another thing when you just want to explore what nature has to offer. After my trip to Iceland, and previously Norway, I realize that nature's landscapes can be so spectacular and amazing. I think the biggest draw to Iceland was that its landscape is untouched and the views so spectacular, and prices are now super reasonable that there would be no excuse not to go and see. However for Canada, going up north isn't like going from East to West Coast in the US, where you can fly there for just $500. Northern Canada is extremely expensive, living there is expensive, anything you do there is expensive. And because it's so expensive and it gets very little publicity, you have a whole 3/4 of the country left unexplored by Canadians.

In some ways, this is a good and bad thing. We want that untouched landscape to stay untouched, but also don't want to miss out on seeing the sheer beauty of it. Yet, we would have to save a pretty penny to see it.

Anyway, I was looking at Air Canada's contest about where I would go in Canada, and instead of the typical big cities or known resort towns, I would go north. Like way north. Then I got to thinking, Quebec HAS to have *something* worth seeing that no one talks about. Sure enough, there is such a place that I found on Google Maps. It's called Pingualuit National Park, where it has this incredible crater called l'Oeil de Cristal! I mean look at the photo above. It's AMAZING! Holy shit, who knew that this was in Northern Quebec? It's exactly that untouched landscape, you're in a completely different world when you see that photo.

Pingualuk Lake is one of the purest lakes on Earth

Pingualuk Lake is one of the purest lakes on Earth

Granted, the trek to this crater is not cheap. I doubt anyone from Montreal would know how to get there without running into some serious issues of booking places to stay, eat, and transportation. The park offers an all-inclusive 9 day package, including a trek to the crater and other sights in the area. It's a whopping $5000 per person (including flights, food, transportation and equipment). BUT, I think it's totally worth it!

As an urban dweller, I think I've completely lost touch with the natural landscape and I don't mean camping in the woods. I mean seeing incredible sights of mountain, water and rugged lands. You miss out on so much in this country, it's really a crying shame. Yes, so what if Canada doesn't have white sandy beaches? It has so much to offer in terms of nature. If I could win a trip here, it would be amazing!

Thoughts on Social Media, Photography and the Freelance Life

So earlier this year, I was determined to quit social media for the year, and I was mostly successful except for Instagram. I had effectively unfriended everyone except my family on Facebook and very select few friends. Now I rarely post on it, and if I do happen to share a link or status update, I delete it after 24hrs. The only things I don't delete are the rare photos I'll post. But I've also deleted most photos on it too. So going from multiple post junkie to rarely posting user, I'd say I've made some pretty crazy progress on Facebook and quite honestly I'm much happier for it.

I don't miss Twitter at all. The only time I would check it would be during some sort of event that would be happening right at that moment. I don't even need an account to check it either.

Instagram is another story though. It makes my day, I like seeing new and pretty photos and I get inspired and get wanderlust from some of the accounts I follow. It also makes me discover new places I should put down on my travel list because the photos were so gorgeous. I also approach Instagram with a different mindset. Some days I put hashtags, other days I don't at all. I say this because I can see how powerful these hashtags can be in upping the amount of likes I get. And it almost feels like cheating and manipulative! Anyway, I used to get so worked up over those little numbers, now that I've posted something that somehow made it over 140 likes for a set of hashtags I made, when comparing it to the 5 likes I got in a previous photo - it feels so wrong and dirty to hashtag. I suppose I'm weird like that.

Anyway, I Instagram for the love of photography and making things look nice because, who doesn't like nice photos? I also like the fact that they combined Snapchat's best features into Instagram stories, so that effectively removed the need for me to have Snapchat. So I've relinquished myself to basically one social media account and am so much happier for it.

I can just concentrate on taking more photos, edit them and post. Photography has always held a special place for me but I've always been too afraid to dive too deeply into it because the cost of the equipment is just so huge, and the equipment themselves are so heavy. I'm never sure if I could earn a living off of it as I hate the freelance life, but love the travel opportunity it could afford me if I got serious and could make a living off of it. So many creatives I've read about just made a leap of faith and did it. What holds me back is my doubt. I'm never sure if I really love something that much that this would be what I would want to do for the rest of my life. I've spent most of my life always thinking of myself and did whatever I wanted. But there was always that line I never thought I could cross, which was abandon everything I knew and just dive into a freelance job I wasn't sure would work out. 

I guess if you look at my leap of faith in moving to Los Angeles without any doubts, no friends, no family and without a job lined up - that was probably the most batshit craziest thing I've ever done. So what difference would it make if I leap into a freelancing life? It's just a job. I don't know! That's the crazy part! lol But I suppose the thought of not succeeding scares me more than the actual situation itself. The fear is more powerful than the reality. Much like the feeling of anxiety right before you let go of the ledge of a zip line. But soon you realize that as you zip down, it's really not so bad after all and that the scariest part was when you were on the platform in the first place!

Anyway, I suppose I should trust some intuition of mine, if I'm not feeling 100% sure of myself about doing something, then I won't do it. I have no qualms looking for other jobs, but working a freelancing job where you are completely dependent on your own skills, at the mercy of clients and others to pay you - I have doubts on my abilities to cope with that lifestyle. I suppose it all depends who you choose to take on. Of the few freelancing contracts I've done, I was inexperienced and had low quality clients who didn't have good design sense and had no idea what they wanted. And I was the ignorant newbie who never dealt with clients before, so I just said yes to every little change without setting any limits.

But I suppose that freelance life of being my own boss would probably be on my bucket list. It's one of those things that I'm scared to try but want to do, just to prove to myself I could actually do it.

Everyone is a Lifestyle Travel Photographer
Right now from what I see on Instagram, nearly every photographer I follow is some sort of lifestyle travel maven working for high end brands. Not that there's anything wrong with that, their photos are gorgeous, but it's just that there are so many of them doing the same thing. It initially evolved from flat lay pictures, they're cool and fun, but then everyone went into that. Soon after they started getting noticed by brands and now they're all traveling everywhere and doing sponsored ads and posts. I don't know how many times I've seen pics of Cinque Terre, it makes me not want to go there simply for the fact that everyone's been there and photographed it to death.

As much as I envy those photogs on Instagram, it would be difficult to stand out from a crew that virtually does the same thing at different times. Currently, there's a desert trend happening, so it would only be a matter of time until everyone's gone desert crazy, it's already on the verge with the palm prints, cacti, pineapples and what they call "Millennial pink", they're just missing the rocky hills and sandy dunes. I admit, I'm a sucker for peonies in that very Millennial pink shade, in fact, I dig all of the trends these people like. At the same time, I don't think that's where my photography would lie.

I've always admired architectural photography, the kind where you get a chance to photograph the interiors of a place without anyone there (I've been heavily influenced by Frame Magazine). I suppose that's why I prefer to shoot things and places rather than people. If I were to shoot portraits, I like the classic high contrasted Black & Whites. I feel those portraits bring out the essence of a person because you're not distracted by color. That's why I'm a big admirer of the late Herb Ritts and his crazy artistic shots with his models. While as colored photography would be for the inanimates. I should probably try to do a photo series of either style. 

Mystics of Northern Ireland

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I'm incredibly excited to share some amazing photos of our honeymoon shoot from our photographer, Paula O'hara, whom, as I mentioned before, we had such a great time doing this multi-location shoot during our brief time together!

It's difficult to just choose a favorite as there are so many that I love. We'll be creating photobooks for our parents (and ourselves). Currently debating several options in the vendor we want (or more like, I want, I convinced the hubby that since I'm the Graphic Designer, I should choose one that does it best, no?). I've had my heart set on Milk Books because they give you some control on the kind of details like paper type, cover type and color. And I've read conflicting reviews about Artifact Uprising in terms of print quality. Anyway, I will probably spend the week deciding on the vendor and laying it out.

I can finally share a few more details of our shoot. We shot mainly along the Antrim Coast, which conveniently gave us a Whiterocks Beach, Dunluce Castle ruins, cliffs, and the Giant's Causeway within a 30 min ride. That was the initial plan, and then Paula, being an adventurous photographer, suggested we could probably hit the Dark Hedges before any crowds came through. Along the way we came across misty fields, and a forest of greenery that shone the light in just right (thwarted by an unaccessible but beautifully untouched pond). 

We went at the crack of dawn to catch its incredible morning light and it was SO worth it. Golden hour only happens twice during the day, at dawn and dusk, it's when the sun's light becomes an incredible golden color and only lasts for two hours tops if you're lucky. We were blessed with good weather that day too, so we were SUPER fortunate! I couldn't have asked for a better person to shoot to capture that light and be spontaneous as well. 

I wholly wish to work with Paula again (if only she lived closer!), or even attend one of her photography workshops, it would be really cool to learn a few things from her. Anyway, I leave you with more dreamy pics!

The Aman Experience

Amanyara, Turks and Caicos

Amanyara, Turks and Caicos

Let me begin that given the weather we've been having in Montreal, I have to say that I wouldn't mind spending a week doing a little R&R in a place that belongs to Aman. This hotel chain, I discovered through Instagram, is as exclusive and as luxurious as they come. Honestly, there seems to be no better looking place than Amanyara in Turks and Caicos. I mean...just look at it.

A standalone tub in Amanyara's villa.

A standalone tub in Amanyara's villa.

Can I sleep here?

Can I sleep here?

Amanyara's "library".

Amanyara's "library".

Oh. My. God. 

They are 5 star without a doubt on all fronts. Not all are beach resorts though, which is what I found most interesting that they're offering you the best of the area's natural settings, such as Rosalia Park's (co-founder of Cereal Magazine) current jaunt into Amangani in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, in Yellowstone National Park. Wow, wow, WOW!

How's this for a winter escape? Amangani, Wyoming, USA.

How's this for a winter escape? Amangani, Wyoming, USA.

The best part of these exclusive resorts is that it's not crowded with people (I would assume). They are typically smaller in numbers, offering something like less than 50 rooms total. I also applaud the branding, architecture and design for the whole company. Stunning photos, with stunning views, and probably stunning experience.

Unfortunately just a few nights can set you back easily in the five figures. Yes. Five. Figures. Mere mortals like us who are just passing by could only hope to stay one night here without breaking the bank. I have to say that this must be a hotel photographer's wet dream to capture these magnificent places. And the light!!! Alice Gao totally captured Aman Tokyo's light so beautifully, like you can't get better shots than that. It sort of ruins all other major luxury hotel chains by the sheer scale of it. 

Amanjena in Marrakech, Morocco

Amanjena in Marrakech, Morocco

I have to say that to stay in one of these places will be on my bucket list. I'd like to experience both a beach resort and the mountain/deserty resorts as I've never made a winter getaway to another wintery/cold places before. But I would gladly and happily stay in one of these.

Was That You I Saw on TV?

As I'm typing this on my work computer, I think it's safe to reveal a little bit more of my side gig that I've been doing  as a TV extra.

Look for me in this new TV show called The Bold Type, which premieres 11 July on Freeform. Honestly what that means on Canadian TV I have no idea. Maybe it'll be on Slice or some other channel, but maybe we'll be able to catch it online somehow à la CTV and watch one episode a week.

Anyhoo, The Bold Type is based on the life of Cosmopolitan editor Joanna Coles, set in New York. I've been part of an interesting ensemble of women (and a few men) who have been chosen to work in continuity, meaning, we come back onto the episodes several times as office workers (at least in my case). 

The Set
I obviously can't reveal any photos of the office set, but you can see a few things from The Bold Type's Instagram account. Quite honestly, I'm super impressed at the level of detail the crew has gone towards making this look as authentic as possible. Everything from the faux magazine covers (and there are hundreds) to fake book covers, to actual functioning computers, moving presentation screens, to even the master plan for the magazine layout (very Devil Wears Prada) down to the post-it notes and cut outs. No details spared. I've been in their "fashion closet" though not the one with all the shoes and handbags (I think that's another set), and have played around their jewelry tray in my one day being relinquished there (pictured above). Needless to say, with so much shooting going on in this office, it would be a shame not to showcase all the details there. For that I feel pretty lucky to get an up close and personal look at the set. 

The Actors
As this is a new show, I didn't recognize anyone except for Melora Hardin, whom most people would know as Jan from The Office. She's super profesh, whips her long lines like a pro, and have seen her dance between takes with her co-actors. Even if there were known actors on set, there's little chance for anyone to interact with them (not that you can anyway, they have to talk to you first) as most of the time, the re-sets are done relatively quickly and chaotically.

Hair, Makeup, Wardrobe
What I didn't expect is to have hair and makeup peeps on site for the extras. The actors have their own wardrobe and hair & makeup crew, but the extras also have theirs. But typically, we're asked to come already done up and that the crew only do touch ups. Though I have had my hair done because it sagged in the damp air when I came onto set. I get compliments from the makeup artists who really just run over a powder on my face and I'm done.

The wardrobe is really just our own clothes, with a select few who have the costume peeps accessorize them here and there. Our outfits are pre-chosen before the shooting begins, and I basically left like 1/3 of my closet in their hands, lol. They pre-select the outfit you'll wear for the day and it's really just putting on your own clothes. So I'm in both dresses and my cardigan & tie outfits. The yellow cardigan and blue tie that I wore on Million Dollar Listing may make an appearance in an episode again!

My "role"
As I have been part of the reoccurring office workers, I didn't get to have a designated desk in the office, so I'm a wanderer. I wander from point A to point B, bringing props, accompanying the photographer, and yes - have walked in front of the camera more than I had anticipated. The PAs on this set get 5 gold stars for simply remembering everyone's names by heart. And maybe I feel like they're being super generous with people to walk in front of the camera too, everyone gets their chance to swing by for a 1 sec pass. 

I can't say any plot details because honestly I don't know where or when the scenes we shoot happen in the timeline of the show. I don't know if we're doing episode 5 or episode 9. And even if I did, we're not allowed to say. Even if it was Game of Thrones, it would be hard to say what exactly is going on when you're reshooting a scene five or six times, you sort of zone out and numb yourself to the repetitiveness that you forget what the story is about. All I care about on the set is what the PA tells me to do and that I do it well. 

Filming Environment
After chatting up one of the few male BG actors, he admitted to me that we have it pretty sweet to be on this particular TV set. So far it has rained 3 out of 4 times I've been on set, but since it's being shot in a sound stage, we don't have to deal with bad weather. If it's too cold, there are blankets, and if it's too hot, they have AC. Many productions that are shot outside are at the mercy of the elements, whether it's -20C, or 35C, you still have to be outside for long hours and pretend to be happy and not melting (or freezing) in your outfit. You also get better craft services if it is a union production, as the non-unions will not serve you gourmet meals, and you are supposed to be fed every 3 hours (!) on union sets. So yes, as a first gig, it's easy to hope that all productions are like this, but as I've read elsewhere, TV productions usually treat you the best because it's small and they want everyone to be happy.

I just got an email about a blockbuster film production and it doesn't sound pleasant at all. Long hours, early call times, outdoors and hot as fuck. No thanks, I'll stick to my TV gig where it's temperature controlled. Call me a fair weather extra. This is why I could never be on The Amazing Race Canada, lol.

Overall, you can't ask for a better gig than this. This type of show was right up my alleyway. You know when you fantasize being part of a fashion magazine, that it's as glamourous as you dream it to be? Well, this is the best way of making that experience come true. I'm not really working on the magazine, but I get to be surrounded by fun props and an amazing set. It reminds me of my days at The Agency with larger than life characters that would walk through that office.

Whether or not I make any of the cuts remains to be seen, while it's true the long work hours have taken a toll on me (I nearly fell sick the next day after being on set two days in a row), I'm glad that at least this was the one summer gig that breaks up my routine. But as someone who has the freedom to choose the gigs I want to work on, I'm thinking I can do this again next year if the right project comes along.

I Need A New Computer

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I've been meaning to post and work on my photos from my honeymoon these past couple of weeks, but my computer has been acting up. The browser (doesn't matter which kind) keeps crashing repeatedly and I probably need to face the fact that it may be time for me to buy a new laptop. I thought I would be able to eck out more time on my 7yr old MacBook Pro 💻 after a change of the hard drive and RAM upgrade in 2015, but I knew that it could only keep it going for two more years. Lo and behold, it's been two years and now it's acting up. Le sigh.

I have to admit that it's been a good run. Even though at the time I thought the laptop was pricey, it's been worth every penny. I've been an Apple convert ever since and refuse to go back to Windows, I don't care how much cheaper their laptops are. So I've been researching for a replacement and thought to settle on the 12" MacBook since the MBP have more power than what I need (just using Lightroom and Photoshop) and glad to see their recent upgrades of up to 16GB in RAM. True, the dongle issues will be annoying now that I won't  have a direct SD card slot anymore, I'll just need to be more creative in finding ways to upload my pics.  

Anyway, I'm now updating this from my phone, which goes to show that some things can still be done remotely without a computer. I leave you with a few shots that I've been posting on Instagram. 

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Cleaning Wars

After living a year with my husband, it's become clear to me that there are some fights you just can't win. Before I delve any further, I have to say that if these are the only things that bother me in our marriage, I'd say we have it pretty good. 

There are three things that we constantly bicker about: cleaning, recycling and gardening. 

I know, we're so granola. 

He and I have different ideas of what IS recyclable and what isn't. I keep telling him soiled thin plastics like meat packaging and saran wrap aren't recyclable, he begs to differ. I also harp on him about his gardening fantasies. We have a skylight and he wants to grow stuff in the edges or put mirrors up to reflect light like some kitchen scene from Ridley Scott's 1985 Legend movie. I've already given him the front balcony, the back deck (which is huge) and part of our living room. I don't want our house to be THAT green, and those plants are so messy with their dead leaves! Couple that with rolling balls of fur, it's just a recipe for disaster.

Anyway, my biggest beef is typically cleaning. I dream of a spotless, nicely decorated and minimalist apartment. We're not anywhere close to it yet. We spend most of our time in the kitchen, so the mess thankfully only stays there. But I like having clean counters and an empty kitchen sink. It is never so, not with his habits. Coffee spoons left on the table, counter, kitchen edge sink but not in the sink, and stains of honey and sauce are everywhere. It drives me bonkers. It's fine to make a mess, but I typically expect people to clean up after themselves. But this isn't the case and no matter how much nagging I've done, it just doesn't get done.

Being messy with the bed or leaving trinkets around the house, I'm actually ok with that. It's the stains I hate. The dirt and grime on the table, the bits of food. It just spells unsanitary, you know? And we have stains galore in the kitchen.

But I see that after a year of nagging, my progress is zero. So I basically have come to the conclusion that on Fridays, I'll simply have to clean the kitchen spotless when he's not around. Despite the protest of my colleagues who say that it's just a trick for me to clean up after him, I simply can't take it anymore. The dishwasher is also a case of complaint on my part, but he insists on loading it, but always overloads it and thus always end up with dirty dishes regardless. Taking control of the kitchen is the only way I can keep my sanity.

He's pretty good with everything else, takes out the garbage, recycling and composting, he sweeps the floors once in a while and takes care of the mopping. My duties are pretty small compared to his where I make the bed, clean the litter box, vacuum and do house laundry. 

Again, it's difficult to get rid of anything in the house as he's keen on reusing things and the clutter simply piles up. I can't imagine that if we lived in a bigger place, it would just gather more clutter. Unless we had a large basement or storage area so he can just put all his stuff there and I don't have to see it. Ahh the dream apartment.

We also have these crazy vines that have suddenly blossomed in the two weeks we were gone so when we came back, our back deck was an amazon forest and the neighbour's tree has left hundreds of helicopter seeds that I also have to clean up.

As I've said before, my complaints are small, they're things that we bicker about, but never really escalates to anything more. We have a busy summer lined up for us with a bunch of concerts, a standup show, two trips in the fall and discussions of getting a new bed frame. It's a simple and chill life, but goddamnit he needs to put those spoons in the sink!

Post Honeymoon Thoughts - This Be Deep

We're finally home! A whirlwind tour of Iceland and Ireland has been at once exhilarating and exhausting. A part of me is glad to be home because I've really missed my cats and our life at home after experiencing some odd differences in Ireland. The power switches for every outlet in our hotel rooms puzzled us both, and the illogical installation of two faucets for hot and cold water. You will never get tepid warm water, it's either scalding hot or ice cold, there are no happy mediums! Also, I'm just glad to go back to a normal diet instead of eating out. You could say as I'm getting older, I'm becoming more and more of a homebody.

During my return flight, I finally finished Mark Manson's book, The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck, and the last two chapters had me cheering "Yes! YES!!!!" because he explained the concept of the entitlement that our generation has seemed to absorb. The whole "I deserve happiness" is such crap, as most people haven't really worked on themselves to be happy, and/or depend on others to provide that happiness for them. That in a situation where you think everyone is crazy, it's most likely just you who's the crazy one.

Cocaine Love
My favorite part is the weird public adoration of the Romeo & Juliet storyline. Which, when explained in laymen terms, are two teenagers who fall in love at a party and decide to get married the next day, and kill themselves in the process due to miscommunication. That's basically Romeo & Juliet. And people find this romantic? 👀 Toxic love is so out of touch with reality, that it's basically like cocaine. You just want to be high on love the whole time, that when things aren't as exciting or as explosive as you want it to be, you lose interest. But always banking on that high, those first pheromone months, that fantasy that Hollywood loves to glorify - that shit doesn't last! And like a drug addict, people break up to keep seeking for that high again. Real love doesn't work that way. In fact, during our honeymoon, my husband and I snapped at each other I don't know how many times during the trip because of a missed flight, missed bus connection, or shitty weather. Yes, we snapped at each other during our honeymoon. That's life. And I still love him just as much and we still say "I love you" and tell each other that it was such a fantastic trip, lol. In fact, I'm glad we're able to be honest with each other, even if it means that honesty equals hurting each others feelings over petty shit like getting wet from the rain.

When I read that passage about cocaine and love, I knew that this Manson dude understood and justified my thought patterns on relationships, on life, and learning a few things from him. On the last chapter about death, I came to this particular conclusion:

The meaning of life is death.

Without death, there is no meaning to life. Manson perfectly illustrates this when he explained that he edged to a high cliff, feeling his body tighten, sweat and heart beating furiously at the thought of the immediate physical danger of falling from it and dying. That the adrenaline of the possibility of death helped him realized that he was, in fact, very much alive. We all are very much alive. And we love being alive so much that the thought of death propels us to do things that will make us immortal like being famous, being successful in career, life, and having children. We like the concept of having our names pass down through history, our blood passed down through our children, our images kept on photographs as a sign of still "living" beyond physical death. It's so true though. Why do we strive to "make something of ourselves" if not for the vanity of being remembered aka immortal? We don't want our lives to be "in vain" but according to who? Society? Manson mentions pets as a good example of creatures who don't understand the concept beyond death. They're just living their lives, day to day, eating, sleeping and playing. Their lives are much simpler and without the complexities of human-made concepts, I think they're a lot less stressed than humans are.

After my trip to Iceland, a country that has extremely different landscapes, you start thinking of the simplicity of life against this nearly barren land. It just makes you think a lot. No one cares how I look or how I feel in a barren land, nobody knows or cares who you are from one country or the next, and nothing happens unless you take action to do something. It's difficult to separate insignificance in the world when you're surrounded by things that remind you that you should be significant. But not out there in nature, surrounded by clouds, wind, rocks, and birds. You're just another being, and this is what Manson is trying to make a point: you're not special. No one is. We're just creatures on a planet. It's not to say that the relationships you make won't be significant, but it's not by any means so special and unique that you need to glorify or be glorified for doing something so mundane as date or marry someone or have children with them. Again, the entitlement, the special treatment attitude that we've come to adopt in our culture, thinking we're all uniquely special in some way - we're not. And that's something you simply need to come to terms with.

Anyway, I'm glad I've had this trip and finished this book. I feel like I can just sit down and focus on doing things that make me happy, and roll with the unpleasant moments that will come. Maybe some of those unpleasantness will make me grow into a different and better person.

The Height of Afternoon Tea

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As we're prepping for our journey back home, I just wanted to share my experience at the Glenlo Abbey for afternoon tea. Having now been to nearly a dozen different places for afternoon tea, I can say that so far, the Glenlo Abbey takes the cake in terms of overall experience. It is what I would define the ultimate experience of what afternoon tea should be like: quiet, calm and refined. When I say quiet, I mean it like library quiet, you speak in a hushed toned and you're left to a lot of privacy with a musician playing in the background. We had a pianist who played a very broad range of songs, so it wasn't always classical. I prefer a harpist like the one in the St Regis Houston though, but that's just my preference.

The River Room overlooks the golf course on their 138 acre estate, and saw glimpses of falconeering (saw a falcon hop on the hood of a car!). The room is grand with tall ceilings and glittering chandeliers with a lower level seating section. There were enough tables to house perhaps 100 people but I saw only maybe half a dozen tables occupied. So it was quiet and very private, which you don't often get in other places where the noise from the hotel lobby or entrance makes the tea room much louder than I would like. In the River Room it felt almost zen-like and very relaxed which I think is how afternoon tea should be. 

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Just the tableware alone made me go 😍 I definitely felt spoiled that day, and we also dressed up for the occasion, though I wish we took a standing photo in front of the hotel, but it was quite cold and windy that day.  

I did go to the Westbury Hotel in Dublin to have afternoon tea but it was a completely different experience and one that I think most people are accustomed to. We had the best view of the room but the whole day was marred by the pouring rain, so we came in soaked and cranky. The service was very attentive though so that was appreciated.

So far from my experiences, the most expensive afternoon teas certainly did not live up to their price tag. I would say midrange prices ($30-40) have been worth the experiences than the +$50. The Glenlo Abbey falls within the mid-ranges ☺️

I would write and upload more photos but it's difficult to do on a phone and slow wifi so I'll give a proper longer update when I get back.

A Taste of What's To Come

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It's been a harrowing journey to Ireland from Iceland after a missed flight. We've made a mad dash in the last 36hrs, with very little sleep, to Northern Ireland with our shoot with Paula. It was the crack of dawn, we chased the light around the Antrim coast, and captured some amazing photos. The photo above is just a sample of our shoot that morning. 

We're currently in Derry and slumbered for 10hrs straight. For the rest of the trip we can relax and wake up late. I got tons of photos on my camera and can't wait to edit and post them.  

I couldn't help myself and joined Instagram again at @tutrampham 😅The few mishaps that has happened on this trip made me appreciate our life in Montreal even more and so far despite the stressful snaps here and there, there's no one better I would like to spend my life with.

I leave you with a couple of snaps that Cory took on his phone, but we can thank Paula for finding that amazing light for us!

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Hello Iceland! 🙋🏻

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We're here and spending our first day in Iceland in our homebase of Reykjavik! 

We got a free upgrade to our hotel by being transferred to the absolutely lovely A Townhouse Hotel where past cast members of the Game of Thrones stayed here during filming. Who knew? We have a gorgeous industrial style studio with an ultra modern kitchenette complete with mini dishwasher! I wish I had pics to do this place justice but will only be to link to their site for a look. 

We're still in the heart of Reykjavik on their most popular street. It's a very walkable neighborhood. 

We've seen and been to some pretty cool places in the city, it's small like Halifax but has definitely Scandinavian roots and aesthetics.  I also had the best chai latte I've had in YEARS since I've gone to Stockholm in 2014. I was afraid the weather might not cooperate but so far we're doing pretty well, it's cloudy but with some bursts of sunshine here and there. Tomorrow is going to be a big long day going around a day tour so that will be interesting! More to come!

The dude approves.  

The dude approves.