Deep in the Act

Translator: Kotoni

Editor: DPalmz

Quality Check: Isalee

First Published on Chaleuria

Chapter 7.1

One day after Zhang Zhun and Chen Hsin were assigned new rooms, another member of the cast checked into the hotel: Qin Xun-er, a seasoned actress who matched Chen Hsin in terms of experience and fame. However, after meeting her for the first time under Chen Cheng-Sen’s orders, Chen Hsin immediately found her unsuitable for her role. She was too short to play a ballerina convincingly, he thought. While he was inwardly criticizing the casting choice, Qin Xun-er showed a much more personal interest in making his acquaintance. Loosely clasping the tips of his fingers with a manicured hand, she greeted him with enthusiasm. “Nice to meet you, Chen-laoshi.”

Although Zuo Linlin was engaged to Gao Zhun in the film, she had far more on-screen interaction with Fang Chi, including several intimate scenes. When Chen Cheng-Sen shared his plans to kickstart the entire filming process with their scenes, Chen Hsin lost it completely. “Are you kidding me? I spent half a month practicing with a dude, but the moment we start filming you want me to get it on with a woman?”

Qin Xun-er snickered in amusement. “That’s new, Chen-laoshi. I’d always assumed you were some kind of ‘universal adaptor’ who has no qualms sticking it in anything that comes on to you.”

Chen Hsin glared at her silently. Chen Cheng-Sen pulled him aside to calm him down. “She talks trash to everyone. Don’t take it to heart.”

“So I’ve heard,” Chen Hsin acknowledged with a nod. “With a filthy mouth like that, it’s no wonder she has so much trouble marrying herself off.”

“That’s harsh,” Chen Cheng-Sen remarked as he lit a cigar for Chen Hsin. “Truth is, her schedule is pretty tight. I’ll get Zhou Zheng to talk to Zhang Zhun. Just keep your focus on your scenes with her and things will be fine.”

Chen Hsin looked absolutely dashing as he took a drag on the cigar. His hair fell over part of his face in soft waves. With wisps of exhaled smoke rising mesmerizingly from his lips and nose, he asked, “Have you seen Zhang Zhun these last couple of days?”

Chen Cheng-Sen shot him a reproachful look. “Why would I spend my time chasing after some B-lister? Do I look like I have nothing better to do?”

“You did it on purpose, didn’t you?” Chen Hsin exhaled, blowing smoke indignantly in Chen Cheng-Sen’s face. “He’s in room 3705, I’m in room 3834 – you got our rooms separated by the entire production team. Don’t blame me if I can’t get in the mood during filming.”

“Is that a threat I hear?” Chen Cheng-Sen snatched the cigar from Chen Hsin’s lips. “Just get going. Warm up with your partner over there. We start filming tomorrow!”

As Chen Hsin started to trudge towards Qin Xun-er with slumped shoulders, Chen Cheng-Sen suddenly recalled something and added, “Chen-laoshi! Zhang Zhun went to pick up his girlfriend. She’s flying in from Guangzhou and she’ll be staying for two days.”

Chen Hsin paused. A moment later, he finally replied, “I see.”

*

In the end, right up until the minute before filming began, Chen Hsin did not manage to catch a single glimpse of Zhang Zhun. Not that there was any reason for them to meet, anyway. In no time at all, he and Qin Xun-er were standing in front of the camera, getting ready for the first scene on the schedule. He looked through his script while the makeup artist made her final touches. Qin Xun-er, on the other hand, leered at him from the side as she sipped on her glass of juice.

Today, they began filming in an office building near their hotel. The team had rented ten offices in the building and turned one of them into the set for Fang Chi’s clinic. The set was extremely crowded at the moment – there were more than thirty members from the film crew in the room, in addition to the actors, their assistants, and the filming equipment. This made the cramped space appear even smaller than it was in reality. In the warm glow of the yellow light, assistant director Zhou received the director’s go-ahead and stood up with his megaphone. “Everyone, take note. This scene takes place in a later part of the film – Fang Chi and Gao Zhun are already together, but Zuo Linlin doesn’t have a clue.”

On cue, Chen Hsin handed his script to the makeup artist while Qin Xun-er passed her drink to her assistant. Once everyone was in place, the Taiwanese script supervisor announced, “Deep in the Act, scene 239, shot 1, take 1AB!”1

“Action!”

The cameras began rolling. As the red lights flickered to life on the cameras, Qin Xun-er stepped onto a wooden box to get in frame with Chen Hsin. “Charles, I regret everything now,” she began soulfully as she emoted for the camera. Her performance was rich and on point. Chen Hsin picked up her cue easily and – in accordance with the directions on the script – responded with silence and subtle detachment. She continued, “He doesn’t love me. Or touch me.”

At this, Chen Hsin spoke up. “Last time, when I was at your place…”

“It was me! I forced him!” Qin Xun-er covered her face with her hands, tears spilling from her fingers. “Haven’t you cured him? Why… why does he do this to me?”

Chen Hsin came up to her with a guilt-stricken expression on his face. As he put his arm hesitantly around her shoulders, Qin Xun-er leaned in immediately and molded her swollen breasts against him, making sure to keep her actions hidden from the cameras. Chen Hsin flinched and backed away. Seizing the opportunity, she tiptoed and kissed him on the lips. According to the script, the kiss was supposed to take place in a later part of the scene; Qin Xun-er’s actions messed up the timing completely. Incensed, Chen Hsin shoved her away.

Fuming in his seat, Chen Cheng-Sen had no choice but to cut the take. “Chen Hsin, what’s your problem?”

Undaunted, Chen Hsin wiped his mouth roughly and retorted, “You should have told me before making changes to the script.”

However, Qin Xun-er remained unfazed and completely unapologetic. “Director,” she chimed in, running her fingertips through her hair, “the mood felt right and I acted accordingly. We’re all veterans here. Is it really necessary to make such a big fuss?”

Inexplicably, the director sided with her instead of Chen Hsin. “Chen-laoshi, just follow Qin-laoshi’s lead for this scene. Get ready for take 2!”

Chen Hsin was furious. Sparks of anger flashed in his eyes as the script supervisor came up again to make the announcement, “Deep in the Act, scene 239, shot 1, take 2AB!”

Things got off to a rocky start. Although it was a simple kiss scene, the filming dragged out for the better half of the day. As the team prepared to head back to the hotel, Chen Cheng-Sen got into Chen Hsin’s car. “C’mon, it wasn’t that big a deal. You’re not a newbie anymore,” he began amicably.

“She pisses me off!” Chen Hsin shot back bluntly. He stared out of the window, hands crossed on his knees.

Chen Cheng-Sen responded with a dry laugh. “Well, you’ve had your tantrum. Stop being such a diva. We’re shooting your bedroom scene with her when we get back.”

“What’s up with you today?” Chen Hsin asked, finally turning to look at him. “Was she responsible for pulling in the funds for the film?”

An uneasy expression came over Chen Cheng-Sen’s features. “That’s not it… she came to my room last night and it felt pretty amazing…”

Somewhat sickened by the information, Chen Hsin rubbed his temples in agitation. “If that’s the case, make sure she behaves herself on the set! It’s bloody annoying how she kept pushing her massive tits against me!”

“Whoa! What are you complaining about?” Chen Cheng-Sen sniggered meaningfully. “Does Chen-laoshi not like boobs anymore?”

“Get lost!” As Chen Hsin resumed glaring out of the window, Chen Cheng-Sen edged closer and continued teasing him, “Honestly, single women at her age get really thirsty. Don’t wait too long if you’re interested at all.”

Pushing the other man away, Chen Hsin snapped, “Watch your mouth!”

When the car pulled up at the hotel, Chen Cheng-Sen got out first and began to make arrangements for the next scene with Zhou Zheng, “Everyone head straight to the 37th floor. Ask Chen Hsin and Qin Xun-er to get ready.” As Zhou Zheng was about to head off, Chen Cheng-Sen pulled him back and added, “Zhang Zhun should be back from the airport by now. Ask him to come over as well.”

“But he’s not involved in the scene,” Zhou Zheng replied, checking through the filming schedule.

Chen Cheng-Sen patted him on the shoulder. “It’ll be a learning experience for him.”

The filming took place in a couple’s suite on the 37th floor. The scene would form part of the flashback to Fang Chi and Zuo Linlin’s past in the US. Thus, despite being loosely described as a ‘bedroom scene’, it was a largely impressionistic scene that did not require the actors to go too far.

Rose petals were scattered all over the sheets in preparation for the shot. Wearing a bathrobe, Qin Xun-er lazed about on the bed and played with her phone, while her young assistant sat on the carpeted floor, holding up her drink for her. The room was filled with people, and when Chen Hsin came out of the bathroom, similarly clad in a bathrobe, his presence sent a wave of respectful greetings rippling through the crowd. Unwilling to acknowledge his partner with even a passing glance, he decided to look for Chen Cheng-Sen instead. Just as he was about to make his way through the crowd, a familiar figure appeared in the doorway.


Footnote:

  1. The slate: The script supervisor’s announcement is based on the information recorded on the slate /clapperboard. Such information typically includes the date, the production title, the name of the director, the name of the director of photography, and the scene information. There are 2 popular systems for organizing information on the slate:
    • American: scene number, camera angle, take number
    • European: slate number, take number (with the letter of the camera shooting the slate if using a multi-camera set-up)

The format used in this translation is a combination of the system used by the author, as well as the American and European systems.