A couple of months back, a call came in, as
they tend to do: “Can you bring your kids along to do a film tomorrow?” It was
very last minute. This is typical of filming in Malaysia.
“Only Tiarnan is free. Fintan has exams to
do and Ainan is at University and I don’t want him to miss a day.”
There was a pause, the silence evaluated my
“OK. Bring Tiarnan.”
“What is it for?”
“The film is called Tokan. It is about
drugs. The scenes you will be doing will be in an airport.”
The following day, I brought Tiarnan,
fairly early in the morning, to the KTM railway station which was to be made to
look like an airport scene. He was quietly expectant.
Now, Tiarnan, 6, has appeared on film
before – but for TV documentaries and a reality TV show. He hasn’t been in a
He was to pretend to be the young son of a
man going on holiday to Brazil. He was supposed to be excited to be visiting
this new country.
The first scene was filmed going into and
through a smoke filled tunnel through the airport. What was notable is that
Tiarnan really tuned into his surroundings and the situation, like it was
really happening in the way he had been told. He was properly excited, to be
visiting Brazil. At just the right moment he had been instructed, he said: “Come
on Daddy!”, and dragged me forward as he rushed ahead to see what was to be
seen. His face glowed with excitement – yet, of course, none of it was real –
it only seemed to be so. My young son was acting.
What impressed me was the patience he
showed with the filming process. He did each take as if it were the first time
he had experienced the scene. Between scenes he waited with the rest of the
actors – his father and Ignas Versinskas, who is a friend of ours (usually a
film director, actually). He never betrayed any signs of impatience with it
In one scene, on the train platform, as we
set to leave the airport, he played a game with me – which he had invented,
actually. The director had seen him playing it and liked it so much, he asked
us to do it for the camera. We were the centre of the image. The game was
simple: tossing a teddy bear back and forth between us in ever more exotic
ways, always catching it and throwing it back.
Again and again he played the game, like it
was his first time. He never failed to seem enthusiastic about it. I rather
think that his smiling little form will steal that scene.
The final scene was as everyone was being
checked through security. We were at the front of the scene. In it, Tiarnan
looked properly impressed by the gun toting police. He whispered to me between
takes: “It is not a real gun, is it? Just fake?”
“Just fake.” I assured him.
“And the police are only pretending to be
police?” he continued, looking up at their tall, stern features.
“Yes. Just pretending.”
That reassured him somewhat.
At the end of the shoot, the agent, Sam
came to pay us. She started to pay me, for the work – but I shook my head and
indicated Tiarnan. She paid him directly. He was most pleased to see so much
money for his day’s work.
For me, it was very instructive to watch
Tiarnan act. He is, in my view, a natural actor. He treats the circumstances as
if they are real and behaves within it, according to the director’s request. He
is able to do take after take and he shows great patience with the process. Not
that alone, but his acting is natural and not overdone, as many children’s
acting is. It was a revelation for me to watch him work and a very pleasing day
In the days that followed, he asked me,
quite a few times: “Are we filming again tomorrow?”
He had really enjoyed himself and wanted to
do some more.
“Some time, Tiarnan, we will do it again.”
Fintan felt that he had missed out because
of his exams because he too wished he had filmed. I assured him that next time
he could do so, if there were no exams in the way.
For me, as an actor myself, it is pleasing
to see the same ability and disposition growing in my sons. I had glimpsed this
before, in Tiarnan, when I had taken him to an audition for a TV commercial and
he had worked with me. He had been very good then...very realistic. However, this was the first
time I had actually worked with him. That day, he was not merely my son. He was
a real actor, too.
Well done, Tiarnan on your film debut, in Tokan!
Posted by Valentine Cawley
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Labels: acting ability, child acting, creativity in childhood, film industry, film production, Malaysia, play acting, young actor