The Shanghai trip and the fake market hustle

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Chances are most of us have heard of China’s rising economy in these recent times and also their development in pretty much everything! According to many researchers, China is the next big thing so make sure you’re brushing up on your mandarin, you might end up using it sooner than you think.

I was commissioned to go out to Shanghai to film the ‘World Solar Congress 2012’. It was for clients who got in contact after seeing my previous work. The crew and I, Keko and Prince who I had worked with previously in L.A were really excited. China was definitely a place that was on my life’s to do list.

Even though I had never been to China before, the culture already had a significant impact on me since I was a kid. I basically grew up watching Hong Kong cinema movies probably more than your average Asian kid. The early Jackie Chan films were my favourite; the action and the comedy just resonated with me as a child and for a long time I wanted to become a stuntman in the ‘Jackie Chan Stunt man association’. Fortunately I grew out of that childhood dream and decided to become a filmmaker instead. In a lot of ways I do owe my passion for my job to those early Hong Kong Cinema films. They really were inspirational to me.

So here it was, the chance for me to go out to Shanghai for a shoot, Not exactly on a Jackie Chan movie set…but a shoot none the less.

The World Solar Congress was pretty much exactly what it says on the tin really. It was about solar energy in the present day and for the future. In short it’s basically an event where the worlds leading solar manufacturers and industry leaders get together, share ideas and do business with each other. It doesn’t really do it justice explaining about it here, but when you’re there listening to these professionals, you can see the exciting potential of what Solar Energy could bring to the world and the benefits it has for everyone. Even if you are a beginner to the subject like I was.

It was early morning when we landed at Shanghai’s Pudong International Airport. Our client met us there at the exit. His name was Salah; he was a 6 ft 4 Moroccan guy with the big build of a mixed martial arts fighter (which I later found out was his previous profession!) He was a really cool and down to earth guy. He was the host of the solar congress as well as the person in charge of the event. Salah wanted us to check out the hotel venue as early as possible as the event was taking place the next day. To take us there as quickly as possible he bought himself and us tickets for the Maglev train. If you’ve never heard of the ‘Maglev’, it’s a train that goes over 300 mph using high-speed magnetic levitation. In other words it’s a bloody fast magnet train!

The hotel was absolutely amazing. The lobby had ancient Chinese artwork displayed all around it and the whole place had a relaxing feel to it. We started checking out the venue rooms and planning where and how we should film the speakers. It was pretty straight foreword but we wanted to be prepared nonetheless.

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Once we got settled in to our rooms, Salah introduced us to another member on his team, Kevin. He was also a really cool guy; very friendly and from London like Salah too so it was really easy to get along with them both. While we were planning the shoot, they told us that they wanted us to wear all black clothing. However there was a slight problem. All three of us didn’t bring anything black to wear, as we weren’t told before hand. Salah found a quick solution, which was to send us to the fake market in town to quickly buy some black shirts and trousers for the job. He made a phone call to someone at the market whom he knew personally and who would take us around market and make sure we got good prices for what we needed. When Me, Keko and Prince got to the location, Salah’s friend greeted us as soon as we got out of the cab. He even opened the door for me and then told me to follow him through the streets, which was just full of tourists shopping left right and centre. He seemed very eager to take us to his particular store very quickly. Once we got there we went inside…  and the hustle began.

I quickly began to realise that Salah’s friend had no intention of getting us good prices on the shirts and trousers. In fact he was there to try and get every penny out of us that he could. The prices he was charging for the trousers, which were high quality, but fake’s of the real expensive brands was insane. I mean the prices were so high that we might as well go and pay for the real things. The man clearly had an agenda to try and get us to buy from the shops that he either owned or was associated with. In a way we didn’t have a choice, we couldn’t walk away from these stores, as we needed to have something to wear, the congress was starting in a few hours, but at the same time we knew we were getting hustled. So we made a decision and we decided to hustle them back even harder.

They would tell us the price using a calculator to show us. As we were foreign they thought they could take advantage by assuming we were ignorant to the exchange rate, but lucky for us, we knew the exchange rate extremely well. We were recent graduates and it was something that stuck with us from university, We had to make sure we knew how much money we had at all times, it was the student way of thinking as I call it.  Every price they threw at us, for fake Armani trousers and fake ted baker shirts were constantly high, so we had to keep bringing them down.

The young woman who was selling the fake trousers to us, “400 yuan”, she would yell while writing it in the calculator and looking really confident as if to say we wont eve try and haggle. “No no no” I would say. “That’s too high, bring it down”. We took the calculator off her “250-Yuan, No more!” I said while pressing it into the calculator. When she saw the figure on the display, her face dropped in sheer disappointment as she realised that this wasn’t going to be easy. She looked at the fella who brought us there and he also didn’t look happy at all. To infuriate them even further and add the cherry on the cake, Prince took the calculator and said, “250 Yuan, and I want another shirt for free!” I said to prince “What you doing”, “don’t worry” Prince said, “I got this”. Now they just looked confused and even angrier. They probably thought they were going to get three scientists from the solar congress that wouldn’t even argue with them at all; instead they got three recent university graduates who were going to fight for every penny like them. The next two hours were just a constant battle between prices going up and down for trousers, cufflinks shirts, shoes and the occasional big brand DJ headphones. The market owners were seriously not happy; it even got to a point where some of them wouldn’t sell to us, they were getting really annoyed. I feared we were crossing some serious boundaries and had to be very careful that we didn’t offend them. After all we were in a secluded underground fake market with no other customers around and surrounded by angry paranoid sellers. Who knew what could have happened.

After we were finished, the guy who brought us to the market with such enthusiasm was now getting us a cab and looking really pissed off. The cab arrived; as we were getting in I said “xie xie” to the guy, which meant ‘Thank you’ in mandarin. I felt I had to as after all we did ‘counter hustle’ them very badly and probably came close to getting lynched for it once or twice.

The fake market hustle was a quite grim part of the Shanghai shoot at the time we were there… but every time I look back at it now, I always end up laughing.

IMG_5437From Left: Keko, Salah, Prince, Kevin, Me (looking handsome!)


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Los Angeles Trip and the ‘E3’ video shoot

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I was commissioned to fly out to Los Angeles and to film ‘E3’ 2011 out there. What is E3 do you ask? It’s pretty much the worlds biggest electronic entertainment expo where the latest video games and entertainment systems are shown. In this blog post i wanted to share with you the experiences i had out there.

The Los Angeles trip was amazing for me for ‘two’ main reasons.

The first: was because it was Los Angeles – a place that I’ve always dreamt of going to whilst growing up as a kid, thanks to the help of Hollywood movies.
The second: was because of the E3 Event itself. Growing up as kid and before the days of the Internet I used to go into convenient stores and buy video game magazines where there covers were of that years E3 event. The articles would show photos of the event held in Los Angeles and it was pretty much a wonderland for video game lovers. As a kid reading these magazines and daydreaming away I never thought in a million years that I would have the opportunity to go and see E3 for myself, let alone be commissioned to go out there to document it.

Its funny how life works like that.

It was an eight-hour flight to Chicago where we were going to catch connecting flights with barely any sleep and only a one-hour transit time gap. If you have ever had connecting flights you will know that its a short amount of time especially if you end up having to deal with the ridiculous Chicago airport security like we did, we literally ended up running to catch our next flight and ended up just barely making it. It was an adrenaline pumped run to catch that plane; we didn’t even have the time to make a quick stop to the toilets. I assure you, hearing about the American airport security and experiencing it are two completely different things.

I took a breath of fresh air when coming out of LAX airport. We finally made it… we were in Los Angeles.

The E3 event was held in the L.A Convention centre which if you have ever seen the awesome movie ‘Rush Hour’ with Jackie Chan and Chris Tucker, its where they filmed the final scenes of the movie where Jackie Chan is hanging on the roof of the building and is saved by Chris Tucker when he falls down. I didn’t even realise it was the same location until I got there.


The queue on the opening day was immense! I was set up with the camera right in front of the main entrance to get a shot of the ticketholders when they first entered the expo. Their excitement could not only be seen on their faces but could also be felt in the air. When the doors swung open they poured into the expo exceptionally fast as if the games and consoles were going to miraculously sprout legs and run away and escape the building. Well then again I might as well admit if I weren’t there to do a job I might have felt the same way, but I had a job to do and it was one that I was really looking foreword too.
Filming something you personally enjoy is sometimes extremely hard. One of the hardest things was actually staying focused when filming, with all the games and excitement going on everywhere around us it was really easy to get distracted, to just drop the equipment and start checking out the latest games and entertainment systems. It took a great deal of willpower to make sure I finished up with the filming before queuing up for any of the booths. The event was on for three days anyway so I had plenty of time to capture exactly what I needed for the video.

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After the three days of ‘E3’ was over. The crew and I decided to stay for a few extra days and explore LA even further. The expo was in the Downtown area and so that’s where our hotel was based. We decided move out to another place that we found in Airbnb. It was double room rented out by an elderly Jewish couple and the location was brilliant as we were really close to Santa Monica and Venice beach. Definitely a must see for anyone going to L.A. The atmosphere and energy along the beach is electrifying. There’s rows of busy basketball courts, people working out in outdoors style gyms, kids skating in the mini skateboard parks, people selling there own music albums along the beach walkway. The place was just teeming with every type of demographics you can think of.

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After three days of checking out Hollywood boulevard, The bel air area, Sunset boulevard and eating at ‘In n Out burger’, which was the best burger I have ever tasted! was time to say good bye.

Los Angeles and E3 was amazing and I would love to come back here again. It definitely sums up the words ‘Good Times!’



Welcome readers…it finally starts!

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Dear readers,

This starts the beginning of my personal blog on my website. As you’ve probably already read, I am a Director, Filmmaker and Photographer based in London. I’ve been meaning to start this blog for a while now but wanted to wait for the right time and today, I don’t know why but it just seems right.If you haven’t checked out my work yet then I would like you to have a look through it before jumping to the blog as then you will see what I do exactly and I will also be blogging about the work I have created more in depth.

So here it goes…Oh, just a quick note…I personally love it when i get inspired by people’s stories, their work and there experiences in life, so I can only hope that my work and my stories have the same effect on others.

The Beginning:-

I was born in London England in 1990 and have lived here ever since. I went to Ravensbourne University where I got a BA (Hons) in Broadcast Production. During my time at University I basically got better and better at being a Photographer and a Cameraman. I met some great friends who were in the same trade as me and we utilized and combined our talents together to create some fantastic projects although most of the best work I did was generally outside of University itself. Looking back on it now It makes complete sense as outside of university was where I could film the projects that I personally wanted to work on and where I wasn’t bound to any work criteria or had to listen to any lecturer telling me what I should or shouldn’t have done. I feel that when you work on something you really are passionate about and feel a connection with, it will show in the work.

This is literally what happened to me in 2011 during my second year at university. Two of my friends and I decided to do a personal project where we went to a Video games show in London called ‘Eurogamer’. We took our cameras and went around interviewing people about what their favourite Video games of all time was as well as what they thought of the show. Bare in mind we literally did this as a personal project and to be honest, because we were bored of the dull assignments we were given from our courses. Once we finished editing the video we posted it online and to our surprise its view count started going up quite rapidly.

Then out of the blue an American games company called ‘Bitmob’ saw the video and got in contact with us. Bitmob loved the style in which I shot the video and basically asked us if we could also do a video for them. They wanted us to film the E3 games show in Los Angeles. So here I was, a filmmaker in my second year of university, being commissioned to go to Los Angeles and film the E3 games show, one of the biggest video game shows in the world. 

I must say, it felt really good.

It all started from there and ever since that time I have been freelancing for various clients and companies and have travelled to many different places around the world doing my job. It feels good to finally be able to share these works with others not just in visuals, but also through the eyes of my personal experiences. I hope you enjoy it.

 My next blog will take off from where we left off and I will share with you my experiences filming the E3 games show in Los Angeles.


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