Open season on the road

Being with strangers often makes one spill out personal things that you would never say, even to family and friends.

FEW careers have the amount of uncertainty that modelling and hosting do. No medical plan, no dental, no pension and definitely no idea if you’ll ever work again, are all just part of the job. One thing that’s certain, however, is that if you are sent on an overseas shoot, you will probably end up discussing deeply personal aspects of your life with complete strangers.

It makes no sense, but it happens again and again and again.

Discussing politics at a luxury beach resort in Mauritius with a hairdresser from France, talking religion with a Czech model in the dressing room of a studio in Thailand, discussing the pros and cons of your ex with a make-up artist while having dinner in front of the Coliseum in Rome ... it doesn’t matter where or with who – it will happen.

This proved true yet again in Shanghai, when I went there to shoot for Li TV recently. Our group of four sat down to dinner after a long day and proceeded to talk about anti-American sentiments, racism, religion, fate, the afterlife, depression, happiness, the meaning of life, death, children and Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy, all within the span of 115 minutes.

And this was only the second day of the shoot. Normally such analytical moralising comes much later in a long shoot schedule, after days of overwork, malnourishment and lack of sleep.

Thing is, it’s not bad having these sort of talks. In fact, it’s interesting to hear other people’s opinions on these “taboo” subjects, but why discuss them with strangers?

And be sure they are taboo subjects. This isn’t discussion on the weather or the local sports team. It’s about deep-seated ideological matters and those kinds of subjects that can get someone screaming at someone else before flipping a table over in outrage and storming off. This is why there is that adage: never talk religion or politics with friends if you want to stay friends.

And maybe this old tidbit of wisdom advocating talking about the cycles of the moon or the timing of the tides like you’re fascinated by the Farmers’ Almanac rather than anything meaningful with people close to you explains why you end up having far-reaching philosophical discussions on so many of these working trips. It’s because you’re with a bunch of strangers.

Sure, not always complete strangers – crews will often work with the same people – but relative strangers. And when you’re working with people who don’t know your past work, don’t know you as well as your friends and family, there’s a bit more of a veil of secrecy and an openness to say anything.

Like what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas; what is said on the shoot stays on the shoot. Under the cover of being acquaintances you can admit the things you wouldn’t to those closest to you; you can say the things that would remain unsaid in your relationship; you can admit having faults and limitations that you would never own up to in front of your family. Heck, you can even question why Nolan decided to let Tom Hardy speak like Sean Connery and Dr Evil’s love child in The Dark Knight Rises. It’s basically open season on any topic.

Do these talks with strangers solve anything for anyone involved? Probably not, though being able to speak your feelings freely in front of others has to have some therapeutic value as catharsis. And it’s never bad to delve into the deeper questions of human existence because even if you don’t like the answers, sometimes the questions have to be asked.

And that brings me right back to the “never talk religion and politics with friends” thing. Never is a strong word and though I understand the motivation behind the statement, I really cannot agree with it.

While having these discussions is interesting, it seems a shame to discuss the deeper meaning of everything with people you’ve only met once and may never see again. If I were a schmaltzy greetings card writer, I may even amend that saying to something like: “Sometimes talking religion and politics with friends can make those bonds stronger.”

But I wouldn’t say that because I’m not some schmaltzy greetings card writer.

Jason Godfrey can be seen hosting The LINK on Life Inspired (Astro B.yond Ch 706).

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