Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Contract Renewed -updated with discussion

Contract renewal seesawed for a year; Successive intervention by higher management; Steven signed contract because of Stephen Chan’s 3 words.
續約拉鋸一年 高層相繼插手 馬浚偉因陳志雲三個字動筆
2126 > 明報周刊 > 娛樂熱葷

source: Ming Pao weekly
posted08 August 2009

Last July, representing TVB, Virginia Lok initiated the contract renewal talks with Steven Ma, but both parties had not been able to reach a consensus, then. During that period, Catherine Tsang and Mr. Chan陳輝光 (Sir Run Run Shaw’s right hand man, Senior Advisor of TVB Administrative Office) had successively expressed their concerns over the situation. It was not until Stephen Chan struck the decisive note did Ma Zai finally sign the contract this week, after a year or more seesawing on its crucial terms and conditions.

“Actually, I’d already decided to leave TVB, and not renew my contract.”

From initially wanting to leave to finally happily staying put, Ma Zai speaks out for the first time, recounting in details the ups and downs, and the reversal of his thoughts during that period. His career is looking up; moreover, his love relationship is getting a new lift, too. “Recently, two masters (fortune tellers) incredibly told me the same thing – said that next year or the year after, I might get married. Maybe with an ex-flame or maybe with a love at first sight.”

In the midst of our animated conversation, Ma Zai, who rarely talked about the matter of the heart, unexpectedly bared it all, and openly divulged the real reasons for his breakup with his ex-girlfriend. The issue of Steven Ma’s contract renewal inexplicably engendered the personal involvement of several TVB VIPs. Even the male lead was taken aback by their interests.

“Of course, Zhan Jie has always been concerned about me. Earlier this year, Mr. Chan looked me up to discuss this matter. And then later came Stephen. Every one of them asked me why I still hadn’t signed the contract yet. Actually, I’d already decided to leave. I thought that Pu Songling would be my last TVB series.”

Ma Zai is the kind of tough-mentality guy who will not display a show of hand. Hence, even when entangled in a year’s long of contract renewal problems, he remained unflappable and showed no signs of being troubled.

“In these four years, there were of course good times and bad times. I don’t want to make myself unhappy, so might as well leave. And plan for the next stage of my career path.”

Ma Zai is TVB’s overseas market guarantee. His popularity in Mainland China is ever soaring. There have been already several management agencies beckoning him to their camp. And that as soon as his contract terminates, he would concentrate all his energy to “attack” the divine land. (China)

What made Ma Zai discontent with his lot? Was it because there was never any sign of him in TVB’s grand productions?

He smiles and says with equanimity: “Many artistes and crew members called me “Brother Dagger” (Dao Zai Goh) If want to beat out other people, a dagger would suffice. A Journey Called Life garnered 35 points; Safeguards had a high of 42 points. It is not necessary that only grand productions can get good results. Moreover, there is less pressure in making a 20-25 episode-series.”

Of course, he is well aware of his own worth. But halfway through his contract negotiation, a rumor arose whereby in a management meeting, Ms. Lok had bluntly criticized Ma Zai’s inability to “enter homes”, which promptly provoked someone’s rebuttal, “Is it only your home that he can’t enter?” Zhan Jie also brought forth the issue of what to do with his 3 unaired series namely, “A Watchdog’s Life”, “The Stars of Love”, and “Pu Song Ling” if he leaves. The executives had an explosive face-off, because of Ma Zai, its tension was so thick it could not be dispersed.

Does Ma Zai believe this rumor?

“I’m not privy to what went on in management meetings. So how can I say whether I believe or not? What I can say is that in Stephen Chan’s recent book signing session, I met Ms. Lok. She said, “Crazy ka! (sou ga!) Among TVB many artistes, only you and Roger Kwok have entered my home.” Ms. Lok leads the human resources department, why would she say anything to harm her own artistes?”

Ratings aside, with utmost confidence and with past examples as backups, he upholds his ability to ‘enter homes”.

“When walking down the streets, one can gauge how the public feel about oneself. Can’t be fooled. There was this one time when this older man of about forty or fifty years old approached me and hugged me, and said: “Ma Chun Wai, you’re a good ming sing.” When out shopping for food, people will surround me for autograph signing and for picture taking. Maybe they don’t see me as a ming sing (star) but I’m very close to the viewing public. I’m not the aloof kind of artistes.”

Furthermore, he does not believe that his three finished products would in anyway influence the outcome of the contract negotiation.

“I’ve always said that TVB is a very successful electronic dissemination media; no one is indispensable to it. Even if I really did leave, the series can be aired on pay tv or sold to overseas markets, or even be broadcast later here. It is all based on mutual benefits."

Confess to be of Zhan’s party.
Did TVB really conclude that Ma Zai cannot “enter homes”? Based on how TVB disregarded the contract renewal situation, the baseless rumors quickly collapsed. And General Manager, Stephen Chan, finally showed his hand.

“I was very happy after our discussion. First and foremost, I felt his sincerity; second, he gave me confidence. I believe what he said would be honored.”

Where did the confidence come from? Ma Zai said it all because of the three words that came out of Stephen’s mouth. “He said to me: “You see lah!” To see what he will do. He also encourages me to be more proactive in voicing my opinions and concerns. For instance, I love to cook; and have always wanted to host a food/beverage program. But had kept that inside me, so who would know? Zhan Jie and Ms. Lok always complained that I am not open with my concerns. I should really do some self-reflections. They are not the worms inside my stomach. If I don’t speak out how can the problems be resolved?”

Ma Zai’s discontentment accumulated over time almost pushed him over to the edge, if not for Stephen’s timely intervention. And precisely because of Stephen’s high profile involvement, some people said Ma Zai is now categorized and has become Stephen’s latest pet favorite.

Unfazed, he says: “As to whether I’m of this or that clique, my attitude remains unchanged. Like how it is always reported that I’m Zhan Jie’s lead horse, and that I’m in Zhan’s clique. In truth, I am that. First, she is the one who asked me to join TVB series. My relationship with her is akin to that of a master and disciple; a teacher and student. All these years, she continually guides me, sometimes even berating me sternly. “How sternly?” “Around 6 to 7 years old, I fell off a bunk bed and caused a crack between my two front teeth, thus became a chipped tooth zai. Not until I was 21 years old did I finally have that fixed. But it made my way of speaking unnatural. I recalled when acting in my earlier series, she would scold me: “What’s the matter with your mouth?” At the time, I tried to explain: “I had had this childhood accident…” But Zhan Jie’s viewpoint was that, no need to listen to the ‘whys’ or to give the explanations, only that you change. This mindset not only influences my job but also influences my life. So my greatest gratitude should go to Zhan Jie. “

When he informed Zhan Jie of his decision not to renew his contract, Zhan Jie meticulously analyzed the situation for him: “Even if you don’t want to sign the full management contract, you should at least sign “a per-series contract ya.” And now Ma Zai has changed his mind, and has renewed his contract with TVB for three more years. Naturally, all’s well that ends well.

“I’m satisfied with the pay raise. But will not disclose its percentage increment. If I honestly mind this small percentage raise then I truly made a fuss just over money. ”

A double blessings event. The renewal contract has a happy ending; and his love relationship has hopes of fruition. “According to past fortune telling, I will marry late in life. But recently, two fortune tellers, at different occasion, told me that next year or the year after next, I might get married. This is my first time in my life hearing this happy news.” The fortune tellers predicted that it could with an old flame that he got back together, or that it could with a passionate love at first sight.

“Before, marriage had never entered my mind, but lately I have been seriously thinking about it. Maybe because many of my friends have recently gotten married.

Bringing up Vivian had Steven immediately open up his protection net. “Let’s not talk about her, ok?” After much words of persuasion and effort, he finally deigned to loosen his tongue a little.

We dated for 6 years. Our relationship came to a bottleneck. There were some problems that we didn’t know how to reconcile. I was too busy. Once a series starts, it’s like I’ve totally disappeared. Didn’t have too much time to spend with her. She had already endured much over a long period.

The outsiders like to describe this red wine businesswoman as a superwoman. Anyway, habitual practice becomes natural. After all, it had been 6 years, still had irreconcilable conflicts?

No matter how one can get used to a situation, she is still a woman who needs security. Maybe she is a superwoman in her work but in her heart she still likes to be taken care of. We had discussed this problem for a long time. In the end, decided it was best to halt the relationship. It was a mutual, tacit understanding born of our years of togetherness. No one dumped anybody,” says he.

As to the fortune-tellers’ prediction of ex-flame, could the female lead be Vivian?

He can only say: "I dare not be too absolutely sure. Vivian can also have her own way of life. I want her to be happy and be blessed. That’s enough.”

Akazukin: Thanks for the article translation. It sounds like Stephen intervened at a very critical moment. I'm happy that Steven finally decides to sign with TVB. That means more series for us to watch, because even though I believe he will do well in China if he signs with China company, to be honest, I'm not a fan of China series. I prefer TVB's.
It seems like he didn't really disclose the reason as to why he was unhappy in TVB and decided to leave before Stephen intervened. If it hadn't be Ms. Lok, I wonder what else could make him unhappy. I mean, not being given a chance you never voiced out doesn't sound to be much of a reason unless unfairness has applied and chance has been given to others who never voiced out their wishes either. But for him to start opening up more is a good thing. Hopefully, TVB and Ms. Lok will start to appreciate Steven more from now on. 

Tamaya:  Don't you know Steven's style of talking by now: always with poise and confidence, always gracious, always courteous, always giving face whenever possible; sometimes self-deprecating, most time self-effacing. In this interview, Steven comported himself with grace - graceful to his 'defeated' opponent and to his Vivian. In Ms. Lok's case, a confident and compassionate man such as Steven need not say too much to rest his case. I love how he answered the interviewer's question on the dispute rumor with his own - a seemingly rhetorical question of why Ms. Lok, head of Artistes Resources, would want to harm her own people? The correct elicited response should be of course she wouldn't and didn't -- Would she? Did she? Confused! The truth shall set you free. (cliche. lol!) In Vivian's case, if there's any faults, they're all his. That's the old school gentleman style for you.

Come on, the contract negotiation had been a year or so long, what else hadn't they touch on? I'm sure Steven had been very clear from the outset to Ms. Virginia about what he wanted included in his contract, just that at the time, she was in a stronger position to reject than she is now in her present weakened position. Guess there's one good thing (if it could be called that)that came of out of TVB's financial crisis is it showed up Ms. Lok's management weaknesses and failures. But my opinion on Zhan Jie has gone up several notches. I love how she reminded Steven not to slouch. lol!

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At Stephen Chan's book signing session, when Ms. Lok saw Ma Zai, she immediately asked him if he had read the report, and in a joking manner, proceeded to explain away the "can't enter the home" rumor.

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Even though he didn't make it public, but among close friends, Ma Zai had already openly admitted his and Vivian's intimate relationship. When he was doing the stage show, The Chinese Hamlet, Vivian was backstage discreetly taking care of business.

爱之深责之切 The greater the love, the tougher it is; the greater the love, the more responsibility it requires. This reflects the relationship between Zhan Jie and Ma Zai. "When I see her, I'm like a student encountering a Miss. (teacher) She'll tell me not to slouch; also will scold me for drinking beer because if I drink too much beer, I tend to speak too loudly, and during conversation will slap people on their shoulders.


Ma Zai once thought that his series with Fala Chen, Pu Songling, would be his TVB series farewell souvenir. "I thought Pu Songling would be my last series for TVB. I'm most happy that this year I got to film Pu Songling. When it releases, I'm sure it will do well." Because of the necessary special effects, it won't be until next year before it airs.

sources: steven-ma.org
 steven ma's warm house 
asianfanatics 1689

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