24 hours with Nansun Shi

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 24 October, 2004, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 24 October, 2004, 12:00am

Having been in the movie business for many years, I am used to having a flexible life. My routine used to revolve around film projects. There are times when we film all night and I sleep all day, or it may be normal, when we film during the day and I sleep at night. But things have changed dramatically this month. I've been hosting Commercial Radio's morning show, On a Clear Day, for three weeks. It's something completely new and I am trying to get used to it.

I get up at 5.45am because the show starts at 7.15am. I live close to the station, just 10 minutes away, on Kadoorie Avenue. I don't take that long to get ready but I still want to look presentable because I believe in decorum. I lay out my clothes the night before - I prefer Prada, Comme des Garcons, Junya Watanabe and Gaultier because they are well cut. My hair is a short crop so it takes me less than 10 minutes to wash and style it. I call it the Astro Boy look. I used to never take breakfast but I realise I need a lot of energy to be alert in the morning, so I always drink a glass of soy milk and a bowl of Chinese medicinal soup. I believe in the principles of Chinese medicine because they take a more holistic approach. It's about treating the body as one entity and creating balance, instead of fixing problems here and there when something goes wrong.

This is the belief I have for my show, which I host from Monday to Thursday. It's a platform where we discuss current issues and events but try to maintain a broader perspective. Hong Kong is like a person, and sometimes there are areas that become ill and need special attention. But it doesn't mean we neglect other areas because everything is important for a person's wellbeing. Achieving equilibrium is important. Some people want to save Hong Kong's heritage, while others oppose welfare cuts. But we are all a part of the system, and all these components are part of the organ we call society.

I anchor the show with two hosts and we often have guests, so I have to be careful about striking a balance with everyone's views. Radio is so different. The 'air' space is limited and you do what you can to make sure everyone has a say. But, unlike movies, you can't control everything. There are also times when some people speak too long and it's then I become a moderator, stopping them if necessary.

Being a radio host is the last thing I thought I'd do. I've known Winnie Yu [head of Commercial Radio] for many years and when she called and asked me to step up to the plate, I looked at my husband [film director Tsui Hark], and he said if it's something I need to do, I should do it.

We try to do a line-up of discussion topics the night before and our researchers spend hours collecting information and material that might only last two minutes on air. By the time I arrive at the station before 7am, we do a briefing and go through all the newspapers, and the line-up will often change. I am trying hard to brush up on a lot of reading to understand the background of ongoing issues so I can provide listeners with accurate information.

My husband and I live very independent lives, although I've been involved in his film projects. I am also a director of a listed company. I split the rest of my day working in his studio in Kowloon Bay and my other office in Wan Chai. He's in Xinjiang right now, filming his new movie, Seven Swords. It's a period film and he's built a huge set there for filming. The weather in Xinjian is harsh, it can be 30 degrees Celsius during the day and drop to zero degrees at night. We talk on the phone every day but sometimes the reception isn't so good. Since I only work Monday to Thursday, I plan to fly up there to visit him.

I feel blessed having grown up in Hong Kong, a place with so much international influence. When I was growing up, my family was in the manufacturing business and they travelled to what most people would consider exotic places - the Congo, Ghana, Ethopia. I went to Maryknoll Convent School until I was 14 and was sent to Britain to study. I get a lot of inspiration from travelling. Tsui and I love taking holidays, especially during Chinese New Year, when it's generally a quiet time for the film industry. We go to Egypt, Africa and New York, where we lived for several years. Tokyo is always fun, too. The only place I really want to go but haven't had the chance to yet is India. I speak several languages fluently, including French, Putonghua and English, and I've spent some time learning German.

I love being with friends and I always eat lunch outside. I like to try everything. I am Shanghainese and lately I have hired a helper who is an excellent cook. She can make wonderful Shanghainese food, so in the evening I sometimes invite friends over to share a meal.

I've been reading a lot to keep up with current events and when I am not out in the evening, I am usually reading. I love the internet for instant access to everything but nothing compares with the feel of a newspaper in my hand. I love glancing through it, knowing where I can find things. I am also reading Ken Follett's White Out and a Chinese novel about the first generation of overseas students from China.

Although it may seem like I am getting a lot of extra time because of my early start, I haven't really made full use of the extra hours yet. I am someone who really enjoys my down time. To stay fit, I play badminton at the South China Athletic Association several times a week. I am someone who needs sufficient sleep. When we are working on a film, we are up around the clock. But eventually I always need to catch up on my sleep.

I remember one time I visited a friend in London and I fell asleep in her house on a Friday evening. When I woke up it was Monday evening. I must have gotten up and gone to the bathroom but I certainly didn't eat. Her husband kept asking her to check my vital signs.

I don't know how long I will stay at Commercial Radio. Film is my true calling, and I am so proud the Hong Kong industry is getting international recognition. I do hope one day I won't have to host the show any more because every day in Hong Kong will indeed be a clear day - a happier Hong Kong, where we won't have people in disagreement over social issues anymore.