Moviexclusive recently had an interview with Colin Goh and Woo Yen Yen, the directors of Singapore Dreaming and a few days later, we caught up with the cast (Richard Low, Alice Lim, Dick Su, Yeo Yann Yann and Serene Chen) and had a chat with them about their characters in Singapore Dreaming, working with the directors, the issues that this film brought out and some tidbits of information on their individual life.
Richard Low plays frustrated lawyer’s clerk Loh Poh Huat, the patriarch of the Loh family.
Richard: “In this movie, my character, Poh Huat is very biased towards his son and very chauvinist. He is not concerned about the family’s feelings, and they are subject to his dictations.
Personally I am not like that. I have got two daughters and one son, and I do not prefer one to another. In order to get into character, we often think about the situations that we know of or people that we know of that shares similar characteristic with Poh Huat. The only similarity that I have with Poh Huat was that when I was younger, I was into the 5Cs like he was in this movie.
I felt that Singapore Dreaming is quite different from the past comedic movies that I was in even though Singapore Dreaming contains comedic elements in it. If you ask me the difference between these two, I would use Spicy Hotpot and Wasabi to describe them. My old comedies are very straight forward and like the Spicy Hotpot, it goes straight to the sensory and overwhelms it till it goes numb. Singapore Dreaming was like wasabi in that you won’t feel much when you partake it but when the sensation comes gushing out through your nose, it’s a totally different feel altogether.”
Alice Lim plays Poh Huat’s wife Siew Luan who channels her frustrations into a constant, obsessive brewing of herbal tea.
Alice: “I like this role very much as it’s traditional enough. In our society, it’s hard to find such person nowadays. Many women are seeking a career so it’s hard to find one that devotes her full concentration and time to her husband and her kids. As a very traditional lady, it is natural for her to favor the male over the female.
But all the different incidents that happen in this movie create a drastic change in her and in real life; people do encounter such events that make them change drastically. After becoming aware of the big mistake in her life, it shaves off their traditional outlooks on life. ”
Yeo Yann Yann plays Mei, the Lohs’ eldest daughter. Fed up with the favoritism shown by her parents towards her brother, Mei has embarked on a vengeful drive towards acquiring all the touchstones of middle-class respectability.
Yen Yen: “My character Mei grew up in such environment which makes her craves and strives for love but she herself doesn’t know how to express it. She is not happy with the favoritism shown by her parents and she carries all the family responsibilities on her shoulder when no one asked her to. She wants to take care of everyone and find it hard let go.”
Dick Su plays Seng, the Loh family’s only son, who just returned from the US with a university degree and a dark secret.
Dick: “ It didn’t register initially when I read the script. I was looking for a car chase, all the things you have on tasty TV is not there. I read it again and I realize it is really about the characters, we really are a family that all of us have and we have different chemistries. It is really a wonderful experience and I wouldn’t change it for anything else. I am especially thankful to Serene because she is the one that recommended me to the directors.
For my character, Ah Seng, his girlfriend is not a special flower but someone to make his life more interesting, helping him with his life and she was more of a tool than anything else. I feel that Ah Seng does love Irene but like his father, he does not know how to cherish and nourish their relationship. The directors and I talk about Ah Seng and whether he did have affairs during his time in the States but we agree that he most probably would have a certain amount of loyalty.
And for this movie, I am branded as the bad guy which is fine with me as I always find that the bad guy roles are far more interesting and some of my favorite actors are those who etched their mark in my mind playing the bad guys.
<Editor note: Colin Goh then added his insight on Ah Seng role>
Colin: You are a not a monster, your character is created by Singapore society. There is something sadder about him than almost everyone else in the film because he wanted it so badly, he wanted to please everybody; he wanted to be on top and project the level of successfulness and that gave him a very difficult role, it might seem evil but there was a deep level of sadness and vulnerability.
Serene Chen plays Irene, Seng’s fiancée, who is desperately trying to shore up her increasingly tenuous hopes for a picture-perfect family.
Serene: “When Yen Yen and Colin called me from New York for this role, it didn’t really register in my mind as I was busy preparing for my wedding at that time. The more I read the script and when they came back with the updated version, I realized that there are many people in our midst that are like that.
For my role, I model it on various friends I know of. There are lot of my friends that got so much love to give that they are willing to say : “I can live with it or I am happy” even though they may not be necessary happy with the situation that their boyfriend they been with 10 years, have not popped the question yet. Even when she moved into his house, they watched movies, she knows all his friends, and they all know her but their relationship have simply reached a stalemate.
I grew to love the character even more and wanted to give that character a voice.”
So how was it like working with the directors, Colin Goh and Woo Yen Yen?
Richard: “Although they didn’t have the budget as the other films that I been in, they show the same level of professionalism. During audition and preparation, the directors dissect the character’s motivation and story in details to me. They will analyze this character’s personality to me and will hear my views in order to add more flavor to the character”
“For me to prepare for the role, I needed the concept, the job and the character’s way of thinking. The directors went further beyond what was shown on screen and gave me very detail information on how my character got to know his wife, his previous job etc. All this details are not in the film but they will discuss with us, allowing me to totally immerse into the life of this character and once I got the right feeling for this character, I was able to portray the character as realistic as possible. ”
Yann Yann: “They really respected our views and allowed us to be involved with the process of co-creating with them. They use a lot of real life experience into the storyline and characters. For example, there was this scene where I had something nasty to tell Yu Beng and Yen Yen shared with me that she would put her hand on her husband before talking to him and I thought it was fantastic and added that little gesture into that scene.
Serene: “I am really amazed at how that Yen Yen and Colin pulled off such a long journey. From February last year until now, they have not stopped working on this film. The amazing bit is both of them are not just working on Singapore Dreaming alone. Yen Yen teaches and have publications to write while Colin writes for publications and the weekly newspaper column. I am a teacher and used to think that I am juggling a lot of things but comparing with them, I don’t know how they manage to find the time to accomplish what they did and handle it with so much finesse.
They are such good artistes and they are so respectful of other people’s work, right down to the interns. They are very open to a lot of ideas and the most important thing is that they are very approachable. So you don’t feel that you are not in the place to say anything. Another thing I like about Singapore dreaming is that they are very hands on , they know the story that they want to tell so having this kind of artistic control is very good and at no point in the movie will you feel that it’s going to derail into some act of vanity. They are extremely grounded and Singapore Dreaming is a very sincere piece of story telling”
This movie dealt with the importance of 5 Cs (Cash, Car, Credit Card, Condo and Club Membership) in a typical Singaporean’s life and what your views on it?
Yann Yann: “It’s neither good nor bad but one must not be too obsessed with it. You have to balance the pursuit of the 5Cs with the amount of family love. Also, one cannot blindly follow such trends because other people are doing it”
Richard: “If you have the 5Cs, that would mean that you are able to take care of yourself as well as those around you. The underlying message in this film is that women need another C and that’s Care but in order to do so, you must be able to take care of yourself. Of course like what Yann Yann had said, there must be a balance in the chase of 5Cs and you can’t neglect the others, especially your family members”
Alice: “The 5Cs can only be used as a target to aim for. However during the process, if it’s evident that it is an impossible goal, one must not ask for the impossible and settle for what is achievable instead. In Singapore, our HDB flats can be as good as a condominium if renovated properly. If one cannot afford a Club membership, a community centre which got a lot of programs could be an ideal alternative.
The 5Cs is a luxury dream and if you are able to achieve 2 or 3Cs, it should be enough. Humans need an aim so life will be more interesting but one should not allow the 5Cs to become a burden”
Serene: “I think if there a thing you really want, you should go for it. But if it’s not your dream and if it’s only because of peer pressure, then perhaps it’s not such a wise choice.
It’s not a secret that there is no choice in Singapore that you must have cash. Health care is not free and living in Singapore is expensive. However there is a difference between need and want, a lot of it is want. It’s not wrong but there is a difference to see if within your reach.
Either people have it so I want it or people have it and if I don’t have it, does that make me look like I am an underachiever?”
Dick: “Perhaps Singapore has created a paper chase environment and the job atmosphere whereby they make you need really need to work really hard because if you don’t work hard, you don’t amount to anything.
Singapore needs to progress but the fact is that the law we made whether in education system or the work space becomes too exclusive and you don’t get a second chance in life.
The pursuit of 5 Cs has created certain segregation in our society. If you didn’t make it at the age of 12, you probably won’t make the life ahead. Unless you become an entrepreneur or you might have missed the boat.
It’s kind of negative but the thing is if everybody has to find their own goal and if the system is healthier, this 5 Cs could have been good thing, people will be working hard and finding ways to achieve the quality of their lives.”
So any film projects that line up after Singapore Dreaming?
Richard: “I have just completed a Channel 5 telemovie titled “For Sentimental Reasons. As an actor, I would love to try a variety of performance as possible and taking on a English speaking role is one of the latest challenge that I am trying out. Let you in on a little secret, actually my first movie wasn’t “I Not Stupid” which everyone assumed. It was the local science fiction movie “Avatar” and it was done in English. I wasn’t the lead actor in that film but there you have it, my first movie was actually an English film.”
Yann Yann: “I will be appearing in a play call “Lei Yu” on the 28 September and after that, there will be a Television series with Kevin Tong called “Do Not Disturb” and my Singapore Dreaming husband, Yu Beng, will be in it too. Following that, there will be a movie project that is starting early next year, I can’t really say much now except that it will be directed by Royston Tan”
<editor note : YUP! the very same secret project that Royston Tan disclosed to us during an earlier interview>
Before we end this, any dreams of yours that you hope will be fulfilled?
Richard: “My contract with Mediacorp will be ending in 2009 and I will be 57 years old by then. My dream would be to stay on as a full fledge actor with Mediacorp until I am 60”
Yann Yann: “There are too many dreams that I want to fulfill but what I really want to see happening is local theatre actors getting more recognition by the masses.”
Serene: “I love to go to a drama school. It’s not because I want to learn acting as I am already an actor but as a student, I can go be a sponge and absorb as much as I can without the pressure to try and charm more people into buying tickets.
Alice: “I have been to many foreign countries but I dream of traveling once around the world pretty much like 80 days around the world. I am already contented that my kids have all grown up and I have a good hubby so the only wish left for me is to travel around the world”
Dick: “I want to find a good hubby”
<editor note: there was a moment of awkward silence among us until>
Dick: “nah, I am just taking a jab at what Alice had just said. She sound so contented having a good hubby mah” “But seriously, my dreams have changed from when I was in my 20s and now in my 30s, I have a new perspective in life and that’s settling down.”
<editor note: and we gave him an “awww” and start taking out our little black books to lend Dick a helping hand.>
Moviexclusive wishes all the cast and directors Good luck in fulfilling their dreams and remember to catch Singapore Dreaming in all good Cinemas that showing them!