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Woo Yen Yen and Colin Goh have always been synonymous with TalkingCock.com, founding what is probably Singapore's premier satirical humour website. Making TalkingCock the Movie was almost like a natural extension to the website, but every columnist at movieXclusive.com who have caught their upcoming movie Singapore Dreaming, were awed by almost everything about it - the superb story it had to tell, the wonderful cast bringing the characters to life, the list just goes on, and unanimously gave it the thumbs up. We caught up with the writers / directors / producers of Singapore Dreaming over breakfast, in the midst of their busy schedules promoting their movie (they're doing everything from planning to producing the publicity materials) in the run up to its theatrical release, and discussed how Singapore Dreaming became a reality.

From TalkingCock to Singapore Dreaming
Yen Yen and Colin revealed that TalkingCock the Movie became the best film school they could ever have, despite having to learn things through hard knocks, and everything that could go wrong, did go wrong. They also learnt about the value of the script, and for Singapore Dreaming, they had allowed a number of people to read the script and give feedback. Colin added they had to be rather brutal with the script given the feedback they got, and had to learn to let go and put ego aside. If it works, why not change it, but ultimately it's their own decision to go with the changes.

They had actually invited test audiences too to try out some suggestions, such as the removal of certain scenes, although sometimes it had to be done for time, even if those scenes were nice to have. But worry not, we're sure any deleted scenes will make their way to the DVD release sometime in the future.

Dreaming the Story
One of the major reasons why movieXclusive.com loved the movie, was the strength of the story. While we know that an article called "Paved With Good Intentions" Yen Yen and Colin wrote in 2000 for the Singapore International Foundation's 10th anniversary book formed the foundations, we were intrigued at how the many ideas presented at the essay, could be crystalized into the storyline.

Yen Yen and Colin were actually quite surprised that the essay was read by many Singaporeans, and given Singaporeans being usually reserved and quiet, they were even more surprised that they received a lot of emails, and a lot of it confessional mails from total strangers, telling them their dreams, their jobs, the decisions they were making. Something must have triggered the readers' emotions to respond in the way they did.

Yen Yen and Colin were touched by the responses, and actually considered writing another essay as a reply, But what better way to reply than with a film, putting together some of the stories shared, merged and built into the characters in the film.

The Dream Cast
This film was made for Singapore and Singaporeans, and Yen Yen and Collin were conscious not to write about issues but about people's stories, stories that they knew, stories that they heard, and some coming from their own dark experiences. They set out not to let the film be issue driven, but to allow the stories to drive the characters, since "Paved With Good intentions" was based on experience and they wanted audiences to experience these stories that had to be told.

We were particularly amazed by the cast of Singapore Dreaming, and asked how they were meticulously selected, given that they all fit their roles so well. Naturally there were rehearsals with the actors prior to the actual shoot, but Yen Yen and Colin had conducted their selection process in a rather novel way, and shared with us their discoveries.

They conducted "interviews" with the potential actors in character, and through a series of questions, built the characters' back story. So the first few auditions were really like a chit-chat session, before it progressed into having to read the script, close it, and then to say it in their own words, never mind the language used. If you've seen the movie already, the characters came across very naturally, and never for a moment you might feel that they're acting for the camera. Yen Yen and Colin were all praises for their cast, that all 6 of them were extremely hardworking and truly concerned about their craft.

Serene Chen was first to be casted, and she is no stranger to Yen Yen and Colin, having acted in their short film 3Meals. According to the directors, she's an amazing actress, committed and they knew they wanted her to be in the film. Dick Su, who plays Ah Seng, was suggested by Serene, even though they had never worked together, but she was aware of his works. Both of them actually vaguely carried out an SMS romance prior to the production shoot, so as to build some chemistry.

We were amazed by Yeo Yann Yann's performance as Mei in the movie, and all of us agreed that she resembled a bit like renowned actress-filmmaker Sylvia Chang. Yen Yen recounted an interested bit about actually wanting a visual for Mei when she was writing the character, and had spent time surfing the Internet for pictures of local actresses. She came across the Fly Entertainment website, saw Yann Yann's photograph, and knew she's the one. So the character of Mei was written around this image, and that was even before the both of them had actually met!

Lim Yu-Beng's persona was usually that of a macho person, and to have him star as C.K., a "warrior" once upon a time turned meek insurance agent, Colin felt that it would bring out the pain he underwent even more. The challenge was in casting the roles of Ma and Pa. For the audition of Ma, 1st Assistant Director Stephen Chin was introduced to a group of older actresses, and although Alice Lim was selected eventually, she was in a very different image from the scripted Ma. However, there was a certain chemistry with Richard Low, who came on board fairly late into the role of Pa.

Richard is a recognizable face in local television, and has starred in successful Jack Neo movies. Yen Yen and Colin actually caught a glimpse of him looking sad in a television serial, and that glimpse actually made them ask if he was interested in the role. Richard was very game, and brought along more mischief into his role, with a certain Jack Nicholson-ish madness with him, into a complicated role which was Pa.

Time To Dream
We had a lot of fun with Yen Yen and Colin recollecting some of the more interesting bits that happened on site, such as their staged fights at Orchard Road to divert some attention during the shoot, as they had people literally staring into the camera!

Knowing that both directors have a hand in so many things going on almost simultaneously - cartooning, writing newspaper columns, maintaining their websites TalkingCock.com and Singapore Dreaming, making films, blogging, doing promotional activities, and giving talks and lectures, we just had to ask them about their secret of multi-tasking.

Colin revealed that he has been cartooning since he was 17, and after a while, he's already built a rhythm. Training too came from his lawyer background, where everything is just as important as they are urgent. He wished though that he had more time to pay more attention to each piece. Yen Yen added that it helped that there were two of them, so it's a partnership in everything. Like for the production of Singapore Dreaming, they know the work, and it is an advantage to have someone you completely trust, picking up where you left off.

There aren't many co-directors in the local filmmaking scene, and the way Yen Yen and Colin split their directing duties wasn't by the mechanical assignment of duties. It's about getting the concept right from the start, from knowing what emotions they are trying to get at for each scene. Sometimes there will be disagreements, and they will set out to explore, and also to have discussions with their actors too. So basically the shoot is performing things they have already discussed beforehand, with one of them being very close to the actors, and the other being behind the monitor.

Future Castles In The Sky
Yen Yen and Colin revealed they have 4 scripts under development now, having 2 set in Singapore and the other 2 set in New York. It all depends on which bit first, and they would love to do more Singapore-New York collaborations, just like how Singapore Dreaming had its sound design done in New York. They feel that New York is the centre of global influences, and there would be opportunities to being people from both cities together in an exchange of ideas.

Surely, with quality as demonstrated through Singapore Dreaming, we at movieXclusive.com await with bated breaths to experience the future projects of the dynamic team!

Singapore Dreaming opens in theatres from 7 September 2006.
You can read movieXclusive.com's Singapore Dreaming movie review by clicking on this link here, and you can read our review of the soundtrack at our Soundtracks page.

Interview & Report: Stefan Shih & Richard Lim Jr | Photos: Richard Lim Jr
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