Channel NewsAsia

Hollywood horror flick to be shot in Singapore by Kelvin Tong

The Faith of Anna Waters will feature Mad Men actress Elizabeth Rice, who took over from Twilight's Nikki Reed due to the latter's conflict in schedule.

SINGAPORE: Twilight fans might be disappointed to learn that they will not spot actress Nikki Reed on the streets of Singapore any time soon.

Reed was supposed to star in Singapore director Kelvin Tong’s new movie, The Faith Of Anna Waters, but conflicting schedules meant that she had to be replaced by Mad Men actress Elizabeth Rice.

“We had already confirmed (Reed), but she had a Nashville concert that was always in her schedule and couldn’t be changed,” Tong told TODAY. “Later, after assembling the rest of the cast, it became an issue because some of the cast’s schedules didn’t match with her dates. So it became a case of, ‘Do we keep Nikki Reed and lose half of the supporting cast that I really like a lot? Or do we keep the supporting cast and lose Nikki?’

“When we spoke to her about the situation, she was extremely gracious about it. It was really too bad that it was all down to a scheduling clash. It’s really unfortunate that I cannot work with Nikki this time round, but I’m equally excited to work with Elizabeth.”

Shot entirely in Singapore, the Hollywood-produced horror film stars Rice as crime reporter Jamie Waters, who travels to Singapore to investigate her sister's apparent suicide and discovers a series of other bizarre suicides involving emails, Internet videos and biblical allusions to the Tower of Babel.

With the help of Anna’s former husband Sam Harris, played by Matthew Settle (of Gossip Girl and Band Of Brothers fame), Jamie races to solve the horrifying mystery of her sister’s death. The film, which begins its one-and-a-half month shoot in Singapore this month, also stars Singapore’s Adrian Pang and Point Of Entry’s Jaymee Ong, alongside Australian thespian Colin Borgonon and first-timer Adina Herz.

A GOOD SCRIPT IS EVERYTHING

Working with a budget of US$5 million (S$6.25 million), Tong said that he had been working on this film for one-and-a-half years - nine months of which was spent working on the script.

“I feel that a script is the most eloquent thing there is,” he said. “Because they are unfamiliar with us, it really took a good script. I can’t say anything to make you invest in the film if there was no script. I’d rather if the investors didn’t meet me first; I’d rather they met the script first. And that really seemed to pay off.”

Apart from Tong’s own production company Boku Films, other investing partners include various American private investors, Hong Kong film company Sun Entertainment Culture Limited which will distribute the film in Greater China and Southeast Asia, and the Media Development Authority Singapore (MDA).

Ruddy Morgan Organization, which co-produced Hollywood hits such as Million Dollar Baby, are executive producers.

“To convince partners outside of Singapore to make an English language film that should be, and can be, shot in Singapore for a North American and international market was very difficult,” revealed Tong. “I think without MDA’s help, I dare say that the confidence from people overseas who have never worked with a Singaporean company would have been much lower. But the moment they knew that the Government was rallying behind it - it really made things flow a lot smoother.”

Still, there were moments when he felt like giving up.

“From writing the script, to talking to the investors, and getting all our executive producers on board, it’s been a very long process,” he said. “We had a lot of meetings to persuade them that maybe we could pull it off in Singapore. It did look like it was taking a long time; and my team was not getting paid at all while we waited. At times, it was so tempting to come back home to Singapore and make another horror film with a much smaller budget. But I’m glad we stuck it out.”

KEEPING "A FAIR REPRESENTATION OF SINGAPORE"

Despite its American leads and investors, Tong is insistent on keeping The Faith Of Anna Waters “a fair representation of Singapore”.

“Singapore is not just Chinatown or Orchard Road. There’s also the financial district and HDB public housing,” he said, adding that he’ll be using a mix of real locations and building two whole sets. “I also want a fair representation of the talent we have here in Singapore. We are multi-racial, multi-cultural and multi-lingual. So we want to get that into the film.”

As for the huge pressure of being the first Singaporean director to helm a Hollywood film, he was nothing but realistic.

“I’ll be very honest with you, I’ll only consider it to be a Hollywood film if it opens in America. The question is - and this is not just with my films, but with films made in Hollywood - how big will it open in North America? That will only be determined after they see the finished product. That really will depend on how good the film is. And that’s my job - to make it as good as it can.”

Tweet photos, videos and updates on this story to  @channelnewsasia