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Tay Ping Hui walks down memory lane with “Meeting The Giant”

Singapore actor Tay Ping Hui explains why working with a cast mostly made up of first-time actors in his new movie “Meeting The Giant” brought back a lot of memories for him, and shares his thoughts on directing his first feature film.

SINGAPORE: Local actor Tay Ping Hui directed a cast of mostly first-time actors in his new basketball-themed movie “Meeting The Giant”.

The film revolves around a Singaporean boy gradually who learns to accept a group of basketball players from China, after witnessing how they struggle to create a new life for themselves in Singapore.

“Meeting The Giant” is Tay's first foray into feature film directing, and he said it was a challenging task to guide the newbie actors through the process.

“Sometimes I’d say a whole lot about the scene and they’d just stare at me. They had no idea what I was talking about!

“Then I’d start over, from the very basics!” said Tay.

But not once did he lose his temper.

“A lot of people say I am a very patient director, however, I feel I shouldn’t be losing my temper in the first place because getting angry is not constructive.

“An actor is really fragile on the set. If you destroy his confidence, he will perform badly,” said Tay.

He explained that he “totally understood” the cast members’ difficulties as he had been in their position before so he tried his best to help them along.

“They make me remember how ‘blur’ I was when I started!” said Tay with a smile.

“I played one of the male leads in my very first drama. I was acting opposite Thomas Ong, and I played his brother.

“I had a huge amount of screen time and a lot of emotional scenes. I had no idea what was happening!” recounted Tay.

“When I got to the set, I just kept my eyes and ears open, listened to the director and cameraman, and hoped to learn something.”

Tay’s patience certainly impressed his young charges from “Meeting The Giant”.

“He is really good to us. We respect him a lot,” said cast member Lim Shengyu, as his co-stars nodded in agreement, during a media conference for the film.

Tay in turn said he admired Lim and his fellow cast members Delvin Goh, Ng Hanbin, Chua Seng Jin, as well as China-born Michael Lee, who play key roles in the film, which also stars Singapore actor Ian Fang.

He said they have “very good attitudes", are "hard working” and have the potential to become professional actors, though Lim, Goh and Ng, all members of the Singapore national basketball team, may find their imposing height a hindrance.

All three of them are much taller than Tay, who is 1.86 metres tall, which means most Singapore actresses will be dwarfed by them.

“I am 1.86 metres tall and already, I have to stand with my legs apart (to appear shorter on camera) when acting alongside Huang Biren (one of the taller actresses in the industry),” said Tay.

“Meeting The Giant” producer, veteran Singapore actor Jack Choo shared his sentiments.

“How would you find a match for them?” said Choo with a chuckle.

“Get the actress to wear eight-inch heels all the time?”

Jokes aside, Choo believes that “Meeting The Giant”, which is now showing, is a very timely film with an important message.

He revealed that the film is actually based on his own experiences.

Choo had the opportunity to spend time with a group of Chinese players which had been brought in to raise the standard of basketball in Singapore, when he was much younger.

As he spent more time with them, he found out more about their struggles and started to understand them better.

He said he hoped the film would similarly encourage Singaporeans to be “more open-minded and more accepting” of foreigners in Singapore by telling their story.

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