SINGAPORE: Trust Singaporean hit-making director Jack Neo to take audiences from getting to know army “ah boys” and navel “frogmen” divers to a whole new subject-matter: Ex-convicts.
Neo’s latest film project - Take 2 - will explore the sensitive subject of ex-offenders struggling to reintegrate into society. Helmed by writer Ivan Ho making his directorial debut, the film stars Ah Boys To Men star Maxi Lim, getai veteran Wang Lei, Long Long Time Ago’s Ryan Lian and Malaysian comedian Gadrick Chin as four ex-cons looking for a second chance in life.
Filming commenced on Thursday and is expected to wrap by end July or early August. Working on budget of S$1.5 million, this co-production between Neo's J Team Productions and mm2 Entertainment will be released during the next Chinese New Year.
Neo told Channel NewsAsia that despite his capacity of executive producer, he expects to take on a pro-active role and be on the set almost daily. “But I’ll try my best to not be too hands-on,” he quipped in Mandarin. “I’ll be around to give Ho all the advice and help he needs, but I need to let him to do his own thing and develop his own directing style.”
GROOMING LOCAL DIRECTORS
Neo also said he believes growing the Singapore film industry must start from within, which is why he encouraged Ho to take the next step into directing. “Training is important. And why shouldn’t we train and promote the people within our organisation instead of looking elsewhere? We need more commercial directors in our local film industry.”
Ho is a long-time collaborator of Neo, having co-penned scripts ranging from the Ah Boys To Men films, Long Long Time Ago and Neo’s contribution to the 7 Letters anthology.
“Being a first time director, I’d expect a lot of challenges going into this,” Ho said. “I know I don’t have the same kind of experience as Neo. Neither will I be as quick as he is. But I’ve learnt a lot from him after working together all these years and I’m excited.”
So what is the best advice Ho got from the veteran before embarking on his directorial journey? “Pressure!” Ho quipped. “Pressure to do well!” And what is the worst advice? Both executive producer and director answered in unison with a big laugh and without hesitation: “Also pressure.”
When it comes to Take 2, it appears pressure really serves as the best motivation.