Photos: Teo Sijia, Golden Village
Video: Tan Shiqi, Vina Chia
While participating in her maiden movie, songstress and certified optometrist Joi Chua got to experience an entirely different profession: the legendary summon aunty.
The first-time actress shared that while in costume filming for Royston Tan’s new film, 3688, “People didn’t recognise me and thought I was a real summon aunty, so they ran away from me, and some hurried back to drive their cars away or to add more parking coupons.”
“(Parking wardens) are shunned by everyone, it’s so sad!”
At the press event for 3688 held on Tuesday at the National Museum, Joi was joined by her co-stars Brandon Wong, Liu Lingling, Rahima Rahim and rapper Shigga Shay, as well as director Royston Tan.
In his tradition of numerically titled movies — after his feature films 15, 4:30, 881 and 12 Lotus — Royston’s new offering contains a near-pun of the Chinese phrase ‘Xiang Ru Fei Fei’ (it means to have one’s imagination run wild) in its name, and also alludes to the late Taiwanese singer Feng Fei-Fei, who is known for her fondness of unique hats. (Coincidentally, local parking wardens, who are largely female, are nicknamed Feng Fei-Fei for the trademark white canvas hats they wear at work, and Joi’s character in the movie is called Fei-Fei and sings Feng Fei-Fei songs.)
In 3688 Joi plays a parking warden who aspires to be a singer, and despite the harsh realities of life she signs up for a singing competition, only to find out on the day of the grand finals that her father, who suffers from dementia, has gone missing.
Despite 15 years in the local entertainment industry, Joi has never taken up an acting role until now. The collaboration with Royston was born of an old promise between them. “When I first met Joi four or five years ago, I admired her (calm and earnest) temperament,” he said. “So I told her we will definitely get to work together someday.”
Joi added, “When he said that I thought he was just being polite, and I didn’t take his words seriously. But eventually he did look me up, and said he thought I had sensibility so I would have no problem crying on cue.”
“I was surprised. No one had said that about me before — I had always been called rational and objective.”
“Joi really can’t act, you know,” MediaCorp actor Brandon Wong said, to the horror of the cast.
He went on: “I say that because she channels her true emotions in her performance — she’s not putting on a show, so she’s very natural and honest.”
But despite high praise from her co-star, it’s unlikely we’ll be seeing more of Joi on screen. She related that though she has received invitations to be in drama serials and stage productions, she can’t spare the time from her day job as an optometrist at her own eyewear establishment.
Still, Joi relished the experience of acting under Royston’s guidance. “The good thing about him is that he won’t circumscribe your performance,” she said. “He’ll let you run with your own emotions. If he had given me pointers at every step of the way, I wouldn’t have been able to do this.”
3688 comes seven years after Royston’s last feature film, 12 Lotus in 2008, but the director said he feels no pressure to outdo his past projects. He even promised that if 3688 hits $1 million at the box office, people who have been issued parking summonses can bring them in and watch the movie at no charge.
There’s some Joi in being caught by a summon aunty after all.
3688 is showing in cinemas nationwide, and is distributed by mm2 and Golden Village Pictures.
This story first appeared on toggle.sg/ch
Story by Teo Sijia