It’s 11.05am on set while filming upcoming Channel 8 drama A Million Dollar Dream, and the pressure is growing as time ticks by. The dining area at Mezza9 at the Grand Hyatt must be ready to welcome the lunch crowd by 11.30am, and there are takes that have yet to be completed.
The protagonists of yesterday’s scenes were budding actors Joel Choo and He Ying Ying, and they managed to complete filming on time before moving on to another area to work on another scene, which is again a race against time as they need to call it a day by 1pm.
Calling out instructions to the two young stars, along with the other cast members, is director Martin Chan, who also takes the initiative to demonstrate how certain scenes should be played out – and he’s definitely someone who knows what he’s doing, especially after picking up his first Best Director award for C.L.I.F. 4 at the Star Awards 2017.
After wrapping up their scenes, Ying Ying and Joel sat down with Toggle to tell us more about how their experience has been working on the drama, in which they are each other’s love interests. Ying Ying also revealed the reason why she shed tears during the acting class that Xie Shao Guang conducted, while Director Chan told us why improving their acting chops is so important to the two young stars.
Read on for more.
Ying Ying being guided on how to convincingly portray an intoxicated person
Ying Ying on how Xie Shao Guang reminded her of the reason why she’s an actress
In some of the scenes that were shot yesterday, Ying Ying’s character, Yi Jing, stumbles while trying to make her way out of the restaurant after having one too many drinks. For Ying Ying, who confessed that she’s never gotten drunk, acting the part proved to be an uphill task as the director had to demonstrate examples of how intoxicated people would walk.
Despite having to shoot the scene more than once, Director Chan shared that he feels that she “has improved so much since the first time I saw her – what I can say for her and Joel is that they have a lot of room for improvement because they don’t quite have the amount of life experiences that older actors may have. Plus, they’re pretty new to showbiz, so there are some things that they have to learn by themselves.”
Ying Ying agreed, “A couple of days ago, I really felt like I wasn’t doing well enough. Yes, I acknowledge that I’m improving but it’s definitely not at the pace I hoped that I would be (…) I think that I’m just too anxious. As a newbie, I want to see myself improve a certain level of acting as soon as possible, so I felt quite upset about it. After that, I realised that seeing an improvement is good enough, and that I shouldn’t be so hard on myself.”
Ying Ying and Joel, along with many other young actors, were the lucky few who attended Xie Shao Guang's acting workshop last week
The 22-year-old did, however, get a boost of energy from attending Xie Shao Guang’s acting workshop held in Mediacorp last week. “I only managed to attend the first day of it because I had filming on the second day, but the amount of passion and dedication that he has towards acting was really inspiring, and I was very touched by it as well.”
She continued that there was a segment “where he and Nick (Teo), along with Sheila (Sim) shared eye contact. “The both of them shed tears, and the strange thing is, even though I was just observing, I also started crying. I saw the connection that they had and I felt really touched by it. Andie also shared a scene with Xie Shao Guang, and all of us were really jealous.”
(Continued on next page: Joel Choo shares with us the words of wisdom that his dad Zhu Hou Ren imparted to him)
Joel being guided by the director before the cameras started rolling
Joel Choo shares with us the words of wisdom that his dad Zhu Hou Ren imparted to him
As for Joel, who is taking on his first ever Channel 8 drama, the learning curve has been much steeper. After about a week or so of filming, he admitted that he feels that acting is “pretty challenging, and something that I haven’t managed to get a proper grasp on yet. In this aspect, I need to work harder to do better.”
Sharing that he thinks that there are “many aspects” that he has to improve on – such as delivering his lines well, maintaining the state of emotions that his character needs to be in, his movements, along with how he should direct his gaze – he hasn’t been able to receive specific advice from his dad, Zhu Hou Ren.
“Every time I approach my dad to discuss such matters, he maintains that the most important is to be sincere when you’re acting, and not to give myself too much stress. He also told me that I have to enjoy the entire process (…) he sometimes rehearses my lines with me, but has stopped making notes on my scripts, because he wants me to look through them myself,” the 23-year-old shared.
“For example, for my scenes with Ying Ying, he’ll tell me how I should approach certain parts, but he won’t demonstrate because he’s afraid that I’ll mimic what he does. He thinks that his method of acting is a bit too old-school, and he hopes that I can act in a way that is more appropriate for me.”
The cast going through their scripts and reviewing their footage with the director in between takes
Director Martin Chan on the importance of young stars bringing their A-game to every shoot
Given his wealth of experience in the field, the director has seen his fair share of actors blossoming over the years, and had words of advice for not just Ying Ying and Joel, but all young actors.
“The most important thing and fastest way to improve is to experience things. At a young age, you haven’t gone through many things in life, and the only way to change that is to try them out. For example, for today’s scene, Ying Ying didn’t quite know how to act the part of an intoxicated person because she hasn’t been drunk,” he explained.
Director Chan mused, “If she tries it out – of course, she doesn’t have to get wasted – she’ll be able to better understand what a drunk person would do, and this will serve as valuable knowledge for whatever she does in future.”
“This industry is very practical – if you can’t improve quickly enough, you’ll lose out on a lot of chances. The two of them have improved a lot, but there’s definitely still room for improvement. If you don’t show your potential well, we may be hesitant to cast you because we don’t know if you’ll be able to perform up to expectations,” he continued.
“We’re racing against time every day to complete our shoots, so if you can’t keep up, there’s a lower chance for you to be given more opportunities in future.”
A Million Dollar Dream debuts April 11, 9pm on Channel 8.