Kung Fu Jungle (一个人的武林)

For F*** Magazine

KUNG FU JUNGLE (一个人的武林)

Director : Teddy Chen
Cast : Donnie Yen, Wang Baoqiang, Charlie Young, Michelle Bai, Alex Fong, Louis Fan
Genre : Action/Thriller
Rating : PG13 (Violence) 
Run time: 100 mins
It’s a jungle out there – a kung fu jungle. In Teddy Chen’s martial arts flick, Donnie Yen’s Hahou Mo was once the king of that jungle. A skilled kungfu instructor and martial arts school proprietor who was responsible for training members of the Hong Kong Police, Hahou fell from grace after accidentally killing an opponent in a duel. In the midst of serving his five year prison term, Hahou hears about a series of murders on the news. A deranged fighter named Fung Ya-Sau (Wang) is targeting Hong Kong’s top martial arts practitioners in a bid to prove his supremacy in the various subsets – fistfighting, kickboxing, grappling, weapon-wielding and finally the use of “internal energy”. Hahou approaches Luk Yuen-Sun (Young), the policewoman leading the investigation to offer his expertise and is provisionally released to assist the police. He also reunites with his girlfriend Sinn Ying (Bai) who has been operating the school alone in his absence.

            Audiences get a kick out of seeing feats of well-honed physical prowess on display. That’s an integral part of the appeal of competitive sports and Cirque du Soleil-type performances. In cinema, the martial arts genre best exemplifies this. Kung Fu Jungle reunites star Donnie Yen with his Bodyguards and Assassinsdirector Teddy Chen, with contemporary Hong Kong in place of the period setting of that film. Here, the plot exists primarily as a clothesline on which to hang the kungfu battles but all things considered, it’s not a bad clothesline at all. Our noble hero who’s been wronged has to prove his worth by assisting the wary police in pursuit of a dangerous foe. It’s reminiscent of the 1997 Gary Daniels-starrer Bloodmoon – that film’s director Tony Leung Siu Hong gets a cameo here. Hey, beats the bog-standard “underground martial arts tournament” plot device. We get some exciting set-pieces, including a fight on and around a giant suspended modern art sculpture of the human skeleton. There are chases on foot across rooftops and through canals on speedboats. There’s also a pretty fun meta moment when Ya-Sau storms onto a movie set to face off against action movie star Hung Yip (Fan).

            However, Kung Fu Jungle definitely has its lapses in logic and spots of unintentional humour. For example, when Ya-sau enters the film set to confront Hung Yip, the rest of the cast and crew just hightail it out of there and nobody calls for the cops to, at the very least, wait outside the studio to apprehend Ya-sau. There’s also a moment during the climactic clash when our hero, brandishing a long bamboo pole, is running after our villain, also brandishing a long bamboo pole. It’s very goofy and almost worthy of spontaneous Yakety Sax music. That said, Chen has largely achieved a tonal consistency and there aren’t annoyingly long comic relief interludes as can often pop up in this genre. The action choreography by Yen, Yuen Bun and Yan Hua is energetic, intense and creative, although there is more shaky-cam employed than we would’ve liked. Computer-generated effects in Hong Kong cinema are often jarring and dodgy so it’s a good thing that apart from just a few quick bits, the stunt work is all practical and well-executed.

            At 51, Donnie Yen is still as quick, spry and proficient a martial artist as ever and he just looks awesome onscreen. This reviewer is relieved that after the very embarrassing likes of Special I.D., Iceman and the abysmal Monkey King, Yen’s dignity is more than intact here. True, his acting range is somewhat limited, but “wrongly imprisoned martial arts master” is well within those limits and the focus is rightfully placed on his fighting rather than his acting. Wang Baoqiang works those crazed eyes for all they’re worth and although he does seem like a dangerous, credible opponent for our hero, he has a tendency to ham it up. The “skyward scream” he lets out during a flashback detailing his stock tragic back-story™ really pulls one out of what should’ve been a dramatic moment. Charlie Young does make for a believable woman in charge, though it’s nothing we haven’t seen before in this genre. Mdm. Luk doesn’t let Hahou catch a break and the partnership between the martial artist and the police is always somewhat rocky. Michelle Bai’s role is just that crucial bit more than “the girlfriend” thanks to a great swordfighting scene she gets to herself.

            Aficionados of Hong Kong martial arts movies will have fun keeping their eyes peeled for cameos from personalities key to the success of the genre, including veteran producer and Hong Kong cinema pioneer Raymond Chow, actress Sharon Yeung of Drunken Master and Angel on Fire fame and film historian/screenwriter Bey Logan. The movie ends with a great montage in tribute to many influential filmmakers and actors who have kept the martial arts movie tradition alive and kicking. Kung Fu Jungle does have its overwrought moments but the good number of exhilarating fights and leading man Donnie Yen’s presence makes this worth seeing for anyone who digs kungfu movies.


Summary: An uncomplicated plot, great action sequences, a palpable affection for its predecessors in this genre and Donnie Yen doing what he does best make this a fun rumble in the jungle.
RATING: 3.5 out of 5 Stars
Jedd Jong

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Skywalkin’ – Top 10 Movie Astronauts

As published in Issue #58 of F*** Magazine

Text: 
SKYWALKIN’
Top 10 Movie Astronauts
By Jedd Jong
This month, Matthew McConaughey and Anne Hathaway will embark on a voyage to infinity and beyond in Christopher Nolan’s sci-fi epic Interstellar. One of the stock answers to the question “so, what do you want to be when you grow up?” has, for a long time, been “astronaut”. The depiction of brave men and women breaking past the confines of our planet certainly has a role to play in upholding the glamour, mystique, adventure and yes, danger of becoming an astronaut. Hop aboard the lunar lander, the orbiter or, if it comes to that, the escape pod as F*** takes a look at ten such characters, including a couple based directly on real-life astronauts.
FRANK CORVIN (CLINT EASTWOOD) FROM SPACE COWBOYS

A good while before the Expendables blasted their way onto movie screens, Clint Eastwood brought us a troupe of badass grandpas in Space Cowboys. Directed by Eastwood and also starring Tommy Lee Jones, Donald Sutherland and the late James Garner, Space Cowboys tells of a group of former U.S. Air Force test pilots who were unceremoniously denied their chance to go into space. Over 40 years later, Frank Corvin (Eastwood) and his pals finally get a shot at fulfilling their astronaut ambitions when they turn out to be the only ones capable of repairing an outdated Soviet satellite carrying a deadly payload and in danger of crashing into earth. Something of an archetypical Eastwood character, Corvin is tough, heroic and looks out for his friends but has an anti-authoritarian streak. The Frank Corvin character was 69 years old, the same age Eastwood was at the time of filming. Eastwood jokingly nicknamed the film “Geezer Power” and while he pilots helicopters in real life, he’s never really wanted to go into space, saying in an interview “to me, that’s claustrophobic as hell”.
SAM BELL (SAM ROCKWELL) FROM MOON

In this highly-acclaimed low-budget sci-fi flick, the directorial debut of Duncan Jones, we see “astronaut” treated as more of a blue-collar type job than one of exciting exploration. It is 2035 and Lunar Industries has tapped into the energy market by mining the fuel alternative helium-3 from the surface of the moon. The operations of the mining facility Sarang are managed by lone astronaut Sam Bell (Rockwell), nearing the completion of his three year contract as the only human being on the Sarang, with just the artificial intelligence GERTY (voiced by Kevin Spacey) for company. Sam uncovers a troubling conspiracy and aims to expose the corporation’s questionable practices. Of being the only actor physically onscreen throughout the whole movie, Rockwell said “it was a daunting acting challenge; it was a very, very intimidating idea. So it took a while to get my head around it.” Jones and co-writer Nathan Parker wrote the film specifically for Rockwell and many believed that the actor was snubbed when he was not a Best Actor nominee at that year’s Oscars.
KRIS KELVIN (DONATAS BANIONIS) FROM SOLARIS

Based on Stanisław Lem’s 1961 science fiction novel of the same name, Andrei Tarkovsky’s 1972 film Solaris is considered by film scholars to be one of the most important sci-fi movies ever made. It had earlier been adapted as a TV film in 1968, but this is the version that made a mark. Like many of the best science fiction films, Solaris used its fantastical setting as a backdrop for the exploration of complex, intimate psychological issues. Psychologist Kris Kelvin (Banionis) is sent to a space station orbiting the remote oceanic planet Solaris to perform an evaluation. The scientific mission based aboard the space station has stalled; the three astronauts each suffering emotionally. Upon arriving on the space station, none of the crew members cooperate with or even greet Kelvin. Kelvin later encounters a most mysterious occurrence: the reappearance of his deceased wife Hari (Natalya Bondarchuk), who had committed suicide some years ago. Is this a hallucination or something more sinister? The uniqueness of Solaris and of its treatment of Kris Kelvin’s predicament can be attributed to Tarkovsky’s attitude going in. “I don’t like science fiction, or rather the genre SF is based on,” he said flatly. “All those games with technology, various futurological tricks and inventions which are always somehow artificial. But I’m interested in problems I can extract from fantasy. Man and his problems, his world, his anxieties. Ordinary life is also full of the fantastic. Life itself is a fantastic phenomenon.” The 2002 remake of Solaris, directed by Steven Soderbergh and starring George Clooney as Chris Kelvin, proved divisive.
BENNY THE 1980-SOMETHING SPACE GUY (CHARLIE DAY) FROM THE LEGO MOVIE


 “SPACESHIP! Spaceship spaceship spaceship spaceship SPACESHIP!” Sure, it’s no “one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind”, but perhaps Benny the 1980-something Space Guy’s limited vocabulary is part of his charm. In The LEGO Movie, Benny’s obsession with spaceships rivals that of Cookie Monster’s obsession with cookies. However, this single-mindedness also brings with it unendingly cheerful optimism. The character of Benny is one of the biggest ways in which the film’s directors Phil Lord and Chris Miller showcase their geeky love for LEGO. The blue spaceman LEGO minifigure was first released in the 1984 set “Space Dart” (set #6824). The Classic Space line of LEGO sets is beloved among collectors and the many kids who grew up with the building toys during that era. Authentic details, such as the faded Classic Space logo, the bite marks and the exact spot in which Benny’s helmet is cracked, add to how he really seems like a holdover from the 80s, especially next to the newer licensed minifigures in the film. The first minifigure to be designed intentionally broken, Benny’s imperfection is a great example of the Japanese design philosophy of Wabi-sabi; the spacefaring minifig wouldn’t have been as endearing (and as nostalgic) had he been all polished and shiny.
BUZZ LIGHTYEAR (TIM ALLEN) FROM TOY STORY 1, 2 and 3

His catchphrase was alluded to in the introductory paragraph of this list and when it comes to animated astronauts, even Benny has to admit that Buzz is boss. In the first Toy Story film, Buzz Lightyear is Andy’s fancy new toy, whom the cowboy Woody (voiced by Tom Hanks) views as competition. Buzz is unaware that he is but a plastic plaything and fully believes he is a space ranger. An elaborate back-story was devised for the character, which is explored in the animated series Buzz Lightyear of Star Command (Patrick Warburton voices this incarnation). Director John Lasseter was inspired by Apollo-era astronauts in coming up with the design and Buzz was named after real-life astronaut Buzz Aldrin, the second man to walk on the moon. Aldrin posed with a Buzz Lightyear action figure at a parade in Disney World. Via that very action figure, the Buzz Lightyear character became an “actual” astronaut – the toy was launched into space aboard the space shuttle Discovery in May 2008, spent a period of time as a “resident” of the International Space Station and returned to Earth 467 days later in August 2009. That figure is now on display at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C.
RYAN STONE (SANDRA BULLOCK) FROM GRAVITY


One of the most talked-about films of the 2013 awards season was Alfonso Cuarón’s sci-fi thriller film Gravity, lauded for the stunning realism with which outer space was depicted. With Sandra Bullock and George Clooney as the only two actors to physically appear on-screen, much of the film’s breathtaking environment was created with groundbreaking digital effects work. Bullock plays Dr. Ryan Stone, a medical engineer and mission specialist on her maiden space voyage, alongside seasoned astronaut Matt Kowalski (Clooney). Bullock initially had her misgivings about Gravity, saying “we had no idea if it would be successful. You’d explain that it was an avant-garde, existential film on loss and survival in space and everyone would be like: ‘OK …’ It didn’t sound like a film people would be drawn to.” Despite these doubts, she threw herself headlong into the making of the film, strung or strapped into a lightbox that mimicked the frustrating loneliness of Stone’s plight. She was nominated for a Best Actress Oscar for her effort. Bullock stated in an interview with Collider that it was encouraging to see a lead female character like Ryan Stone feature in a sci-fi film. “Making this character female was hugely brave, but also it gives you so many different levels of angst and worry,” she said. “There are situations that you can build around it that I don’t think an audience has experienced just yet.”
GEORGE TAYLOR (CHARLTON HESTON) FROM PLANET OF THE APES

Pierre Boulle’s 1963 French novel La Planète des Singes has spawned a massive franchise that is still going strong today, with Dawn of the Planet of the Apes released earlier this year. The Planet of the Apes series first gained traction with the 1968 film starring the legendary Charlton Heston as George Taylor. Taylor is awakened from deep hibernation after a 2006-year-long voyage when his spacecraft crash-lands on a mysterious planet. Of course, this planet turns out to be earth of the far-future, taken over by intelligent, human-like apes. The chimpanzees Zira and Cornelius are the only apes who vouch for Taylor, who is enslaved and tortured by the others. Heston delivers the iconic line “get your stinking paws off me, you damned dirty ape!” and also memorably crumbles to his knees crying “you maniacs! You blew it up! Ah, damn you! God damn you all to hell!” during that infamous ending reveal. Heston said that the Taylor character reflected his own views on mankind and that he was drawn to “the irony of a man so misanthropic that he almost welcomes the chance to escape entirely from the world finding himself then cast in a situation where he is spokesman for his whole species and forced to defend their qualities and abilities.” Heston reluctantly reprised his role in Beneath the Planet of the Apes and had a cameo (as the ape Zaius) in Tim Burton’s 2001 remake.
JIM LOVELL (TOM HANKS) FROM APOLLO 13



Few lines embody the stomach-churning realisation that something has gone horribly awry than “Houston, we have a problem”. The line Lovell uttered in real-life was actually “Houston, we’ve had a problem” – but hey, give this movie credit for all the aspects it got right. Ron Howard’s 1995 film depicts the troubled Apollo 13 lunar mission and was based upon the book Lost Moon: The Perilous Voyage of Apollo 13, written by the real-life Jim Lovell with author Jeffrey Kluger. The 1970 NASA mission was jeopardised when an explosion caused the craft to lose most of its oxygen supply and electricity, necessitating the abortion of the mission and turning what was to be a trip to the moon into a desperate struggle to make it home. The real-life Lovell’s initial pick to play him was Kevin Costner, but Costner was not considered by Ron Howard, who offered the part to John Travolta. Eventually, it was Tom Hanks who got the part of Lovell. The zero-gravity scenes were filmed in the infamous “vomit comet”, a NASA airplane that would fly in parabolic arcs to grant a brief period of weightlessness to the occupants. We bet Hanks was the recipient of no shortage of “ground control to Major Tom” jokes on the set.
JOHN GLENN (ED HARRIS) FROM THE RIGHT STUFF


Also portraying a real-life Apollo-era astronaut was Ed Harris, playing John Glenn in The Right Stuff. Director Philip Kaufman’s 192 minute-long historical film chronicles the journey of the “Mercury Seven”, Navy, Marine and Air Force test pilots who were instrumental in the formation of the American space program. The real-life John Glenn is a pretty extraordinary human being: as a United States Marine Corp pilot during the Second World War, he flew 59 combat missions in the South Pacific. In 1958, after rigorous trials, he became one of the “Mercury Seven. Four years later, Glenn became the first American to orbit the earth. He served as Senator for the State of Ohio and Chairman of the Senate Committee on Governmental Affairs. Long after the events depicted in The Right Stuff, in 1998, Glenn became the oldest person to go into space at 77 years old. Harris auditioned for the part twice because he felt his first audition wasn’t good enough. Harris later played NASA Flight Director Gene Kranz in Apollo 13 and his minor voice role as Mission Control in Gravity was a nod to those two films.
DAVID BOWMAN (KEIR DULLEA) FROM 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY

Stanley Kubrick’s ambitious, hugely influential 1968 film, based on Arthur C. Clarke’s story, still holds up today as a shining example of the heights of sci-fi filmmaking, despite it already being 13 years since the year 2001. The film’s opening sequence takes place in prehistoric times with apelike early hominids fascinated by a large solid black rectangular block called the “monolith”. We then leap ahead 4 million years, the bulk of the movie taking place aboard the spacecraft Discovery One, bound for Jupiter. Dr. David Bowman (Dullea) and Dr. Frank Poole (Gary Lockwood) have to deal with the ship’s on-board A.I., HAL 9000 (voiced by Douglas Rain) who is becoming self-aware and dangerous. The film’s widely-debated ending has Bowman transcending existence itself, reborn as the “Star Child”. In an interview with Rip It Up, Dullea reflected upon his experience working on the monumental film, saying “I’m honoured to have been involved in Space Odyssey. I mean, I’ve made 25 feature films [and done lots of theatre and TV as well], give or take, and while I couldn’t say that it was the most demanding acting role I’ve had, what was most fascinating about it was getting into Kubrick’s mind – or maybe I should say him getting into my mind!” And how does Duella feel about being known primarily for being the “Dave” referred to in the line “I’m sorry Dave, I’m afraid I can’t do that”? “If I’m remembered for one movie only, then what a film to choose!”

GameStart 2014 Mega Picture Post

Here are the photos from the inaugural GameStart videogame convention, held at Suntec Convention Centre Singapore on 25-26 October 2014. 

Sony’s booth babes

The opening ceremony

Confetti for all! 

Taking this shot reminded me of what my theatre teacher always said about levels.

The cosplay panel featuring Yuegene, Tessie and Yasemin.

Rolled the dice, one came up twice…

Bear this Aiden Pearce in mind; he crops up later

Here I am with two of gaming’s best female characters (if there were a Samus Aran, I would’ve taken a photo with her too, but alas, there wasn’t)

Theodora as Lara with my custom figure of the character

A pair of Booker DeWitts try their hands at some retro arcade games

Watch out for that Skyhook, Lara!

Tomb Braider. 

Showdown

No spinning bird kicks to be had this day.

Om nom nom.

Free advertising for Razer. You’re welcome guys. 

“Come quietly or there will be…trouble.” 

“I may not always love you…”

“But long as there are stars above you…”

The Tenth Doctor and Captain Jack Harkness get cozy.

Cozier.
Coziest. This one’s for the shippers out there. 

Best in Singapore, JB and some say Batman.

Kuro Koneko knocking it out of the park again as Lady Loki

Don’t kill the fanboy! 

With my friend Vienna as Asuna from Sword Art Online.

Street Fighter champ Daigo in the centre there

The caption Kuro provided is “You dare!? Pah! Insolent mortal… Your Midgardian weaponry cannot harm a God!”

10 and 11 fighting over Jack (yes yes, I know 11 didn’t meet Jack…)

Careful there, Lara is known to be a one-woman mercenary-slaying army. 

Cap’n Jack has at it with the dual wielding.
Add caption

Here’s Lara with Sharlene as Alyse, GameStart’s official mascot.

Justin took me up to the roof for a Watch Dogs shoot.
Lots of jumping on ledges was involved.

Kicking off Day 2 with some fourth wall breakage! 

ODSTs strike!

Hey Ms. Pyramid Head. Play nice.

“Korobeiniki” is playing in your head now, isn’t it? 

My friend Rayner capturing the Tennant wonderment.

I was so glad to see a Batman character.

You know the name, you know the barcode.

These Naruto Storm producers said that if the fans beat them at their own game, they would swim back to Japan. They were beaten by two fans. Get your floaties inflated gentlemen.

My Fair Lady Deadpool

Jason as Big Boss from Saints Row presiding over the Game On cosplay competition.

Alice: The Madness Returns

Dante from Devil May Cry

Wilson’s ODST performance featured a pretty funny Singlish voiceover.

Remember the Deadpool from earlier? This guy just owned. 

The judges of the contest, Yasemin, Yuegene and Tessie.

Kie as Joseph Oda from The Evil Within.

Hey Gwen as casual Clint Barton! 

Dual wielders unite! 

Motoko Kusanagi is pretty much the only anime character I recognised at this con.

See you at next year’s GameStart! 

GameStart 2014: Yasemin Arslan interview

GameStart 2014: Yasemin Arslan interview
By Jedd Jong

The inaugural GameStart videogame convention kicks off tomorrow and ahead of that, I got to talk to one of the invited guests, Australian cosplayer Yasemin Arslan. She was picked to be the live-action face of the character Lilith from Borderlands 2 and GameStart marks her first official convention appearance outside of Australia. Today, she dressed as Elizabeth from Bioshock Infinite. She discussed what got her into videogames, why movies adapted from videogames haven’t really worked and how she deals with creeps at cons.
Within the last few years of gaming, who do you think are some of the great characters to have come from videogames?

Especially over the years, I’ve seen there’s been a lot more complexity with the characters. Even classic games, for example, when Halo started, you had the lead character the Master Chief just be a silent character. But I actually loved the transformation they did in Halo 4, with Cortana as well, they actually made them more human. Definitely love them. Also Ellie from The Last of Us, she’s one of my favourite characters. Regardless of the gender, I just found that to be a really strong, real character, you actually believe that she existed.

Do you feel there’s a difference when you cosplay characters from games as opposed to those from movies because you’ve been in the shoes of the character playing that game?

Absolutely. I think when you’re playing a game, you pretend that you’re that individual, so partaking in…bringing them to life becomes more intimate, more personal. You could say the same thing about movies if you’re more of a fan, but especially with games, you’re literally controlling that character so it’s definitely more personal.

What was one of the first video games that you played?

My first video game is actually Abe’s Oddysee. That was my first and favourite game. I wasn’t that much of a “smart person” as a kid, especially Abe’s Oddysee, there are these levels where you’ve got to test yourself out, you know? Push yourself, the Mudokon, you’ve got to save all of them. That was really fun for me. But then from there I discovered Metal Gear Solid, and that was where I really discovered my passion for FPS games. Now I’ve moved to like Halo, Planetside 2 and also Destiny, I’m playing that a lot right now.

There’s been some controversy in the news with regards to the role of female gamers and game developers within the industry. Is it okay if I ask what your thoughts on that are?

I personally think it’s absolutely disgusting what’s happening in the industry. Gender should not matter these days. To the fact that people are committing suicide over this, because of the bullying, it’s absolutely despicable. We’re all adults, we should all be grown up by now and there should be a chance to develop the industry. More and more women are getting into gaming, we’re adding popularity, finances, we should be embracing this! Gender shouldn’t matter but I think both sides are really tearing it down into a war which is tearing all of us apart. I personally don’t want to be a part of it, I don’t think this should happen in the first place.

I think that after the adaptations of comic books, the next big thing in movies might be adaptations of videogames. Why do you think it is that a lot of videogame-to-film adaptations have not really worked so far?

Oh god [laughs]. It’s more…I think because the games, there’s such a complex universe as it is, it’s so difficult to bring that to screen properly. I don’t think anyone’s done a good job, you’ve had Hitman, you’ve had Silent Hill – they’ve been okay, nothing’s been executed properly. I think there’s also a lack of communication because you’ve already got such a fanatic group who are so in love with the game…

The fanbase?

The fanbase, yes. I just don’t think directors want to listen to them. They want to have their own original idea on it and it just doesn’t work.

So it’s like not sticking to what made the game successful.

Exactly, exactly. They try to make something new and hip and try to make it their own style. For me, if you’re not an avid gamer, you shouldn’t be directing a game film, which I think a lot of them failed on right now [laughs].

What are the best, worst and most interesting experiences you’ve had on a location shoot?

I think best is pushing my limits as an artist, creatively, physically as well. I’ve lost a lot of weight [laughs] on my photoshoots because they push me around. I think the worst thing is probably…nothing serious, but it’s more like the falling apart of my costumes because I jump in rivers, I climb trees and rocks and everything. My costume falls apart while it’s on me and it’s just a heartbreaking thing. That’s the only negative thing but then again, costumes can always be remade, that’s no problem. So yeah.

How important do you think it is for a cosplayer to understand and be into a character before cosplaying that character? There are some cosplayers who choose their characters based mainly on the way they look and not necessarily on the story or personality of the characters.


I personally don’t see much of a problem, I was just speaking to someone previously about this. You can appreciate a game as a game, but then you can appreciate a game as a piece of art. I actually have a lot of friends who don’t even touch videogames and still cosplay from them because they just think it’s beautiful. You can appreciate gaming platforms in so many different ways. For me, as long as you do a little bit of research on the character so you know what you’re talking about at least, then that seals the deal. I’m not fussy, it’s not harming anyone, no big deal [chuckles].

What is the cosplay scene like in Australia?

Definitely these days, it’s a lot more relaxed. You’ve still got a few little quarrels, especially with the international cosplay competitions and between certain groups you know, which is all personal, it’s all quite isolated. Once you’re not part of that scene, it’s just chill. It’s very relaxed and you can always ask anyone for help. Australians, we’re pretty relaxed and we like to band together.

What are some experiences you’ve had meeting fans?

Oof, that’s a pendulum [laughs]. It swings one way or another. I’ve met so many beautiful and amazing people, I’ve helped to inspire them and they’ve helped to inspire me in cosplay. Then there are other strange characters who can kind of cross my line a little bit verbally and physically and I can turn into a little monster [laughs].

How do you handle situations like that?

It depends. If someone is just saying perverted stuff to me for example, I’ll just give them bluntly that I have no interest in that and if they keep going, it will turn a little bit nasty [laughs]. For people who have physically touched me, I’ll be honest, sometimes I’m just in too much shock to realise it’s actually happened. For people to have the gall to touch you, it’s just unbelievable. I have gotten physical sometimes, just out of rage. It’s a shocking experience for someone to violate you and sometimes you just don’t know how you’ll react.

Are there any costume or fashion designers who inspire your work?

For me…god, there’s not really any fashion designers – I actually went to fashion school and I don’t think there’s anyone who’s inspiring, aside from Alexander McQueen who did pass away several years ago but I love his eccentricity, I found [that] amazing. The designers from Dior are wonderful as well. The couture designers from Dior are fantastic. But other than that, I just look to cosplayers for inspiration. Right now Lightning Cosplay, Liz Brickley Cosplay and Jessica Nigri, they’re my favourites at the moment.

Do you communicate with them over Twitter?


Yeah, we actually…we’re kind of friends, especially over Facebook and I’m about to meet them at BlizzCon in a couple of weeks. That’s one good thing I love about the community, that all in all, we band together, we’re like one big family.

My final question is what’s the hardest material you’ve had to source?

The perfect fabric. Especially in Australia, we only have limited resources for fabric, so just your basic stuff and finding the perfect fabric for that particular costume is a pain in the arse. Australia has everything else, fibreglass, we’ve got all that, fabric? Pfft [laughs].

You can see more of Yasemin’s work at her DeviantArt page here.

GameStart 2014: Yuegene Fay interview

GameStart 2014: Yuegene Fay interview
By Jedd Jong

At the press event ahead of the convention’s launch tomorrow, I got to talk to Thai cosplayer Yuegene Fay, one of the special guests attending the inaugural GameStart convention. She began cosplaying in 2000 and through her cosplays of characters from anime and manga  has garnered many fans. Since English isn’t her first language, she had some difficulty during the interview but it was really fun getting to talk to her. 
When you cosplay as video game characters, do you find that there’s a difference between that and cosplaying characters from other mediums because you’ve been in the character’s shoes, controlling them?

Yes. Game character is quite…easier to do but because the game character they make is more imagine, sometimes it’s quite hard to make the hair, the eyes…

Because it’s more fantasy-driven.

More fantasy.

What’s the first game you remember playing, the one that got you into gaming?

Mario? Let me think, long, long time ago [laughs]. Do you know the GameBoy? The pink one…Kirby! And PacMan.

What are some of the best and worst experiences you’ve had doing location shoots for cosplay?

Let me think [pause]. It was about the animation cosplay. Have one time I go to the sea…no, not sea.

The beach?

No, not beach. Tank. Water, the first time I had to take photo under the water is like a challenge. Because every part in the water, you must be very fast. The photographer is maybe have only two second to capture that picture. Quite hard.

Before you have to go up again for air?

Yeah. Because in the water, my cloth, my hair, very trouble. So it’s only seconds I have to go down, then up.  

What has been some of the most difficult materials to find?


In Thailand have many, many kind of material, quite easy to find, but it’s hard to make them with the photo.

To match it?

Yeah, to match. Sometimes like a dragon? Dragon is have the…how you call it…dragon skin…

Scales.

Yeah. You must make it. Sometimes you cannot find the material so sometimes you need to make it by own self. Sometimes we use the EVA or lumber foam to make it look like. Don’t need the real material.

What are some experiences that you’ve had meeting cosplayers from other countries?

Every country I go is different culture. So, when I meet them, I get a lot of experience and I can learn many many…

Like tips?


Yeah, something like that. However, cosplay is quite start from the same, love of the game, anime, manga, something like that, so we are in the cosplay event, in the cosplay community, we think quite same.

How important do you think it is to understand a character before you cosplay as that character? Some cosplayers will choose to cosplay a character based on how they like the look and design and not necessarily their personality.

I see, I see. Because now, cosplay culture now has been a little bit changed. Many new cosplayers make me feel that cosplay feel like a fashion. So when they go to an event, every event they buy new clothes, look like fashion. But for me, I will look at the background of the character first. I don’t like to see only the photo and cosplay, I love to read the background and learn what this character look like, something like that. I like to see the relationship of every character.

Have you done characters from Western media and if not, are you considering that?

Not yet…oh! I have one, but not finished yet. Elsa.

From Frozen!

But gender-bent. Sometimes, cosplay is not only look like the characters. Now, the new way…because cosplay is for fun. Maybe gender-bend or you can imagine, but is still this character.

To put your own spin on it.

Yeah. That’s more fun. But not finished yet.

What are some of your favourite games that have come out in the last several years?

Favourite games? Final Fantasy VII. Yes, I love it very much. My favourite character is Zack [Fair]. Crisis Core.

Do you have interesting stories about meeting fans, like if they’ve come up to say they’ve been inspired by your work?

I see. Everytime I go to cosplay event, will have some people come to talk with me like “thank you so much for your cosplay, inspire me very much” and I will say “Me? Inspire you?” [Laughs] Because I just do what I want, what I love. But when have some people come to talk with me, then they say my cosplay is very good, make me feel exciting and very happy.

So it’s rewarding experience.

Yeah!

You can see more of Yuegene’s work at her DeviantArt account here.


John Wick

For F*** Magazine

JOHN WICK

Director : Chad Stahelski, David Leitch
Cast : Keanu Reeves, Michael Nyqvist, Alfie Allen, Adrianne Palicki, Ian McShane, Willem Dafoe, Lance Reddick, Bridget Moynahan
Genre : Action/Thriller
Opens : 23 October 2014
Rating : NC-16 (Violence and Coarse Language) 
Run time: 96 mins
In The Matrix, when Neo was asked what he needed, he replied “guns. Lots of guns.” As the eponymous former hitman in this film, Keanu Reeves once again gets to wield an array of firearms – oh, and he also “knows kung-fu”. A hired gun who used to work for the Russian mob, John Wick’s now-normal life is falling to pieces after he loses his wife (Moynahan) to illness. Her last gift to him, an adorable little Beagle, is now the thing he holds dearest. Mob heir Iosef Tarasov (Allen), not knowing who Wick is, steals his Mustang and kills his dog. It turns out that Wick used to work for Iosef’s father, the crime boss Viggo (Nyqvist). Viggo puts a price on Wick’s head and Wick is pursued by killers including femme fatale Perkins (Palicki) and his old friend Marcus (Dafoe). All those deadly, well-honed skills come bubbling back to the surface in a big way once Wick is set off.’

            John Wick is the feature film directorial debut of Chad Stahelski and David Leitch, veteran stunt performers, coordinators and second unit directors who run the 87eleven Action Design collective. Stahelski’s credits include 300, The Hunger Games, V For Vendetta and Reeves’ own The Man of Tai Chi while Leitch was Brad Pitt’s stunt double in Fight Club, Spy Game, Ocean’s Eleven and Mr. and Mrs. Smith. People like Stahelski and Leitch definitely number among Hollywood’s unsung heroes and hopefully John Wick plays a big part in making them household names. This action thriller is sleek and handsomely directed and, as expected, the stunt sequences are superb. Aficionados of the genre have no doubt seen countless shootouts, throwdowns and car chases in their time and while those in John Wick aren’t earth-shatteringly inventive, the skill with which they’re orchestrated and executed is admirable.

            On paper, John Wick sounds like your typical “one man army” revenge flick – after fighting to escape his former life, our hero has to plunge back into the deep end to violently settle a score. In many ways, John Wick is a conventional genre entry. However, it is several notches above run of the mill and a big part of that is the intriguing mini-mythology presented in the story. Central to the plot is a hotel called “The Continental”, which serves as a safe haven and neutral ground for assassins and hired guns. This subculture has its own currency and there’s a regular crew who helps clean up the bodies. There’s an “understanding” between people like Wick and the police. The New York setting is heightened but not ridiculous and the action sequences have panache but don’t come off as stagey and over-choreographed. Mood-wise, the film also benefits immensely from Stahelski and Leitch’s conscious decision to avoid shaky-cam and quick-cut editing, allowing the action sequences to play out in the semi-balletic yet still brutal glory.

            In Death Wish-esque, “one man army carves a swath of vengeance”-type movies, a whole lot hinges on the lead actor. Keanu Reeves is often dismissed as “wooden” but this reviewer did buy him as the cool, quietly badass John Wick. There’s a haunted quality to his face, particularly his eyes, in this film and he gets to bring some of that “Sad Keanu”-ness to bear without it ever being maudlin. A character who takes on the Russian mob to avenge the death of his dog does have the potential for some major league silliness but in Reeves’ hands, it’s all kept under control. As a Russian kingpin in an action movie, Michael Nyqvist is almost contractually obligated to chew some scenery and while there’s that, there are also moments where he’s effectively understated. Alfie Allen’s Iosef is a sufficiently unlikeable petulant brat. Both Ian McShane and Willem Dafoe lend some dignified gravitas to the proceedings. It’s only Adrianne Palicki who seems rather out of place, not altogether convincing as a cold killer.

            John Wick reminded this reviewer of the recent The Equalizer starring Denzel Washington as a similar “killer comes out of retirement” character. However, in that film, there was the danger of the “cool factor” being overplayed and coming off as forced or unintentionally comedic. Here, Stahelski and Leitch have attained a level of consistency. There’s a bit of a 70s movie-type stylisation with several scenes being neon-lit and the subtitles that appear when characters speak Russian having individual words emphasised with neon colouring. Sure, this is not particularly heavy on substance, but it doesn’t drown in its style either. With the masterfully-crafted action scenes, the stylish mood-setting, just the right level of genre savvy and the brisk pace in John Wick, we do want to see what Leitch and Stahelski tackle next.


Summary: John Wickcontains many staples of the “assassin movie” subgenre but the directors put their stunt-creating experience to marvellous use and Keanu Reeves makes for a convincing hitman in this slick, entertaining genre entry.
RATING: 4 out of 5 Stars

Jedd Jong

Fury

For F*** Magazine

FURY

Director : David Ayer
Cast : Brad Pitt, Shia LaBeouf, Logan Lerman, Jon Bernthal, Michael Peña, Xavier Samuel, Jason Isaacs, Scott Eastwood
Genre : War/Action
Opens : 22 October 2014
Rating : NC-16 (Violence and Coarse Language)
Run time: 134 mins
The 2nd Armoured Division was hell on wheels to any Nazis who found themselves in their path. This film, set in April 1945 as the Second World War draws to a close, tells of the fictional five-man crew of a M4A3 Sherman tank christened “Fury”. US Army Staff Sgt. Don “Wardaddy” Collier (Pitt) leads the crew, consisting of Boyd “Bible” Swan (LaBeouf), Grady “Coon-Ass” Travis (Bernthal), Trini “Gordo” Garcia (Peña) and rookie Norman “Cobb” Ellison (Lerman). A typist clerk who’s never been on the battlefield, Norman struggles to confront the horrors of war head-on as he repeatedly clashes with the men who occupy the Fury with him. Facing off against the better-equipped Nazis, the crew of the Fury must make a heroic last stand behind enemy lines.
            Writer-director David Ayer’s films have not been particularly pleasant, from gritty cop thrillers like Street Kings and End of Watch to the nasty Schwarzenegger-starring Sabotageearlier this year. War is never pleasant and Ayer brings a good deal of nastiness to the proceedings. Fury’s depiction of World War II is unflinching in its violence and brutality, containing many shocking moments of heads – belonging to soldiers and civilians alike – being blasted open. On one hand, this graphic approach adds to the film’s believability and makes it clear to the audience that Ayer is not interested in presenting a sanitized, romanticised view of this period of history. On the other, it often feels exploitative, that Ayer is revelling in this carnage and that the “war is hell” message is secondary to bullet hits and blood splatter.

            “Ideals are peaceful. History is violent,” Pitt’s Wardaddy says pithily. Ayer has achieved a grimy, bloody realism befitting the historical but at the same time, it can’t help but feel like a wholly cynical affair. In this day and age, Americans and others around the world have grown jaded with and tired of war. Ayer’s take on the Second World War is bereft of nostalgia or sentimentality, but this works against it. Some audiences might squirm at the film’s depiction of “the greatest generation” taking sadistic glee in slaughtering German troops; others might just cheer along. There are attempts in Fury to tackle ethical quandaries and questions of faith but these moments are presented with far less conviction than those involving flying body parts.


            Even though the soldiers manning the Fury are far from likeable, the performances are solid, with Brad Pitt leading the charge. Wardaddy, as his nickname suggests, is a father to his men, but he also has a cruel streak and isn’t about to mollycoddle anyone. Pitt is sufficiently believable, apart from his constantly perfectly-coiffed hairdo. Bernthal’s Grady is the resident jerk of the crew and he does get on the nerves, though that’s how the part was written. Shia LaBeouf is surprisingly less annoying than this reviewer expected and his scripture-quoting Boyd “Bible” Swan, dedicated to his faith while raking up the body count, is not quite the caricature he should’ve been. Logan Lerman, sometimes characterised as a handsome but boring young actor, is the standout of the cast for this reviewer. Yes, Norman is the audience surrogate character, the fresh-faced new kid yet to be tainted by the horrors of war – we’ve all seen that one before. However, Lerman’s conviction in the part, combined with how out of place he looks in that environment, gives the film its few moments of genuine heart-rending emotion amidst the barrage of gunfire and exploding grenades.


            Perhaps we’re wrong – perhaps we should be glad that a World War II film pulls no punches and isn’t naïvely jingoistic. But it is too much to ask for a film of this genre to highlight nobility and honour, bring a little of the best of humanity to the forefront, feel respectful? There have been several masterfully-made war films which are violent and bloody but also showcase the dignity and heroism of their subjects – Saving Private Ryan comes to mind. Unfortunately, David Ayer seems to have too much fun blowing bodies to bits to present a sombre, well thought-out historical portrait.


Summary: Those looking for bloody, brutal WWII violence will be satisfied; those looking for respect and dignity to balance that out will not.
RATING: 2.5 out of 5 Stars
Jedd Jong 

Grace Interviews: Russell Wong and Pamelyn Chee

GRACE: RUSSELL WONG AND PAMELYN CHEE INTERVIEWS

Russell Wong and Pamelyn Chee, stars of HBO Asia’s horror drama mini-series Grace, sat down with F*** to talk the opportunities presented by Asian content in English, stereotyping in Hollywood, how actors sometimes “worry too much” and how Russell Wong is pretty much a cross between a human and an alien. Pamelyn Chee’s words, not ours!

Russell, you were very memorably drawn and quartered at the beginning of The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor. Is there anything particularly painful, without giving too much away, that happens to anyone in Grace?

Wong: Yes. [Everyone laughs]

Okay, cool!
You were in Serangoon Road earlier, what drew you back to HBO Asia and to Singapore as well?

Wong: What drew me back is the Asian content in English. The production’s shot in English with Asian stories; that appealed to me, more authentic Asian stories.

Is the horror element new to you?

Wong: It is new, having not done any horror before this. There are a couple of horror films that I like, The Ring, there’s also American Horror Story with Jessica Lange.

Were you aware of just how popular horror movies are in Asia?

Wong: I am aware of it, more aware of it.

How will Gracemeet the expectations of viewers who love horror?

Wong: I think Grace will meet a lot of the expectations, especially at the finish of the story because you’ve got to watch all four parts. The first two build it up at a slow pace, quiet with a lot of information, but it finishes a little stronger. Pamelyn’s character and mine go through a little bit more.

Pamelyn, we have some indication that your character is a femme fatale. What preparation did you undertake for the role and were there any reference points?

Chee: You mean, besides being myself? [Laughs] I think the clothes make you look like a femme fatale, the makeup does, the role does, the lines do and I don’t I feel like I have to do much work but just trust in the material and I think maybe, sometimes actors worry too much. They’re like “oh, I can’t do this, I can’t do that, this role is not for me,” but I think if you just trust in yourselves…Russell and I always have this conversation, right? It’s about trusting and being in the moment. It will be an authentic experience if you let it.

Russell, how would you compare working in Singapore with a Singaporean crew to working on a Hollywood film?

Wong: There are a lot of similarities, basically you’re making a film or a TV show. A lot of times, the difference is the budget, or maybe the personalities or whatever, but pretty much, you’re making a movie. Everyone was very professional, very efficient in their work.

Did you get to create some back-story for your character beyond what was in the script?

Wong: I came up with some of my own back-story, some dynamics in our relationship, added a few lines here or some adjustments there.

You play a guy whose mistake brings a curse upon his family. What is it about this character that you like?

Wong: That I like…even though he does…steps outside of his marriage, he’s staying truthful to himself, he knows what he did is wrong. His humanity, I like his humanity. He’s trying to make it right, or he wants to make it right, but things just spiral out of his control.

You described the series as being “Fatal Attraction meets The Shining”, which makes me really want to watch it. In The Shining, the hotel is very much a character. What was it like working on the set of the Egress Hotel in this series?

Wong: We shot a lot in the studio and we built a set that looks like part of the Egress Hotel. I think [director] Tony [Tilse] and the art department, they really achieved kind of a nice, creepy fourth floor…we were kind of limited in the budget with what we could do and I think they did a great job with what they had.

What was it like working with Tony?

Wong: It was good. He knows what he wants, he knows what he needs. Because he has experience, it makes it feel safe, he makes you feel comfortable. “Okay, you’re in good hands.” If he wants a certain shot or a certain emotion, he won’t hit you over the head with it but he’ll let you suggest it.

Were there any challenging scenes for you in this series?

Wong: In the beginning for me, it was just kind of finding the character. You come in and play with the other actors and actresses and you have your idea of where you want to come from with the character but when you actually get on set, we didn’t have time to rehearse, a little bit of time, then it’s usually trying to get to the relationships, what you hope it will be. The initial part was the challenging part, making a connection with the other actors and finding your character through your relationships with them.

Pamelyn, you’re playing the mistress and Constance Song is playing the wife. What was the dynamic like?

Chee: You mean besides the fact that I hate her? [Laughs] You know, we don’t actually meet in the show. So it’s always this big looming cloud at the back of my head that she’s married to him and he’s still married to this woman and that really drives me crazy! We’re friends off-camera, but we don’t ever meet as characters in the show.

How did you build the conflict between those two characters?

Chee: I think it’s not really hard if the person you love the most is married to somebody else! Imagine that! Mine, always! [Laughs]
To come back to the Fatal Attraction comparison, is there anything like the bunny boiling scene in Grace?

Chee: Bunny boiling? There’s things that are worsethan the bunny boiling. We don’t boil animals [laughs].

There are supernatural elements and Asian traditions explored in the show. Are you familiar with these traditions?

Wong: I’m from the US, so obviously not as familiar as Pamelyn, but coming to Hong Kong years ago I was introduced to the traditions and festivals, things like that, and you hear stories about the ancestors, superstitions.

What are your personal beliefs with regards to the supernatural?

Wong: My impression is that there are spirits, different realms. We’re all in transition, we’re vibrational beings, we go to a different vibration, maybe some spirits are attached to the earth, some of them had tragic deaths and they want to hang on, to what end, I don’t know. But I definitely believe that are spirits that are happy and that are not happy and you can’t take it likely because there is energy, vibration.

After Grace, are you interested in doing further work in the horror genre?

Wong: I’m interested in good writing. It doesn’t matter what genre it is, if the writing is good, the material is good, I’m all in! I’d love to be a part of it, good writing is basically where it’s at and the horror genre’s fun, it’s interesting, what you can do visually, with the camera and with makeup.

Would you like to play supernatural beings, be it vampires, ghosts, witches or demons in future projects?

Wong: That’ll be interesting, yeah.

Chee: [to Wong] You’d make a good witch, I think!

Wong: Warlock. I’d like to be [a creature that’s] between an alien and a human or something.

Chee: A bit like yourself! [All laugh]

Wong: Thank you Pamelyn [laughs].

Besides the horror genre, I would think the action genre is one that crosses boundaries very well. Do you think there’s the potential for a home-grown action series on the level of Grace?

Wong: Yeah, I mean action and horror do travel and Asian horror is unique and also this is in English. With those elements, this is a great vehicle for HBO and for all of us to showcase Asian stories that can be told internationally. Because of the genre, it’s easier for people to digest and be entertained.

During the press conference, you said that you would want to do less martial arts-heavy roles now.  Is it something that you would still do if there’s a good story?

Wong: A good story, I would do it. When I started out as an actor, I was afraid of being stereotyped into just that, but fortunately when I was younger I was pretty athletic and I could handle the action but not like a world-class martial artist, a lot of the [other] guys are really good. I wanted to focus on just being an actor. But as far as well-written material, if it were something like Taken

You could be an Asian Liam Neeson.

Wong: [Laughs] That’s funny, Tony [Tilse] said the same thing!

What was the vibe like on the set? We heard that there were almost no outtakes, so was it a very intense vibe or did you guys get to chill out? How was it like in-between filming?

Wong: I loved the vibe on the set, it was just chill. I wouldn’t say it was intense, but it was focused.

Chee: Very focused, yeah.

Wong: Everyone was very focused on what they wanted to do, pretty enthusiastic, working with HBO on an original thing, it was a great opportunity for all of us and everyone came to work ready to go.

Chee: I actually made an effort not to hang around his [on-screen] family, the only person that I would talk to was Russell so I had only friend throughout the entire production [laughs].

So that was a little “method”.

Chee: Yeah. I think it helps both for them and for me.

You worked together on Serangoon Road. How was the experience making Grace compared to that of making Serangoon Road?

Wong: For me, I was coming in as kind of a guest star but the set was pretty focused and relaxed. For Grace, I was the lead male so I felt very welcome and kind of taken care of in that regard so I was very comfortable. Not much difference, really, but I guess it make work easy and was something to look forward to.
Chee: I think Grace is much edgier, don’t you think? The material and the style and the way Tony handled it, we’re not trapped by the whole “1960s Singapore” [setting] and the historical element of that genre. It was very liberating being on Grace, I have to say, it was a completely different experience.

This probably applies more to the writers and to Tony [Tilse], but was there some research you had to do into the traditions and customs to get into character?

Wong: Not for me.

Chee: I thought that the research writers at HBO did a wonderful job with the Asian customs in general because sometimes I feel like that gets lost in a western production. They put on what they think an Asian person should [act like]…but I think they made a very conscious effort to keep it very authentic.

Tony [Tilse] and Erika [North] were saying that Grace is set in a generic Asian city and not explicitly Singapore to try and make it accessible. What was that like knowing you could not overtly make reference to the city in which the story was set? Did it have a lot of bearing on playing the characters?

Wong: It didn’t have a lot of bearing on me, it could have been Hong Kong, originally we were talking about Hong Kong but spending time in Hong Kong, spending time in Singapore, obviously they have their similarities and their differences so given that, we focused more on the relationship of the family than the place per se, not a whole lot of emphasis placed on that.

What other projects can we look forward to from the both of you?

Chee: I’m doing a TV series for Channel 5 and also I’m doing Kelvin Tong’s film, so that’s what keeping me busy for the next month.

Wong: I’m meeting with a director in Beijing this week and there are a couple of projects I’m waiting to hear about back in the States.

What is the situation like in Hollywood with regards to stereotypes and the portrayal of Asians in media?

Wong: I think there’s some progress made in certain diverse casting and yet some kind of remain stereotypical. It honestly doesn’t excite me [chuckles]. I love the potential of where HBO can go or may go. I definitely love being a part of this because it’s unique in that it’s Asian content in English that’s done internationally. I just feel like it’s a good fit. I know they’re taking baby steps and that kind of thing.

What do you think it will take for American audiences to accept a TV series headlined by an Asian actor or actress, and do you think something like Grace would travel well to the States?

Wong: It could travel well to the States. What it will take is good writing, same as any film takes. Good writing, good performances, good scripts and good direction, just the whole production. And it doesn’t have to be a huge budget, the quality has to be there, the material has to be there. There are great stories here in Asia that need to be told that with a good writer, it will travel. This is a good story, you want to watch it, doesn’t matter where it’s from. A good story is a good story. We can execute this as well as anybody. The DPs (Directors of Photography), the sound, the lighting, everything. It’s good execution and content.

How do you think the mini-series format works for this story? Is four episodes enough?

Chee: If it’s bad material, four episodes is four episodes too many [laughs].

Wong: For my tastes, it’s a little slow, but for some people, they need to get all the information. I’m like “skip to it, skip to it!” But maybe people want to see all the details and Tony does that, all the details about this character and about that character, you pay attention to what’s happening here so there’s a build-up and it builds quite slowly but at the end there’s a strong finish.

Chee: But don’t you think it’s skewed because you are in the film so you know the story? [Laughs]

Wong: I’m not biased [laughs].

Chee: No you are, totally biased! [Laughs]

Wong: Yes I am. The whole time we shot this, I kept thinking to myself “this is going to be good!” It’s not just another job, I’m part of something that’s going to make some noise.

Chee: When was the last time you felt that?

Wong: Romeo Must Die.

The approach in this series seems to not be about the gore and the in-your-face horror elements but there’s the power of suggestion, atmospherics, nothing is scarier than what you can’t see. What was it like on the set and what are some of the techniques used to keep the tension at a slow burn?

Wong: I think that’s done with camera angles and what he’s shooting and how he’s shooting it, and the editing and the sound. There’s obviously a lot of parameters they have to work within, you can’t be too gory and there are different cultures, you don’t want to step on any toes, that kind of thing. There are a lot of parameters to work with and in doing that, it creates something that’s almost more disturbing, it messes with your mind a little bit which I think is great horror, like The Ring. Watching it, there’s cameras coming through the kitchen and you hear a sound and it’s like “this is disturbing!” [Laughs]. I think Tony was able to achieve some of that, it’s great.

It seems that the series has a contemporary Asian feel, but there’s been a strong tradition of domestic horror films in Hollywood, things like Poltergeist, Rosemary’s Baby and The Omen. Were those influences, whether consciously or subconsciously, on the family dynamics in Grace?

Chee: Definitely not. I think the sensibility is sodifferent that to even borrow that would be wrong.

Are you also a very superstitious person?

Chee: Definitely very superstitious [laughs], like all Asian people, you guys must know!

Was there anyone in your family who told you “don’t do this because it’s a horror project”?

Chee: Yeah! But you know, I’m not the kind of person who listens to what everybody tells me [laughs]. 

Grace Interviews: George Young and Constance Song

GRACE: GEORGE YOUNG AND CONSTANCE SONG INTERVIEW 

George Young and Constance Song, supporting players in HBO Asia’s horror drama mini-series Grace, sat down with F*** to talk about how horror projects aren’t so scary once you get a peek behind the scenes, the differences between acting in this and a Channel 8 drama, real-life spooky experiences (those unnerved by elevators, look away now) and an imaginary slap fight which George Young supposedly caught on tape.
What drew you to this project?
Song: [Whispers] because it’s HBO!
Young: Yeah, look at the quality they do…
Song: [Whispers] They produce good show!
Young: [Whispers] we should do the whole interview whispering [laughs]. [Speaking regularly] first of all, it’s HBO themselves. I grew up watching shows like The Wire, Deadwood, Entourage, The Sopranos, and then with HBO Asia, they’re coming up with great original series, Serangoon Road, Dead Mine and now, this is something that’s a mini-series and it’s something exciting, in a brand new studio we were filming in, Infinite Studios, those are great, high-quality shows, you can’t say no to it. Can’t say no to HBO [laughs].
What were some of the challenges on this show?
Song: This one I say for the fourth time already [laughs]. Because I’m used to do a lot of Chinese drama, English, only like a few. This time round, everyone is quite international, Russell’s from States and he’s [George Young] from UK and the director is Australian and I’m Singaporean and then some are from New Zealand. The biggest challenge is first of all, I have to speak properly, good English, perfect English and then I have to gel in with everyone’s speaking, accents and the way it’s delivered, the way it’s shot. Chinese drama is a totally different kind of acting. English is very different, movie is very different, TV is very different, this is like a combination of everything so I have to adjust for everything. Different style.
Young: What was great about it is that even though we all had a different rhythm and everything, we came in and gelled quite quickly and that was a testament to the casting, getting us compatible with each other, but also Tony, directing us with all those different rhythms, different energies, different ways of doing things, he composed it in a way that it all worked and I can’t wait for you guys to see the result.
Tony was saying that you didn’t have much time to rehearse. When you got together as a cast, did you work things out before the filming process, get to know each other and stuff like that?
Song: I think we gelled in quite quickly and fortunately, Russell did not have any airs. He’s really nice and humble.
Young: No ego whatsoever.
Song: It’s so funny, he’s got his own resting [green] room. So we have another one that we share, he always bring his food, “can I join you all?”
Young: Yeah, he wants to hang out.
Song: So it was very good, very lovely of him, so at least he break the ice, we don’t feel so pressure, so that was a very great way of bonding.
Young: In terms of me and Jean [Toh], she plays my wife in the series, we did some scene work beforehand. Just before [shooting], we’d go through the scenes, what we would do, sometimes we’d have suggestions that we’d pose to Tony – “hey Tony, I don’t think Charles, my character would do this” or “Jean’s character wouldn’t want to that, can we try this?” and he’d be open to it which is very rare, because usually you’d have to go to the script supervisor and you’d have to do all that sort of stuff.
Song: There was a lot of room for us to try different way[s] of acting. He’s very flexible. “Okay, okay, maybe here you do this…” he’s open to communication.
Young: It was the rhythm of it…
Song: And everyone works so well with each other.
As an experienced actress on Singaporean television, how did you use that to fit into the cast?
Song: I guess it’s the years of experience that gives me the courage, gives me the confidence.
Young: Because at 28 years old now [all laugh] I would guess you know what you’re doing. I can imagine, I can imagine.
Have you been involved in any horror projects before?
Song: This is the first. It’s not that scary after all. Whenever we watch,wah, damn scary right, but when you’re filming it it’s more like fun, comedy, you don’t really feel the horrifying…people who are watching it, they feel more scary, but when you’re filming it, it’s not that [bad].
Pamelyn told us that in between filming, she tried to keep away from the actors who were playing the family and she was only in contact with Russell to stay in character because she’s the mistress. So was there anything you did in between filming to preserve the character when the cameras were off?
Young: Constance and Pamelyn shouting at each other all the time, “stay away from him!” [All laugh] drama off-set.
Song: Whenever I was on the set, she would walk away [laughs].
Young: “Sure, you walk away!”
Was there an epic slap fight?
Young: I caught it on camera, I’ll send it to you guys [laughs].
Song: Cannot, cannot! I was sending this very strong vibes to her, and then she’d [makes tiptoeing sounds] go away.
She said that her character doesn’t come into contact with your character. How did you generate the tension in your character when the both of you don’t actually meet?
Song: I guess we already build from the start. Not seeing each other much, in fact she’s avoiding, the family sit down to have dinner, she don’t even join us! Dinner break. She’s already doing it, so…after all actors, actress we are very sensitive, so I know what she’s trying to do and she also know what I’m trying to do, so kind of like it build from the start, already, so it build from the start.
Young: I think in real life, you don’t really encounter the person…if someone’s cheating on you, you don’t necessarily meet them but you hate them anyway. There’s this animosity that’s felt even if you might not physically meet.
Constance, what was it like playing the matriarch of a family?
Song: It was easy for me. Why? Reason being, I am also the eldest in the family in my own life, yeah. So I’m kind of like the breadwinner so I’m so used to looking out for my family, so this one is really like Angela [her character].
Is she a very serious character?
Song: Yeah, very serious. Very powerful, strong woman.
Is it similar to how you are in real life?
Song: I can be quite serious, but I can be quite…it depends, everyone is acting all the time. Like if I go home, I have to play a role, being the eldest daughter. If I go out with my friends, I have to play the role of [a friend]. So everybody is constantly acting in different role.
For this series, most of it was filmed on stage, the Egress Hotel was a set that was built. What was it like working in that environment and what is the impact of that location?
Young: I think the set design was fantastic. We filmed in a new studio, Infinite Studios in Singapore. And that’s a testament to how much Singapore has come in terms of doing international [productions] that can compete globally, that sort of production. When I went on the first day into that hotel and the sets, the way it was set up, the rooms and the hotel corridors and everything, just amazing what they’ve done with it in that space. For me it was just exciting to witness that in Singapore, in Asia, to get to do that, to get a global-quality experience on the production.
One of the things that I found interesting was the creepy confinement nanny. What elements of culture or tradition that were incorporated into the series did you find the most interesting? Tony was also talking about trying to make it accessible to viewers who might be unfamiliar with the culture but also authentic.
Young: For me, I have an Asian dad, a Greek mum but I grew up in England and have only been in Singapore for three years so I think it’s a good litmus test for me to experience what I read and what I saw, the confinement nanny, the different sorts of Asian themes and the ghost stories you hear, and as that sort of outsider to it but with a little connection to it, I could relate to it, I could understand it easily so that I think will relate to the audience members, so audiences members who may not be as familiar with it as [those] in Singapore and the rest of Asia. It translates equally as well to the other hemisphere, so I think I was a good litmus test, that sort of canary [in the coal mine] experience to experiment on.
When series with Asian themes are done in the west, there’s sometimes the danger of it being exoticised or there being an Orientalist slant to it, making things mystical and weird. How do you think Grace avoided that and how did you think it tries to be authentic in presenting this?
Song: I think it’s more like…it’s very different from Japanese or Thailand horror movie[s], it’s always that scary look that scares you. But this one, I think it’s more on suspense, thrill, that keeps you hanging there all the time. So I guess this aspect of communication, of keeping the audience watching, is strong enough. It’s not like very Asian any more, it’s like playing with you, psychology.
Young: What’s seen vs. what’s not seen. It’s a nice combination of it. Another thing is that yes, some Asian-themed series may go overboard with the Orientalism as you say, but this was shot here, shot in Singapore and with people who are knowledgeable about it. It’s an HBO Asia production, an HBO Asia original, so of course they’re sensitive to that and not going too extreme. They’re familiar with the territory so they get to play with it whilst understanding being sensitive to that sort of [thing].
Are you superstitious?
Song: Superstitious? I try not to [chuckles] yeah. But I believe in all this, I believe in the supernatural that they exist.
Have you had personal experiences?
Song: Yeah, I was sharing that there was once I encounter in the lift, it’s a lift encounter. Somebody stop somewhere, the door opens, but actually there wasn’t anybody there. So, I close the door, and then when I was about to close, the door open again, about three times. That was my scariest encounter.
With the family drama element, would you say there are aspects of a soap opera to this with the skeletons in the closet?
Young: That’s a good point. What they do, what I’ve found when I read it and we did it is that it connects the audience to this very real family thing which we all have, everyone can relate to a family relationship, the tribulations and trials that happen in a family. And they keep that real, they don’t make it into a soap opera thing with the dialogue or anything. And once they get you with that, the real element that grounds you, they can hit you with whatever else that comes that way. So that family drama is kind of the vehicle that leads you into whatever happens next, that’s how it works. And I don’t think it’s very sensationalised or anything, it’s kind of a real family.
Constance, how would compare the story of Grace to the stories of Channel 8 dramas that you’ve acted in?
Song: Like I say just now, Chinese drama always, the flower is red, we can take four pages to talk about the flower is red. But for English drama is like “okay, just two sentence” can tell everything. The difference is I think the actions is more than the words. They show you there and then what’s happening. But Chinese drama they use a lot of dialogues to deliver “what happened last night?” so that’s the main difference. [To Young] You enjoy Channel 8 right?
Young: Yeah, I want to do more!
After Grace, will you be doing more projects in English?
Song: I’m doing one for Channel 5, this time round it’s a comedy, not horror. I’m looking forward to that, it’s a character that I’ve always wanted to play.
George, what was it like working with the baby?
Young: Uh, the baby…
We see you in the series, you have a baby…
Young: Um, I don’t know how much we can talk about that. It’s something that is…I can’t really say much about it, I guess.
Grace takes place in an unspecified Asian location and Russell was saying that originally, they were thinking of making it take place in Hong Kong. What was it like filming in Singapore but knowing that in the story, it’s not really Singapore?
Young: I think that gives credence to…I mean compliments Singapore in a way that it’s increasingly becoming a scenario where you can film in Singapore for any sort of thing – futuristic, modern, past…you’ve got elements in certain elements in Singapore where you can film the historical side of Asia. I think that’s a good sign, because the fact that you can do that in Asia here gives more flexibility to Singapore and more productions as well. The fact that we can do that, you know that it’s in Asia, it’s got a very Asian feel and what they wanted that to translate not just in Asia, South-East Asia but the world, really this show, it can do that, Singapore can do that, so I think it’s a good thing.
Do you think this can travel well to the west?
Young: Yeah.

Grace Interviews: Tony Tilse and Erika North

GRACE INTERVIEWS: TONY TILSE AND ERIKA NORTH



Director Tony Tilse and HBO Asia Head of Programming and Production Erika North sat down with F*** for an in-depth chat about the making of Grace. Tilse, a veteran director in the Australian television industry, directed episodes 6-10 of HBO Asia’s Serangoon Road and has also helmed episodes of the cult science fiction series Farscape. Tilse and North discuss working within the content boundaries of Asian television, why Grace isn’t exactly set in Singapore, making the story accessible to a wide range of viewers, the appeal of the horror genre in Asia and the possibility of a Singaporean science fiction series someday.
This doesn’t look like a straightforward horror series, it’s only in the second trailer that you hear the screaming.

Tilse: Yeah, that’s what everyone’s talking about, that family drama element to it, it’s not straight horror-horror.

North: I think that was part of the idea behind Grace, from a network perspective. It was about creating a show, as [HBO Asia CEO] Jonathan [Spink] mentioned during the press conference, it was our first opportunity we had to fully control and fully conceive, develop and produce something out of Asia. And we wanted to create something that would be a really interesting counterpoint to Serangoon Road; we wanted to move in a completely opposite direction so our starting point was “genre”, it was “horror”. But within that, we didn’t want it to be vacuous, either vacuous or over-gory horror. A, it’s not really what we’re about but [B,] it’s not necessarily that interesting or that different. So we wanted to approach it differently, didn’t we?

Tilse: Yeah, I think it’s also new in the genre to do it [in] four episodes. We’re trying to tell a complex story, it is about family dynamics and the trials and tribulations of a family. The horror element is kind of a second layer to it, it’s not the essence of it. I’ve always felt it was kind of a family drama, one choice that one makes can affect a family. Now, whether that affects in an emotional sense or in a horror sense, that’s how it works.

North: Exactly, and I think for us really, how it’s structured, it is very much like a Greek tragedy with horror. It’s the hubris of the father, the father’s mistake which then spirals out of control. Tony said at its core, you have to care about the characters. In traditional horror movies, you care about the characters enough until something horrible happens to them and that won’t work across episodes. That won’t bring people back week on week, so you’ve got to find a way to balance that investment in the emotion.

Tilse: That’s exactly right. It’s quite a delicate balancing act to get those elements right and what’s exciting about it is that it’s unique in its own sort of form in that sense.

North: There’s obviously the Asian horror canon, it’s obviously so diverse and so mature and so well-defined. It’s a wonderful kind of palette to start with so we wanted to create something that could fit into that but that could also hopefully be an interesting counterpoint because I don’t think there’s been an Asian horror mini-series that’s come out of Asia before.
Tilse: That’s what attracted me to the project, its originality. It wasn’t trying to be a copy of something else. We weren’t trying to do a cheap copy of an American show. It’s called “HBO Original” for a reason. It’s trying to take an original concept that’s, you know, still in the genre, but we’re actually trying to give it that twist, that’s an important part of it.

North: Tony brought up an interesting and important point that we talked about a lot which is when we’re thinking about what we’re producing out of HBO Asia, I mean Jonathan [Spink] touched upon it earlier. It’s difficult because we have certain censorship restrictions that we must respect, but within that, it’s not a constrictive creative environment. You’re almost more creative when you know where your guardrails are. You really can explore and really delve deeper in and for us, as HBO Asia, we want to make sure we’re making shows that aren’t, as Tony said, cheap versions of something that’s been done in the US. They’re stories and concepts that you can only make in Asia and that’s the most important thing to us. But that’s really important because people will come to us with ideas and they’ll say “oh, we’re going to be the Asian version of this HBO show”, “the Asian version of that HBO show” – all well and good, but we’re trying to build a premium Asian TV brand, we want to be doing things our way. And of course it does mean that we have to fit into certain constraints in terms of business models, like we don’t have the budget to create huge epics – yet! Yet, there is always hope! But that’s always important, that element.

Tilse: I think the production challenges that we did have because of budgets and the story, what we can and cannot do, I found it really great because we had to attack the problem with creative, different ideas. So, sometimes with a bigger budget you can string money up to make big explosions or whatever – for us, we had to find a different way of doing it and that makes it an interesting way of telling a story, that’s the interesting part about it.

North: It was a very creative process, very collaborative. We were kind of all fully vested, all trying to work on creating the best story and telling the best story and everyone within HBO production department, there’s a group of us and they’ve all done such immense work on the show, so it’s not just…it’s so many of us creating the show.

Tilse: It was a big team effort.

How did you feel working in the Asian horror genre coming from Australia, seeing how horror is different in each country?

Tilse: It is very different. That’s a very good question because there is a different sensibility, there’s a cultural difference, there are different meanings in Western culture than here, there are loads of elements to it all. I’ve been a fan of the genre here because all the best horror has come out of Asia anyway and gets remade by the Americans – badly- anyway! So to come here and do that was exciting for me and again, coming from Australia and having a slightly different sensibility, it was important for me to be part of a team and use the team around me to throw out ideas and bounce some stuff around so I could get a bit of perspective as well. That was the great part about it, the joy of that really, so it was a great experience of learning for me.

In Hollywood, there has been a tradition of domestic, family-set horror films like Poltergeist, The Omen, Rosemary’s Baby – did you draw inspiration from those in addition to Asian horror?

Tilse: Look, as a director you get influenced by all that stuff, I think yes – there’s that kind of family element like [in] Poltergeistor Rosemary’s BabyRosemary’s Baby is a good one as well. I think all those elements do affect you both consciously and subconsciously, some stuff you may not understand why you’re doing and then you sort of go “yeah, [I remember]” so there was that kind of process. But I think the idea for us is that we’re taking a little twist on our story and I think even from the concept when we were planning it and working on the script, I think that journey from there to the screen has been a kind of journey, we didn’t know where we were going to end up. I mean, we knew where we were going to go, but the story evolved from its concept into something else and that’s just part of the process of being here and just the shooting process. That’s what I found exciting, that yes, we knew where we were going, but the journey was quite an unusual one. I hope it’s reflected in the episodes. There are four episodes and funnily enough, each of them have their own unique feel and style because we’re dealing with different characters each episode, so they do have their own unique style. That’s what I found quite fascinating actually making it, I didn’t expect that.

North: I also found that as you mentioned in the press conference, it’s genuinely [such that] once you’ve seen all four episodes, you really understand the essence of the story that we’re trying to tell. That’s really important for us as well, to create something where you need to see all four episodes to understand. And you do go back and view it again with different eyes and hopefully that will be quite an enriching experience.

Tilse: That’s the hope. It’s always interesting with any kind of storytelling, you can try and spoon-feed people and say “look, this is what you’re supposed to think here, this is what you’re supposed to think at this moment here” and you can tell the audience what to think and that’s okay, but also we were trying to say “look, interpret this the way you want to interpret this.” There’ll be a conclusion at the end, but at some point you’re going to go “I’m not quite sure how to interpret this” and that’s why a second viewing is good too, because you go back and look at it a different way.”

Is that the beauty of the horror genre, that you want to give it a second look?

Tilse: Yeah, that’s the beauty of the genre, because it is a bit of a detective story in a weird kind of way too. There’s elements about “what’s actually going on?” There’s a mystery to this and there’s clues laid throughout the series to work out what’s going on, so there’s that element to it as well. I think that’s what’s exciting about it.

Is Grace set in Singapore, or is it an “unspecified Asian city”?

Tilse: “Unspecified Asian city,” yeah. We’re trying to keep an unknown feel to it, and also because the setting…the city was not important to the story. It was actually about the family so the key elements were the hotel where the wedding was and the family apartments. Those were the key elements to our story and that can be anywhere, anywhere in the world.

North: That was a very deliberate decision on our part because it’s about family, which means then hopefully that the story will travel. We know that the genre works in our region and our regional footprint is quite wide, it’s a number of territories and they all have different tastes and they all have different sensibilities, and we’ve got different age groups that watch the channel at different times…it’s a huge challenge when we’re thinking of what to create because we’re not going to make the magic bullet, right? We try to do the best we can within that and tell a story in a way that’s original.

When you said that you wanted viewers to come to their own conclusion, does this mean that the series might have a cliff-hanger ending?

Tilse: No no, there’s an absolute, definite conclusion, it’s a very strong emotional conclusion. What I’m saying is that on the journey, you’re not sure…there’s some points you’re going to go “I’m not sure who’s the bad guy, who’s the good guy,” there are those elements to it, to keep it much more interpretive in that way.

Does this mean there won’t be a sequel?

Tilse: [Laughs] we’d always love a sequel! Possibly, I’d love a sequel, [but] how you’d do one, I don’t know. It’s sort of, um, who knows. If it’s a huge hit, of course there’ll be a sequel!

What was the research into Asian traditions and customs like for this series? In the clips, we saw the creepy confinement nanny which is brilliant and something we haven’t seen before.

Tilse: Look, fantastic! When I was doing Serangoon Road, I had an episode that was set during Hungry Ghost Month. So during that series, I did a lot of research on those customs and those superstitions and all that kind of stuff. So I kind of had that background briefing already, so when I came here, it was great having to expand, to talk about stuff. We talked about certain elements, certain traditions, you have to watch some stuff, you read some stuff, talk to people and you start to absorb it and that’s the exciting part about my job, I get access to worlds that I’ve never ever had access to. So when you find out about the confinement nannies and stuff and see how they work, you get into that tradition, you just research that and try to get the truth as much as you can.

North: And again, to allow the show to travel and cater to the wide audience that we’ve got, we tried to tread the balance between these Asian traditions and also creating a mythology that was totally fictional. So we have a mythology within the show that doesn’t offend any sensibilities, it’s original, it’s unique, so you’re watching the show and you’re buying into the world, and that’s what you’re doing with this, you’re buying into the world of Grace. That’s why it’s not in a particular place…

Tilse:…I think that’s a very good point. We were very careful not to go into certain rituals and traditions that would be disrespectful to anybody, so for us we wanted to set up our own universe, our own values, our own world. And I think that feeds, in a sense, into the “generic city” feel to it. We really wanted our own world, yeah.

North: And I think that’s what hopefully people will feel when they’re watching the show, that it’s a familiar-enough environment but that it’s also unfamiliar.

Tilse: That’s right. There’ll be certain sets of traditions and rituals that’s our own mythology. That’s what I said about [that] we don’t explain it. We don’t sit down and say “this is supposed to be this, this and this,” we just do it. You may not understand what’s going on here, but that’s our ritual, whatever we may be.

What do you think is the appeal of horror in Asia, what makes it so popular?

North: That’s a good question. I think when we air horror movies on HBO across the region, generally they’re very well-received. It’s popular as a genre, I think ultimately people like to be scared! There’s a range of belief systems across the region that people kind of buy into – or not, and that feeds and fuels kind of the fright factor. I think ultimately, for people when they engage with HBO, they engage with content that transports them to another place. And I think the horror genre really kind of cocoons you in that way. It’s fun, but also what’s interesting about Grace or what we’re hoping it will do is that it will appeal to the viewers of HBO who like horror but also to viewers who maybe would consider themselves non-horror fans. So we’ve cut a number of different types of promos that you’ll see on air, so they’re not all spooky. As Tony said, the show is several different components, we want the widest audience possible to watch this show, to experience it and to engage with it. We don’t want people out of hand to say “I don’t like horror, I can’t watch it,” you know, or “I’m going to watch it with the mute button on.” That’s the hope, that it really cuts across a wide audience base. Serangoon Road performed really well for us, last year across the region, which for us was our maiden effort. And we’re hoping that Grace will reach out to an even wider audience base; it’s potentially younger-skewing than Serangoon Road and we’re hoping with the cast variety that it will help us tap into that.

Tony, is this the first time you’re working with horror?

Tilse: It’s the first time I’m working on television of this level of horror, it’s something that I’d love to have a go at, fantastic I had a chance to do it. I think for me, it was fantastic being able to work with, not only in that area but the cast, the story.

As a film-maker, do you find horror difficult to work with, particularly given the restrictions of how scary something can be?

Tilse: Look, I think like all the genres, horror is a tough one because it’s all about timing and scares and all that kind of stuff and also, we were very clear about…we knew the sensitive issues that we have here. There’s no point doing gory, graphic stuff, there’s no point actually doing that because it’s going to get cut out. And in a way, the gory, graphic stuff is easy…it’s a cheap scare. What we’re trying to do is through atmosphere and suggestion.  We show very little as much as we could. There’s this particular scene, someone was saying “you never saw anything but your imagination makes it up for you.” You’re not even seeing it, but you’re scared. That’s the risk because you’re going “have I brought the tension high enough for it to qualify as horror?” And I think that’s the big challenge of this genre, to build that tension, to build the atmosphere, so you do get scares and tension without a cheap jump scare. Jump scares are great, we’ve still got jump scares there, but it’s trying to get all that layering without that cheap blood and gore.

Do you personally believe in the supernatural?

Tilse: For me personally, I was a little bit of a sceptic until I came to this country. [Laughs] No, talking about the research, you kind of start of to talk to people and get into it, so all of a sudden you’re just going…it does seep into your consciousness.

North: Tony’s very immersed into Asia and Singapore. The thing we thought was really great about Tony and one of the many reasons I wanted to work with him again is his way of collaborating with the crew and the production team. He’s almost intuitively Asian in the way he would communicate with the crew and that contributed to a very good environment on the set. You love it here.

Tilse: Absolutely, it sort of seeps into your body.

Speaking about different genres, do you think there’s the potential for something like an Asian Farscape somewhere down the line?

Tilse: Look, it’s not…we haven’t talked about it, [but] I think sci-fi is really interesting, especially good science fiction, but it’s really tough. I’ve found that it’s a tough sell, in the sense that it’s a much narrower audience. It’s actually getting people to broaden that out. Having done the Farscape thing, Farscape was an interesting one too because we did that in Australia. In Australian television terms, it didn’t work on its television network there, but it works on a cult level. In America where they have the SyFy Channel, those people, massive fans. Look, I’d love to have a crack at a sci-fi here, absolutely! That would be fantastic. Just got to work out where that story sits, you know? What is it going to be, that sci-fi. It’s not like we haven’t been thrashing out ideas, but I would agree, yeah yeah. I think that’s kind of an interesting thing here, the potential now for…what we’ve experimented on with Grace, if this works, there’s more potential to explore various genres. That’s what’s exciting about what’s happening in this part of the world. Although having said that, just as a side-note too: in Australia, we have the same kind of “cultural cringe”. I remember doing Farscape and I heard the Australian accent in outer space and I went “NO! An Australian accent in outer space?! What is that?!” [Laughs] And I think you guys have the same thing here, “a Singaporean accent in outer space?!” and I think that’s what we’ve all got to overcome.