Production Talk: Michelle Chong on 'Lulu the Movie'

There were not just one PRC lady in big curls and leopard prints, but two, at the press conference (picture below) of ‘Lulu The Movie’. Lulu brought her sister Roo Roo, played by popular local TV host Pornsak, along as the emcee. Sometime towards the end, after the reporters had their fill of the actors’ relentless role playing and hamming it up, Roo Roo broke out of character into Pornsak and made a point about how director Michelle Chong had outdone herself, putting this movie together and making it in a directors’ circle dominated by males. Then, visibly moved by what was said, she started sliding her fingers across her heavily-coloured eye-lids, in an attempt to save her make-up from her tears.
 
It was a strange moment that saw Michelle straddling between the titular persona of the film and her identity as a director; between hiding behind her character as a professional and yet revealing a more vulnerable side to this ‘Superwoman’ the public has come to associate her with.

Indeed, it is no secret Michelle is every bit the ‘Superwoman’. She wrote, produced, directed, acted and did many other things for her labour of love ‘Lulu The Movie’. Behind-the-scenes videos (such as this one) shared on Facebook reveal Michelle in schizophrenic energizer-bunny mode, switching between her role as actor and director, shuffling between the monitor and being in front of the camera. This mirrors her debut feature film project ‘Already Famous’ in which she also two-timed in front and behind the camera as care-lare-fare actress Zann and first-time director Michelle Chong. This might just be her inevitable destiny, because due to her inimitable talent for putting on so many roles, audiences are not content with just having her sit behind the camera.
The idea for ‘Lulu The Movie’ seemed an inevitable consequence of the popularity of ‘Lulu’ the character Michelle has created on TV comedy programme The Noose. Much of the popularity of The Noose has been headlined by Michelle due to memorable characters she has created like Barbarella the SPG, Leticia the Filipino maid and others. Early-stage plans saw Michelle having to decide between doing a film on everybody’s favourite Ang Moh chasing SPG and Lulu. Lulu was chosen subsequently because the interest in PRCs was evidently higher given their presence in Singapore. 

'Lulu The Movie’ is a comedy about a determined Chinese lady named Lulu who comes to Singapore to meet her online lover, but after being disappointed by what he turns out to be, she decides to make it on her own and succeeds in becoming an international fashion icon and mogul.

Lulu arrives in Singapore from her hometown in China looking for her one true love that she met on social media. However, her dream lover turns out to be the complete opposite of what she imagines him to be. Not wanting to 'lose face' to her friends back in China, she decides to stay in Singapore and make something of herself.
The film follows her adventures of job-hopping, learning English and being discovered by the TV station. She gets the opportunity to front an English fashion program despite having 'unique' fashion sense and even more unique command of the English language. She refuses to conform to normal standards of what a fashion host is supposed to dress or sound like but audiences love her unconventional way of hosting and her show becomes top-rated, even garnering international attention. Her real adventures begin as she embarks on her journey around the world (from London to Shanghai) as a bona fide fashionista. She even meets fashion designer Karl Lagerfeld (well not the real one, but one played by the Flying Dutchman, aka Mark van Cuylenburg - photo on the right). Throughout her journey, although she meets with mockery, discrimination and tough times, Lulu refuses to give up or compromise. A strong message that comes across in the movie is that one can achieve success by staying true to oneself and living life on one's own terms.

With the entire film costing about $1.5 million, production for Lulu was stretched over three and a half years. All that was being juggled with her ‘bread and butter’ activities of writing, producing, directing and acting for The Noose. Being cautious with certain sensitive issues in the plot also required more time and prolonged the process. In addition, Michelle starred in another movie last year - ‘Our Sister Mambo’, in which she played one of four unmarried daughters in a household.

Being somewhat a mockumentary in the likes of ‘Borat’ and ‘Bruno’, interacting with strangers in various locations brought both laughs and struggles to Michelle and the compact production team that followed her. The greatest challenge faced in the overseas portions of the production was finding people who are game enough to be interviewed on camera by someone who clearly does not look or sound like a fashion host but claims she is one. When ‘Lulu’ was in Shanghai, she asked a Caucasian tourist, "Do you speaka Engalishi?", she replied, "Yes I do. Do you speak English?" Thankfully, this and many other interesting encounters with strangers (and numerous security guards!) have been included the movie!

Distribution-wise, its Singapore and Malaysia run have been confirmed. Audiences in Singapore can satisfy their Lulu cravings tomorrow onwards (24 Nov) while Malaysian audiences can watch it 1 Dec onwards. Discussions are currently happening with distributors from Taiwan, London, Hongkong, China and Japan.

Rounding off our conversation with Michelle, we asked her, if they could speak to each other, what would Lulu say to Michelle Chong and what would Michelle say to Lulu?

Lulu would say to Michelle: 庄米雪算什么卡?老娘才是大明星!(Who is Michelle Chong! This queen is the real star!)
Michelle would say to Lulu: Your hair gives me a huge headache.

Interview by Jeremy Sing

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Here is the official trailer of the movie:
The official trailer was launched on 29 September 2016 on Facebook, and has gone viral with 1.5 million views, 19,000 shares and a reach of more than 3 million people.

Keep up with the movie on its Facebook page here: https://www.facebook.com/LuluTheMovie/

Catch ‘Lulu the Movie’ in cinemas islandwide now!

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