Production Talk - 'Twisted' by Chai Yee Wei

Twisted revolves around a soft-drugs dealer who banged up a young girl, a pair of con men who wants to turn over a new leaf, and 4 cabin crews whose lives were turned upside down over a fateful night of drugs and booze. This is a story of individuals whose fates intertwine and paths clash due to a series of twisted events. A funny and twisted tale of fate and coincidence is shaped based on the cause and effect of their actions.

Starring an interesting ensemble cast from Singapore, Malaysia, Hong Kong and Taiwan, with the best comedic and acting talents from the region which includes Mark Lee李国煌 (Singapore), Zhu Mi Mi朱咪咪(Hong Kong), Calvin Soh苏智诚(Singapore), Randall Tan (Singapore), Linda Liao廖佩伶(Taiwan), Candy Lim林冰冰(Malaysia), and Joey Leong 梁祖仪 (Malaysia).


Hi Yee Wei, please tell us a bit more about your upcoming film 'Twisted'
Twisted is a horror action comedy which consists of 3 different short stories strung together by a drug dealer character that is played by Mark Lee.

When did you start developing this?
Twisted was conceptualized a few months after Blood Ties was released. I was looking for an opportunity to do something other than just a another horror film, and was trying to see what has never been done before. That's when the idea of putting my experience of doing short films to good use. I've always been a fan of series like "Twilight Zone", "The Outer Limits", "Amazing Stories" and "Tales from the Crypt", and I sought to create a version consisting of twisted southeast asian tales.

Was the film shot in Singapore?
The entire film was shot in Malaysia.

The film has a cast of veteran actors, was it difficult to saw these talents to this project? How much did yr experience of doing blood ties help?
I was very fortunate to have the opportunity to work with these very talented actors and actresses. I typically only seek actors whom I have tailored the script for, for instance Mark Lee's character and Chu Mimi's characters were specifically written to fit their personas. Perhaps it is because of this, they were able to see something they could relate to and thus took up the project. Similarly, after I get to know my other actors better, I changed the script accordingly to make them more comfortable in their roles.

Experience from handling cast from different countries, helped tremendously in my 2nd feature. As usual I like to use new faces alongside very experienced ones, and so I have learnt to handle talents very differently based on their own experience level and they way they relate to situations and characters.

How was it like working with these veteran actors?
It can be liberating and also very challenging at the same time. Veteran actors have a lot of very good ideas when they come onto set, and some of these sparks are priceless as they are very spontaneous and you need to harness that. You need to create an atmosphere to allow them to experiment. The challenge for me is how do I channel their energy towards the direction I want and also to top their ideas with an even better one which would in turn generate more ideas ... but eventually contain them within the constraints that we have when working within a team.

Your first feature 'Blood Ties', was a serious horror film. How did it lead to this comedy-horror film?
I have always had an affinity for comedies. For those who has followed my career of doing short films, they would know that I have done only 1 horror short amongst my many comedic ones. So doing a horror comedy is a very natural progression for me. "Blood Ties" was a serious film and on set, everyone was very serious and tensed. For my 2nd project, doing a comedy horror helped to loosen me up as the atmosphere was much more jovial. It helps to keep my sanity in balance. :)

With the slight change of genre, what can fans of 'Blood Ties' anticipate?
It is quite a different beast from "Blood Ties", because I am aiming for a lower rating than M18 this time and targeting a much a wider audience.
So there will be less blood, but in turn, you get a lot more scares, more action, more surprises and much more laughters. Fans of 'Blood Ties' would also be happy to know that Joey Leong and Vincent Tee will have roles in this new film as well.

Style-wise, how would 'Twisted' differ from previous comedy films made by other local directors?
"Twisted"'s kind of comedy is much darker than any local films that has come before. I hope to reach both the heartlanders and the general audience with my brand of humor.

How would you define a 'Singaporean-humour'?
Comedies by local directors typically fall into the "Jack Neo styled" comedies or "the others". Recently, many comedies not directed by Jack Neo exhibit similar styles too like "Old Cow vs Tender Grass", "PCK the Movie" etc. Would I say that is the definitive "Singaporean-styled humor" - I would say YES to a certain extent. The way these movies are shot are very distinctively "Singapore styled" and you can't deny Jack was the pioneer of it.

However, "Jack Neo styled comedies" and (to a large extent) their jokes can only be understood by Singaporeans only and non-locals might not be able to fully comprehend or accept it. "Jack Neo styled comedies" are also proven commercially to be the more successful ones compared to "the others". But I believe many "other" local filmmakers (including myself) are trying to find a comedic formula that will allow our content to stay true to our own culture, while still be made accessible to non-local audience.

While planning for the film, did Mark Lee come to your mind as a first choice for casting?
When writing any story, I always use an existing actor as a reference, so that when I flesh the story out in my head, I can better visualize the emotions and situations. When I wrote the drug peddler character Ah- Guan, I had Mark Lee in mind playing it. To actually have him participate in the project when we head towards production was a miracle. It was like seeing your imagination come to life.

Any upcoming acting talents to watch out for in Twisted?
Definitely! Look out for Malaysian actors like Alvin Wong and Brandon Yuen in their first leading roles and Singaporean Cavin Soh as well as Tracy Lee in their first feature performances. I can't say how much I was impressed by their performance!

Share with us any interesting anecdotes that took place during production
The story writing process was the most tedious. But it could be due to my insistence on re-writing any characters for whom I didn't get my ideal cast for. I am in the business of creating illusion. I have to make sure the actor look and act in a way that is as close to the character that he is playing so as for it to be convincing or else, the magic of the movie will fall apart. So you either get very good actors who can fit themselves into any role or you make the role fit the actor.

As in any situation, you will always never get 100% of what you want. For instance in one of the segment of the movie, the main actor whom I wrote a part for dropped out a few weeks before production, and I was forced to rewrite the entire story (almost 50% of the whole movie) while doing my preproduction work and looking for new cast. It was extremely stressful. But in the end, I believe the result was a better film and story and I can't wait for the rest of the world to see it.

What is the budget like in producing 'Twisted'? How did you seek funding?
The budget for Twisted was about 700-800K. I was very lucky to have my producer do the fund seeking for me while I provide him with the ammunition (script, story, pitch) that he needs. This time, unlike 'Blood Ties', I could focus more on direction and story rather than just budget, which is a great thing.

You work pretty fast. Some of the NFFF films are not even out yet and you are on to your second. How do you achieve that?
To never stop pitching and coming up with new ideas. I am constantly working on a few stories at any one time because you never know which idea is the one that will hit the jackpot! You need the combination of a right story, matched with the right producer and the right investors in order for a project to get green lighted, and your ideas and stories are your ammunition! The more ideas you have the more chance you have at hitting the goal! Don't put all your eggs in one basket!

Keep a look out for Twisted's scheduled release in mid 2011!
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