Production Talk: Taxi! Taxi! By Kelvin Sng

As you can see from the previous post, we have already uploaded a list of promising Singapore feature length films, and to start the ball rolling will be Taxi! Taxi!, which will open in cinemas released on 3 Jan 2013. This could possible be the first commercial feature film where the storyline centres on one of the toughest, labour intensive jobs in Singapore. 

Taxi! Taxi! Trailer

Taxi! Taxi!, which is inspired by Dr Cai Mingjie's book "Diary of a Taxi Driver", seems promising enough to give the audience fictional privy into the lives of taxi drivers, and how they came into this line. Directed by Kelvin Sng, written by Boris Boo and produced by Chan Pui Yin, we present you an exclusive behind the scenes production talk with director Kelvin Sng.

Kelvin directing

The crew hard at work...

1. Personally, I have met taxi drivers who used to hold management positions before being retrenched. They too, became taxi drivers because they were unable to find another job after a long time. I felt this societal switch back during the dot com bubble, and then subsequently during the 2008 recession. Why explore this theme through Taxi Taxi now? Was it conceptualized after reading "Diary of a Taxi Driver"? .

Taxi! Taxi! is not meant to be a direct social commentary. Instead, it is more of an inspirational film that serves to inspire anyone who has been at the lowest point of their lives and to encourage people to pick themselves up after falling. Thus, the story is relevant at any point in time, not necessarily to coincide with any particular recession period or economy downturn. It was conceptualised after I have read the book because I have always wanted to make a film about taxi drivers and their lives anyway, so the book sort of became the catalyst. In any case, the film is only inspired by the book and not based on it, because the concept of a PHD holder driving a taxi makes a good premise for a fantastic story already.

2. Why cast the Youtube sensation, Chua Jia Sen aka Dr Jiajia as the son of Ah Tao played by Mark Lee? How was it directing a first time child actor? Did he respond well with the other veteran actors on set? Also, share with us how he has changed the dynamics of the movie.
Dr Jia Jia in some of his scenes in Taxi! Taxi!

Dr Jia Jia with Mark Lee, who plays his father in Taxi! Taxi!

We cast him because apart from his growing popularity, he really fits the bill of the character as Mark Lee's son who speaks lots of Singlish, with Mark Lee being not so well educated in the film as well. Directing a first time child actor is certainly challenging because he is only 6 years old and was always curious and overwhelmed by what was going on on the set. Nonetheless, JiaJia is a boy who never gives up and kept on trying until he got it right, though he might not even know what went wrong in the first place! He simply followed my instructions over and over again. He responded extremely well with Mark and Gurmit too, and they have this very natural chemistry that money can't buy. One reason may be due to the fact that Mark and Gurmit are also parents, but still, it seems more than just that. Check out the music video to our theme song and you will know what I mean. JiaJia had brought lots of childlike innocence to the set and everyone seemed doubly patient because he was just so adorable and kept everyone entertained somehow.

3. Tell us some of the challenges you faced?

The challenge in writing the story was how to create a balance between the 2 main characters without it being lopsided, as we wanted it to be some sort of a buddy movie. Incorporating comedic elements to the serious message the film is trying to convey was also a challenge. Fortunately, Mark and Gurmit have also matured over the years and their performance retains the kind of balance I was trying to create so that the film will not turn out too serious or too funny in terms of execution. The other main challenge is the 18-day shoot, and with so many car scenes, finishing it on time is indeed a miracle and I have the entire team to thank for.

4. Share with us what were some of the interesting experiences you encountered while directing Taxi! Taxi!

Boris and I have known each other for a while as we were developing another project together a few years ago.  He had very strong ideas and opinions on certain things which he believed will work with regards to the script, so there were certainly times when we disagreed, but it was all for the betterment of the film. And of course, there were many changes I made on the set anyway, so he just had to accept it. Hahaha! Overall, it was an enriching experience working with the former creative director of J-Team, and I certainly learn a lot with regards to comedic elements and comic timing. Especially enriching is also working with my producer Chan Pui Yin, who comes with many years of experience producing all the popular local movies while she was with Raintree Pictures. What's interesting is that she is so damn hands-on and very down-to-earth, and this makes my directing job very focused. In general, all the actors are extremely easy to work with and I found myself laughing a lot on the set even amidst the daily stress, and that is rare. I feel so blessed!

Taxi! Taxi! opens on 3 January 2013. To tease us a little more, the catchy Taxi! Taxi! MTV has also been released as well. Watch Mark Lee, Gurmit and even Dr Jia Jia sing and rap about Taxi! Taxi! 

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