Production Talk: 'Ghost Child' - directed by Gilbert Chan, written by Tan Fong Cheng

Having saved her from a band of Indonesian bandits, widower Choon (Chen Hanwei) announces his plans to marry Indonesian-Chinese Na (Carmen Soo). Na is mysterious in nature and says little about her background. Amongst the items she brings with her is an urn, which contains the eponymous "Ghost Child", otherwise known as a toyol. The toyol causes much distress to Choon and his estranged teenage daughter, Kim (Jayley Woo). Among other strange happenings, family photographs get torn apart and Kim's grandmother gets injured for no apparent reason. At first suspecting her dead mother's ghost for causing these, Kim soon learns about the toyol and attempts to get rid of it, but here efforts are to no avail. Could she save her family by ridding this unspeakable evil?

Following the success of 23:59, an army ghost story which has garnered over SGD$1.5 million in the local box office last year, director Gilbert Chan returns to direct Ghost Child, which stars Chen Han Wei 陈汉玮, Jayley Woo Jiaqi 胡佳琪 and Carmen Soo 苏慧敏.

We chat up with director Gilbert Chan as well as the writer of the movie Fong Cheng on the makings of Ghost Child.


 Gilbert Chan (left) gets technical

1. What brought you to the topic of a Toyol?

Gilbert Chan (GC): The idea of a toyol first came from Eric Khoo and Fong Cheng. When I have finished shooting 2359, Eric asked me if I was keen to direct a movie about the toyol. After researching about it, I felt intrigued and agreed. Of course, it was easy to say yes to Eric since I really enjoy working with him and his team.

Fong Cheng: The idea of making a film about the Toyol came to Eric and myself about 7-8 years ago when we were working on a horror series called "7th Month" for Channel U. Back then, to select the stories for the series, we identified the urban myths and ghosts that were familiar to us and the Toyol came up in our discussions. But in the end, the topic was not featured in the series as we felt a 30min episode was too short when it came to telling a Toyol story. Throughout the years after that, the idea of making a film about the Toyol kept coming back to (haunt?? haha ...) us. So four years ago, I made my maiden attempt to write a script and subsequently we got Gilbert on board.

Eric Khoo is a dedicated Executive Producer. He doubles up as a water-boy to Gilbert. 

2. Many people want to make a really scary movie but not everyone succeeds. What in your opinion makes a good horror film? What must it have?

GC: I honestly don't think I know the answer. I can only speak for myself. I like horror that plays more with the mind. I prefer not to see the ghost and let the mind imagine the horror. I think it's way more powerful.

3. Given your personal ‘winning’ formula or method in mind, what was your process of developing the script like? 

GC: I wished I had a winning formula! Haha! The original story was from Fong Cheng and Eric and Fong Cheng wrote the script. I did spend quite a lot of time torturing Fong Cheng with my ideas and we spent quite a lot of time working out the story together.

Gilbert: "Is this really what Fong Cheng wrote?" 

4. Why did you choose Chen Han Wei as the lead? And how did you cast Jayley?

GC: I have always admired Chen Han Wei's acting and always thought of working with him. When this project came about, it was the perfect opportunity. After meeting him, I also found him to be a very nice person and it just clicked. I first noticed Jayley through a youtube video that she had done which she was rapping to some funny song. I wasn't that impressed with the rapping but felt she had a very interesting look and a very bubbly personality. When I was casting for Kim, the lead role in the movie, I thought of Jayley and asked her to come down for an audition. She nailed it. And the rest is history.

Jayley as 'Kim' getting used to her ghost child

Gilbert directing Vincent Tee and Carmen Soo ,"I want you to grab her like this."

5. The film has a mix of horror and humour with several funny moments like the YouTube video. Why did you decide to incorporate pockets of humour like that?

GC: I'm very happy you said that. I always felt that a movie should invoke a wide range of emotions in the audience. In the case of the movie Ghost Child, fear and shock would be the emotions I hope to create in the audience. Laughter and humor serve as a form of relief before and after the fear. At the end of the movie, it is also quite touching. Hopefully, this range of emotions would make the movie more entertaining.

Crew jokes a plenty on the set, Gilbert (too) can't help laughing too

6. How long was the production and was it more or less the same team which did 2359? Do you have a group of people you always collaborate with?

GC: We shot for 21 days. The producers, exec producers, dop and post production people were the same. The only difference was the crew. 2359 was shot in Malaysia and Ghost Child was shot in Singapore. I had a really good time shooting and working with this group of incredibly talented, hardworking crew.

Crew looks to Gilbert for the next shot, while Gilbert looks to some higher voice

7. What was the most challenging part of the production? Drawing performance from the actors? Making the props? Or making things move by themselves? Or anything other things? And why?

GC: Now that the whole movie has been completed, I think the most challenging part was actually the post production. There were a lot of visual effects and we also spent a lot of time on the sound design which was really crucial.

8. Anything spooky happened during the production? We would love to hear stories!

GC: The spookiest thing that happened was that during the recce at Lorong Buangkok, I saw this area outside the house which had marbles, toys and sweets placed at a kind of altar. I mean what are the chances? We are making a movie about a toyol and we see this at the back of the house!


Find out more about the production on their Facebook Page and take part in their contests to win free movie tickets!

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