Miss J Contemplates Her Choice(2015)
- RatedNC16 /GenreDrama, Thriller
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We are faced with questions daily.
Do we turn left or right? Should we watch ‘Dumb or Dumber To’ or ‘Interstellar’?
Director Jason Lai
What to wear today? What to eat? What to drink?
And we make choices every day – choices that affect how we live and how our lives turn out. And oftentimes, we aren’t even aware that we are making choices.
Have we ever stopped to think about the impact our choices had, or are having on our lives?
That is what Singapore filmmaker Jason Lai wants viewers to think about after watching his new film, psychological thriller ‘Ms J Contemplates Her Choice’.
It stars Singapore singer Kit Chan as Jo Yang, a radio talkshow co-host who receives an ominous phone call from an unknown caller on air.
The mystery caller gives Jo the unenviable task of choosing between saving the life of a loanshark or a prostitute. This sets in motion a series of events that threaten more lives and shed light on her past.
Lai said: “The idea of ‘what we choose defines who we are’ initially started as a simple fascination, but which slowly grew on me when I realised that the rhetoric of choice was all around us.”
A RISKY FILM
Kit Chan and Bobby Tonelli in a scene. Photo: Oak3 Films
The film also stars radio DJ Bobby Tonelli, veteran actress Xiang Yun and up-and-comers Seraph Sun and Shane Pow.
What sets ‘Ms J’ apart from other made-in-Singapore films is that the movie does not follow strict convention.
Lai said: “As a filmmaker in Singapore, we don’t have enough chances to make something. Since I have this opportunity, I thought why not try doing something risky.
“I wanted to make something that is not so grounded by the traditional three acts with a very clean ending. I wanted to take a bit of risk and I hope that the audience is open to try other kinds of film formats.”
Lai is a seasoned film and television producer, and is head of content at Oak3 Films, which he co-founded.
‘Ms J’ is his first full-length feature film, and he co-wrote the script with architect-turned-filmmaker Yvonne Loh.
The filmmakers received S$250,000 in funding from the Singapore Film Commission’s New Talent Feature Grant and they shot the show over 18 days between December 2013 and January 2014.
Singapore International Film Festival executive director Wahyuni Hadi said that Lai’s film shows a progression in Singapore cinema: “It’s a drama, a mystery and it shows that filmmakers here are taking chances on making films that we have not seen before. “It really shows that we are ready to tell a different story.”
MOVIE LIFTED BY CAST
Xiang Yun plays Stacey Yang. Photo: Oak3 Films
More at home shooting documentaries where plants and animals are the “stars”, Lai revealed that he was initially nervous about working with actors, which includes two of Singapore’s foremost artistes: Kit Chan and Xiang Yun.
But he cast his concerns aside when he saw that they were taken by the script. Lai admitted that the movie “is lifted” by their performances.
Chan said: “I love this script. We all make choices every day, so I think the theme is very relevant to Singaporeans.”
A familiar face on local television, Xiang Yun plays Chan’s sister, Stacey, on screen. The seasoned actress said Lai’s experience as a documentary filmmaker gave her “a different feeling”.
“Having acted in the ‘I Not Stupid’ movies, I observed through Jason that filmmakers here have grown a lot. He gave us a lot of space to act and he is also very sure of what he wants,” she explained.
Kit Chan in a scene from 'Ms J Contemplates Her Choice'. Photo: Oak3 Films
Chan revealed that she accepted the job after discovering the Xiang Yun will be acting alongside her; and likewise for Xiang Yun.
The singer, who has also acted in theatre productions such as Singapore Repertory Theatre’s ‘Forbidden City: Portrait of an Empress’ and Hong Kong’s “Snow.Wolf.Lake’, said: “It wasn’t difficult. I’ve had many years of admiration for Xiang Yun. Besides the script, Jason was dangling the idea of starring alongside her as bait.”
Xiang Yun gushed: “My eyes lit up when my manager mentioned Kit is part of the production; I agreed to the film immediately.”
Read also: 6 movies to catch at Singapore International Film Festival
Both actresses said that it was easy for them to connect as siblings for the big screen.
Chan said: “I grew up with two older sisters so I know how to relate to the character. It is really easy to project it and everything just fell in place.”
Xiang Yun recalled: “It was very emotional as well, especially for a couple of scenes – like the moment when we were making ang ku kueh (a Chinese dessert). Our feelings, our actions… I felt really comfortable like it wasn’t even acting. Most importantly, the director left it to us to interpret the relationship.”
Kit Chan's Jo Yang and Bobby Tonelli's Ken Casey talk to a caller about boobjobs
To make their scenes more authentic, Lai got Chan and co-star Tonelli to answer impromptu live phone calls before filming started, even though Tonelli is a DJ on Class 95FM and Chan has experience giving interviews on radio.
Tonelli said Lai got someone to make improvised calls to talk about dating problems, or cosmetic surgery to the breasts, or on whether to land a job as a social escort.
Chan said: “That helped built our chemistry as co-hosts and established the reality of the whole studio environment. The movie just comes alive that way.”
Zaki Jufri writes about the arts, entertainment, film and other forms of popular — and unpopular — culture for inSing.com