Making a stretch: Interview with 'Rubbers' director Han Yew Kwang

By David LeeMovies - 28 April 2015 10:26 AM | Updated 10:27 AM

Making a stretch: Interview with 'Rubbers' director Han Yew Kwang

Singapore filmmaker Han Yew Kwang’s latest feature is a curiosity: a cheery screwball film about prophylactics.

‘Rubbers’ features three interwoven story about sex and love that revolve around condoms.

In one of the storylines – ‘The Plumber’ – Golden Horse Award winner Yeo Yann Yann plays Baoling, a lonely 40-year-old who is urged by her imaginary friend, a condom named Durian, to seduce her hunky plumber Thor (Julian Hee).

The movie also stars Marcus Chin and Catherine Sng as a couple whose marriage is saved by condoms, while Oon Shu An plays a porn star, and comedian Alaric Tay is a womaniser who is punished for refusing to use condoms.

Very rarely do we see a sex comedy made in Singapore by a Singaporean filmmaker with a Singapore cast and crew.

But independent filmmaking, like many other creative endeavours here in our tiny Red Dot, is never easy, as we find out from Han.

Alaric Tay (front row, left) and Han Yew Kwang (front row, centre) on the set of 'Rubbers' | Photo: Amandi Wong

What truly inspired you to make an anthology of sex comedies? Do your heroes in Hong Kong cinema, such as Pang Ho Cheung, or Korean sex comedies have anything to do with it?

My aim is to make all kinds of comedies. I've made a few romantic comedies, and sex comedy naturally comes next. I hope to make a horror comedy and an action comedy soon.

I enjoyed Pang Ho Cheung's sex comedies and love Korean ones like ‘Sex is Zero’. But Woody Allen's ‘Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex (But Were Afraid to Ask)’ is the one that truly inspired me. I love it when I watched it many years ago. 

Since taking part in the Golden Horse Film Project Promotion in late 2012, it has taken you two years to complete this film. Would you tell us your filming process and your biggest challenge in getting this from script to screen?

It was a long process. I started writing the script right after the Golden Horse project in November 2012. We then decided to use the prize money of the 2013 Hong Kong-Asia Film Financing Forum award to shoot the first story. 

Then we chanced upon a private investor who gave us more money to shoot the second story. We started to raise money for the third story in November 2013 via crowd-funding and managed to get enough money to shoot it in February 2014.

We took four months to edit the film and another four months for audio post-production. I would say the biggest challenge is to stay focus in completing the film and always reminding ourselves to never give up. 

I understand that the Indiegogo crowd-funding campaign managed to raise just half of the targeted amount. Is money a big issue for this project? 

We were very fortunate that a few private investors came along and took a leap of faith with us. And we were also grateful to the Indiegogo contributors, most of them fellow filmmakers and closed friends, who helped to fund the third story. 

Julian Hee and Yeo Yann Yann

There seem to have been some changes from your original story treatment and casting, especially in the final story of Adam (Alaric Tay) and Momoko (Oon Shu Ann). Care to share more?

I think the biggest change to the last story is that Momoko somehow became a central figure. Momoko was just a side character in the first draft. I developed her character more after every rewrite. 

Shu Ann is a very talented actress. She and Alaric had acted in my telemovie ‘Love in a Cab’, and the two of them share a great chemistry, hence I developed and added more material to Shu Ann’s role, as I know she and Alaric will be exciting together.

How did you convince your cast to take part in this risque venture? Did anyone have to do the full monty on set? 

The actors I chose for this film were all actors with whom I have previously worked. The characters in the film were all tailor-made for the actors I have in mind. The characters played by Yann Yann, Shu Ann and Alaric must show some skin.

Before filming began, I have already shared with them how I am going to shoot those "risque" scenes, to give them peace of mind. For your info, Alaric went almost totally nude for his role.

Oon Shu Ann (right) stars as porn star Momoko

Do you think that the Singaporean audience can relate to and laugh at a locally made sex comedy?

I feel that people from different age groups can relate to different stories. Rubbers may have been rated R21, but I feel it is a movie that is suitable for many ages. I will encourage young adults to take their parents long to watch and laugh at the movie together.

Do you plan to take the movie overseas?

I am very optimistic. I hope Chinese audiences all over the world can have the chance to watch 'Rubbers', because the film is very easy to watch, even if some might not understand certain dialogue, they can still understand what the scene means and laugh at the ridiculous situational comedy. 

Any awkward moments during filming?

I think the most memorable moment happened when we were shooting the luminous condom scene. Initially, we planned to tie 10 large luminous sticks together to create the glowing effect of the luminous condom.

But it didn't work out, so we had to get someone to squat down and hold on to a big blue light right underneath Julian Hee wherever he went with the condom. 

‘Rubbers’ opens 30 April 2015

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