His undying love for filmmaking brought Kelvin Sng on a journey from teacher to film director. Better known as a short film director through his collection of works nominated at film festivals, the Singaporean director is finally taking on new challenge with his first full-length feature film, "Taxi! Taxi!" that boasts veteran comedians Gurmit Singh and Mark Lee in the lead roles.
The experience gained throughout the making of his debut feature was also shared by Kelvin himself at the press conference of "Taxi! Taxi!".
Q: What made you decide to do a movie based on the book called "Diary Of A Taxi Driver"?
Kelvin Sng: I read the book and I really liked it. After discussing with the producers, we wanted to do a movie about the PhD holder-turned-taxi driver, but in a comedic way. That's why we casted Gurmit Singh and Mark Lee. I've always wanted to make a film on taxi drivers as well, because it's a very rare and unique profession. When people take a cab, it's like going through a confession session. The taxi driver is a total stranger to you but you can share your darkest secrets with him, knowing that you will never see him again. Throughout the journey, your life and his are bound together, so if anything happens, you only have each other. It's a very unique kind of relationship, which got me into thinking: Why not make a movie about taxi drivers?
Q: How much did you draw from the book, if anything at all?
Sng: Nothing, actually. We just used the concept of a PhD holder facing a major change in his life that forces him to become a taxi driver. That's how much we took from the book. None of the stories were taken but instead, they were merely used as an inspiration.
Q: Has it been decided from the beginning that Mark and Gurmit will be chosen for the roles?
Sng: Yes. Even the roles were tailored for them.
Q: Why is Gurmit's character the only one speaking English in the film? Is it because he can't speak Chinese language or was that intentional?
Sng: As a director, the most important thing is the actor himself must be comfortable. I don't want to force him to go Chinese language lessons which will take months because whatever comes out of it might be very unnatural. I think it makes perfect sense for a PhD holder to speak good English and it also brings out the essence of Gurmit's performance as the character.
Q: How did Dr. Jia Jia get involved?
Sng: Jia Jia's a YouTube sensation and the producer and I have seen some of his videos. We thought it would be good to have the character of a five-year-old boy. He's a natural and doesn't try too hard. A lot of the audience went to the cinema to support him, especially when he established a relationship with Mark on set.
Q: How difficult was it to work with a child actor?
Sng: It wasn't easy in the beginning because he has never acted before. So, initially, his eyes were always wandering around, curious with all the cameras and lighting around him. After a few repetitions, he finally got it and changed his habits and it was such a joy to work with him because he never cried, despite the tiring and time-consuming work. He always listened to my instructions too.
Q: Who wrote the movie soundtrack and why did you choose Gurmit, Mark and Jia Jia to sing instead of real singers?
Sng: Since it's a comedy film, we don't want the song to sound too serious and Gurmit can sing pretty well. We don't want to hire a third party to sing it and change the entire direction and feel of the lyrics.
Q: Since "Taxi! Taxi!" is your first full-length feature film, is there going to be any new film coming out anytime soon?
Sng: Well, there are several projects that I have in mind at the moment, but they're still in the development process. There's no name given for any of my upcoming work yet, but I'll definitely make an announcement about them in the next couple of months.
Q: Thank you Kelvin for your time!
Sng: You're welcome!