It was a great thrill for the audience at Universiti Tunku Abdul Rahman (UTAR) Petaling Jaya Campus when they got up close with Singaporean celebrities Gurmit Singh and Mark Lee on 17 January 2013.
The two celebrities, together with director Kelvin Sng and cast member Gan Mei Yan, a local celebrity from My FM, were on a tour to promote their latest movie ‘Taxi! Taxi!’, which was due to be released in cinemas on 24 January 2013.
In the movie, a veteran taxi driver Ah Tau (acted by Lee) meets a science institute researcher Professor Chua (Gurmit) who is suddenly out of a job. Ah Tau manages to convince Chua to become a taxi driver and that is when the fun begins.
The audience cheered when Gan, the emcee for the day, introduced her team-mates, Gurmit, Lee and Sng, made their entrance. The crowd were further exhilarated when Gan teased Gurmit on his role as contractor Phua Chu Kang in a Singapore sitcom of the same name that had made him famous.
“Being in the film industry in Singapore and Malaysia is all about passion,” said Lee, explaining to the audience who were mainly UTAR Broadcasting, and Media and Creative Studies students. He added that the movie market in Malaysia and Singapore was much smaller than those of Hong Kong, Taiwan and China. So it would be foolish for local actors and producers to expect tens of millions of profit from a movie. Lee admitted that he would not make a good producer and he should focus on acting and directing.
“A good script is of utmost importance, and that the director must take full responsibility if a movie turns out to be a fiasco,” said Sng, explaining his role. He added that a producer’s job was to ensure the crew was on schedule and that money was spent wisely as the cost of production could vary between S$10,000 to S$15,000 daily. He concluded, “For every dollar spent, three dollars from the box office are required to break even.”
Gurmit said that Phua Chu Kang Pte Ltd first started off with a very low budget and did not have places for rehearsals that were conducive. But eventually and fortunately, the response was overwhelming. He advised that one must be flexible and prepared to do hard work to survive in the film industry.
“Filmmaking follows a domino effect where everybody must do their part in an orderly fashion, making everybody’s role just as important. That is why Lee and I always make it a point to thank the crew when we receive awards,” Gurmit concluded.
“The session has highly motivated our students as they now better understand the work culture of the film industry both on stage and behind the scenes,” said UTAR Media Department Head Luqman Lee, who organised the session.
The one-hour dialogue session ended with the students getting autographs from the celebrities.