Actor Tay Ping Hui is ready to wear a new hat.Rather, he is upgrading to a bigger one as he will be making his directorial debut feature after he helmed a 14-minute pilot for television, Brothers, which aired on Channel U last October. The movie, Meeting The Giant, is a Singapore-China co-production sports drama.At a contract-signing ceremony for the project on Monday, Tay, 42, was his usual calm and collected self.He said: "Everyone keeps mentioning the fact that I'm a newbie director and how I'm sure to deliver and each time they say that, the pressure doubles."Executive producer Lim Teck, managing director of local film distributor and producer Clover Films, admitted that he did have some initial doubts about Tay as director.But he came to this conclusion after talking to the actor: "Some actors want to be directors out of vanity but there was no trace of that with him."Meeting The Giant is about the clash of cultures that results when young basketball players from China come to Singapore and train alongside local players.The film, with a $1.5-million budget, is slated for release in both Singapore and China in the second quarter of next year.The story comes from actor Zhu Houren, who has been kicking around the idea for a decade and approached Tay to direct it. His, production house G & J Creation is a producer of the film and its previous credits include the cancer drama Love Cuts (2010). That was penned by writer-emcee Danny Yeo, who also wrote the script for Giant.When it comes to basketball, the biggest Asian star would have to be China's Yao Ming. The ex-Houston Rockets player, who retired in 2011, was the idol of every Chinese basketball player "from those 1.2m to 2.1m in height", notes Zhu, 58, who also plays the game himself. The movie may star unknown actors.Auditions for key roles will be held on Saturday.In fact, the original proposed title for the film was Meeting Yao Ming. The producers have yet to get the okay to use the star player's name, though they are currently trying to contact Yao's representatives.The association with Yao was one of the reasons Tay was drawn to the project.Besides the fact that he enjoyed watching Yao play, the game is close to his heart.He reveals that in Secondary 1 and 2, he was "quite fat", and would be picked last for games. Spurred to do better, he was later often the first to be picked in Sec 3 and 4.To get into the groove for the project, Tay intends to watch basketball movies such as Coach Carter (2005), starring Samuel L. Jackson, and The Basketball Diaries (1995) with Leonardo, DiCaprio.Perhaps in a swipe at films such as singer-actor Jay Chou's Kung Fu Dunk (2008), he notes: "I want to make a realistic basketball film and not a manga-type movie.I don't like blockbuster flicks so I want to make something with a cosy feel, but with high production values."The movie might be cosy in feel but the producers are hoping it will be regional in appeal. China-based Stellar Megamedia International is an executive producer and the entertainment company has more than 60 cinema halls in the mainland. Its film credits include martial arts flick Wu Xia (2011) and romance musical Perhaps Love (2005).Mr Roger Lee, chief executive of Stellar Megamedia International Singapore, notes that China's burgeoning middle class is now about 300-million strong.The movie's subject matter could well resonate with this big audience.He points out: "They like to see how others from China are faring overseas.How do others see them? How do they themselves view the rest of the world? So the potential is huge for this film."