Why local filmmaker Royston Tan had to direct his latest drama in secret

2 September 2016 / 8 months 4 weeks ago

Tracy Low
The New Paper
Sep 2, 2016

With evident relief, local film-maker Royston Tan said he can now sleep peacefully after being officially revealed as the director of Eat Already?, a TV drama filmed mainly in Hokkien.

He first hinted at it in an interview with The New Paper in May, saying: "I have a big 'naughty' project coming up... It will be out in a few months' time and it is going to be historic."

In July, Chinese daily Lianhe Wanbao reported on the filming of an attempted suicide scene involving local actor Elvin Ng's character on the set of Eat Already?

Both instances, Tan received "reminders" from the Ministry of Communications and Information (MCI), which had collaborated with Mediacorp for the drama, to keep it a secret.

Read also: Royston Tan draws on memories living in kampung for new telemovie

News of the drama was embargoed until yesterday, and the 39-year-old looked flustered when asked about getting into trouble after it was almost leaked to the public.

At yesterday's press conference for the drama, Tan told TNP: "MCI was quite cool about (the leak), they said to wait for the filming of the drama to be completed before the minister (for MCI) can announce everything to the media."

After successfully working on last year's Pioneer Generation Package campaign video, which was filmed in Teochew, Hokkien and Cantonese, Tan and ad agency Tribal Worldwide Singapore were approached by MCI to direct Eat Already?


With 10 half-hour episodes, the drama aims to educate senior citizens on government policies.

According to Tan, it was 90 per cent filmed in Hokkien and 10 per cent in Teochew.

Also starring Li Yinzhu,Wang Lei, Marcus Chin, Aileen Tan and Brandon Wong, Eat Already? is built around themes of healthy eating, active ageing and lifelong learning.

ACTING: Eat Already? will also star Li Yinzhu (middle) and Aileen Tan (right).

It will premiere on Sept 9 at 12pm on Channel 8 and will be broadcast weekly.

Tan, who feels "very honoured" at being given the opportunity, said: "I have always wanted to direct something in Hokkien.

"Being the first director to do a dialect TV drama after so many years of not seeing one on TV, it was definitely a breakthrough for me.

"There are a few things I really value, and one of them is the older generation. I always feel sad when I hear stories, such as a grandmother telling me that they cannot communicate with the younger generation because they do not understand each other.

"With this new dialect TV drama, I feel that it will open up a little door between the two generations."

Tan, who also feels that the drama would have been "beneficial and familiar" to his late grandmother, hopes that TV dramas in more dialects can be made.

"Singapore is multi-cultural and there are so many languages in our country - hopefully this can showcase different voices (on TV)," said Tan.

Eat Already? is his first attempt at directing a TV drama. He described the experience as "very tough".

He said: "For TV shows, the pace is very fast and actors have different schedules. They might have other shows to film as well.

"Whereas for films, I will have enough time to craft the entire thing and do workshops to develop the characters."

Read more: Elvin Ng had to learn Hokkien in his role as an 'Ah Beng'

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