by Cherie Silvera, Producer
When I was assigned the Singapore location, my first reaction was a little disappointment. I knew very little about Singapore, but I had heard it was a crime free place full of rigid rules, sparkly new and clean….a shoppers’ paradise. Wha’?! Not my cuppa tea. How are we going to make this interesting? Ajax Cleanser with a twist of JC Penny’s? Would we find any soul or an underbelly to spice up this story? Well….as with many things in life, just look past the obvious, embrace the weirdness, and love it for what it is.
Turns out that the soulfulness of Singapore isn’t in the churches, temples and mosques, or in its indie music scene, or the brand new sky scrapers that seem to pop up daily. The spirituality of this place is found in the omnipresent religion of food – a super diverse population with origins from the far corners of Asia and beyond, and they are all united by this crazy food obsession. Google ANY tiny 8×10 foot hawker stall, and you’ll find hordes of patrons blog-bickering about the pro’s and cons of the dishes. My impression…Singaporeans = urban yuppie foodies morphed with cyber blogger nerds. Eh?
As for the more law-straddling element that gives any flourishing society its depth and character… look no further than the pseudo legal prostitution scene.
We were hoping to shoot a scene at Orchard Towers, aka the infamous “Four Floors of Whores”, and off we went to scout it first. Tom, a Singapore shoot veteran, led the production team into this office-tower-by-day and den-of-weirdness at night. As darkness falls, each floor of this office/mall structure reinvents itself into a shady ladies-of-the-night club scene, whilst we were led into a fourth-floor bar where the tranny action was in full swing. The dancing and fashion parade were plenty entertaining, even for a Monday night. Nonetheless, it IS Singapore… and though these establishments are legally tolerated, being allowed to film in them was another can of worms.
Eventually we drove into the lively red light district of Geylang. We had hoped to capture the local street color, showing there is more to Singapore than just shopping malls and eating malls. It was 1am, hookers and johns checking each other out against a backdrop of brothels lining the lorong streets — indicated by not-so-subtle neon signs such as “Happy Hotel”. Ironically, when we finally found this darker seedy side of Singapore, lurking beneath its shiny surface, we were unprepared to film it. Leaving the safety of the production van was a bit creepy… Zach and Shirai claimed the need to protect their pricey camera’s from aggro pimps. And shooting out of the van windows was forbidden by our driver, who feared his doors would be kicked in if we filmed the wrong dudes. Nonetheless, we did find that underbelly…. every city has one, even ‘perfect’ Singapore.
Anyhow, I’m glad I was assigned to Singapore. It was quite delicious AND interesting.