City Harvest Church’s TV Ministry breaks new ground with the production of its first short film.
The City Harvest Church TV Ministry has produced a short film for the very first time. Titled Who Cares?, the production also involved volunteers from other CHC ministries such as the Drama, Make-up and Photography ministries, as well as their family and friends.
Who Cares? is a remake of a 1998 film which was screened as part of the church’s Christian Education curriculum in the training of its leaders. As the original video was narrative-based and needed to be updated, the CHC TV Ministry decided to come up with a fresh concept which viewers could relate to.
Instead of a narrative approach, the team chose to dramatize the story based on the Caring System, a practical approach to evangelism espoused by CHC which involves meeting the needs of those around us through building relationships with them.
The team that spearheaded the project included director Renier Flores, producer Danielle Ho, assistant producer Joey Lim, production manager Lor Huiyun and art director Sunny Sun. Calling themselves Z4TEN STUDIOS, they were inspired by Zechariah 4:10 (NLT)—“Do not despise these small beginnings, for the LORD rejoices to see the work begin.” In the same vein, Z4TEN STUDIOS is starting small and stepping out, challenging itself to do different things with greater creativity.
Planning for the whole production was challenging, as there were many aspects to handle and finalize within a tight timeframe and budget. The crew and cast had to be assembled; the budget finalized; shoots needed to be coordinated and scheduled; locations had to be selected and equipment sourced.
For Ho, it was the first time she was involved as a producer of a short film and she found this to be a priceless experience.
“As a producer, it was a huge task trying to balance the creative and the practical. Ambitious and grandiose ideas, which we had loads of during our brainstorming sessions and even during filming, were really tempting, but could have jeopardized the schedule or budget,” she says.
Ho is very grateful for the huge favor the team received during the production. The weather was perfect during the two days of filming even though it had been raining every day in the lead up to the shoot. Many friends and family members supported the team in bringing the production to fruition. They loaned them equipment for free, opened their apartments for filming and availed their services wherever necessary. The volunteers had their own work on weekdays, but were absolutely committed and happily gave up their weekends to film the story.
“I believe it’s the first time—outside of Big Day (large-scale) productions in church—that so many different ministries came together and collaborated on the same project. Despite all the challenges and difficulties, we forged on ahead to see this project to fruition, because we shared the same dream and passion. In everything we did, we walked by faith and prayed to God that we didn’t miss out anything essential,” Ho says.
Since the film’s storyline is based in Singapore, shoot locations included HDB flats, basketball courts and Changi Beach. The storyline also required a rooftop scene, and finding a suitable location turned out to be more challenging than expected. The team drove around the whole island trying to find the perfect venue, and only managed to find a rooftop garden that offered a great view one day before filming was to start. When they went for the shoot, there was an elevated section offering a view which made the location even more perfect.
When filming a barbeque scene, the crew realized that the other pits in the location had been booked by two different groups of Filipinos. Since Flores is also a Filipino, an invitation was extended to them to join in the shoot and they happily took it up. Their participation definitely helped to build the atmosphere in that particular scene.
The main character in Who Cares? is Benny Chiam, played by Nelson Tong. He and his family go through a rough patch with the economic crisis and had to downsize. At about the same time, his daughter (played by Germaine Tan) gets caught for shoplifting and has to undergo Community Service Order. Nelson’s wife is played by a familiar face on the CHC stage, Shelia Ther. During this time, their new neighbors, Mr. Tan (played by Lee Kiam Hiong) and Mrs. Tan (played by Janet Kuah), initiate contact with the Chiam family and slowly reach out to them. Lionel Choong (winner of the Manhunt pageant in CGI-Asia Conference 2010) plays their son, Roger Tan.
In the film, Benny Chiam has two “alter-egos” that act out the different scenarios based on the choices he makes at different times, played by Gary Sim and Steven Tan.
For Nelson Tong, the lead actor in the production, it was his first time working with the TV Ministry and also his first time as the lead. “I really enjoyed myself and it was great working with the TV Ministry, witnessing their professionalism in all that they did. This is one project that the CHC Drama and TV Ministries actually worked together—it was a new collaborative experience that was very enriching. Hopefully, the TV Ministry will scale greater heights and do more productions to reach out to more people,” he says.
|PHOTOS COURTESY OF CHC TV MINISTRY|
The production also features other familiar faces on the CHC stage such as Bernard Loh, Esther Teo and George Kuruvilla. According to Ho, the seasoned actors took the initiative to rehearse and work through the scenes with some of the less experienced actors, and this helped to boost their performances.
Who Cares? is still in the midst of post-production and the team hopes to launch it for sale in mid-November. The DVD will come with extras like behind-the-scenes footage, which captures all the laughter and tears of the cast and crew, as well as interviews with them. The price of the DVD is yet to be determined, but sales proceeds will be channeled back into the production of more short films.
As there are no overt Christian references in Who Cares? the team will be combining this short film with an explanation of how the Caring System works, and how effective it is in reaching out to people. The production is aimed at becoming a useful CHC resource.
Flores says, “Z4TEN STUDIOS hopes to produce a repertoire of films in various genres that will show viewers how to apply the golden rule of loving others as oneself and God above all.”
Says Ho, “Through Z4TEN STUDIOS, we also want to extend opportunities to filmmaking enthusiasts or anyone interested in any aspect of the production, be it as actors, dancers, makeup artists, stylists, or crew for video, audio and lighting—to participate in upcoming projects.”