Zheng Geping is not his usual self today. The veteran actor, usually all wide smiles and casual vibes, wears a grimmer expression at the lensing ceremony of Ch 8’s new dialect drama How Are You?. And we totally understand why. After 31 years as an actor, the veteran star decided to add the role of executive producer into his already illustrious resume . His next project will be the 16-ep drama, which stars Chen Liping, Romeo Tan, Ya Hui and Sheila Sim. This will be Geping’s second time taking on producer duties after Toggle drama Close Your Eyes, and his first TV drama as EP. And it’s clear that he means business in his new role. For those who are thinking “What exactly is his job ah?”, we’re glad you asked. 

#1: He makes casting decisions.  
“For the Pioneer and Merdeka Generation artistes, speaking in dialect isn’t a problem. But for the young generation, only a handful of them can speak dialect. And we have to get the right ones. It wasn’t easy to get hold of Romeo, Sheila and Ya Hui. But they have at least some foundation in dialect. So even when they had other projects, I said that I’d wait for them.”

#2: He enlists dialect coaches. 
“If I were to get dialect newsreaders from radio stations, their way of speaking would be too cheem. So I thought, ‘Why not get Chen Shucheng da ge who’s very good in Teochew and Qianyi da ge who’s fluent in Hokkien?’ Luckily, we also had Ru Ping jie on board as a consultant. So if a cast member is unsure of how to say their lines, they’ll snap a photo of their script and send it to one of the teachers who will then record a voice note for them. Our script reading is very exciting! There’s a lot of laughter. Sometimes, the things the cast members say sound like vulgarities! (Laughs) I am very touched that the three consultants and all the artistes really put in tremendous effort during the script reading. Usually, after the script-reading, everyone goes home. But they didn’t want to go back, you know. They stayed back to practise and practise again.” 

#3: He chooses the crew.  
“Building a team is not easy. I wanted the best directors. And I’m lucky enough to have very experienced directors. This is a very big drama. We have many messages [about social issues] to incorporate into our script and we have to let it blend in so naturally that it won’t come across as hard-sell. What I want is a director who can convey the messages as simply and accurately as possible to the viewers. We also need a very good cameraman who can work very fast. I don’t want to see many NGs ’cos the second take might not be as good as the first."

#4: He also does many other miscellaneous tasks. 
“We also need to work on music and sound effects, colour correction, digital services, promo, a lot. I also have to take care of the budget. Keep the costs low, and not anyhow spend. It’s tough, but I enjoy communicating with the different departments. And as an EP, I also need to encourage and motivate them. As an artiste, once filming wraps, that’s it. But for this, when production ends in November, I have to start working on post-production.”

PHOTOS: EALBERT HO 

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