Why Bryan Wong spent almost S$10,000 of his own money on his directorial debut

This sum comes even after longtime showbiz friends made unpaid cameos

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Photos: Bryan Wong

Bryan Wong’s directorial debut, The Playbook, is the only Fresh Takes! telemovie to have an hour-long run time.

Fresh Takes! is a Mediacorp initiative promotes new talent in the local entertainment industry - be it in acting, directing, or scriptwriting. Other first-time actor directors include Romeo Tan, Shane Pow, Priscelia Chan, Joanne Peh and Ian Fang.

So why was The Playbook singled out to get double the 30 minutes that everyone else has?

“Well, when I first heard about this project, I pitched a couple of ideas to them,” Bryan said during the March 1 Fresh Takes! press conference as cast members Ayden Sng and Sheila Sim listened on. “I told them that out of all the stories, I wanted to do this the most, but I wouldn’t be able to do it justice in 30 minutes. Basically, I couldn’t make my characters fall in love in this short period of time.”

After many meetings with the production team, along with other storylines he suggested that are probably not suitable for this family-friendly site, Bryan got the go-ahead for his drama to be extended to a full hour.

With a mock sigh, he added, “But even then, there were so many things we couldn’t do.”

Such as?

“We really needed to have a presidential suite,” he deadpanned.

Bryan explained, “Sheila’s character is supposed to be rich – filthy rich – and we can’t have her looking like she’s not. Her meeting with Ayden’s character is supposed to be in a very neutral environment, so we couldn’t use a super luxurious house either. It had to be in a hotel, and since she’s rich, that means she needed to be in the presidential suite.”

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Plus, he continued, he needed the baby grand piano that the suite had, although he teased that we’ll have to watch The Playbook to find out exactly why. O-kay.

Needless to say, the production budget wasn’t quite enough for them to make this happen, but Bryan, undeterred, paid for the suite out of his own pocket. He stopped short of revealing the exact amount that he spent, and would only say that he spent “close to five figures” making his sure that he got his presidential suite.

Thankfully, he was saved from having to fork out even more money on artiste fees as his close friends and colleagues, including Kym Ng, Quan Yi Fong, Xiang Yun and Zhu Houren, agreed to making "friendship appearances" (as how Bryan literally translated 友谊客串), also known as unpaid cameos, on the film.

Despite his fastidiousness and attention to detail, Bryan was a nurturing, encouraging director on set.

“There are some things and lingo that only actors know, and Bryan, being an actor, was able to communicate with us very effectively, even though at times, the other crew members had no idea what we were saying!” Sheila chuckled.

Ayden, being the newest kid on the block, also spoke highly of his crew and cast members, sharing that despite his lack of experience, the confidence that everyone else had in him helped him to perform.

The good looker moved back to Singapore less than a year ago after graduating from Duke University (yes, that Duke University) and this is his first leading role with The Playbook. Prior to this, his only other TV appearance was on Walk With Me, in which he played a minor role opposite He Ying Ying.

For those of you wondering who this fresh face is, you’re not the only one.

Bryan let on that while he was doing post-production work on The Playbook, he received plenty of, ‘Eh, who’s that?’ from other Mediacorp staff as they peeked at his screen.

He laughed, “Whenever I heard that, I would just show Ayden off as the sweet young thing (小鲜肉) that they should be paying attention to! I told him that he doesn’t need to be paiseh (embarrassed) about it, because he should be proud of being able to call himself a sweet young thing for now. This title isn’t going to last very long, and he’ll end up being called waxed meat (老腊肉) sooner or later.”

Watch The Playbook on Toggle.

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