They had wondered if it was too ambitious to ask a MediaCorp actor to star in their short film about a gangster who tries to turn over a new leaf.
After all, they were just a group of five graduating students from Temasek Polytechnic's Digital Film and Television course.
Director-scriptwriter Kee Swee San, 21, said: "The lead had to look both rugged and fatherly. (Local actor) Zheng Geping suited the role, but we didn't think it was possible that he would act for us."
Still, the group's editor Gavril Hing, 21, went ahead to message Zheng on Facebook in July last year - without expecting a reply. So when the hunky veteran did respond, the group was overjoyed.
Zheng, 50, revealed that he was drawn to the character in the film as he is "also very close" to his 18-year-old daughter.
He took up the lead role in Hero, commissioned by the Singapore Discovery Centre (SDC).
Set in 1979, the 22-minute film follows a single father's attempt to leave the secret society he is in and lead a normal life for his young daughter (played by child actress Isabel Yamada).
The film had its gala premiere last Tuesday at SDC, almost a year after the group reached out to Zheng. It will be screened from July 8 at SDC's iWERKS Theatre.
Zheng, who attended the event in a show of support, admitted he was impressed by Mr Hing's perseverance.
"He wrote many long messages to me, reminding me of myself when I was younger," said Zheng.
The group members said that they had not been able to pay the actor's usual rate and negotiated for a smaller sum.
Because Zheng was busy with MediaCorp projects, he could film only on three days - Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and New Year's Day.
When asked what it was like to work with amateurs, he said: "The students were full of passion and dared to try new things."
"Some around me asked me why I wanted to do the film."
"I've been in this industry for so many years, so I felt I needed to help give young talent a chance. It's my way of giving back to society."
This article was first published on June 11, 2014.
Get The New Paper for more stories.