Singapore's popular YouTube star Tan Jian Hao will be the lead actor in a short film on Singlish next year.
Jian Hao, 21, will star in Lingo Lingo, Where You Go as a man who wakes up from a 10-year coma to a world of unfamiliar terms and phrases.
He is known for writing, producing and starring in short, humorous video clips about teenage life on his YouTube channel, which has close to 240,000 subscribers.
What started out as a hobby in 2011 has turned into a full-time career for Jian Hao, who makes money from advertisements and branded content. He recently also started his own production studio.
Singapore director Jack Neo, who helms J Team Productions, will be the executive producer for Lingo, while its director and screenwriter is J Team producer Shawn Tan, 26.
Tan has worked on movies such as the Ah Boys To Men series, a box-office hit, and Neo will be mentoring him for the project.
Says Tan: "I wanted to make something about language because it's something close to our hearts. It is interesting how languages in Singapore have changed over the years and how that has affected our identity."
The movie is partially financed by the irememberSG fund under the Singapore Memory Project, which disburses up to $50,000 in funds for each project.
Other funded projects include a book and exhibition tracing the history of coolie migrants, and a documentary exploring Singapore's changing landscape through the eyes of taxi drivers.
A spokesman for Singapore Memory Project was unable to disclose how much was given, but SundayLife! understands that the film, estimated to cost close to $100,000 to make, received the maximum grant available.
The decision to cast Jian Hao was not only due to his widespread popularity on social media, says Tan, who first worked with him in the 2013 comedy Everybody's Business.
Tan says: "Jian Hao and I had good chemistry working together then and he's a good friend too."
The reel plot is also coincidentally a parallel of Jian Hao's real life.
He lived overseas from age eight to 18 as his father, a diplomat, was posted to work in Vietnam.
He says: "I spent 10 years at an international school where I had to adopt an American accent to be understood. When I returned to Singapore, I couldn't understand some of the slang that people were using, kind of like what happens to my character."
The film aims to cast "Singaporean personalities" in various roles, says Tan. Some who have expressed interest in taking part include comedienne Irene Ang, getai veteran Wang Lei, as well as YouTube comedy duo Maimunah Bagharib and Hirzi Zulkiflie.
Both Tan and Jian Hao are confident of delivering on this project despite their relative lack of experience.
"The pressure's definitely there but I'm excited about it. I'll need to be more careful and get my lines right. It's not like my videos, where I just write bullet points for my script or improvise," says Jian Hao.
Tan adds: "It's stressful being in the media spotlight but this is, in a way, our birthday gift to Singapore, so we'll do our best to make it an enjoyable one."
The Lingo team is looking for actors. Those who are interested can check out its Facebook page (facebook.com/LingoLingoWhereYouGo) for more information.
This article was first published on Nov 9, 2014.
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