The cast of "Seventh" at the movie's recent press conference.
"Seventh" tells the story of Cannon and Mimi, who visit a haunted mansion in order to capture the ghosts in it on camera. Upon arrival, they find out the housekeeper has passed away and meet the grandson Yi, who will be keeping vigil during the 7-day wake. The trio start experiencing strange happenings in the house. The quarrelsome couple soon realize Yi is friends with the feared hantu susu named Ying.
The second movie to be directed by Ryon Lee, packs a number of touching messages, as is expected from the scriptwriter-director. Lee is one of the most successful local scriptwriters, well-known for his works such as "Nasi Lemak 2.0" and the high grossing "The Journey".
Once again Lee teams up with producer Aron Koh and actress Mindee Ong, who previously worked with him in his first film, "The Transcend". Also returning is Teddy Chin, a fast rising Malaysian star. Lee adds two silver screen newcomers to his cast, Taiwanese Gino and local theater actress Kim Thian.
Cinema Online had the chance to talk to the director, producer and cast of "Seventh" recently. The close-knit team talks to us about impromptu acting, an 'unromantic' kiss scene and strange happenings on the set of the film.
The close-knit cast of "Seventh".
What was your inspiration for this movie?
Ryon: My grandparents passed away and there was a time when I went through the wake alone. That's where I got the idea to write this movie.
What was the biggest challenge faced in producing this movie?
Ryon: This is my first time working with Gino. He's more used to working the Taiwanese way, but he had to adapt to the Malaysian way as he needed to act as a Malaysian. That was the challenge we faced. Mindee Ong had to act as a Malaysian too but it's a little easier for her as she is Singaporean, so she is quite familiar with the Malaysian style.
Had the actors faced any problems working with Ryon Lee?
Mindee: He tends to say "Okay" even when our performance was just mediocre. As much as the director wants to challenge us, we as actors want to challenge him as well. So when he says "Good take, okay", to us it means we could do better. We hope he would say his magic words, "Very good take". But he's stingy with it.
Is your requirement that high, Ryon?
Ryon: We're quite close to each other. Sometimes when I say "okay", it doesn't mean that it's just mediocre, I say it in jest.
When you cast the actors, what was your main concern? Why did you choose Gino, Mindee, Teddy and Kim?
Ryon: [Jokes] They look like Thai people. No, I'm kidding. It's because they're good in acting. I like their expressions, what they can show through their eyes.
Gino, Mindee, Teddy and Kim all played the main characters in "Seventh".
Kim and Teddy stood out in the film with their performance, were they intended to be the main characters as well?
Ryon: They are the main roles of the comedic arc, while Gino and Mindee are main roles of the romantic arc.
Kim is a newcomer, why did you choose her as one of the main characters?
Ryon: I think her Chinese pronunciation is very good, something that's rare in a Malaysian. She also has a unique look, she's very cute, like Doraemon. I think she has a potential to be a big screen actress.
Aron: She's from Chinese theater. This is her first time acting in a movie but our Taiwanese distributor praised her and said that she's very good.
Who are the NG (mistake) king and queen?
Ryon: Gino, he NG (made mistakes) for more than 20 times. It was our first day working together and he wasn't able to grasp my direction yet. I was so frustrated to the point that I even thought of changing the main actor as it was only the first day, there was still time to change. But he got better eventually.
Was there a day where Gino managed to film with just one take?
Gino: Maybe the last day? [laughs]
Was this the first time that you've acted for the big screen? Back in Taiwan, what kind of dramas did you work in?
Teddy: [jokes] Acting cool.
Aron: He was an emcee on a Taiwanese TV Station, he was in a TV drama too.
What's the difference between a movie and a TV series?
Gino: I think that for movies, the filming process is slower. We shot about 6 to 7 scenes per day compared to more than 20 scenes for a TV series. This gives me more chance to perfect my acting, to give my best. [Jokes] I can NG as many times as I want.
Which one is more fun to film, movie or series?
Gino: I think movies are more fun.
Is it because you get to have a kissing scene with Mindee in this film?
Gino: I actually asked for the kissing scene.
Gino and Mindee explaining about their 'unromantic romantic' kiss scene.
Why did you ask for a kiss scene?
Gino: Because she's pretty. [Laughs] No, no, it's because I wanted to show true love. Mindee has changed into a scary ghost but he kisses her anyway, that shows just how much he loves her and that he's willing to kiss her even when she's in that scary form.
What did you think about it Mindee?
Mindee: [To Gino] I think if you have told me earlier, I could've requested the director to replace you with a paper doll.
Any spark between you and Mindee during the kiss scene, Gino?
Gino: Of course...not!
Mindee: He's right. When we were filming the scene, we were hanging 2-stories high. There were a lot of technical aspects that we needed to take care of, like the height and the camera angle. What made the scene difficult was when the stuntmen pulled us up, we would be pulled apart. Yet we needed to stay close to each other so he can kiss me. Our legs were all tangled up. Gino would ask me to hug him tighter and I had to grip him so we stayed close. It was sort of a very 'unromantic romantic' kiss.
Is it hard for you to learn the song "Sayang-sayang"?
Gino: Yes, because it meant nothing to me. I didn't understand any word. It took me three days to remember every word and I tried to pronounce it well.
You were just memorising the words, you didn't know the meaning?
Gino: After I had learnt the song, either the director or Teddy told me the meaning.
Teddy and Kim portrayed Cannon and Mimi perfectly.
There's a lot of spontaneous acting (ad-lib) from Teddy and Kim that was not in the script. Which part was added in by you?
Teddy: [To Kim] I think all, right? We liked to challenge each other to NG. That hand throwing part, for example. That's one of the scene we did not expect to come out like that. I did not plan beforehand to do that to Kim. But she did well, she kept on with no NG.
Kim: For Teddy and me, our acting is more impromptu. We know the scene, we just improvised it. Every scene, every take, it's quite hard for the editors to piece together because we kept changing our acts. After four takes the director would stop us or we would keep on coming up with new acts.
Did anything spooky happen on the set of the movie?
Ryon: When we were shooting in the mansion, a friend from the media came to visit. When she was passing by the offering (to be burned for the deceased), she saw one of the paper dolls turn its head. When she blinked, the doll's head had returned to its original position.
Any last words you would like to share?
Aron: "Seventh" is not just for Chinese community. It's a movie for all Malaysians. I hope this movie can be seen as something that represents Malaysia. Some additional info, the movie will be showing locally from 16 October onwards, in Taiwan from 17 October onwards and in Singapore from 6 November onwards.
Cinema Online, 15 October 2014