SINI ADA HANTU: James Lee & Pete Teo

SINI ADA HANTU: James Lee & Pete Teo

Interview conducted on the final shooting day for director James Lee's horror "Sini Ada Hantu" on 4 May 2010 at Sea Park, Petaling Jaya.

(L-R) Actors Pui Heng, Pete Teo, Pui Kong and Daniel Wong with director James Lee (centre) on the last day of shooting "Sini Ada Hantu".

JAMES LEE (Director)

Q: You seem very interested in horror movies. What made you decide to do another one after "Histeria"?

A: I think it has the potential to be explored in our local film industry because the ideas for ghost stories are unlimited. Moreover, Malaysia has a good mixture of race and culture, where each of them has their own version of ghosts. So for this, I'd like to fit all of them into one! (laughs)

Q: How many ghosts will you be featuring?
A: This is a really good offer; there are four ghosts in one movie. So it's about RM2.50 per ghost, because on average a ticket costs RM10! (laughs). For the Malay legend, there's the Banana Tree Ghost - many people have heard of this before, but not many people have made it into a movie. The Chinese segment, we have a ghost that involves men going up into the cemetery to pray for numbers. The third is a Japanese ghost in a school hostel, where students would normally see these spirits marching. And the finale is an Indian ghost that haunts the main two protagonists - drivers who are supposed to be real time characters as the other three ghost stories are told by them.

Q: So tell us, what you're shooting right now?
A: We just finished three scenes that are set in the garage of one of the characters. Basically, they're about to kill a dog to get blood for the ritual when they go to the cemetery to kind of force the ghost out so they can ask for numbers.

Q: How different is this compared to your previous horror flicks?
A: The major difference is that you will see a real Malaysian movie because we have actors and actresses of different race coming into this. I'm always surprised that local audiences, no matter Chinese or Malay, they would buy tickets to a Thai horror film because it's scarier. But then, there are a lot of Malay horror films but the Chinese don't go and watch it.

Q: Then again, there are more Malay horror comedies than purely just horror.
A: Quite true. But I hope to get the local audience, no matter their race or background, to watch it like a true Malaysian horror film. In fact, I think a lot of people understand Bahasa Malaysia and there's one segment in Chinese. So I hope there won't be a barrier because in Thai and Korean films, audiences would still watch it given as there are subtitles.

Q: How did you select your whole team of cast members?
A: Based on what I've seen them in and what they've done before. I've worked with some before and in fact, most of them are established in the Chinese and Malay TV industry. People might find me weird to not cast big stars, which I think is counter-productive sometimes when you spend so much on stars. I prefer good actors, those who suits, looks and can play the role, rather than good looking or because they've got big names.

Q: When can we expect this movie in cinemas?
A: I believe Tayangan Unggul is planning for an August 2010 release, but seeing as it is Puasa month, we might have to postpone it to the end of the year. Initially, August was the aim because it's during the Hungry Ghost Festival.

Q: What's your next movie project?
A: My next one is a horror comedy called "Awek Aku Pontianak" ("My Girlfriend Is A Vampire") and we're going to shoot next week.

Q: How long will the shooting take place?
A: 25 days - bigger production, bigger scale. For "Sini Ada Hantu", we shoot for 15 days and it's considered low budget production.

Q: Yea, box office hit films can be of low budget movies too like "Paranormal Activity".
A: Yeah, that's what I feel like doing these days because there's no point you spend a lot of money and then you have to go against "Avatar" (laughs). So I prefer to work in low budget as I've got more creative control.

Q: Given the low budget, what are your difficulties? Or do you love the challenge?
A: I love the challenge but it's a myth that when you've got more budget, there'll be less problems. I feel the bigger the budget, the lesser the director have control on the film because you'll get more people involved as you're dealing with a huge budget. Now when I'm shooting this, I'm very free but I still have to deal with the producers and investors. They still give comments but they do not disturb my shoot because it's not a few-million-dollar-production that they're worried of every night. It's like 'kacang putih' like that, so they're like "Okay, let him just do it".

Q: What's your budget for this movie? Any CGI involved in this?
A: The budget is about half of a million ringgit and there's no CGI. I don't enjoy working with CGI at this moment because I think it defeats the purpose of filmmaking. Whatever I imagined, I could do it. Like when I did "Histeria", I kind of avoided CGI because I was inspired by the 80's American horror films like "Evil Dead", "Days Of The Living Dead", and "Friday The 13th". That was all before CGI, and the people are in suits and costumes. I want to make films like that, before I venture into CGI.

Q: Which is your favourite ghost in the film? Or which would you think the audience would look most forward to?
A: I think all four of them because I've never shot so many ghosts in my life before! For "Histeria" it's more of a monster creature like a werewolf or a swamp thing, but this is more spiritual.


PETE TEO (Actor)

Q: Tell us about your character.

A: I play a gambler who's on the run from the loan sharks. He's pretty much in debt, so he and friends ended up going to a cemetery to pray for numbers and that's when all the spooky stuff begins to happen.

Q: What language do you speak in this?
A: I speak Cantonese and a bit of Hakka.

Q: How long did you have to shoot?
A: 5 days. My runtime in this movie is about 20-30 minutes. So it wasn't tough to film this for me. In fact, it was quite enjoyable.

Q: What's your favourite scene?
A: Best part was when I'm bashed up by a group of thugs with swords and baseball bats. It was fun going through the training of trying to avoid getting hit, but eventually, I did get a few cuts and bruises on my hands and legs which have all healed by now. The guys even had training trying to get a hit at me, so it was all good (laughs)

Q: How's it like working with James Lee?
A: It's always good working with him. When I got the script, I simply agreed to it without reading it because honestly, his scripts are awful! But then he has that magic on set, where he manages to turn it around, and he does this time and time again. It's a talent.

Q: Upcoming projects?

A: I'll be shooting a gangster flick with the same director (James Lee) in August called "The Collector". Other than that, I'll be working on my next record, following up with 15Malaysia, and I might head to Paris in August to film a French movie even though I don't know any French! But nothing is confirmed at the moment. The cast are a bunch of real crack addicts and I'll be playing an Asian drug pusher in Paris. My dialogue is limited in this one, but the role is quite hefty. Come to think of it, I'm always playing the bad guy. But then again, I like to play a more rounded character because if he's entirely evil, then that would just make the character too predictable.

Q: Will you be contributing any songs to this movie?
A: Oddly enough, no. Come to think of it, James never asked me do so such things. (laughs)

"Sini Ada Hantu" is scheduled to release end of 2010!

Related Movies:
Sini Ada Hantu (Malay) (10 Feb 2011)

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