Making a Singaporean science fiction show: JAYLEY WOO and THOMAS PANG talk about Glitch!

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On November 1st, Toggle released a new Toggle Originals series GLITCH!, a 4 x 30 minute science fiction show. It stars Jayley Woo (Chloe Ling), Thomas Pang (Jake Lai), Alan Wong (Alpha), Nicole Changmin (Meredith), Aaron Khoo, Kishan J, and Lucas Lim (The Cure). An ensemble piece in every meaning of the word, the show was produced by Big 3 Media, Invisible Studios, with visual effect work by CraveFX.

As the scriptwriter and co-creator of Glitch!, the show set out to be a unique science fiction drama centred on Singapore’s near future, artificial intelligence, gaming, and virtual reality. Featuring an off-kilter yet immersive world, as well as bar-lifting visual effects, the drama strived to do “local” science fiction right—from the special effects, costumes, art design, as well as an emotional story. It also aspired to be unlike anything else on television. Here’s the official synopsis:

“GLITCH ! “ follows Chloe Ling, who after the death of her mother, immerses herself in virtual-reality gaming through an advanced device called Deep-Lace. But when her favourite first-person shooter game glitches, it inexplicably unleashes a ruthless game boss that hunts her in the real world. Faced with treachery and danger, Chloe must rally her gaming friends, a coder from her past, and a non-playable character (NPC) to destroy the game before it puts the fate of Singapore at risk.
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 Unicorns + Legendary Loot = ?

Unicorns + Legendary Loot = ?

 Mengchee Chiang (Director of Photography), Nicholas Lo (Director),  Roy Paulinus  (Assistant Director) and Chong Shijie (VFX advisor, CraveFX) discussing a challenging shot.

Mengchee Chiang (Director of Photography), Nicholas Lo (Director), Roy Paulinus (Assistant Director) and Chong Shijie (VFX advisor, CraveFX) discussing a challenging shot.

A massive collaboration between different production companies, individual artists and technical crews, Glitch! turned out to be one of the premiere creative experiences of my life. I was privileged enough to work with some truly genius-level creative people, as well as a host of actors, camera teams, art teams, visual effect artists and sound designers that brought fresh and exciting ideas to the show.

And this made Glitch! into something beyond anything we first envisioned. The following article will showcase some never-before-seen set images, concepts, and design elements from the making of the show, as well as an exclusive interview with two of the show’s cast.

 Alan Wong, as Alpha. One of several green screen shoots using onset lighting to integrate with the VFX later.

Alan Wong, as Alpha. One of several green screen shoots using onset lighting to integrate with the VFX later.

 Adyznn, Glitch!’s production designer, created a detailed plane ticket for an important scene with Jake. Although not shown onscreen, it was a prop for the actor.

Adyznn, Glitch!’s production designer, created a detailed plane ticket for an important scene with Jake. Although not shown onscreen, it was a prop for the actor.

 An early design for ‘Deep-Lace’, the augmented reality device that launches players’ minds into games and projects holograms.

An early design for ‘Deep-Lace’, the augmented reality device that launches players’ minds into games and projects holograms.

 UXM (Urban Extreme Monkeys) - the stunt team - preparing for an action scene early in the series.

UXM (Urban Extreme Monkeys) - the stunt team - preparing for an action scene early in the series.

 A render of The Cure’s cyborg minion completed by CraveFX.

A render of The Cure’s cyborg minion completed by CraveFX.

Now, it’s not easy making a science fiction show. From the world building to the production design and technical visual effects, it’s a huge undertaking. Singapore’s media industry is not the United States or the United Kingdom. We don’t have exorbitant budgets or time to pull off month long shoots for a single scene. However, what we did do is work tirelessly to make Glitch! unique, grounded, emotional and a local television experience that’s unlike anything else. For this reason, I decided to talk to two immensely talented artists that I came to know during its making.

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Jayley Woo Jiaqi, a successful television actress, model, blogger and prolific gamer herself, played the challenging role of Chloe Ling. From the first audition, Jayley brought a mixture of stoic resolve, fiery determination, and a submerged sense of loss that we were all impressed by. This is her first role in English, with her other roles in Mandarin.

As I got to know her, I was honestly blown-away by the dedication and appreciation Jayley had for the script. To her, the story of Chloe, her gaming addiction, and her quest to find meaning after her mother’s death, was everything.

She also showcased her action chops by fighting, leaping and punching her way through one VFX scene to another — all without a single complaint!

Jayley poured herself into Chloe Ling, candidly sharing her personal experiences, fears and triumphs. There were no days off, no diva-ness. Everyday she came with an infectious energy and professionalism that I truly respected.

And she brought the character of Chloe Ling to a whole new level, making it her own.

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Thomas Pang played Jake Lai. A successful theatre-trained actor, Thomas is no stranger to the stage or challenging roles. For Glitch!, he had to embody the mindset and demeanour of a tech genius and creator of an AI-driven virtual-reality game.

Jake was an equally challenging role. Not only did Thomas have to be believable as a Mark Zuckerberg-esque technopreneur, but showcase a range of subtle and nuanced emotions, the mysterious reasons of which are revealed in the series later on.

Jake is also involved in a climactic fight scene that required him to use a sword, leap, dodge, roll, and utilise an adept sense of physicality that not many actors possess. Again, I was floored by the professionalism and creativity he brought to the role as well.

So I decided to try and get inside both Jayley and Thomas’s head - not just asking about on their experiences with Glitch!, but the varied acting experiences they’ve had in their lives.

Q) Tell us about your background and how you started your acting career? 

Jayley: Honestly, the way I entered the media industry was through blogging. I didn't have many friends, and I was a victim of bullying back in secondary school, so I turned to my blog as an outlet. By some miracle, I started gaining some followers and it sparked a thought in me to start chasing my dreams. From being unpopular in school to actually having readers as fans. Nothing was impossible. So I did. I went to auditions for a few singing and dancing roles, got to the top in a few. Sometimes I felt defeated; the “top” seemed very far away. Soon, I got into a modelling competition and was chosen. I got into the top few once again, only this time I signed a talent contract. The rest is history.

Thomas: I first wanted to be an actor when I was 7. Before that I loved playing make-believe so I guess I just never wanted to make the transition out of my imagination. I've been training as an actor for about 15 years, 8 of which have been in intensive ensemble environments with varying emphases on classical, traditional, and contemporary methods. I've kind of just said yes to as many projects as I can, and allowed each job to be the journey.

 Concept art for an early visualisation of an attack on Chloe. Artwork by AK (Poh Zi Qun).

Concept art for an early visualisation of an attack on Chloe. Artwork by AK (Poh Zi Qun).

Q) Tell us about your experience with Glitch! Have you acted in a sci-fi project before?

Jayley: Glitch! is definitely my first sci-fi project. I loved every moment of it. From script reads to rehearsals to actual shoots, it was the first time I felt that I've really worked so hard for role. I'll be totally satisfied with whatever is the end result. I feel like we all made it worth it.

Thomas: I've never acted in a sci-fi action project before. But the first film I ever did was with my friend in middle school. I was this guy who had just woken up from a dream and ended up chopping his own arm off with a meat-cleaver. We used leftover chicken parts from this really nice butcher guy at a local supermarket. It was pretty gruesome. 

 Beside the actor, the rest of the ‘Server Room’ scene was shot on a green screen and totally designed in Cinema 4D and Octane.

Beside the actor, the rest of the ‘Server Room’ scene was shot on a green screen and totally designed in Cinema 4D and Octane.

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 The Cure (Lucas Lim), a psychotic game “boss”, makes his first appearance in the real world to hunt down Chloe.

The Cure (Lucas Lim), a psychotic game “boss”, makes his first appearance in the real world to hunt down Chloe.

Q) How different was the process compared to work you’ve done in the past? (eg. Theatre, local television dramas) 

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Jayley: The difference was that I actually auditioned for it. And when I got the audition script, I knew I had to be Chloe Ling. It was everything I've ever wanted in a story. I'm an avid gamer; I used to be ashamed to admit it. But I'm actually pretty good at it. I love that the story came from a female perspective, and I was so honoured to be able to help in whatever I can to make Chloe real. The script, my God, the script is everything. Some days I wake up feeling like it's all a dream. Like I've just been dreaming about filming a genre and a topic like this! But it actually happened. JAYLEY SCORESSSSS.

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Thomas: I think the biggest hurdle was the language. One of my favourite parts about being an actor is getting to wrap your mouth around other people's words, what your character says, and the lingo here was definitely part of that. You know? I'd never say, "Sorry I'm late, had to get this jump mechanic right" and yet I have had to say "Sorry I'm late" often… so bridging the gap between the part I know and what I don't and making the latter sound like I've been saying it my whole life is always a cool challenge. Like how did or does Patrick Stewart command The Enterprise. Or how does Sir Ian get behind all the lingo and the seriousness of Lord of the Rings’ jargon. Does he do a detailed backstory or is he just... there. Immediately. Hahahaha (see Extras) 

 An early imaging and camera test of Jayley in costume.

An early imaging and camera test of Jayley in costume.

Q) Tell us about your character and how you prepared for the role? Did you connect personally with the character in any way? 

Jayley: I actually went for speech classes and requested for more rehearsals. I also wanted more stunt practice. I still feel like I didn't do enough sometimes.

I definitely felt a connection to Chloe Ling, too. Which is why I hope for a second season and more. :)

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Thomas: I watched a lot of movies for reference, and read a bunch of articles on Silicon Valley, predominantly Steve Jobs and Mark Zuckerberg. I'm not shy when it comes to interpretation or originality. There's not a single thing that can be done that hasn't, so I'm a huge thief. I steal and copy-paste, and tribute and plagiarise tons of performances, especially since I still consider myself a huge novice.

I don't think I can claim to have my own way or style yet, I'm happy tracing other people's shadows for the moment. I can totally relate to Jake, I was so happy when I didn't have to do an accent and I could use my own.

I remember one rehearsal where I had to throw in a "lah", and I hammed it up on purpose (these days my Singlish is a bit can), and I so vividly recalled first moving to Malaysia and taking FOREVER to use "lah". Then when I moved to Singapore it got worse, and Singlish is so prevalent in Singapore because everyone speaks English here, so you kind of have to earn Singlish or else you ostracise yourself. You gotta start out with Lah, then branch out to leh, lei, lor, meh, mah, then you get the bigger words like siao etc. I'm still figuring out hor. 

Q) What was the best day on set and the worse?

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Jayley: Best day is whenever everyone was on set. Worst day? It really wasn’t that bad but there was a day when I was mentally and physically drained. It was a day of emotional scenes with my mother in the morning, and still emotional scenes with Jake at night at the beach. But it was so encouraging for me because of the crew and company. I loved every single bit of it.

 An emotional scene in episode 3 where Chloe meets her deceased mother

An emotional scene in episode 3 where Chloe meets her deceased mother

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Thomas: The best day on set was every day. Worst day on set was the day I had to leave early. Most challenging? Full disclosure? It wasn't really that hard. I'll probably give myself a lot of shit for it, but Nick, the director, seemed happy. The other actors on set were vibing, Jayley was always on—the crew seemed pretty into it. I really enjoyed being part of the machine. My challenge is my own learning curve so I was happy to be in that experimental environment. Each take is another try. 

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Q) The show have several intense fight scenes. What was it like to train and perform them?

Jayley: Phew, the training were tough. I got bruises and aches for days as evidence. On set, I'd say being intense was an understatement. There were a few stunts which I had to learn on the spot, that got me in panic mode. But my trust for the team was so strong, I just did it. It turned out great :)

Jake: I'm a very physical person anyway so I love any chance to work with those skills. Training was super fun! Falling, jumping, punching, running.. the most fun was fight choreography with..well, I guess you'll have to find out. 

 Aaron, Kishan, Jayley, Nicole and Alan taking a break from stunt training.

Aaron, Kishan, Jayley, Nicole and Alan taking a break from stunt training.

Q) What was it like working with your co-stars? What did you learn from them? 

Jayley: Loads of information and professionalism. I would say the most I've learnt from really came from Thomas himself. Prior to working with him, I did my fair share of research and knew that he comes from a really strong theatre background. I was honestly slightly intimidated by that. Felt like I would be under working, so I worked really hard to make sure I'm on par with him at the very least. Haha, so when we started working on the script reads, I averted looks from his eyes because I knew how much this project meant to him and that I would be intense (like what Kishan would describe as looking straight into your soul).

He really helped push that intensity out of me as well. Made me wanna work harder and be the best version of myself as Chloe Ling and as an actor.

Thomas: I learned so much from Jayley and the rest of the crew. I'm a student first, in every situation, so I learned from literally every person on set. Professionalism, hardwork, responsibility, punctuality, energy, team spirit, camera technique, the tricks that the light/grip/costume/makeup people employ. This crazy mic tape technique (the samosa). The list goes on. I'm a huge nerd. 

Q) Tell us a little about being directed by Nicholas Lo?

Jayley: Nick was a joy to work with. I had never gotten so comfortable working with a male director before. He made discussions a creative and constructive exercise to get the best out of our characters. His detailed notes really is something very rare in this line. I've learnt so much from him and honestly hope to work with him more in the future.

Thomas: Nick's a super patient guy. He's got a style and opinion that he will keep mostly to himself, but what I appreciate most is his ability to communicate effectively and work without losing his cool. I like to give a lot of variation if I can, and he was very generous. I felt like I could really collaborate, and I hope the sense of freedom that he gave the cast is evident onscreen. 

 Nicholas Lo directing Jayley Woo, Nicole Changmin, Kishan J., Aaron Koo in episode 4.

Nicholas Lo directing Jayley Woo, Nicole Changmin, Kishan J., Aaron Koo in episode 4.

Q) What surprised you most about working on Glitch! (Eg. Costumes, props, visualising for VFX)?

 Chloe fighting back in Medistar headquarters.

Chloe fighting back in Medistar headquarters.

 Lucas Lim as The Cure - ready to attack Chloe.

Lucas Lim as The Cure - ready to attack Chloe.

Jayley: Everything. From the story to the vibes to the costumes and props used in it to the things we do for a good shot. I even got the chance to carry a 10kg plus camera on my back to get a POV shot. It really warms my heart knowing everyone on set shares the same goals (wanting the best) for this production. 

Thomas: How unhelpful caffeine really is. 

 Several posters detailing Singapore’s social climate can seen in the background of numerous scenes.

Several posters detailing Singapore’s social climate can seen in the background of numerous scenes.

 An early design for an advertisement for ‘Deep-Lace’ from Medistar

An early design for an advertisement for ‘Deep-Lace’ from Medistar

 A poster for a space hotel in Chloe’s room

A poster for a space hotel in Chloe’s room

 Another idea that streaming might go geological…

Another idea that streaming might go geological…

 A poster for the fictional VR game ISLAND FALL, featured in Glitch!

A poster for the fictional VR game ISLAND FALL, featured in Glitch!

Q) Why should audiences watch Glitch! on Toggle? 

Jayley: Because if you don't, you'll regret it.

Thomas: So. many. lasers. Also a really solid concept and script that works in Singapore without being trapped in it. I think this really proves the notion that imaginative, daring, and fun stories can come out of Singapore without being issue-laden or overly serious. 

At the same time, it's got a beat, it's got a funky pulse, and some cheese of course—but mostly a world that I could get lost in. Virtual Reality really is not only in the future, it's in our present. I had a really jarring experience, where I had an actual virtual reality hangover from a super immersive game experience and it was one of the spookiest, coolest moments of my life. This series is about that "what if".

Q) You have a section to plug yourself and future projects. GO! 

Jayley: Will be doing a 150 episodes long form drama, Jalan Jalan, for Channel 8's 7.30pm time slot.

Thomas: I’m gonna be in a play with Pangdemonium next year which centers around the #Metoo movement. It’s one of the most challenging topics I’ve worked on, and the end of the play left me both unsettled and curious.

 Artwork by AK (Poh Zi Qun)

Artwork by AK (Poh Zi Qun)

Q) BONUS QUESTION - What’s your favourite science fiction show or movi9e and why? 

Jayley: AVENGERS INFINITY WAR. I always love the idea of bringing leads from several stand-alone movies to one major action-packed beauty like this one. I mean, I was in awe. The time and effort spent on this movie was so.... worth the wait. I loved every second of it.

Thomas: TOUGH. Black Mirror or The Twilight Zone—TV Show, kinda cheap to say either of those because there's so many. I really enjoy the daytime feel of The Twilight Zone because they made some really spooky stuff that would give you goosebumps on a sunny afternoon. Black Mirror is just full of masterful sensitive compelling funtime. The first thing that comes to mind is actually Terry Gilliam's Brazil. I can't really explain why, but it's stuck with me for a long time. Brazil is like if Blade Runner didn't take itself too seriously. Also Arrival was dope. And Men in Black. 

Thanks to Jayley and Thomas for agreeing to this interview - and YOU for reading! If you enjoyed this article, PLEASE SHARE with someone that might enjoy it!

Catch all 4 episodes of Glitch! on Toggle now!

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