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Singaporean student creates light-hearted parody about COVID-19

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The Wes Anderson-inspired short film features familiar scenes of Singaporeans panic buying and wearing masks everywhere.

We have seen plenty of videos raising awareness towards COVID-19, but this short film parody has won us over. Created by 22-year-old student Lee Jing Wei, The Life of a Kiasu Hoarder (and The Battle of Corona) has garnered more than 61.4k views on Twitter and 17.7k views on Instagram.

Jing Wei's one-minute film featured hilarious, over-the-top reactions displayed by some Singaporeans during the COVID-19 outbreak, such as wearing masks everywhere and panic buying at the supermarket.

Most viewers praised him for the film's aesthetics, while others felt the video was engaging as it was "a case of art imitating life".

"When the DORSCON level was raised to Orange, there was a sudden surge of hoarding incidents at the supermarkets. There were some ridiculous measures and "protection" methods that people have been spreading online," he said.

"I thought it would be fun to make a tongue-in-cheek film about the whole situation. The film's dialogue is a caricature and exaggeration of some WhatsApp messages I've seen spread around by people I know."

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"I've even received comments from people saying it's [the scenes] are quite accurate," said the first year film student at NTU School of Art, Design and Media (ADM).
PHOTO CREDIT: LEE JING WEI

Jing Wei told Youth.SG that one of the scenes was inspired by messages he received from his own family.

"The sequence with [people using] toothpicks to press the lift buttons was inspired by messages sent to my family's group. I found it funny, but ironically effective. 

"I think that sparked the idea of creating the film, and it was also a tipping point for the main character," added Jing Wei, who originally worked on the opening sequence for a school assignment.

After submitting his school assignment, he decided to continue the sequence with a "super short" parody. He conceptualised the idea at the end of February, and completed his film in early March.

Jing Wei took the lead in filming, editing and sound design, and roped in his good friends to spruce things up."The short score was done by my good friend, Lee Jia Cai. It was only added after the submission. It was filmed in the first week of March and I completed it about half a week later," said the occasional freelancer.

He added that his work was "just a no-budget short" as he filmed his scenes in a day with his ADM friends, Jarren Lau (main character) and Lee Yun Xuan (voice actor and aunty character), and minimal camera set-up.

behind-the-scenes-lee-jing-wei
Behind the scenes of filming the short parody.
PHOTO CREDIT: LEE JING WEI

"The only money spent, other than some of the camera equipment that I already own, was on groceries for the last scene. Maybe I'm a little guilty of hoarding myself with the number of cup noodles bought for this...oops."

Some film fans observed subtle references to popular filmmaker Wes Anderson's signature style, especially with the symmetrical framing and choice of colours.

Jing Wei later revealed that he was a "big fan" of the filmmaker.

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A scene inspired by Wes Anderson's films.
PHOTO CREDIT: SCREENSHOT FROM LEE JING WEI'S INSTAGRAM

"I really love Wes Anderson's work. I think I went with his style as I wanted to challenge myself to create visuals that are of a Singaporean flavour, but not one that is commonly seen.

"His choice of colours is undeniably brilliant, and that took up most of the time I spent planning this film. Due to personal time restraints, I had to colour coordinate my actor's outfits with the locations, so that all the scenes can be filmed in one day."

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"Jarren Lau (pictured) has a great fashion sense that fits perfectly with the whimsical theme of this film. He could also do precise comical gestures," said Jing Wei.
PHOTO CREDIT: SCREENSHOT FROM LEE JING WEI'S INSTAGRAM

Since the short film was posted on Mar 29, Jing Wei has been receiving encouraging comments about his work. Some even asked if he would be making a longer version of the film.

"To be honest, I didn't think this clip would get as much attention as it's getting now. It's quite humbling to know that so many people found it enjoyable and thought it was great and wanted to share it," he said. 

"One comment that struck me was when someone shared it and wrote something along the lines of 'I finally know how to explain siao liao in English.' That actually cracked me up."

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One of the "absurd" scenes featured in the film.
PHOTO CREDIT: SCREENSHOT FROM LEE JING WEI'S INSTAGRAM

Humour aside, Jing Wei hopes that his work will remind others to continue taking care of themselves during this time.

"With the current situation seemingly getting worse every day, I think it's important to be optimistic. I hope that people can watch and laugh about this light-hearted short film while being aware about taking care of themselves.

"It's not wrong to take precautions, just don't go TOO overboard," said Jing Wei.

Can we expect more parodies from the talented freelancer?

"I'm currently working on my current semester's final projects. One is a more serious short film and another is a motion graphic short. I don't normally do parodies, but if the situation calls for it, I'll be interested in doing another for sure."

Most importantly, did he manage to get a good grade for his school assignment?

"I don't know my grades for this yet, but there was positive feedback from the professor!" said Jing Wei.

BANNER AND TEASER PHOTO CREDIT: SCREENSHOT FROM LEE JING WEI'S INSTAGRAM

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