The kids are all right

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - MOVIES -

THE Kid From The Big Ap­ple would not have been the same with­out Tan Qin Lin, 11, as the tit­u­lar kid, and Ja­son Tan, 14, as Jia Bao, the cheeky boy who lives next door to her. Al­though this was their first fea­ture film, the two kids are the true stars of the film.

Di­rec­tor Jess Teong took al­most two years to cast the role of Sarah. Film­ing was sup­posed to start film­ing in 2013, but she de­cided to hold out un­til she could find an ac­tress who could ful­fil her cri­te­ria for Sarah.

“My first cri­te­ria was that she had to be flu­ent in Man­darin and English,” she said. “Se­condly, I didn’t want an ac­tress who was too tech­ni­cal in her act­ing. I wanted some­one who was nat­u­ral.”

Teong’s third cri­te­ria was that the child should be in­de­pen­dent, and not have her par­ents hov­er­ing around all the time. “Fi­nally, she had to have per­fect teeth! Be­cause when Sarah is first in­tro­duced, you’ll re­ally dis­like her be­cause she is so rude. But at one point, she needs to be able to make the au­di­ence like her, and one of the ways to do that, was to have a good smile, to melt peo­ples’ hearts!”

“My pro­duc­ers kept telling me it was im­pos­si­ble to meet my cri­te­ria, but I didn’t want to com­pro­mise, so we de­cided to wait un­til we found Sarah be­fore we started film­ing,” she said.

Then, she re­mem­bered Qin Lin, whom she had seen in an ntv7 drama se­ries, and de­cided to track her down.

“As soon as she walked in, I knew we had found Sarah,” the di­rec­tor said. “Her per­son­al­ity was per­fect for the char­ac­ter, and even though her English was a bit flat at the time, it wasn’t a prob­lem.”

The char­ac­ter of Jia Bao, the next door neigh­bour’s mis­chievous son, is also piv­otal to the story. In fact, Teong re­called that one of the first things Ti Lung asked when they met was, “Have you found Ah Bao? He is very im­por­tant!”.

Teong based the char­ac­ter of Ah Bao af­ter her se­cond son, so she had a very spe­cific type of char­ac­ter in mind.

She met Ja­son dur­ing an au­di­tion, and he turned out to be per­fect for the role. “What I liked about Ja­son was that he was nat­u­ral, and he would even im­pro­vise his lines to make it nat­u­ral and funny.

“When we asked him to pre­tend to do a lion dance, he added his own sound ef­fects!” she re­called, laugh­ing.

Di­rec­tor Teong with Ja­son and Qin Lin, the real stars of The Kid From The Big Ap­ple. — ONG sOON hIN/ The star

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