There are Malaysian YouTube content creators, and then there are the multiple-award winning YouTube visionaries. Yes, we’re talking about none other than JinnyboyTV. For about five years now, the power duo that is Jin Lim and Reuben Kang, have been making vides that touched hearts and tickled bellies. A household name that most Malaysians are familiar with and an inspiration to many budding filmmakers, it is without a doubt that they’ve come a long way. Truly, JinnyboyTV is, today, beyond just a “YouTube sensation”.
Now on their first ever full-length feature film project titled, “By MY Side”, the boys are once again breaking boundaries in the local film industry. We visited them on set during the production of “By MY Side” to pick their brains on the movie.
Here’s what went down:
Hello guys, good to be talking to you two again, yay!
First things first, what brought on your decision to work with tonton for your first full-length feature film?
Jin: Making a movie was always sort of in the pipeline of the whole channel because we always make videos and stuff like that. Sometimes we make 3-minute videos, then sometimes without realising..we make 15-minute videos, then after that people would be commenting, “Why don’t you guys make a movie?” and we’re like, “Ya okay, we should!” It’s more of a casual conversation than like, “Oh yes, this is our goal” We knew that we would do it eventually but nothing pushed us to do it. In 2016, tonton came in and said, “Look, we have this thing happening next year, we were wondering if you guys would be interested to make a movie?” Of course when they said that they would fund the movie, it was a very big plus for us. As indie filmmakers, we can only dream about working with a big crew, with equipment that are really expensive, with seasoned actors and set builders, and stuff like that. It was more like, this is our only opportunity. Reuben has always been very interested in making a movie. For me, I love making short films but I’ve never gone past thinking or wondering what it’s like to make a movie. So it’s more of a coming-of-age for the channel. It’s like, “You know what? We should do this. If we don’t do this, we’ll look back someday and be like..aiyah regret lah should’ve done that.”
Reuben: For me it’s like, ever since I went into film school and started in the film industry, my dream was always like..die die I must make a movie one day. However, when I started learning about filmmaking, I realised the attention to detail..everything that goes into a movie, every film director..what they think about..is so detailed. I knew that it wasn’t easy to make a movie. I have so much respect for movie makers. And I felt like I was never quite “there” yet. Like if I made a movie, it would be an insult to all filmmakers out there. But after five years of making short films on JinnyboyTV, it’s now or never lah..you really have to start somewhere. When tonton approached us, I felt like it was the right time..for a very simple reason – it wasn’t like a straight up feature film in the cinemas only that kind of thing. tonton is a very digital platform and that’s where we started our JinnyboyTV journey as well. So I thought it was appropriate.
We hear that we’ll be seeing see some cameos from Malaysian YouTubers/social media influencers in “By MY Side”..
Jin: I think this movie is probably the biggest reunion of the whole entire social media atmosphere in Malaysia. In terms of followings alone, of those that have collaborated with us on this movie, it has reached beyond the millions. And the only reason why they’re doing this is because they understand that..this is the type of platform that should be given to the people who are self-made celebrities and self-made entertainers. Sometimes, as much as people think that these social media stars with big followings will go mainstream and stuff like that, they are their own platform. They are creators in their own right. They make their own things and stuff like that. But they get misrepresented in the mainstream world. For us, we specifically work with a lot of YouTubers, a lot of Instagrammers, a lot of Facebook celebrities, just to show that..you know, our community can also entertain and tell a story.
Reuben: The best part about it is this movie gave us the opportunity to reunite. Because when we first started making YouTube videos, we all did it for fun. All the friends involved were all totally like, “Hey, let’s get together! It’ll be fun!” And I think this is one of the opportunities like..finally, we’re making a movie, let’s get together again. Got no roles also we will force out a role for them!
“By MY Side” is the title of one of David Choi‘s song, what’s the reason for choosing that song? Do you have some sort of a special connection with the song?
Reuben: Jin and I have always wanted to explore a very Malaysian film. We talked about it and were like, “What should our first movie be?”. We knew that it shouldn’t be like some weird fiction kind of thing. We wanted to do something that we’re proud of, a homegrown story. So when the script was written, we realised that the title of David Choi’s song was very suitable for our movie because “MY” stands for Malaysia. The song suits the whole love story aspect of things.
Jin: David has always been a very good friend of ours. When he knew that we were making a movie, he volunteered and was like, “Hey, can I help?” I mean, we were a bit “paiseh” lah to even ask for a favour. We work with David more on..on the scale of concerts and stuff like that. But I think it has gone beyond just business, it has become friendship. David was like, “You know, if you guys want to use any songs, just use it.”
We like how you guys have done up the set! Who owns this house and what’s the process of putting everything together?
Reuben: When we first started working on the script development, and then we got the whole crew together, we approached one of the best art directors in the country. His name is Jimmy Bong, he has done a lot of big commercials for like Petronas and all that. He asked, “What kind of vibe are you looking for?”, I didn’t want it to be set in a way that it’s so polished like a TV commercial. I told him that I want to capture reality because that’s what the movie is about – it’s a real life story that almost every Malaysian can relate to. We had the option of shooting in an actual person’s house, but having said so..it would have been logistically a nightmare because that means that we would be ransacking someone’s house for an entire week. Jimmy said, “I’ll build one for you. I’ll furnish a house to look like a real house, and it would be very lived in for centuries.” This art director, his attention to detail is impeccable. He got the whole vibe, the colour tone, everything amazing. This house, Faye’s house, is a very lived in house for generations, middle class family. Then we’ve also got a very high class family house. And we restructured an airport. We beautified a school, and then there’s a wedding scene and a prom scene.
Jin: This was actually a completely empty house. We rented it for a month. I guess the only way to get a controlled environment is to build everything on your own. We were very lucky because Jimmy was very accommodating. He knew that we’re not the big guns, like the big production houses and stuff. But when we explained ourselves and what we were trying to do, he was like, “You know what? I’m gonna help you guys achieve what you want to do!” It didn’t even come down to business, it came down to just believing in the story.
Why did you pick the two leads, Marianne Tan and Brandon Ho, for “By MY Side”?
Reuben: Casting the two lead actors was tough but also easy at the same time for us, for a very simple reason. Marianne, in a way was a no-brainer, because she was one of the first actresses that we worked with when we first started. I cannot think of anyone more suitable for the role. I was like, “We have to call Marianne”. It was just all down to her schedule and she was like, “You know, my schedule is good. Let’s do this! If it’s your first movie, let’s do it. I really want to be a part of it.” Even from script development stage, when the role that was written, it was written with Marianne in mind. The thing about JinnyboyTV’s flavour, it has always been about the wholesome, true blue Malaysian kind of characters. When I look at Brandon and Marianne, they fit their roles perfectly in that sense.
Jin: Yeah, they fit the whole popular kids stereotype in school. Every actor that we’re using in this film, whether it’s a lead or a supporting role or a feature role, has worked with us before. When it came to casting, it wasn’t that hard because we knew that we’ve worked with these people before and it was easy for us to match these people to the script. We’ve been working with all these people for about five years so it’s very simple to place these actors according to their strengths. For example, Dennis Yin is muscular and he’s always very flamboyant and comedic, so we placed him in one scene where he’s beating up Reuben. (laughs)
Let’s talk about the story a little bit. Was it something that you guys always had in mind and then kept working at it until there was an opportunity to turn it into a movie?
Reuben: When tonton approached us and was like, “Hey, do you guys want to make a movie?, we were like, “Yes!”. And then they went like, “Do you have a story?”, we were like, “Yes!”..but actually..no. (laughs) But we had an idea. We knew we wanted to tell a Malaysian story. And we knew that we wanted to combine everything that we’ve done in the past from “Unfold” to “My Generasi” to “Only in Malaysia“. When we were writing this, we tried to fit in all those elements into the script. As we were developing this idea, more and more ideas started flowing, and a lot of past ideas also came into place.
Jin: On set as well! Ideas come on set and we have our writers on set to straightaway come up with things for the script.
What’s your biggest wish and hope for “By MY Side”?
Jin: We hope that every Malaysian will be able to watch it and take home a piece of it, and say, “Yup, I was in that position too!” because it’s a very relatable story for all ages. Whether you’re in primary school, high school, or in the working world. You can basically watch this movie and say, “Hey..I went through this stage in life.” Because it is a person’s love story about how they had their first love and went through challenges. It’s story about not just the upper class, it’s a story about general Malaysians and the struggles that they go through. The love story between the two leads, I mean, when we were too young to even understand what was luxury or social class differentiation, we just loved each other, you know? But sometimes decisions are made because of wealth, or because I can afford it, and because I can afford it I expect better. It sort of affects a lot of people in one way or another whether it’s a friendship or a relationship. I think that’s what we’re trying to portray in this story.
Reuben: I think one of the key things that I’m trying to capture in this film is the reality of what a Malaysian’s life would be like. I hope what people will take out of this is, first and foremost, that they would reminisce about their first love because it’s very much a story of first love. And as most first loves would be, it’ll never be perfect, it would consist of a lot of struggles, and in a way that reflects to a Malaysian’s love for Malaysia as well. It’s our first love, it’s something that we’ll never forget. It’s something that will always have a special place in our heart.
Special thanks to Reuben and Jin for taking time to do this with us!
The #byMYsideTheMovie cast and crew are currently on tour so if you happen to be around any of these areas on any of these dates, be sure to go see them and, you know, say hi and stuff!
Directed by Reuben Kang and executive produced by Jin Lim, #byMYsideTheMovie, which also stars Nadia Nash, Arwind Kumar, Adam Shamil, Maggy Wang, and Josephine Yap, will premiere on 16th September 2017 at selected TGV Cinemas nationwide.
For more information on JinnyboyTV, hit up their Facebook page.