Meet the ambitious girl who harboured big dreams of someday starring in a feature film and the talented boy who scored a stint in the entertainment industry by sheer luck – Marianne Tan and Brandon Ho.
If their names are familiar to you, it’s probably because you recognise Marianne Tan for not only being a YouTube short film/skit mainstay (“Unfold: Part 1“, “Unfold: Part 2“, “The Rose“, “How Girls Play Tricks on Your Mind“, just to name a few), but also for her breakthrough film role in the wildly successful “Ola Bola“.
Brandon Ho, on the other hand, started his career as an 8TV Quickie host after he joined the Quickie Search in 2013, and then moving on to becoming a Fly FM announcer on weekends. Now, together, they will play the leads in Malaysian YouTube content creator JinnyboyTV’s first full-length feature film, “By MY Side” (#byMYsideTheMovie).
We got to spend a little time with the power duo on set during the early productions days of the movie.
Here’s what went down:
Hi guys! Sorry to disturb you mid-shoot but thank you for agreeing to chat with us. So, tell us about your roles in “By MY Side”.
Marianne: I play Faye, a 17-year-old girl that kind of goes through her high school life like every other Malaysian girl. But the thing is, she has a bit of an abandonment issue and at some point she will have to face that fear of abandonment. And that takes place with her boyfriend at that time, Ben (played by Brandon). You will sort of see a transformation in her character as to how like..at some point she is dependent on somebody and then how she evolves into a lady, into a woman who is independent. It is a coming-of-age sort of character.
Brandon: Ben is a character who is also 17 years old. The movie will take you through his life from when he was 17 all the way up until he’s 27. Ben is very much in love, you know, from a young primary age he was already in love with Faye. However, he’s not as simple-minded as you think he is. Maybe it’s because of his background, maybe it’s because of his family as well. He wants to explore beyond Malaysia, he wants to see the other side of the world. It’s more complicated in that sense that he wants to experience new things because obviously because he has a relationship in Malaysia with Faye. So he finds it a little bit more difficult and has to come to terms with..whether it’s going to be Faye or whether it’s going to be overseas. As you will see, he will choose to go to Australia. But even though he goes to Australia, there’s a part of him that will still come back and always belong in Malaysia and also with Faye.
Brandon, we understand that this is your first full-length feature film. Congratulations! How did it feel when you knew that you were going to be doing this?
Brandon: Thank you! Wow. It’s..I’m very, very grateful and to be honest, I’m still in quite a shock and in disbelief. I’m pretty sure that if we spoke about this one or two months later after the movie is out, if you asked me the same question, I’d probably be telling you the same thing. To be in a movie is a completely different ball game. And it’s truly something very exciting, also something very new, and that’s why I’m very grateful for the faith that Jin and Reuben has in me. It’s a chance of a lifetime and when I got it, I told them and promised everyone around me that I’m going to work very hard. I’m gonna give it my all and do my best to make sure that it’s a great production. I couldn’t have asked for a better co-actress, Marianne has been very nice..
Marianne: I paid him 50 bucks to say that! (laughs)
Brandon: Actually 100 bucks lah! (laughs) No, but she’s very giving. So it makes it very easy, it makes it a breeze to be acting alongside her. She gives a lot of directions, she helps in the sense that she looks out for me. It’s such a pleasant feeling. To be able to work on a movie with this bunch of people, it’s really a blessing.
Let’s talk about the first ever scene that you shot for “By MY Side” together. Do you remember the kind of emotions that rushed through your system?
Brandon: Oohh. Wowww. That was intense. When I first got the schedule, and they told me that I was going to shoot this particular scene on the first day, needless to say I was super nervous because it was a really heavy scene. I would say it was one of the pinnacle points of the movie where you see the two characters being emotional because it’s where they part ways. It was tough! I struggled a lot, to be honest with you. But with this bunch encouraging me and supporting me, I couldn’t have asked for more and I’m very thankful. It was one of the most difficult things that I ever had to do in my career.
Marianne: It was really stressful because I think, on that day, mentally-wise..if it’s your first day, you don’t want to fail. You don’t want to do something that would disrupt the rest of the shoot so you’d wanna make sure that your first day goes really smoothly. Unfortunately, the first day happened to be the toughest scene as well because I had to cry. For me, no matter how many times I’ve done it, I always feel like it’s something that’s not easy to come by and I work hard at maintaining my emotions throughout the day. On the first day we had to shoot at night and that was right after our press conference. Which was..I would say a little bit more stressful because you’re already there and there’s some sort of anxiousness for your first day, and you’re being introduced to the world. So there was that level of stress. On top of that, you have to maintain your emotions until night time, and all the way to the point where the camera is rolling and you have to be ready with your tears and your lines. Let’s say if the camera isn’t ready or the light isn’t right, they would yell, “Cut!” and suddenly you’re in disarray. The first day really tested my limits.
Brandon: I was like, somebody give her some water and rehydrate her! Like how does she even cry like that? But she did amazing, she really did.
Marianne: After the first day, once we got past that, everything else felt like, “Alright, I got it. I can do this.” There was a sense of instilled confidence after the good first day. It kept the train going, and kept our spirits up.
Considering that it’s Brandon’s first gig in a full-length feature film, how’s Brandon so far, Marianne?
Brandon: We’re going to stop the recording now! (laughs)
Marianne: Brandon, I would say, is someone who really would make the time and effort for his character. For example, when we got our first script, he actually made the effort to meet up with me and he was like, “Let’s go through the script together.” and “How do you feel about this?” or “How can we do this better?”. There’s that sense of..knowing that the person is emotionally invested in a character, to the point where you feel like yeah, that’s what you want in your partner. I felt like we were able to develop our characters much more solid because of the amount of time he invested into it and the amount of thinking that he put into it. We were able to really flesh out our characters and that was something that was very important in my co-actor.
Brandon: That costs 250 bucks, guys.
Marianne: (laughs) You’re welcome.
We know that you’ve both worked with JinnyboyTV before, but what’s the best part about working with Jin and Reuben on “By MY Side”?
Marianne: They are like machines! Literally, Reuben will be shooting on one side of the room and he’ll be like, “Do, do, do, do, do!” and then next thing you know, once he goes, “Cut!” and it’s break time, and then you look at Jin, and he’s already editing.
Brandon: Three days into the production, we’ve actually already watched the opening..first two minutes of the movie. We weren’t even halfway into shooting and Jin was like, “Guys, guys, come and watch this!” and then we were watching the opening, establishing montage of the movie. That’s the level of efficiency that they operate on.
Marianne: They replayed it over and over again, and each time they replayed it they would react to it naturally over and over again. And it makes you feel satisfied as an actor. When you see it as well you’d feel reassured like, “Yes!”, you’re on the right flow right now.
Brandon: I’ve worked with Jin and Reuben before so to work with them again it’s really..I think it’s easy as well because they’re so understanding. They give very good directions and that’s one thing I really appreciate because this is my first time and I don’t have a lot of acting experience. So when they give directions, they’re very clear because they know what they want. And if they know what they want, then it makes it easier for us.
Alright, last one for the road, guys! What is your biggest wish and hope for “By MY Side”?
Marianne: I wish that somehow we’ll be able to screen “By MY Side” in the cinema. At least like a private screening with our friends and our families, that would be my ultimate hope.
Brandon: My ultimate hope and wish is that every Malaysian will watch it, whether it’s going to be on a streaming site or in the cinemas. Because it’s so relatable, it can connect with every other Malaysian out there. It doesn’t matter if you’re a mom or a teenager or a young adult or anything like that, we know that this story can connect with Malaysians on so many different levels. So my hope and wish is that every Malaysian would take the time to watch it and appreciate it, and laugh and cry with us.
Aww :) Special thanks to Marianne and Brandon 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.