FEATURES

03 October 2019

The Force Behind CLIF

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By Irwan Shah (Photos: Public Affairs Department)

As shared by the Mediacorp production crew and artistes, the production of C.L.I.F. 5 was one of their most challenging projects to date. These challenges were equally shared by a dedicated team of officers from the Singapore Police Force’s (SPF) Public Affairs Department who was responsible for bringing this drama to life! Read on to find out the thoughts and experiences from the ‘Force’ behind C.L.I.F. 5!

Rank/Name: Deputy Superintendent of Police (DSP) Winson Ng (a.k.a The Papa Bear)
Role: Head Special Projects
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I head the PAD Special Projects Team which was tasked to work with Mediacorp to produce C.L.I.F. 5. On top of our role as the SPF’s gatekeeper of police protocols and branding, we also had to ensure that all manpower and logistical requirements were ready for the daily shoots. In my entire 20 years of police career, I have never been involved in such media projects. Thus, it was pretty challenging for me to adapt to my role since I joined the team midway through the project. The learning curve was extremely steep as the filming was already in progress and the schedule was really tight. I had to quickly get up to speed and the first task was to understand the entire drama plot. I spent nights reading through the 20 episodes of Chinese script. This was particularly challenging as my proficiency of the language is still rather basic. I had to constantly look up the dictionary and relied on my teammates to explain the various scenes to me. When I was more settled in, I started visiting filming sites to familiarise myself with the production. I had always been serving on the frontline throughout my police career. I never knew that my frontline police knowledge would one day become useful in such projects, which is to ensure that the on-screen depictions of police officers are accurate. That aside, I also had the opportunity to cameo in C.L.I.F. 5!

It was weird to me at first – the acting – since I was pulled out of my comfort zone. I played the role of a Deputy Head of Investigation in one of the scenes and my only line of dialogue was ‘Yes Sir!’ I did not think much about it and went with the flow until I realised that the same scene had to be shot repeatedly from many different camera angles. I sat there and repeated ‘Yes Sir!’ countless times while taking cues from the actors. Though my scenes and lines were pretty limited, it soon got rather tiring and monotonous after so many takes. In my mind, I thought to myself, ‘Thank goodness I am not an actor!’.

The most memorable moments were the times when we explored ‘lesser-known’ filming locations. We went to places that I would have never known or gone to if not for this project. A good example was when we had to film some scenes on Kusu Island and Lazarus Island. It was my first time on these islands and I felt like a tourist in my own country! This project has given me a very refreshing and enriching experience. If there is a C.L.I.F. 6 in the future, I would definitely want to be in it, but right from the start!


Rank/Name: Inspector (Insp) Brenda Yeo (a.k.a The Nanny)
Role: Project Coordinator
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I was known as ‘The Nanny’ because my job scope covered the end-to-end process for the entire production. From paper work (planning) to hands-on work (execution), my ‘paw’ prints were all over the place. Coming from a frontline posting with no experience or formal training in media production, it was really daunting at first, especially when you know that the past four seasons of C.L.I.F. were highly successful. The expectations were high but I was really grateful to have patient and supportive bosses and colleagues from the Public Affairs Department who were always there to provide the needful guidance and support.

The nature of my role required me to be always on my toes as I was the ‘lifeline’ between all the stakeholders, be it to Mediacorp or the various SPF units. Hectic would be an understatement to describe the entire experience. My mobile phone was constantly ringing or beeping with messages that all required immediate attention. At some point, I nearly went berserk trying to plug all the holes and firefight at the same time! But I soon learnt that I had to stay focussed, stay calm and prioritise what needed to be dealt with urgently. All these had to be done even when I was on-site supervising the filming to ensure that all police protocols and branding guidelines were adhered to.

Since the start of the project, the biggest challenge that I faced was balancing the reality and dramatisation needs of the SPF and Mediacorp respectively. There were occasions where Mediacorp would want to dramatise certain police scenes and actions for better visual and story appeal. As far as possible, we would keep an open mind and try to push the boundaries of creativity. However, we had to be also mindful not to give the public an inaccurate portrayal of our police protocols and techniques. When such situations occurred, we would have to consult the relevant units to understand the actual protocols involved and work with Mediacorp to achieve a win win situation. However, it was not always possible as we had to abide by established protocols. One example involved a scene of the police attending to a hanging incident. Mediacorp had scripted it in such a way for the police to set up a cordon first around the scene to prevent members of the public from entering and contaminating evidence. This seems logical but in reality, we were trained to always first check for any signs of life in the victim so that we can render immediate help. Eventually, Mediacorp was convinced and made the necessary adjustments.

When I took on this project, I never thought that I would make so many new friends, especially with the Mediacorp artistes. I first met the artistes during imaging, where we had to work on the ‘look’ of the character on scene. I was cautious initially about getting too comfortable with them, and they were cautious too *chuckles*. However, as time went by, we got closer and more comfortable with each other, and I got to see a different side to the artistes. They are actually very easy-going people with no airs, just like my colleagues in the Force. We became a mini-family, often cracking jokes, laughing together, and having meals together after a long day’s work. This part is the same as what I have experienced in my police career! The long hours that we spent together helped to forge camaraderie as we battled the everyday challenges on set. At the end of the day, the outcome was much more than just a 45-minute drama.

Now that the production has come to an end, I do not know if I will ever get the same opportunity again in the future. However, I am very thankful to be involved in this project. The C.L.I.F. 5 journey is definitely one of the highlights in my career!


Rank/Name: Assistant Superintendent of Police (ASP) Desmond Song (a.k.a The Stuntman)
Role: Project Coordinator
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My family members were flabbergasted to learn that I jumped off the second storey of a building! Frankly, I was not at all prepared for this stunt as I was only told to cameo for some supporting roles. Although taking the leap at such a height is nothing compared to the arduous training that I had in my previous posting with the Police Security Command, I could feel my heart pounding really quickly when I stood by the ledge preparing to take my plunge. In three counts, I landed with a thud. I opened my eyes and there I was lying on the safety mattress – alive in one piece! *chuckles* What an exhilarating first attempt, cameoing for a drama!

That was not the only first for me. This was the first time I was given the opportunity to be involved in a SPF media production project that is going on national TV! As a project coordinator, my key role was to oversee the filming of the scenes involving the Police Coast Guard (PCG) where I had to ensure that the police protocols and SPF branding guidelines were adhered to. Owing to my operational experience, I also had to guide the artistes on the correct techniques to handle and operate certain firearms as well as tactical movements. This project is especially meaningful for me as I know that my efforts contributed to the success of the project, and the Mediacorp artistes, production crew and my SPF colleagues were dependent on me to ensure that the production was carried out smoothly. Besides keeping tabs on police protocols and branding issues, I was also responsible for the arrangement of firearms required for the filming. This was a very serious responsibility as we were using real firearms and I needed to ensure that the safety of the users, who were the Mediacorp artistes, were well taken care of. Apart from the safety aspect, I also had to ensure that the correct firearms were being collected for each filming session as any errors could upset the entire filming schedule which would have cost and resource implications.

As many of our scenes were out at sea, the biggest challenge was the weather and sea conditions. You could have everything planned out but a change in weather or sea conditions could totally disrupt the filming schedule, which would cause filming overruns and prolong the entire filming duration. Such overruns would also affect the PCG resources which were crucial for their operations. I am grateful to have had the understanding and immense support from our PCG colleagues. They were always patient and would help to make the necessary arrangements to achieve the required filming requirements. The unforgivingly scorching weather was also very draining on all of us.

After 100 days of filming, our mission was accomplished! The key takeaway for me was not just the completion of my work. It was the friendships that were built over the entire process. We had lots of laughter and fun, but we also had moments of disagreements. However, all of us were aligned in our mission and our hearts were in the right place, which was to deliver the best police drama in Singapore!

 
Last Updated on 03 October 2019