“I’m a Sagittarius. That makes me optimistic, enthusiastic and somewhat philosophical, which I think is a good thing for a filmmaker. I also love horses and a Sag’s zodiac sign is a centaur, so that’s proof enough that I’m a Sagittarius!

Getting to direct the music video (MV) for the theme song to this year’s National Day Parade (NDP) was totally unexpected.

I was planning to write a short film at the beginning of the year, but when I got the call from Boo Junfeng (the 2018 NDP Creative director) to do the MV, it wasn’t a hard decision to make.

I respect Junfeng as a filmmaker and I wanted the opportunity to work with him; but, I needed to hear the song first. Some songs from previous years were pretty nice, but there were others that I didn’t really, erm, connect with; so liking and connecting to the song was going to be key to me doing a good job.

When Junfeng sent me a demo of the song, I fell in love with it. It was a solo, acoustic rendition sung by Charlie Lim and arranged and composed by both Charlie and Sydney Tan.

I was drawn in by Charlie’s smooth and magical voice and the emotional honesty of the arrangement. The final version is quite different, of course; more artistes were featured and the song became bigger.

Personally, I would have liked a simpler and more indie, acoustic vibe, but it’s brilliant how Sydney Tan, a legendary arranger and composer, merged an old song with a new one. The end result I feel is beautiful. It’s like a reflective love song that evolves into something more pop and rousing as the song builds.

When I shared with him my preferences a few times, Sydney would tell me, ‘but this is for National Day’, and when it was all done, I finally understood what he meant. The song has to be anthemic.

When I started on the project, I told Junfeng that I wanted to do a concept revolving around portraits of everyday people. He was glad because this year’s NDP focuses on unsung heroes who are, coincidentally, everyday people too. We were on the same page about showing something more real and heartfelt

The main idea behind the NDP music video is to tell the story of a photographer who takes portraits of everyday people.

It was very important to showcase different representations of Singaporeans because I wanted my video to have a real sense of authenticity; yet, I wanted to romanticise and celebrate these Singaporeans as well.

With that being said, the biggest challenge was finding the right people for the video. We had two and a half months to prep. Casting was such a huge effort; we ended up with over 60-ish talents! For that, I really need to thank my dedicated team because everyone chipped in with contacts.

Some of the people we featured include Priscilla Boh – a plus-size Beauty Queen and model who’s just a lovely representation of the modern Singaporean woman – as well as a makcik with her family and her cats.

It was really important for me to showcase Singaporeans and their pets, in particular Singapore cats and dogs. That shot with the makcik was really one of my favourites in the whole video. Her home was so lovely and she even made little scarves for her cats!

I think all the people who agreed to be part of the video intrinsically understood what being part of a family is, whatever that means to different people. Each of these profiles also have love for our country in some form or another, and I feel like we managed to capture that in each frame.

But you know, it hasn’t really sunk in that I was able to do something this nationalistic! The video has a wide reach and to know that people are feeling it and connecting with it, means a lot to me. I feel so grateful to have gotten a chance to do this.” – Li Lin Wee, 44



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Arman Shah

A former travel writer with fond memories of solo adventures in Southeast Asia, Arman is now Founder of The Everyday People. He's also the co-host of Channel Empathy, a podcast about the marginalised in Singapore.