You would have seen or heard about SCDF’s latest Mandarin drama serial, ‘In Safe Hands’ (with English subtitles), which was aired daily on Mediacorp channel 8 from 7 March to 18 March this year. The making of ‘In Safe Hands’ was a challenging but truly enriching experience for the Mediacorp production team, artistes and several SCDF officers.
Rescue 995 goes behind the scenes in this exclusive interview with Loh Woon Woon, the Executive Producer; Oh Wei Ting and Lau Ching Poon, the script writers; two SCDF advisers namely Lieutenant Colonel (LTC) Khaisarah Mansor and Major (MAJ) Shafi
Rafie, as well as the SCDF casts: LTC Ryan Hoo Wei Kun, Staff Sergeant (SSG) Gregory Ryan and SSG Kamarul Arifin. Read on to find out more about their experiences in the making of ‘In Safe Hands’.
LTC Khaisarah Mansor (fourth from the left) with Mediacorp’s Executive Producer, Loh Woon Woon (fifth from the left) and script writers, Lau Ching Poon (third from the left) and Oh Wei Ting (extreme right).
MAKING OF THE DRAMA SERIAL
Rescue 995: How did the concept of the production come about?
Wei Ting: The story was conceptualised by Mediacorp story planner. Once SCDF approved the concept, we made refinements to the plot as well as developed the character arcs to improve the story flow and the relationship dynamics within the
Ching Poon: We also conducted extensive research, interviews and site visits, including visiting a few fire stations, SCDF training establishments and even attending to drills and exercises conducted by the SCDF frontline officers. The real-life
cases shared by many SCDF officers also enhanced the story plot and were extremely useful to add realism and dynamism to the drama serial. They resonated well with the audience.
MAJ Shafi Rafie (right) adjusting Tyler’s (left) helmet to perfection before the shoot.
Rescue 995: Share with us the preparations in this journey. Perhaps, tell us more about the selection process of the casts in the drama serial and why they were selected.
Woon Woon: Preparation started as early as November 2020. The writers and I had multiple meetings with key members of the SCDF Corporate Communications Department, conducted countless on-site recces and interviewed several SCDF frontline
officers for the purpose of our research. SCDF also provided many inputs to help us fine tune our script.
We even had pre-production training sessions conducted by SCDF to prepare the artistes for their roles. During this period, the artistes too had multiple meetings with SCDF officers to hear first-hand account of their firefighting and rescue experiences.
Ching Poon: On the selection of casts for this drama serial, we focused largely on the suitability of the artistes for their specific roles. For example, Tyler was chosen to act as Jayden Chee, an Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) fire
biker because he had served in SCDF during his full-time National Service days and has basic knowledge of the work of a firefighter. He is also an existing SCDF Operationally Ready National Serviceman (ORNS) and whose physique and vibes were suitable
for the frontline role.
LTC Khaisarah: SCDF had conducted our very own internal casting call by inviting our frontline officers to be involved in the drama serial to add realism to the plot. This was when some of our officers such as LTC Ryan, Gregory and Kamarul
responded to and were successful in the casting audition managed by SCDF Corporate Communications Department. Most importantly, we wanted to ensure that there is a good racial representation of our SCDF cast in the drama serial.
Prior to the production, as I am not proficient in Mandarin, I had to Google-translate every Mandarin sentence in the script to English to ensure that we struck the right balance between the dramatic storyline and the reality of SCDF ground operations.
SCDF officers together with the Director Martin Chan Fook Shin (centre in white apparel) and the Mediacorp production team discussing the detailed scene of a road traffic accident.
Rescue 995: LTC Khaisarah and MAJ Shafi, what were some of the concerns and challenges faced by you as SCDF advisers during the pre-production phase?
LTC Khaisarah: As the SCDF advisers to the drama serial, we had to tackle massive pre-production coordination work. For example, we had to talk to various SCDF units to ensure that the appliances we required for the filming were available
at specific time of the day or night, as well as having the necessary manpower for some of the scenes. We also had to pay close attention to minute details such as the correct equipment to be featured in firefighting operations.
MAJ Shafi: Finding suitable filming locations for the drama serial was challenging. Take the height rescue scene for example, where we had to recce and consult the subject matter experts such as the rescuers from our elite Disaster Assistance
and Rescue Team (DART) on the feasibility of using certain proposed locations. Not only did we need to ensure that the rescue work could be safely re-enacted, but we also had to ascertain that it would look realistic in the drama serial.
Rescue 995: As this drama was filmed amid a pandemic, what were the challenges encountered and how did you overcome them?
LTC Khaisarah: We had to abide strictly by the Info-Communications Media Development Authority (IMDA) guidelines, such as the 20:50 rule where we could only have 20 actors unmasked on camera at any point in time for up to 50 maximum persons
on the set. This was highly challenging, especially for the scenes that required more people on the set such as the shoots in which we had an arsenal of firefighting appliances and ambulances to portray a major incident in the drama serial. Inevitably,
we had to split the filming into numerous smaller group sizes and inevitably extended the filming duration for an additional night.
MAJ Shafi: Unforeseen circumstances were the greatest challenges during the production. Some of us as part of the backstage crew had to take our Leave of Absence (LOA) due to having had close contact with a person who was tested positive
for COVID-19. Even a few of the cast had also sporadically tested positive. This became disruptive and resulted in delays in the production timeline. Nonetheless we quickly adapted to changes in our plans without compromising on the IMDA guidelines.
An overnight shoot at Home Team Tactical Centre
Rescue 995: Overall, how was the production process?
Woon Woon: It went very well with the cooperation and great assistance from SCDF officers like Khaisarah, Shafi, Riduan, Lina and many others. Having a dedicated pool of SCDF officers assigned to attend to all our production needs made working
with them very enjoyable and almost fuss-free!
LTC Khaisarah: I am grateful for the enthusiastic mentors from various SCDF units who offered their assistance and advice to the artistes throughout the production, as well as to everyone who were involved in this drama, in one way or another.
Above all, I take my hats off to the Mediacorp artistes in this production. They bravely donned the firefighting gears and breathing apparatus set with face masks, and went ahead to fight the intense fires which we set up in some of the drama scenes.
In addition, the equipment were heavy for many of the artistes and there were also many takes and retakes during the filming. It was not at all easy but they did it!
Rescue 995: After filming and looking back, what can you say about the whole journey and what did you gain out of the entire experience?
LTC Khaisarah: Looking back, it was an eye-opening experience for a lot of us as it is not common for SCDF to work on such a big production. Moreover, the artistes were extremely nice and humble individuals to work with. Before this,
I had no idea of the sheer amount of hard work and time that went into producing a drama serial. Now I have a newfound appreciation of this industry as I know behind a successful drama serial or movie is a team of highly dedicated people who made
the production happen.
MAJ Shafi: It was a lot of hard work and commitment throughout the production. But what I found heartening was that despite the many difficulties we encountered, everyone was giving their best shot in making this production a success.
Woon Woon: The journey was tough yet fulfilling, and totally worth all the hard work, which is not necessarily the case for every project. More importantly, the drama serial also gave me insights into a career that I never imagined would
be so tough. The lives of paramedics, rescuers and firefighters are extremely challenging, and I really like to thank everyone of them for doing what they do in keeping all of us safe. Thank you!
LTC Khaisarah (centre) with the SCDF mentors and casts
THE SCDF CAST OF ‘IN SAFE HANDS’
Rescue 995: Gentlemen, please introduce yourselves and the role you played in the drama serial.
LTC Ryan: I am the Commander of Sentosa Fire Station and I have been serving in SCDF for about 12 years. In the drama serial, I played the role of the Commander of Marina Bay Fire Station.
SSG Gregory: I am currently an Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) fire biker from Woodlands Fire Station and have been with the SCDF since 2012. In the drama serial, I also played the role of an EMT but is part of the ambulance crew
instead. I also helped to guide Mediacorp artistes Denise and Jarrell in portraying their EMS roles more realistically.
SSG Kamarul: For myself, I am an EMT fire biker from Marina Bay Fire Station. In the drama, I played the role of Second Warrant Officer (WO2) Malik who was a Deputy Rota Commander, with the lead actor Romeo as my Rota Commander.
Rescue 995: LTC Ryan, how did you prepare yourself for the role in the film?
LTC Ryan: I did not expect being an actor could be so tedious. There was a lot of planning just to set up a simple scene. As for me, I had to immerse myself in the role for the episodes I was in. I also had to memorise the script
by heart by practicing the lines repeatedly with my wife at home until I got them right.
LTC Ryan Hoo’s behind-the-scenes moments
Rescue 995: Gregory, how was your experience like working with the Mediacorp artistes during the entire production?
SSG Gregory: To be honest, I was really impressed by the level of commitment these actors and actresses have in their work. These artistes went through intensive training sessions with us just so that they could portray a firefighter
and or a paramedic realistically on screen. They truly deserve two thumbs up for this!
SSG Gregory Ryan (right) with Jarrell in one of the scenes of a road traffic accident
SSG Kamarul (centre) as WO2 Malik in ‘In Safe Hands’
Rescue 995: What about you, Kamarul? How did you juggle your time at home, at work and in this production?
SSG Kamarul: Well, my wife gave birth two days upon the start of the production of the drama serial! Now, whenever I see my daughter, I am reminded of ‘In Safe Hands'. [laughs]
On a more serious note, it was rather exhausting initially, especially for a first-time father like me. I had to manage my time well, juggling between work and filming commitments as well as looking after my newborn daughter during this period.
But I am thankful to my supervisors and teammates who were very understanding and supportive.
Rescue 995: And Kamarul, how was it like playing quite a substantial role in a Mandarin-speaking drama serial?
SSG Kamarul: Acting is something new for me but I was fortunate to have the professional artistes guiding me along in portraying my role effectively in the drama serial. As some of my lines in the drama serial were in Mandarin, I
had the good opportunity to learn Mandarin during this production. Before this, nobody would understand a word I had said in Mandarin!
[We had Kamarul to say a few lines in Mandarin and indeed, it has improved by leaps and bounds!]