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[InC-terview] Showrunner JD Chua's web series Queen of Hearts to address cyberbullying

By Say Peng  /  06 Oct 2018 (Saturday)

Singaporean filmmaker JD Chua is a big fan of genre cinema.

A graduate of Chapman University, Chua wrote for the television crime series ‘Kes 253’. 

He then uprooted himself to Hollywood to intern under Michael Mann as well as horror powerhouse Blumehouse Productions, working on films such as Mann's 'Blackhat' and sci-fi horror 'Dark Skies'.

In 2013, Chua directed 'Click', a fifteen-episode web series co-produced in Singapore and Australia. His 2015 comedy web series 'On the Rocks' competed for Best Drama at the Miami Web Festival. 

His most recent web series is Viddsee-comissioned 'Queen of Hearts', a thriller that explores the different aspects of cyberbullying. 

InCinemas speak to showrunner and director JD Chua.

What was the inspiration behind Queen of Hearts?
After witnessing a friend whose privacy was invaded from his postings, and after witnessing another friend going through Instagram and Facebook to mine for information, I find that the current world of social media can be truly scary. I recall a time as an irresponsible youth, joining my friends in impersonating as a girl to lure users on IRC to have conversations. Some of the stuff they share was seriously intimate. It was an awful deed that we had committed. 

When Viddsee had an open call for thriller projects on cyberbullying, I used these experiences as the basis. I also want to spread awareness of how we behave online can affect somebody else, even somebody we have never met. Also, it is rather interesting to read the comments among the users on the webseries on Youtube.

Why did you choose to feature one main character for each episode rather than devote the series to one main character?
With a more diverse group of people, with varying degrees of separation from the victim, I like to drive home the point that cyberbullying affects beyond the people involved. With multiple points of view, I hope that the audience can relate to one of the characters, or be aware that someone close to them could either be a bully or a victim in silence. 

Which character do you personally identify with the most?
At different times, I identify with different characters. I was once a bully. And I was once a victim. 

Right now, Charlie (from ep4). I feel that am one of those people whose actions are often misunderstood. I may have been perceived as too intense or too forward with my words, even when I meant well. Maybe it is something I should change. 

As a show-runner, what was it like to work with five different directors for each episode?
I always regard series (be it web series or television drama series) should be directed by the show's creator. With so many moving parts, it makes more sense to delegate, having directors direct each episode, freeing me up to look at the bigger picture. I can steer the project in the direction that I want while trusting my directors to direct their episodes. 

It's all about teamwork. And I had a great team. Great team of producers too. 

Ultimately, it's about trust. Trust in myself, that I am secure enough to let other talented people helm their duties; Trust in my team, that they are picked for the reasons that they are good at their jobs and I can trust them. 

The entire web series was shot on the iPhone X. Can you share with us the challenges of shooting on the iPhone?
It is quite exciting actually. Whatever we learned about filmmaking from school or the industry, we have to throw it out of the window. Our thought process for filmmaking has to be reset. We had to rethink how we shoot. The workflow is completely different. 

The awesome part of shooting on iPhone is that the device is small. We can stick it anywhere we want. Most of the time. 

We had a shot inside a fridge. We threw the whole thing in. On conventional cameras, we would have to either use mirrors or saw the back part off. 

For your future projects, how would you decide if an iPhone or a more professional camera like the RED is more suitable?
It really depends on what kind of project is it. The sword must fit the swordsman and vice versa. I am pro-digital though. I had shot with film, and I find my directing process closer to working with digital. 

From Toggle Originals to Viddsee Originals to HOOQ Originals, more and more web series content are being made these days. Can you share with us what you think about the local web series landscape?
It's definitely more exciting for us filmmakers. Each platform comes with different attitudes towards convention and experimentation. There are so many ways we can tell our stories now that we have more outlets and platforms to share our ideal and thesis. I know the range of scale and production will vary even more in the future. (Have you seen Shield 5? Such an awesome web series on Instagram!) 

What can we look forward to from you in the future?

I am currently in post-production of a creature feature, 'Circle Line', while heavy in development for a crime drama 'Man from the South'. Heading to Japan in October for scouting, actually. 

I do look forward to more projects where I can step in as creator and showrunner, I really love this process. Exciting times ahead! 

Queen of Hearts is currently showing on Viddsee! Watch it here: https://www.viddsee.com/series/queen-of-hearts
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