Accountant makes daring acting debut in Golden Horse short film

She Jiaqian and Oliver Chong (second from right) preparing to film for 5 To 9.
She Jiaqian and Oliver Chong (second from right) preparing to film for 5 To 9.PHOTO: WORMWOOD FILMS

Newcomer She Jiaqian stars in omnibus film 5 To 9 to be shown at Golden Horse Film Festival

Home-grown director Tay Bee Pin ran into all sorts of problems when casting the leading lady for his segment in omnibus film 5 To 9 - not least because she would have to go topless.

In the end, he found her - a fulltime office accountant who has never acted before in her life - in the unlikeliest of places.

That girl is Singapore-based China-born accountant She Jiaqian, 23, who in the film plays the role of a mainland Chinese woman who has an affair with a Singaporean teacher (played by local theatre artist Oliver Chong).

There is a scene in the film where they are seen making out in a car and things get rather hot and steamy with her going topless.

The pair appear in Tay's 20-minute segment in 5 To 9, an omnibus film that will be screened at Taipei's Golden Horse Film Festival next week.

He is among several Singaporean film-makers whose works are being screened at Golden Horse this year.

The film that opened the festival last Thursday was the Anthony Chen-produced omnibus film Distance, starring Taiwanese actor Chen Bo-lin.

In 2013, film-maker Chen made headlines for becoming the first Singaporean to take home the coveted Golden Horse award for Best Film for his debut feature Ilo Ilo.

Meanwhile, local director Royston Tan's musical comedy 3688, a tribute to the late singer Fong Fei-fei, will also be showing at the festival.

Finally, Singaporean film-maker Chiang Wei-liang will showcase his short film Anchorage Prohibited, which is centred on an immigrant couple in Taiwan who have to deal with an unplanned pregnancy.

Tay's anthology 5 To 9, which is made up of four separate segments helmed by four directors, is also up for the Netpac Award at the festival, a prize handed out to quality Asian films. Other than Tay, the other three directors involved in the project are China's Vincent Du, Japan's Daisuke Miyazaki and Thailand's Rasiguet Sookkarn.

The title 5 To 9 refers to the time frame of the events in the film, which in this case is 5pm to 9am.

Life contacted She, who says that it took her "a long time" before she decided to go ahead and take on the role.

The first-time actress, who has been living in Singapore since she was 15, tells Life in English: "I really debated over it for a while, but after much discussion with the director and the producer, I learnt that it's not just about taking off my clothes for no reason.

"That's just one part of a bigger story and I could see that it's crucial for the role. I had a lot of communication with the director before we started filming, so there was a lot of trust there."

Currently still working as an accountant, she had auditioned for the role at the time "just for fun", thinking that she would never get the part.

"I just thought it'd be fun to see what it's like to be an actress and who knew that I would really get the role in the end?

"Maybe I'll explore more acting opportunities in the future. It was definitely a fun experience," she says.

Director Tay, 47, immediately heaps praises on her when asked about her performance.

"She was really very good in the role. She had no acting experience, but she was very natural and I applaud her for being so courageous," he says.

He can certainly heave a sigh of relief now that the film is shot and done, given the difficulty he and his crew had in getting women to sign on for the role in the first place.

He recalls: "When we tried to go down on the ground to street-cast, people would say we were just a bunch of scammers.

"We went online too, publishing open casting calls. Again, people just commented on the post that we were cheating them because we had made it clear that the girl would have to be comfortable filming intimate scenes."

•Follow Yip Wai Yee on Twitter @STyipwaiyee

•The Golden Horse Film Festival runs till Nov 26. For more information on films and screening details, go to www.goldenhorse.org.tw

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 09, 2015, with the headline 'Topless role in local film'. Print Edition | Subscribe