HBO is shooting drama series in Chong Pang, Yishun about heartlanders in Singapore

(From left) Filmmaker Ler Ji Yuan, actress Yeo Yann Yann and actor Devin Pan at a location set for HBO Asia's "Invisible Stories" at Epic Haus Coffee Shop in Yishun, Singapore. (Photo: Teng Yong Ping/Yahoo Lifestyle Singapore)
(From left) Filmmaker Ler Ji Yuan, actress Yeo Yann Yann and actor Devin Pan at Epic Haus Coffee Shop in Chong Pang. (Photo: Teng Yong Ping/Yahoo Lifestyle Singapore)

SINGAPORE — HBO Asia has started filming for a new drama series featuring stories about everyday residents in a fictional Singaporean town – and it will be shot almost entirely in the sleepy estate of Chong Pang in Yishun.

The series called Invisible Stories was created by Singaporean filmmaker, Ler Ji Yuan (Gone Case, The Love Machine). It will comprise six half-hour episodes, with each focusing on a different story.

Golden Horse Award-winning actress, Yeo Yann Yann (Ilo Ilo, 881), stars in the first episode as a single mother facing challenges in taking care of her autistic son.

HBO Asia describes the series as such: “Invisible Stories brings to life stories of everyday people – their joy, their struggles, their sacrifice, with each episode following one neighbour as he or she navigates through everyday life and its challenges. These stories include a man who is a taxi driver by day and a spiritual medium by night; and a banker who is a father and husband but harbours a secret that comes to life late at night.”

The fictional housing estate in Invisible Stories is called Sungei Merah. Ler, who is writing and directing the series, said he wanted the place to feel like an old heartland neighbourhood such as Ang Mo Kio. He chose to film in Chong Pang as he liked its “old town aesthetics”. He happens to lives nearby at Yishun Avenue 6, and is familiar with the area.

Chong Pang housing estate in Yishun, Singapore on 25 June 2019. (Photo: Teng Yong Ping/Yahoo Lifestyle Singapore)
Director Ler Ji Yuan thought Chong Pang housing estate had the "old town aesthetics" that he wanted for "Invisible Stories". (Photo: Teng Yong Ping/Yahoo Lifestyle Singapore)

Yahoo Lifestyle Singapore visited the set of Invisible Stories in the Chong Pang market on Monday (24 June) on its second day of filming. Yeo, who plays a drinks stall assistant working at a kopitiam, was filming scenes at Epic Haus Coffee Shop.

Asked about the inspiration behind Invisible Stories, 38-year-old Ler said, “80 per cent of Singaporeans live in HDB flats. I myself grew up in a three-room HDB flat in the ‘90s. I feel that it will be interesting for international audiences to see this part of Singapore – the non-crazy-rich side. We are not all about Marina Bay Sands and all that stuff.”

Yeo, 42, will play mother and son with 23-year-old Taiwanese actor, Devin Pan. She said she accepted the role because she thought parents of autistic children needed a voice in society. She said, “Lian’s (her character’s) story is painful, but necessary to tell. Many people don’t understand why autistic children behave in certain ways. I think through my episode, more people will understand.”

Other cast members for Invisible Stories have not been announced. The series will shoot for about seven weeks and is set to air later this year on HBO Asia’s on-air, online and on-demand platforms.

HBO Asia is a subsidiary of HBO which produces original content for Asian audiences. HBO Asia shows are eventually aired on HBO globally. Previous series made by HBO Asia include The Teenage Psychic, Miss Sherlock, Halfworlds and Serangoon Road.

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