“Because everybody likes to watch other people.”
That was head writer Jason Godfrey’s reply when asked about his inspirations behind conceptualising VEIL, which surrounds the theme of voyeurism in the modern world.
Mediacorp’s VEIL is a thriller produced by the Moving Visuals Co and Ying Group. It follows Audrey, played by Cheryl Chitty Tan, who inherits Chin Sin Terrace after the mysterious death of her father. In the estate, she discovers his secret room where she can watch every tenant in their apartments. She uncovers more than she bargained for about them and her father, and all this takes place while a sinister entity returns to haunt her.
After a hearty chuckle, Jason then revealed the real reasons behind writing his first thriller. He attributed his inspiration to films such as Alfred Hitchcock’s Rear Window and D.J. Caruso’s Disturbia. The latter is about a teenager on house arrest who, while spying on his neighbour, discovers that he is a killer.
As a fan of Disturbia, I was drawn to the VEIL’s themes and plot lines, which were made more exciting when given a local context.
ART VERSUS REALITY
While a secret camera in our room sounds frightening, being online nowadays can sometimes have the same effect. Cheryl does not think that “maintaining full privacy is something that we even know how to do anymore.”
What’s a mystery without the classic stalking? Cheryl herself is no stranger to such incidents. “I think that being female within the industry or being female in public, you have to deal with a lot of male entitlement and kind of male violence,” Cheryl said. “It’s honestly super scary because you don’t know how far these people are going to go and you don’t know who they are. They might be anywhere.”
Besides being followed by mysterious masked men, the intense atmosphere of VEIL is contributed by the location of Chin Sin Terrace. In the show, the building looked tucked away and dimly lit, with trees shrouding the estate, making it a world of its own.
Cheryl shared that the spine-chilling atmosphere extended behind the cameras as the thought of going to the toilet alone on set was frightening, citing a hair-raising “light that swings by itself”, along with other details on the “100-something-year-old” building that, though unsettling for the cast and crew, made the show all the more engaging.
COLOURFUL CHARACTERS IN A DARK SHOW
In her preparation to embody the character of Audrey, Cheryl tries to portray mental health issues as respectfully as she can, by spending time doing research about Audrey’s post-traumatic stress disorder and medication. Though she does not intend to keep Audrey’s iconic side shave, Cheryl humourously shared that she was glad she only had to straighten half her hair.
As for Audrey’s character development and the reasons behind Audrey’s actions, Cheryl thinks that VEIL is a revenge tragedy, “where the whole thing is about how she needs to let go”.
Cheryl said: “But because she’s so obsessed with finding out what happened to her father, she constantly says no to these opportunities to kind of heal. And as a result, she loses a lot of stuff.”
Jason added: “I think characters or just people, in general, can know what they need to do to make their life better. But for whatever emotional attachment, they won’t do it. So, I do think VEIL is about moving forward for Audrey in a really…”
“Tragic way,” Cheryl filled in.
FUTURE OF VEIL
On VEIL’s future, Jason thinks that while it is possible to zoom into a character, such as grown-up Chloe, he believes it would be too messy.
Another possibility Jason mentioned was adopting the concept of an anthology like Ryan Murphy’s American Horror Story, turning it into “a whole series of like creepy sort-of episodic TV”.
As for Cheryl, she chimes in on potentially echoing Kill-Bill Volume 3’s alleged plot, where a grown daughter avenges her mother.
She also talks about Monster in the Mirror, an upcoming musical focusing on mental health and teenagers, for which she has written lyrics, and is currently raising funds for.
Ultimately, Jason and Cheryl’s expectations of viewers for the finale are that they want people to be entertained.
“I think good writing is like an onion,” Jason explained. “You can put a lot of stuff in there, and if someone wants to enjoy it on a superficial level they can. But if they see something deeper there, they can peel back the layers, and there’s stuff there and they can enjoy it on that level.”