Have you ever watched any movie with police officers as actors? The Hong Kong Police Force partnered with the Television Broadcasts Limited (TVB) for the first time to produce a four-episode television movie, entitled "PTU 2019". What is the difference between a commercial movie and a police movie produced with the full assistance from the Force? Let's hear the sharing by Sergeant David Wan, nicknamed "Mongolia" who has joined the Force for 30 years and assisted in the movie making.
Mongolia thought that commercial movies are often ostentatious – the story is exaggerated and the characters seem to be immortal. For "PTU 2019", Mongolia was assigned to participate in the filming process, from script dialogue to shooting schedule, with a view to making every shot and dialogue accurately reflect the daily life of police officers and produce a mini-movie that truly belongs to the Force. "We hope the movie is able to evoke resonance among colleagues and reflect our inner world, not just for mere entertainment," he said.
Recalling the day when he received the script from TVB, Mongolia immediately checked the script with colleagues in a bid to ensure that the story and the dialogue could evoke their resonance. "Many officers and units gave their views about the script to me. I have also contacted the Marine Police to learn about their jargons and include them in the dialogue." Mongolia found that the script repeatedly featured a response, "Yes Sir", but actually frontline officers do not often give such a response. "We have casual conversations with senior officers and we will say 'Yes Sir' in formal briefings only. At other times, we usually say 'OK' and address our superiors as 'Gor'," he said.
When artistes get pepper sprayed
At the beginning, Mongolia was worried about whether the artistes were very pretentious and put on airs. "At first we weren't familiar with each other. I tried to be tactful and beat about the bush when speaking to them. Everything went smoothly as we were all serious about making a good movie. After developing trust, I was able to talk straight to them!" For example, Mongolia would say frankly to the crew, "This shot is awful!" or even "Wow, this is too ostentatious!" The director and the artistes were open to his suggestions and they enjoyed working with each other.
What surprises Mongolia is the endurance of the artistes. As the filming had to be completed in 14 days, the shooting began at 8am and ended at 2am the following day and then the artistes had to get back to work again at 8am. "They are incredible!" During the filming process, both Ah Sum and Ah Pok, played by Sisley Choi and Mat Yeung respectively, were exposed to pepper spray. Mongolia said, "We told them beforehand that if they are feeling unwell, they should let us know immediately. Sisley was sprayed right in the face and had a serious reaction." Mongolia explained that people may have different reactions when they get pepper sprayed. Sisley took a rest for half an hour before continuing filming. Later that night, she was admitted to hospital as her eyes were still red and swollen. "The doctor said she might have a scratched cornea. So she had a strong reaction after the pepper spray."
From reel to real
In addition to having Mongolia to participate in the filming process, the Force has also sent a large number of police officers with real equipment for the shooting. "Apart from the leading artistes, the policemen you saw on screen are genuine police officers!" The shoes, gun holsters, belts, handcuff cases, batons and so forth used by the artistes were all loaned out by the Force.
Contrary to other television dramas, the artistes and the Force maintained communication throughout the filming process. "We will exchange ideas on the spot and reflect the voice of the Force." Initially Mongolia thought that crew members had a basic understanding of how the Force works. He found out later that they merely adopted the work practices from their predecessors. "Taking the way we chase people and get them down on the ground as an example, the crew told us that they just copied the practice from previous dramas." In the production of this movie, they could seek advice from genuine police officers. This set a precedent for police movies.
"PTU 2019" has been broadcast. When asked about the feedback of his colleagues, Mongolia said, "At first I was worried that my colleagues might not like it. Luckily, they found it very convincing and realistic – it's such a weight off my mind!"