Kate Yeung Kei

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 25 January, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 25 January, 2007, 12:00am

Four years may have passed since Kate Yeung Kei landed a role in Sylvia Chang Ai-chia's 20:30:40, but the actress says her memories are still vivid. It's hardly surprising, given that her performance won her a best supporting actress nomination at both the Hong Kong Film Awards and Taiwan's Golden Horses.

Referring to her turn in 20:30:40 as 'one of the luckiest thing ever happened' to her, Yeung says working with Chang totally changed her attitude to being an actress.

'She always asked me, 'What does acting mean to you? Are you doing it just for fun or as a career?'' says the 22-year-old. 'She looks at it as a career - and she'll be making movies for many years to come.'

Chang's enthusiasm for her art - even well into her third decade as an actor-director-producer - inspired the then-teenaged Yeung to take up acting seriously.

Yeung says Chang's mentoring extended beyond the set of 20:30:40 - the veteran filmmaker, who already counts Taiwanese singer-actor Rene Liu Ruo-ying and Malaysia's Angelica Lee Sinje among her charges, is now Yeung's manager.

Yeung says that Chang encourages her to do things she enjoys (for example, dancing) and constantly reminds her to take things slowly - her part in Eternal Summer, by Taiwanese director Leste Chen, is only her second outing since 20:30:40.

'Many newcomers do a lot of things in a very short period,' she says. 'I think you need time to digest what you've done, or you won't be really clear about what you're doing and how you can improve in your next job.'

Yeung has spent much time since 20:30:40 learning Putonghua from veteran Taiwanese actress Jiao Jiao and has also performed in a few local theatre productions such as W Theatre's Butterfly Lovers, and Zuni Icosahedron's 2004: A Hong Kong Odyssey.

She first came to prominence when she modelled for celebrity photographer Wing Shya when she was 16. A part in a Fruit Chan Kuo-directed television commercial for a local teenage mothers' concern group was followed by a minor role as an office worker in Patrick Leung Pak-kin's comedy Mighty Baby. Her breakthrough came in her second collaboration with Leung, playing the daughter of a dead Cantonese opera maestro in the supernatural drama Demi-Haunted (2002). It won her a nomination for best newcomer at the Hong Kong Film Awards.

Her role in 20:30:40 came after a collaboration with DJ and writer Vincci Cheuk Wan-chi on a series of online dramas for Now.com. Cheuk, one of the screenwriters on the film, urged Yeung to audition for the part of a Hong Kong teenager pursuing her pop-star dreams in Taiwan alongside a Malaysian youngster (Lee Sinje).

'Sinje told me how she developed more aspects of her role in The Eye 10,' says Yeung. 'In Eternal Summer, Sylvia told me to relax, saying I just needed to mingle with the actors.' And mingle she did, spending two weeks with fellow actors Bryant Chang Jui-chia and Joseph Chang Hsiao-chuan, reading the scripts and discussing and rehearsing scenes with the director.

Yeung admits she worried about her career developing too slowly, but that Chang advised her not to rush things.

Nevertheless, last year was a busy one for the actress. Apart from Eternal Summer, she had a part in Ronald Cheng Chung-kei's comedy It's A Wonderful Life and in former independent director Adam Wong Sau-ping's second commercial project, which is due for release this autumn.

'After making three movies in a row last year, I want to take a small break to review what I've done,' Yeung says. 'When I'm too busy I feel very confused.'

Eternal Summer opens today