How Singaporean producers helped create Little Women’s riveting climax, and what they learned filming with their Korean counterparts
- A recent episode of K-drama Little Women was set in Singapore, where local co-producers Ochre Productions scouted locations
- Ochre’s creative director, Jean Yeo, and managing director, Pedro Tan, talk about the differences between working on a Korean TV production and Singaporean ones
By Lee Gyu-lee
With more Korean dramas expanding their reach globally, productions are increasingly using overseas locations to meet the growing expectations of international audiences.
One recent case is tvN’s thriller series, Little Women, which premiered in seventh place on Netflix’s top 10 non-English series chart in September.
The new interpretation of the classic novel, led by director Kim Hee-won, follows three close-knit sisters entangled in the dark secrets and mystery of a company’s wealthy owner family.
A recent episode of the series unveils the biggest secret of the plot as one of the lead characters, Oh In-ju (Kim Go-eun), travels to Singapore.
And for the climax of the story, the series’ production company, Studio Dragon, teamed up with a Singaporean production company, Ochre Pictures, to create the riveting, visually stunning scenes in the city state. Ochre Pictures has produced award-winning series, including the telemovie Justice Boo and the drama Last Madame.
“Ochre Pictures was tasked with co-producing the key episode plus some ad hoc scenes in various other episodes to be shot in Singapore,” says Jean Yeo, creative director of Ochre Pictures.
The production company, led by Yeo and managing director Pedro Tan, took charge of scouting locations that would fit the tone of the series, and supporting the overall production, logistics and local casting.
The episode filmed in Singapore shows In-ju travelling to the country to trace the mystery behind the death of her friend, Hwa-young, while enjoying luxury she has never experienced before.
Yeo shared that the main focus as the local creative director was “to show as many interesting locations” as they could, including the historical venue, The Fullerton Hotel, which rarely allows permits for filming.
“I think the director, producers, and writer wanted the Singapore episode to be a beautiful one, in line with the building up of Singapore as a financial/wealth hub,” Yeo says.
“This is also the climactic episode where our leads track down the money and Hwa-young to Singapore, with an exciting revelation from the mastermind behind the preceding incidents and mystery.
“The locations we find must deserve the build-up that the other episodes hinted at – of Singapore being beautiful and a wealth hub … We supported it by trying to find locations to fit that image: for example busy streets in the commercial heart of Singapore, bank locations with a view, character cafes with a background of modern buildings, and a sense of mystery in juxtaposition with the old and historical.
“I have long been an admirer of Studio Dragon as a production powerhouse for Korea and have ambitions for Ochre Pictures to be a production powerhouse for Singapore and Southeast Asia,” she says.
“I had mentioned in an interview with CNBC in 2021 that we had hoped to work with Studio Dragon to learn from their practices. Within months of the interview, the opportunity came along in the form of Little Women.”
Adding that she learned a lot from the experience, Yeo shares that she was surprised to see the systematic filming process, as well as the staff’s chemistry with each other.
Managing director Tan also says he was impressed with the scale and budget involved in the series.
“With a budget many times the regular budgets of Singapore’s drama series, so much more can be added to the production value of a drama … it allows access to locations and specialised equipment,” he says.
“It also allows for thorough location reconnaissance and adequate pre-production, which makes a lot of difference to the final product.”
Yeo, who has worked in show business in Singapore for over 20 years, says she witnessed the change of Korean content over the past two decades.
“Korean content has taken off and now stands almost shoulder to shoulder with the production quality of Hollywood, with budgets close to those of Hollywood as well,” she says, adding that it was made possible through the collective efforts from the public and private sectors.
“Korea’s firm belief in the soft power of K-culture has vastly paid off … Content, used and promoted wisely, is soft power and the Koreans have made an art out of using content as soft power.”
She hopes Singapore’s content industry will take a similar path, and she’s using her role as a creator to make content that speaks to a universal audience in the global streaming era.
“For our most recent production, Third Rail, Singapore’s first train hijacking drama, we heavily invested time and money together with our national broadcaster to see if we can create something seldom seen on local TV,” she says.
“We present an Asian perspective that the West hardly sees, with compelling characters and unexpected twists and turns authentic to the sociopolitical background of our region. And yet the issues and the interpersonal relationships and human emotions are universal and relatable,” Yeo adds.