Nick Daryanani and Natalie Chan Lend a Hand Through Reality TV
Hong Kong’s about to get a show that kicks community altruism into high gear. Filmmaker Nick Daryanani and producer Natalie Chan are the duo behind “Dream On”—which aims to help individuals in marginalized communities achieve their dreams.
So how does the show work? Nick: Each episode focuses on a different individual, from a different marginalized community. We interview them, then one day we rock up to their house—we tell them we have to do some pickup shots, and suddenly we take them on an adventure for one day. [In the first episode], we help an underprivileged African activist who wants to make music—having struggled with racism in the city, his dream was to inspire people and get rid of prejudice in the world. Japanese clothing company Evisu sponsored the top floor of their shop for a photoshoot, we got a bunch of supporting singers and an experienced local rapper to mentor him. We went out and got this amazing studio and he recorded his own single. The idea was to take his single and put it on RTHK.
How is “Dream On” different from other reality TV shows? Nick: There’s a lot of reality shows out there where you don’t know what’s real and what’s not. Here it’s real. No part of this is a shortcut, there are no camera tricks. There’s transparency with donations. This is a real person, in a real situation, and we do our best to give them a leg up on their dreams. Natalie: The focus is more about the social issue than about that person. In Hong Kong, there are always issues that people write about or make documentaries about, but it’s always portrayed in a negative way. We’re here to put a more positive, pop culture spin on it, but we’re also careful about not pigeonholing people into different social issues.
How do you pick your subjects? Nick: We actively talk to NGOs who suggest people for us to speak to, and we hear their stories. We tell them that we’re shooting a documentary about them. There are so many people with so much passion and ambition who haven’t had a chance. Natalie: We’re tired of all these celebrities that people idolize in Hong Kong—what value do they really provide to the younger generation? We want to create new heroes within the community. Ultimately there are three criteria: They have to have some sort of dream or goal; they have to have a positive can-do mentality; and third, perseverance—we don’t want to reward people who are just going to be lazy.
What’s the main takeaway for audiences? Nick: A lot of people have big dreams but no one really goes out there to chase after them. I want to make sure that whoever is part of this has their one shot. It may not be a huge, Jay-Z, Hollywood-level shot, but I want them to look back on their life when they’re 90 without regrets. Truthfully, we’re nobodies: We’re just two people in Hong Kong who want to push this idea along. You don’t have to have money, you don’t have to be someone in order to help people. You just have to find the right people to dream with. Me and Nat, we’re not the heroes. It’s the community that gives them that shot.
This article appeared in the November 20, 2015 issue of HK Magazine as Upclose.