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From 'victims' to viral video

Producer, director of YouTube video Top 10 Criminals in Singapore:

We have your son and we want $8,000.

When Mr Ryan Tan's mother heard that line over the phone, she panicked.

She did not know that her son, who was not answering her calls, was safely asleep in another apartment.

When he finally returned her call, she was less than a metre from an automated teller machine and was about to transfer the money to the scammer.

This was two years ago, but that incident is etched in Mr Tan's memory.

And it was with that in mind that he produced the YouTube video hit Top 10 Criminals in Singapore.

Commissioned by agencies including the Singapore Police Force and the National Crime Prevention Council, the video was released last November.

Using babes, hunks and humour, the six-minute video is a light-hearted portrayal of 10 common petty crimes here, such as online and kidnapping scams, shoplifting and theft.

In eight months, it has attracted more than 1.19 million views.

The video was produced by Night Owl Cinematics, a production company co-founded by Mr Tan and Ms Sylvia Chan in February last year.

Mr Tan, the producer, and Ms Chan, the director, told The New Paper last Thursday that they both have been targets of crime.

For Ms Chan, 26, she was the victim of an online beauty product scam about two years ago.

"I had signed up for this beauty product online spree and paid about $400 for a facial set," she said, adding that she never received the goods, prompting her to call the organiser.

"It was a different woman who picked up my call and she claimed to be the (organiser's) sister. She told me that her sister had died and to stop harassing the family," Ms Chan said.

Soon after, the organiser's number was no longer in service. "That was when I knew I had been scammed."

Ms Chan managed to locate about 50 fellow victims on an online forum and learnt that some of them had filed police reports.

And it was with these real-life examples in mind that Mr Tan and Ms Chan (above) concocted the script for their video.

Said Mr Tan: "We know the patterns of these criminals. We tried to use real-life examples to prevent others from falling into the same trap.

"We also decided to make it a comedy because it would be more effective in reaching out to people. When people laugh, they will remember."

Actress Nina Tan, 23, a beauty consultant who played a sexy online scammer in the "Sextortionist" scene, said she was proud of the video.

WORKING HARD

"When we were filming, we weren't thinking about how successful it would become. We were just working hard to make sure all our scenes were good.

"But now, wow. I really didn't expect it to do so well," said Miss Tan, who had no qualms about her scene that required her to show some cleavage.

"To be honest, I didn't even know I was supposed to look sexy. I just followed the script and instructions on what to do."

Miss Tan added that she was very comfortable during the shoot as Mr Tan is her cousin and the crew were very professional.

"Since we don't have a big name, we have to capture attention with our actors and roles. We had to have appeal," she said.

That sentiment was shared by fellow actress Clara Song, 30, a make-up artist and beauty blogger.

"Who doesn't like to look at good-looking people?" she said with a laugh.

"But we hope it will entice people to watch further and that it will be memorable and will relate to Singaporeans."

Ms Chan said the video, which took about a week to film and edit, was well received.

"We had a lot of encouraging comments and hardly any negative ones, not even from foreigners who didn't understand the Singlish used in the video," she said.

Last month, Night Owl Cinematics released a sequel, an educational musical titled You Got Scammed!.

And in two weeks, its second anti-crime video attracted more than 229,000 views.

For a company that started out doing wedding photoshoots, Ms Chan said she was proud of their accidental success.

She said the police had approached the company to do a video after watching a few of its releases over the past year.

"After watching our two (anti-crime) videos, we hope the public will be more alert to such crimes," she said.

Mr Tan agreed. "It's better to be paranoid and wary. Don't think you know everything.

"With the technology these days, you never know when you could fall victim."

The anti-crime videos can be found on YouTube under the channel Ryan Sylvia or #CriminalWatch.

Being funny to get serious

The videos may be funny and have elicited guffaws from their many viewers, but there are valuable lessons to be learnt from the hilarious sketches.

Responding to queries from The New Paper, the National Crime Prevention Council (NCPC) said that it was the first time it had worked with the Singapore Police Force (SPF) to create comedy videos to reach out to the Net-savvy members of the public.

Its spokesman said that the first video, Criminal Watch, aims to raise public awareness of offences like theft, "sextortion" and Internet purchase scams.

NCPC chairman Tan Kian Hoon told TNP: "Using a humorous video to promote a serious message on crime prevention to Singapore residents was something we had never attempted before.

"We are very excited and encouraged by the public reception of our first video. Criminal Watch has attracted over 1.1 million views since its launch last November, with viewers leaving many encouraging comments on Facebook and YouTube."

He added that, encouraged by the positive response received for the first video, NCPC and SPF collaborated with Night Owl Cinematics again to produce a second video, Criminal Watch - You Got Scammed Musical (above).

"We hope more Singaporeans will watch the videos and share them with friends and family, so that everyone will remember to be more vigilant against scams," said Mr Tan.