It’s Illegal, but Real: Telling Stories of Gay Life in Singapore Interview with Leon Cheo (BFA/CRPR ’10)
December 17, 2018
Leon Cheo (BFA/CRPR ’10) was excited when he was approached by Action for AIDS in Singapore to create a show about gay life in his country, where homosexuality is illegal, “because I’m gay and it touches on so many aspects of my life,” he says. A graduate of Chapman’s Creative Producing program in Singapore, Cheo partnered fellow Chapman alumna Jen Nee Lim (BFA/CRPR ’10) to create a web series, People Like Us. “Who else but your classmates do you reach out to when you need help,” Cheo says.
“I wrote the script based on my own experiences with coming out, dating, dealing with STI’s, funny dating stories, and dating horror stories,” says Cheo of the series, which has just been renewed for a second season. For Lim, it was the challenge of doing something different, and of “being able to go into Singapore as a gay man,” a world, as a woman, she didn’t know. “Filmmaking is always about going into a world unknown, which is the exciting part for me,” she says.
“It is an interesting project that has not been done in Singapore before,” she says. Although homosexuality is technically illegal, the law is not generally enforced. Nevertheless, members of the gay community do not enjoy anti-discrimination protections. Yet the desire for representation exists, which led to the AIDS group approaching Cheo.
Cheo and Lim continue to push for the series and the health and rights of the LGBT community. The series, which focuses on the lives of four male characters and how they intersect through emotion,
safe sex, and social acceptance, has won numerous festival awards and is featured on the GayHealth.sg website at http://www.gayhealth.sg/plu/. Production on season two began in July 2018. According to Cheo, season two will have more heartbreak, and focus on the different stages of being out, and the dreaded “family issues.”
This article was originally published in our Fall 2018 In Production Magazine. This issue focuses on exploring identity through filmmaking, alumni honing their skills on the latest CFE production, Chapman’s third Student Academy Award-win, and a spotlight on our Screenwriting program. Check out the full magazine on issuu.