No moral High ground taken in first interactive short film
The audience's choices will determine ending of anti-drug film, which is based on real-life examples
The National Council Against Drug Abuse (NCADA) is officially launching its anti-drug campaign by showcasing Singapore's first interactive short film.
Titled High, the film by award-winning director Royston Tan will not be a "preachy" movie. It will allow the audience to make choices via an app and decide on the outcome for the protagonist Nick, played by Shawn Thia.
Unlike past anti-drug messages, High has four endings, said scriptwriter He Shuming, 34.
For him, making the movie was an emotional journey as the characters were based on real-life examples of people whom he and Tan knew.
The pair were approached to produce the film in the middle of last year by Dentsu Aegis Network, which promotes the anti-drug campaign in partnership with NCADA.
They agreed because both had friends who were addicted to meth.
Tan, 43, said: "I am not going to stand on the moral high ground, but I do not want to lose another friend. I have already lost one. I don't know if he is alive or dead, or has just totally disappeared (because of his meth addiction)."
High begins with Nick receiving an innocent text message.
He then attends a party as a guest of Sienna, played by Naomi Yeo. Soon, things get out of hand when Nick tries Ice, a street name for crystal meth.
He coughs after taking his first puff and later scratches uncontrollably, thinking there are ants under his skin.
The decision to feature an interactive film was considered by the authorities as something bold that would be more effective in engaging the youth who may be susceptible to meth abuse, said Mr Firdaus Daud, a council member of NCADA.
"For the youth, it (anti-drug messaging) really has to be online - it has to be a bit viral. It can't be about the message that you want, first and foremost."
Figures show meth users accounted for 73 per cent of new drug abusers arrested by the Central Narcotics Bureau last year. About 61 per cent of them were under 30 years old. In total, 3,524 abusers were arrested - the highest number in six years.
Referring to the pre-launch screening of High at ITE College East, ITE College Central and Singapore Polytechnic in January, Mr Firdaus said: "(Pushing the anti-drug message) has to draw (young people's) attention, engage them with a story and through that, the natural conversations will flow. That's what we found out when we went to the schools."
After the screening, the 5,162 students participated in a Safe Zone Discussion (SZD) where students freely shared their concerns about drug abuse.
At SZDs, facts about drugs are presented - to separate fact from fiction, said Mr Firdaus.
During one session, he was struck by one student's experience. The student said his failure to help a drug abuser friend had resulted in the friend dying of a drug overdose.
Netizens will be able to ask questions anonymously about High through the high.sg microsite.
Like everything in life, decisions must be made, said He.
"It's about 'yes' or 'no'," he added. "Every choice has a consequence. Ultimately, you have nobody else to blame but yourself (if you make the wrong decisions)."
NCADA's anti-drug campaign kicked off yesterday.