In the early days of his career, Zhang took on the roles of producer, director, cameraman and video editor. His hands-on approach has paid off. With this YouTube sensation-turned-breakout star, popularity is now a numbers game. The 27-year-old has over 273,000 followers on Instagram tracking his on and off-screen adventures, and his most-viewed YouTube video has clocked close to a million views.
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Was it an easy transition for you to make, going from YouTube to the big screen?
Yes, it was! I was already very comfortable in front of the camera. But in terms of production, there are some differences. TV is much faster. When we do dramas or travel shows, there’s less time to set the lights up to perfection. But for movies, every single scene is set properly. When I started my YouTube videos, they were very raw. But the whole scale of it has grown now. Nowadays, YouTubers bring a whole production team with them.
Why do you think your videos were so popular among young Singaporeans?
I think it’s because I had no filter back then. I had a lot of things to say and I said them because I genuinely felt that way. I don’t censor myself these days, but that’s also because I don’t have as many over-the-top things to talk about anymore. But I still share my views on social media. A difference between our generation and the ones before us is that we have social media. We come from Facebook, Instagram, YouTube… it’s a new wave. I hope we are able to open new doors for others.
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What do you think Singaporean audiences want to see?
They want somebody they can be proud of. Take, for example, Joseph Schooling and Nathan Hartono. It’s the phenomenon of doing well overseas or on an international platform that validates the Singaporean identity.
What are you working on now?
I’m involved in hosting a travel show. I visit different countries with [co-host] Wang Weiliang and we focus on lost languages. Every episode is about a new place to explore.
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By Gerald Tan and Dana Koh
Photography by Gan
Styled by Windy Aulia
Hair and Makeup: Grego, Manisa Tan/PaletteInc, Red
Styling assistant: Gracia Phang
Fashion intern: Abielle Yeo