Q&A with Yuen Tan at Asia Film Equipment in Malaysia

Tan talks about Hollywood, historical buildings and water tanks

By Chris Evans 17 Dec 2019

Q&A with Yuen Tan at Asia Film Equipment in Malaysia

Q&A with Lin Vin Tan, rental manager at Asia Film Equipment in Malaysia

Where are the best places to shoot a film, high-end TV series or commercial and why?

Kuala Lumpur is a highly convenient place to shoot film/TV/commercials as most cast and crew are based in the city, as are the major equipment rental houses. For cities or towns famous for their heritage buildings mostly from the British colonial times, Penang and Ipoh top the list. Iskandar Malaysia Studios (formerly set up by Pinewood) in Johor has also been bringing in international productions in the past few years. 

Can you tell me about the variety of locations on offer? Can they double for other countries?

From metropolitan cities to green paddy fields, the options are endless. UK’s ITV recently filmed TV drama The Singapore Grip in Kuala Lumpur and Penang for 16 weeks - the heritage buildings and sites emulating those of Singapore in the 1940s. 

What makes Malaysia stand-out from other locations?

Its diversity of local and international residents make it easy to street-cast background actors for scenes set in any location in the world.

What international film, TV projects and commercials have you assisted recently and where did they shoot?

Aside from The Singapore Grip, we had the Hollywood-China film Skyfire at Iskandar Malaysia Studios, which coincided with the filming of British-American TV series Strike Back Season 7. We have also had a plethora of Asian productions from Hong Kong, China and Japan coming to Malaysia. 

Is it easy to get permission to shoot in Malaysia? What is the process for applying and to whom?

As we do not have a city-by-city government film commission, location shooting permits are usually obtained by building owners, business owners, or the city council of the respective city you are shooting in. The process can be easier if you engage with location managers who have already established relationships with many companies, enterprises or buildings. 

What facilities are available in Malaysia (studios, sound stages)?  

While there are many studios in Kuala Lumpur that can support your regular film/TV/ commercial needs, the only studios that can support a fully fledged Hollywood-style production is Iskandar Malaysia Studios in Johor. Their facilities include a 5-meter underwater tank, 6 sound stages, including one that has an indoor water tank, and a large outdoor paddock tank measuring 65-by-65 square meters and 1.4m deep.  

Can you provide details of any funding/incentives available for international productions that shoot in Malaysia?

The Malaysian Government has developed the Film in Malaysia Incentive (FIMI) to promote the creation of quality content as well as making Malaysia a preferred destination for film production. All the required criteria and information can be found here: www.filminmalaysia.com.

How experienced are the local crew? Are there enough of them to handle a few major productions shooting in Malaysia at the same time?

Crew are valuable assets for any production. While the filming industry is still considered a niche industry here, we are definitely growing in numbers, with many opportunities for the younger generation to break into the business. The seniors have decades of experience, while the juniors are dedicated and fast learners. 

What would international producers need to bear in mind when shooting in Malaysia?

A good thing to keep in mind is that Malaysia is still considered a strict Muslim country where there may be many religious rules in place. It is a good idea to engage with local production companies as well as equipment rental houses to facilitate the filming in a smooth manner.

For more information on filming in Malaysia, click here and check out our next edition of the International Production Guide, due out in January.

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