• Joshua Ow Yong

My experience PA-ing for Crazy Rich Asians and Why You Should Watch It.

A production assistant is the lowest ranking title in the hierarchy of production roles in the film industry, however they are indispensable. I was a production assistant (PA for short) on the production of Crazy Rich Asians. Okay, an office PA to be exact. My job scope can be summed up into six words, “help people do what they do”. The reason a PA’s job scope is so general is because they are needed practically in every stage of the production, they are everywhere in the office, everywhere on set— especially on a big budget project. Without the help of production assistants, nothing would be done. Need some desks and chairs set up in the new and empty office space? Need someone to find the director on set? How about running to the nearby supermarket to refill the pantry? These are the many things PAs do daily. It’s so easy, yet very important not to take them for granted, because PAs don’t stay as PAs throughout the duration of their careers. A production assistant is an entry point to the ultimate goal, common to any enthusiast looking to be in the industry.

During my time with the film, I was often stationed in the production office instead of on set and I usually introduce myself as the guy who escorts foreign cast and crew to and from the airport to wherever they need to be. I’m the first face of the Singapore team they see when they land and the last to bade farewell to them after the production. How I got the job was mere serendipity. I had a pocket of time before my military service enlistment and decided to send in a message to my ex lecturer about a possible internship in his production house. Coincidentally, he was working on Crazy Rich Asians at the time, and facing a shortage of man power. One thing led to another, and before I knew it, I was working right from the day of my interview. Of course, even though PAs do a myriad of daily tasks, they are also assigned with one main task under their charge—especially office PAs. I was in charge of immigration and visas for foreign cast and crew. I had to make sure that everyone who came to work in Singapore had proper visas and immigration papers to cross the border, this part of the job came in a combo deal with the escorting, and it meant tons of paperwork.

No complaints though, because the position I held was amazing, it was extremely strategic for meeting new people. Every single person who was on the production would eventually cross paths with me, and that gave me an invaluable opportunity to make friends and establish connections. I’ve had the privilege to meet the stars of Crazy Rich Asians: Constance Wu, Henry Golding, Michelle Yeoh and even some of their co-stars like Ken Jeong, Sonoya Mizuno, Chris Pang, even Kina Grannis, one of my favourite Youtubers and singer. When the shoot was nearing its end, I got the opportunity to meet some of my favourite people who were part of the publicity like Wesley Chan from Wong Fu Productions. Beyond the stars, I also got the opportunity to rub shoulders with some key people who brought the film to life, like the production designer, costume designers, production manager. People whom I’ve got lots to learn from.

Excuse the tired face and eye bags

So here’s a bunch of talented people putting in days and nights of effort to produce another romantic comedy. Why should you be excited about it? Influence. Films are a powerful tool of influence and Crazy Rich Asians is a breakthrough film in Hollywood for the Asian American community. This is the first Hollywood production with an all asian cast in a long time (There were even some local Singaporean actors starring). It is a film that introduced asian artistes hailing from all different cultures and through their teamwork, birthed a beautiful work of art. Besides its extravagant outlook and entertaining plot, it paves the way for similar films to come. Not to forget that the story is set in Singapore, how apt! And that is precisely the other reason I am ecstatic about its release. Singapore is showcased, once again, as a film set. Once in “Equals” (2015), another in “Hitman: Agent 47” (2015) and now it is such a joy to see another blockbuster production shot in my home country. Following these two films, Crazy Rich Asians is yet another variation of style in which Singapore can be showcased in films. A testament to the global cinema scene. My hope is that this will, in one way or another, lift the local media industry to greater heights.

People catch films for their favourite actors, I go for my favourite directors, but here we can all catch this film for something in common; community. If you don’t already have an excuse to see the movie for any one of the star studded casts, catch this movie in cinemas in support of community, the asian community. Perhaps also to find my name in the credits.

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© 2019 Joshua Ow Yong