Monday, August 20, 2012
Making of battle scenes for Jack Neo's upcoming movie, Ah Boys to Men
When the Singapore defence ministry lends its weight to a movie, it's a pretty safe bet which side will win the scripted war.
The Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) quite predictably saves the day in the work-in-progress movie, Ah Boys to Men, but not before a few close calls in set piece battle scenes audiences will be treated to. About 80 per cent of the movie, due for release this November, has been filmed.
One firefight for Ah Boys to Men was played out in Robinson Road in the heart of Singapore's Central Business District (CBD) on Sunday in front of skyscrapers that would have given thousands of office workers a ringside seat to Singapore Army motorised infantry performing an urban operation, had it been a work day. On location on Sunday, the place was deserted. That said, the location was ring fenced by security guards hired to keep gawkers away.
Robinson Road battle scene
Three months of back-and-forth negotiations with authorities like the Land Transport Authority, Traffic Police, bus companies and building landlords finally gave director Jack Neo the green light to film to turn a 300-metre stretch of Robinson Road into a "war zone". A night's preparation and a full day of filming should result in an action sequence lasting just two to three minutes on the big screen, said Mr Neo yesterday when he allowed the media and bloggers to watch the film crew in action.(Which essentially means if you decide to take a pee break at an inopportune time during the movie, you'll miss it.)
Tonnes of building debris was trucked in and scattered onto the road to give the impression of a bombed out area. Assorted office furniture like filing cabinets and junkyard cars added to realism along with pieces of styrofoam sliced and painted to mimic damaged building structures like walls and pillars. Throw in about a dozen heavily dusted extras wearing zombie-like make-up and the scene was prepared to bring Mr Neo's movie script to life.
The stage was set for the "stars" of the show - actors playing the part of SAF full-time national servicemen who go forth to go battle. Ahh, I hear a question: With whom? But we'll get to that in a moment...
The Singapore Army's 6th Division contributed two Terrex infantry carrier vehicles which provided overwatch as the NSFs went about their work clearing Robinson Road of the Enemy. (SAF numberplate collectors would recognise Terrex 99269 MID "Blitz" as the vehicle displayed at this year's Army Open House.)
Blue screens erected on either side of the film set were a telling hint that live action would be complemented by post-production computer generated imagery. No, not Godzilla but "maybe more explosions" said Mr Neo.
It is fortunate that Ah Boys to Men is a comedy because the light-hearted movie theme and comical script means moviegoers should not take what they see too seriously.
So when the section commander leads his men in the middle of an open city street with practically no cover, purists should not cringe that this goes against lessons learned from urban operations in past and current wars (Grozny, assorted Middle East Wars, former Yugoslavia).
Neither should the lack of a named enemy threaten to unravel the plot. In Mr Neo's words:"The enemy, we are not specifying who they are, where they are from. As long as you know the enemy can be from anywhere."
A nice, poltically-correct statement that probably made the Ministry of Defence (MINDEF) and SAF decide that it could safely support the movie's storyline without incurring the wrath of anybody.
Yesterday's battle scene is one of several involving SAF hardware. The film includes a fight scene in housing board flats (filmed in Neo Tew training area) and a sequence involving Republic of Singapore Air Force (RSAF) warplanes scrambling into action (hopefully against something more potent that a Cessna seaplane).
According to Mr Neo, the story of four NSFs going through Basic Military Training on Pulau Tekong will include flashbacks showing NS of yesteryear.
Will it be worth it? You decide come November 2012 when episode 1 of Ah Boys to Men premieres at a cinema near you.
Ah Boys to Men: Battle scene along Robinson Road by numbers:
One: Full day of filming at Robinson Road to produce a fight sequence lasting just two to three minutes.
Two: Number of episodes Ah Boys to Men will comprise. Episode 1 screens in November 2012. Episode 2 follows around Chinese New Year 2013.
Three: Months needed to get approval to film the battle scenes along Robinson Road.
Six: Bus services diverted for the battle sequence filming on 19 August 2012.
Six: The number of the Singapore Army division that supported the filming along Robinson Road. The Terrex ICVs came from the 4th battalion, Singapore Infantry Regiment (4 SIR).
10: Tonnes of building debris scattered onto Robinson Road to turn it into a "war zone".
70: Filming days needed to make episodes 1 and 2
Many thanks to J Team Productions for the access to the film set on 19 August 2012 and to the MINDEF Public Affairs media team for being there.
Posted by David Boey at 2:22 PM