Busy street: Debbie Goh and co-stars in 'Bullets Over Petaling Street' ... the vibrant quality of the location attracted producer and co-director Sampson Yuen to set his movie there.
The bustling hub was both an attractive location and a challenge to shoot in, say the co-directors of Bullets Over Petaling Street.
DESPITE all the changes that have taken place around it, Kuala Lumpur’s Petaling Street remains a shopper’s paradise and tourist spot that is delightfully rich in culture with an unending variety of goods and food to be found.
It was this vibrant quality of the bustling commercial hub that captured the fancy of Hong Kong-born film producer and director Sampson Yuen when he started making movies in Malaysia.
Following the success of his period kung fu comedy Petaling Street Warriors (2011) – it won Best Non-Malay Film at the 25th Malaysian Film Festival 2013 and Best Image Design at Malaysia’s 1st Golden Wau Awards 2013, and was an official selection in New Cinema From Asia at Switzerland’s 12th Neuchatel International Fantastic Film Festival 2012 – Yuen decided to set his next movie there too.
He then roped in prominent local Chinese theatre expert Ho Shih Phin to make his big-screen directing debut as co-director of Bullets Over Petaling Street. Yuen, who is also CEO of Juita Entertainment, shared in a recent interview how he produced and co-directed the Chinese New Year flick, a tale adapted from one of Ho’s popular stage plays.
“The Malaysian moviemaking industry is growing, but getting a good script remains difficult. When I saw SP’s stage work, I realised that he had brilliant stuff that could make a successful transition from theatre to film. I also appreciated the satirical wit he exhibits in his works.
“I looked forward to combining ... cinema and theatre to add a different dimension to our action comedy,” said Yuen, 54, full of praise for his co-director Ho. The multiple-award-winning stage director was named Best Director at the ADA Drama Awards in 2006, 2010, 2011 and 2012.
Ho said: “When I met up with Sampson, I took three plays I considered to be most suitable to be adapted to film. I actually expected him to pick the one about a bunch of old folks in an apartment block. But he felt that a better story would be The God Mother, which revolves around a headstrong woman caught in a web of life-changing power struggles.
“After adaptation into Bullets Over Petaling Street, the story now tells of a fashionable actress who becomes a triad head and has to deal with gangland power struggles,” added Ho, 47, who has 20 years’ experience staging plays. He is best known for productions like Black & White, Heroes Wanted, Battle Of The Draconians and My Dragon Papa.
“Unlike stage plays where we are free to spend our time just developing characters according to a central concept, making movies is a lot more structured as it requires lots more preparation and planning ... everything needs to be completed in a given amount of time,” added Ho, who admitted that planning a whole shoot while taking into consideration the opening and closing times of stalls along Petaling Street was quite tough.
Although Petaling Street is not an easy place to film owing to its bustling businesses and the possibility of running into actual triad bosses, both Ho and Yuen reported an easy shoot that went more smoothly than they expected.
Timing was key. For the scene where the triad bosses converge on Petaling Street, Ho said: “We had to be very careful to ensure everyone’s safety and avoid intruding upon ‘restricted’ territory. So we had everybody on standby and rushed in so that we could quickly wrap our shoot within the hour.”
The made-in-Malaysia movie is a joint project by Juita Viden, Golden Screen Cinemas and The Star. Its star-studded cast features a host of award-winning artistes the likes of Debbie Goh, Ernest Chong and Cheryl Lee as well as Chen Han Wei and Irene Ang from Singapore.
> Bullets Over Petaling Street opens in cinemas nationwide today.