Having directed films such as Paskal: The Movie, Wira, and Pasal Kau, Adrian Teh is undoubtedly one of the most prolific directors in the local film industry today. This month, the renowned director returns to the big screen with his latest film, The Assistant.

While the film is narratively driven by a tried-and-true formula, Adrian’s latest film breathes exhilarating life into the familiar premise. With its dazzling action sequences, outsized world, and an excellent direction that makes every frame of the film a sumptuous visual feast, The Assistant is more compelling in the aesthetically heightened, specifically detailed world it depicts. With a production budget of RM6 million, Adrian’s latest film delivers a stylised film that is expertly crafted with memorable action sequences.

After a year with too few action movies, The Assistant is a production that provides viewers an adrenaline rush that’s uncommon in the local film industry. Recently, August Man Malaysia had the opportunity to speak to its Men of the Year alumni on his approach to action sequences, the secret behind The Assistant’s impressive worldbuilding, as well as the technical challenges that come with shooting a scene surrounded by mirrors.

The Assistant
The Assistant

The action sequences in The Assistant are better than most Hollywood movies in recent memory. How did you approach the action sequences of the film?

I’ve always believed that it takes time to deliver a great action sequence. I don’t think it can be achieved on the fly. If you only provide your choreographer and actors with three hours to work with, it’s impossible for them to produce anything worthwhile. It’s unfortunate because that’s how some of the local films approach action. Often, the director would hand the action sequences to the choreographer with limited time to execute. To me, I understand that filmmakers are often restricted by budgetary reasons, but by doing so you’re not giving a fair chance to your choreographer as well as your actors to be the best that they can be.

When I started developing Wira, this was very much on my mind. I made sure to allocate enough resources to the action sequences of the film. I told my investors that we needed three months of training before we get the camera rolling. I’d get my actors to train on set on a daily basis, they’d train two sessions per day. In the morning, we’d work on building their stamina, and we’d proceed to working on the choreography in the afternoon. Not only do I want the actors to memorise the choreography, I want it to be in their muscle memory. There’s a huge difference.

The Assistant isn’t afraid in showcasing the “less glamorous” and gritty areas of the city. What sort of research did you need to conduct for the worldbuilding of film?

Well, in terms of the creative process behind that kind of worldbuilding, all you need to do is to take a stroll at Chow Kit during midnight. [Laughs] But yeah, I did drive around in my car just to be familiar with the texture and the colour palette of the environment. By the time we got around to shooting the film, we built a lot of sets, and that’s why the movie cost so much money. There’s a method behind the madness because these environments are incredibly crucial in the film.

In the context of the story, we wanted to demonstrate that there are wealthy criminals that are taking advantage of the poor. Therefore, it’s important for us to explore the contrast between different types of individuals in the film. It’s all needed to tell this story.

Read more: The Assistant Co-Star Henley Hii Graces Augustman April/May 2022 Cover

The Assistant
Adrian Teh

Mirrors play a huge part in the film as they visualise the characterisation of a few characters in this film. On a technical level, is it difficult to shoot the scenes with the number of mirrors on set?

It was difficult, but it was also very fun to execute. When you play with mirrors, there’s a lot of reflection going on. With Sam’s office, we built the entire set from scratch. To save the cost, we utilised a number of green screens for the various scenes that take place in the office. It was a daunting task. There’s a lot of intricacies that come with shooting with reflection. Because whenever you see a green screen, you’d need to imagine what is it that’s supposed to reflect back at you. It’s incredibly challenging, but I’ve never viewed it as a hurdle. It’s a puzzle that I need to solve to deliver my film.

written by.
Alex Low
Brand & Partnership Writer
Lifestyle writer with a passion for everything pop culture. When not writing, Alex spends his free time playing video games, learning how to cook (it's been quite a journey, or so he says), and lurking on blu-ray.com for the best physical media deals.

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