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Indonesian set designer brings 'Crazy Rich Asians' to life

Liza Yosephine
Liza Yosephine

The Jakarta Post

Jakarta  /  Mon, September 3, 2018  /  06:29 pm
Indonesian set designer brings 'Crazy Rich Asians' to life

Teddy Setiawan, 38, was tapped as the set designer for the film adaptation of Kevin Kwan's popular novel 'Crazy Rich Asians'. (Courtesy of Teddy Setiawan/File)

Thirty-eight-year-old Teddy Setiawan first read Kevin Kwan's book Crazy Rich Asians in 2016, upon recommendation from a friend.

The Indonesian set designer had asked for suggestions on some light reading in between hectic schedules while working on a project in Morocco. 

"While reading, of course I already had some visuals in my mind and I actually told my friend that it was a very prominent book that should be made into a film. And, suddenly, I was called to work on the project. What are the odds?" Teddy, who is currently back in Morocco working on a different project, said in an email interview with The Jakarta Post

On the Crazy Rich Asians movie, Teddy worked with big Hollywood names, including director Jon M. Chu and production designer Nelson Coates who is also the president of the Art Directors Guild in the United States. 

Under Coates, Teddy's duties revolved around putting the production designer's ideas and conceptual design, which came in the form of concept illustrations, into actual designs to be built for the sets used in the movie.

Shot last year, production for the movie mostly took place in Malaysia, with shooting done in Kuala Lumpur, Penang and Langkawi. Some scenes were also shot in Singapore, where much of the story is set. 

"We had to revamp a neglected Malaysian government guest house into Tyersall Park, designed and built the interior of the Young's family airplane from scratch, altered a wine bar into a jewelry shop, transformed a museum into Goh's house, as well as converting St. Joseph Church and Gardens by the Bay in Singapore for the grand wedding in four to five weeks," Teddy said.  

He called the experience priceless while at the same time challenging, facing the task of transforming the book into a movie with great enthusiasm.

"I hope we managed to visualize some of [the book] onto the big screen," Teddy said. 

Read also: Success of 'Crazy Rich Asians' movie sparks plans for sequel

Indonesian artists working behind the scenes on Hollywood movie sets are unheard of, and doing it was not Teddy’s career of choice -- at first. Born in Cirebon, West Java, he studied product design at the Bandung Institute of Technology (ITB) before starting his career as an exhibition designer. Teddy first delved into set designing when a friend asked him if he could assist in TV commercial projects. 

"From there I was offered to help out on the Blackhat movie project that was shot in Jakarta," Teddy said, referring to the 2015 film directed by Michael Mann and starring Chris Hemsworth. 

Offers continued to come in and now, the set designer is currently in Marrakesh working on the Keanu Reeves film John Wick 3 that is slated for release next year. 

When asked about tips for aspiring set designers, Teddy underlined the importance of having a good attitude. 

"Of course technical skills are necessary. But these days, you can easily find so many people with similar, if not better, skills than you out there. It's the ability to bring a good atmosphere to a teamwork environment that matters," Teddy said. "Staying humble is important, because even experienced, award-winning designers are very humble and down to earth." (wng)