August 27th, 2018 by Karen Burg with Set Decorator Andrew Baseman SDSA

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Set Decorator Andrew Baseman SDSA International takes us through key sets, with an insider POV on the making of this exuberant box office hit... Tyersall Park, Singapore... “The first time we see the interior of Tyersall Park, the Young estate, is upon Rachel's arrival. The house is bustling with hundreds of party guests. It isn't until this dumpling-making scene later on that you can actually see some of the details, including William Morris and Chinoiserie wallpaper, Chinese porcelain vases, and carved wood and gilt chairs...” Michelle Yeoh, Gemma Chan, Lisa Lu, Henry Golding, Constance Wu © 2018 Warner Bros. Pictures

Set Decorator
Andrew Baseman SDSA

Production Designer
Nelson Coates

Warner Bros.

New Yorker Rachel Chu [Constance Wu] accompanies her longtime boyfriend, Nick Young [Henry Golding], to his best friend’s wedding in Singapore, his hometown. Excited about visiting Asia for the first time but nervous about meeting Nick’s family, Rachel is unprepared to learn that Nick has neglected to mention a few key details about his life. Not only is he the scion of one of the country’s wealthiest families, but also one of its most sought-after bachelors. Being on Nick’s arm puts a target on Rachel’s back with jealous, picture-perfect, backstabbing socialites and, worse, Nick’s own disapproving mother [Michelle Yeoh]. An engaging and hilarious look at what can happen when young love collides with old money.
--Warner Bros.
Jon Chu, the director of this runaway hit based on Kevin Kwan’s international bestseller, says, “We knew that the universality of the story would come from its specificity. The more specific we could be about the cultural touchstones, the characters and their backgrounds, the more we would create a story that people everywhere could emotionally connect with. Because every culture and every family is crazy, and has traditions and weird things you’re reluctant to show anyone, but that over time you just might become proud of and want to share.”
To hit those cultural touchstones and bring this lavish world to life, Chu relied upon Production Designer Nelson Coates and Set Decorator Andrew Baseman SDSA International, as well as Director of Photography Vanja Č Ernjul. They, in turn, brought on talented crews and specialists as they filmed in Singapore and neighboring Malaysia, particularly the capital city of Kuala Lumpur, which stood in for parts of Singapore and even early scenes set in NYC.
Baseman gives us an insider’s POV as he takes us through the photo gallery of amazing sets [above]. It was such an exciting, tight-on-time-&-budget, but joyful experience, that he plans to return for the holidays!

Astek Wallcovering
Chu imparts, “When Kevin set up his computer, he wrote ‘Joy’ on a Post-It note and put it right on the monitor, and every day as he wrote his story, he looked at that note. He said that whatever happened, that was the most important thing he wanted to communicate.
Seven years later, we’re making this movie and he told me, ‘Whatever you do, this is the only thing that matters. If you can convey joy, it’ll work.’ That has been our guiding light, our North Star, throughout.”
Karen Burg

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Cake and Carry, Greenwich Village, New York... “The original setting for this scene was written as Tea and Sympathy, an actual British style tea salon in Greenwich Village, NYC. I live nearby and have been going there for over 20 years, and was excited to re-create the cozy interior. When we couldn't get the rights to the name, it became Cake & Carry and morphed into an American bakery, in the style of the Magnolia Bakery.” Henry Golding, Constance Wu © 2018 Warner Bros. Pictures

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Cake and Carry, Greenwich Village, NYC... “We worked with an amazing local food stylist, Pelita Lim, who was unaccustomed to colorful American baked goods such as red velvet cake, blondies, and cupcakes with tall icing. She and her assistants did a wonderful job with this and then blew us all away with the Asian food she made and styled for the rest of the movie.” Image © 2018 Warner Bros. Pictures

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Tyersall Park... “The color green is featured prominently throughout the movie, as seen in the blouse Michelle Yeoh, as Eleanor Young, is wearing, and more dramatically by the emerald ring (her own!) she wears. The tiger in the background was scripted, and since real ones are illegal to import, finding one proved difficult. My amazing assistant Lauren Richards had this one made in China by artisans she worked with on a previous job. It was so realistic that it was almost confiscated by customs at the border.” Photo by Sanja Bucko © 2017 Warner Bros. Pictures

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Tyersall Park... A “before” shot of the grand staircase... “As we were on a limited budget, Production Designer Nelson Coates and I considered keeping the original carpet on the staircase, but it just didn’t look right and the thought of doing so was keeping me up at night...” Image © 2018 Warner Bros. Pictures

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Tyersall Park... “I had less than 5 weeks to prep this entire movie...typically on a movie such as this I would have at least 8-12 weeks of prep. So the first thing Nelson and I focused on was the wallpaper. At a mall in Bangsar, we found a William Morris sample book and pounced on it, scaring the salesperson. The unusual green color set the tone for the entryway. Eventually, we found money in our budget to have a gorgeous patterned runner made, and our resourceful and talented buyer, Ju Min Tan, used his influence to have it custom-made in less than a week. The runner showed up at around 10PM the night before shooting and installation was completed just before daybreak...the last element dressed into the set!” Image © 2018 Warner Bros. Pictures

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Tyersall Park hallway... “Before”... Image © 2018 Warner Bros. Pictures

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Tyersall Park hallway... ...and “after”... Image © 2018 Warner Bros. Pictures

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Tyersall Park... “At the first screening of the film, I actually gasped out loud when I saw how beautiful this room was shot. I love working with a tight color palette and pulled all of the colors for the furniture and accessories from the luminous wallpaper. We didn’t have the time or money to reupholster any of the furniture so all of the pieces throughout the house were used as is. The rug, which I typically have early in the design process, was the last item I found. And those colors in the pair of porcelain garden stools…I drooled a little when I first spotted them.” Image © 2018 Warner Bros. Pictures

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Tyersall Park, detail... “We worked with local florist Eunice Teo, who had never worked on a movie before, and created the most exquisite floral arrangements I have ever seen. The delicate flowers used in abundance throughout Tyersall House had to survive 5 days of shooting in hot and humid conditions so Eunice came by each day to maintain the arrangements.” Image © 2018 Warner Bros. Pictures

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Tyersall Park, Living room, before... “This former grand hotel had been abandoned for many years. The most recent guests, a barrel of monkeys, showed us their gratitude for years of free lodging by leaving us piles of poo to clean up.” Image © 2018 Warner Bros. Pictures

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Tyersall Park, Living room, after... Old World grandeur... “A mix of Peranakan and European furniture, English wallpaper, and Victorian details. The silk curtains were made overnight by draper Yap Chuen Yin, who always smiled and never complained when asked to do the impossible. I wish I could make the same claim for myself...” Image © 2018 Warner Bros. Pictures

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Tyersall Park, detail... “Symmetry is one of the key elements of the Peranakan style, which is a Singapore Straits hybrid of Asian styles with European influences. I especially like the collection of miniature porcelain snuff bottles on the wood display shelf at center.” Image © 2018 Warner Bros. Pictures