How to close roads for filming in Singapore

Marcus Goh

The filming of “Crazy Rich Asians” saw not one, but three road closures for their shoot on 11, 14, and 17 June. The cast also endured a midnight shoot at Gardens by the Bay over 22 to 23 June, although thankfully, no roads were closed for those scenes.

Which raises the question: How exactly does one go about closing roads for a shoot in Singapore? While “Crazy Rich Asians” isn’t the first Hollywood film to feature Singapore prominently (and to close roads), road closures for other movies like “Agent 47” weren’t as hyped up.

The “Agent 47” shoot closed multiple roads from 3 to 5 May, 2014, mainly along or near Robinson Road, but these closures wasn’t as widely publicised as the ones for “Crazy Rich Asians”, possibly because they took place over a weekend.

Closing the roads – an iMDA flowchart

According to the Location Filming Document on iMDA’s website, “filming general shots along public streets or walkways is allowed if the filming does not cause obstruction to vehicular or pedestrian traffic”. This means that for most shots that we see along Singapore’s streets, permission is not required so long as other people can still use the roads.

However, for more complicated shoots, different government agencies may be involved. A look at the “Location Filming – The Application Process” flowchart shows that in most cases, an MDA Location Facilitation Letter will greatly aid in liaising with the various government agencies.

Flowchart for location filming. (Screenshot from iMDA’s website)

Filming along roads generally falls under the purview of LTA and the Traffic Police. However, if streets and carparks are involved, then HDB, URA, and NParks may be involved, depending on the shoot locations.

Robinson Road closures for “Ah Boys to Men” in 2012

The first “Ah Boys to Men” film opened with a scene of Singapore being invaded by hostile enemy forces, and a pitched battle taking place on Robinson Road.

Leonard Lai, the producer for “Ah Boys to Men”, shared that the scene at Robinson Road was shot over the Sunday of the 18-20 August long weekend in 2012, with the film itself coming out on 8 November, 2012.

“We closed it for just one day. It was Sunday, 12 am, to 2359,” said Lai. “It was the first time that we closed Robinson Road for filming, and the main contact point back then was LTA.”

He highlighted that the policies and procedures may have changed since 2012.

“The main government body was LTA for the road closures. The shoot involved the walkways on both sides, and also the plant area, which are under NParks. If the closed road has bus routes that go through it, then the bus companies will be involved,” the 44-year-old told Yahoo Singapore.

“Also, because it is in a major city area, and there are buildings on both sides of the roads we want to close, we need to seek permission from each building individually,” he said.

After writing in to LTA, they helped to facilitate meetings between the Ah Boys to Men crew and the various government bodies. They would then send details such as the duration of the road closure, what they would be doing during the filming, and if any pedestrians might be affected.

“It helped that we closed the roads on a Sunday, and it was a long weekend, so there was not a lot of human and vehicle traffic. We also had Monday [which was a public holiday] as buffer time,” Lai said.

They also had letters of support from MINDEF and MDA (now iMDA) to facilitate the process.

Collyer Quay road closures for “2000 AD” in 1999

Veteran film producer Daniel Yun shared his experience regarding “2000 AD”, a Hong Kong action film that was set in Singapore and Hong Kong. It starred Aaron Kwok, Daniel Wu, Phyllis Quek, and James Lye.

“Almost half of the film was shot in Singapore, and the finale featured a chase scene, where Aaron Kwok drove over Collyer Quay. We got the permit from the Traffic Police, and at that time the Singapore Film Commission helped a lot,” said Yun.

“Personally, I think getting permissions and closing the roads is good if they can show a side of Singapore that’s unique.”

To show a Uniquely Singaporean side of the country

The Singapore Tourism Board has supported several international productions that were shot in Singapore.

They collaborated with Red Chillies Entertainment in the production of “Dear Zindagi”, a Hindi-language Bollywood film that was released in 2016. The film featured key opening scenes in Singapore, and was shot at One Fullerton Promenade, Changi Airport, and even a Singapore Airlines aircraft.

More recently, the Singapore Tourism Board worked together with SilkAir and Dharma Productions for the Bollywood movie “Badrinath Ki Dulhania”, a romantic comedy about a character who becomes a flight stewardess.

For “Crazy Rich Asians”, Yun hopes that they will showcase unique aspects of Singapore, rather than just using the country as a backdrop.

“For [films set in other countries], where the locale, the roads are closed, and the place is clear, if it’s longer than a few fleeting seconds, that’ll be good. And I hope ‘Crazy Rich Asians’ will be like that, that it’ll show how nice [Singapore] is.”

Marcus Goh is a Singapore television scriptwriter, having written for Police & Thief, Incredible Tales, Crimewatch, and Point of Entry. He’s also a Transformers enthusiast and avid pop culture scholar. You can find him on social media as Optimarcus and on his site. The views expressed are his own.

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