WHEN blockbuster fans watch big Hollywood productions like Avengers: Infinity War, Aquaman, Ready Player One, Godzilla, Aladdin or Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, they don't necessarily think of Malaysia.
Little do they know that Malaysian Eng Sze Jia is what these popular cinematic works have in common.
The 31-year-old Johor Baru-born talent has been working as a production coordinator on a long list of killer movies since joining the world renowned visual effects company Industrial Light & Magic (ILM) back in 2015.
Her latest effort is the epic space opera, Star Wars: The Rise Of Skywalker (TROS).
Based at parent company Lucasfilm's Singapore facility, which is awesomely dubbed The Sandcrawler, Eng likens her job to a challenging game of Tetris.
“That's the easily digestible gist of it. On a project, all these pieces come in and I have to manage and organise the processes and flow of the production plan and ensure artists are on schedule with their work.
“I'm basically the glue of the team of over 300 artists in Singapore,” she says cheerfully during a recent phone interview.
Eng, who grew up in Kuala Lumpur, says that the visual effects industry is very alive in Asia.
“I know of many Malaysians working all over the world as well. But my mum still has a hard time understanding what I do. She just calls me an ‘editor’,” says Eng with a laugh.
She adds that Lucasfilm is a great place to work at.
“It has many great systems in place over the many years of being in the business and state-of-the-art internal systems as well.
“The creative culture is also vast and very international. We've got people working here from all the world, so I get to meet and experience different cultures and traditions,” she says.
One of the best things about her job is also the worst, according to Eng.
“Working on these types of movies I get all the spoilers but it’s bad since I have to keep it all a secret too. Even from my husband who would keep on pestering me!”
Talking about Star Wars, she says: “It's a longstanding title and the fans are really intense, which means there's a lot of pressure to deliver.
“I was working on TROS for five months and the intensities comes and goes in waves and peaks. It's actually strange when we're not frantic,” she says with a laugh.
A FLUID CHALLENGE
She confesses that her favourite visual effects scene in the movie is the lightsaber duel between Rey and Kylo Ren on the Death Star ruins that's partly submerged in a raging sea.
“It's very challenging to get the water right since it's a moving canvas. Last time ILM did something this big with water was in Pacific Rim (2013).”
Proud to represent Malaysians in the international creative industry, the communications degree holder from Monash University Malaysia with 20 major movies under her belt admits that she's a growing fan of the Star Wars franchise.
“I was first introduced via the prequels. Although the visual effects have changed significantly since the original trilogy, the overall story is certainly relatable together with its morals and universal values.”
On her favourite Star Wars character, she says: “I think Han Solo is very handsome. But my favourite is C-3P0. I can relate to him.
“As a production coordinator, I'm like a droid. While the others are off on missions always going somewhere, I'm there to do the supporting work.”
Star Wars: The Rise Of Skywalker is currently showing in cinemas nationwide.