Filmmaker Invokes Cambodian Creativity

Nou Sotheavy / Khmer Times No Comments Share:
Nathaniel Nuon filming a Preap Sovath music video at the Sky Bar high atop the Phnom Penh Tower on August 5. (KT Photo: Nou Sotheavy)

PHNOM PENH (Khmer Times) – Cambodian American filmmaker Nathaniel Nuon,  notorious for avoiding the media spotlight, was recently spotted working on projects in Cambodia.

After four years of hard work, Mr. Nuon’s new feature film, “Broken Balance”,  is soon to be screened in both the United States and Cambodia. The film is a fantasy-mystery romance filmed in Alabama, where old trees and peaceful scenery resemble the elegance of Siem Reap. 

Mr. Nuon and his talented crew have combined Cambodian mythology and stellar visual effects to tell the story of an ancient power struggle in a film, a TV series, and a movie sequel. 

He seems richly equipped with future plans for the film industry in Cambodia.

“We originally wrote it for a TV series, then narrowed into down to a movie. But we had so much extra material, that we may release the sub-plots to a series. Then, when a company picks it up, we will make another movie,” Mr. Nuon said. 

The massive blueprint of the production will probably have Mr. Nuon directing the film. The TV series will be realized by different directors. He hopes the experiment will work out much like the popular movie franchise, the Avengers and the TV show, S.H.I.E.L.D.

Even with a full schedule of filming, Mr. Nuon, has helped anyone who asks about production, styles and techniques in film. He appreciates how much fun the learning process can be when working with local Cambodians.

Creating a production in the US differs greatly from filming in Cambodia. “We definitely have issues when it comes to timing,” he explains. “Everybody is on a different schedule than we are.”

While shooting a music video at the ritzy Eclipse Sky Bar for Cambodia’s king of crooning, Preap Sovath, the staff smiled in amazement at how quickly he and his team set up and filmed the scenes. 

Many Cambodians who have seen the filmmaker’s work have tried to replicate his style, but have failed. He believes that there is a market for his teaching skills.  “I have nothing to hide,” he explains. “If they can do it and be better at it, then it helps us to all grow [and] it helps me too. You learn if you teach.” 

Mr. Nuon’s return to Cambodia marks the two-and-a-half year anniversary of his first visit and the beginning of the “Broken Balance” adventure.  

“I shot a Preap Sovath music video and traveled around, and came up with a lot of good ideas,” he said.

Upon returning to the United States, the filmmaker and his team began developing a script for the Cambodian market. The idea for “Broken Balance” was born. 

For Nuon, one of the biggest obstacles in the film industry “is getting people to invest in an idea they are not familiar with.” He battled for the main character to be Cambodian, even though investors wanted to go “mainstream Hollywood.”
 
“Cambodian movies can be made here and shot here, but many investors would say that the talent needed is not locally available,” he said.

The cast iron mold of horror films still dominates the Khmer film market and restricts funding for other genres. 

For his first films, Mr. Nuon tried casting friends and family members whenever possible, or whoever fit into the role. 

After months of pooling their own money to finance the production, potential investors began to take notice and started offering their services.

Mr. Nuon has received promising support in marketing “Broken Balance” from one of Cambodia’s leading film investment companies and he looks forward to adding more films to his repertoire. 

October will mark the beginning of the latest film project he is planning for Cambodia. 

“It’s a secretive project for me [with] a lot of ups and downs and we are still in the process of doing some crazy stuff,” Mr. Nuon said.

“This trip was to meet with everybody and potential investors, and see all the scenery; I started to write a film with a smaller budget.”  

After a brainstorming session with other Cambodian filmmakers, a script was created for Khmer teenagers.

“As soon as we get an industry going here,  we can take these films and sell them on the international market.” 

He even has plans for an on-site seminar for students, focusing on using visual effects. 

“Filmmakers here are awesome,” he chuckled, “they are good with what they do and with what they have”. The conservative Khmer culture shouldn’t restrict future Khmer films. 

Mr. Nuon believes that creativity will jumpstart the film market and notes how filmmakers are starting to circumnavigate restrictions. “It’s a different culture, but art is going to be art no matter where you go, [you] just have to be creative,” he said. “In a matter of five to 10 years our industry will be booming with more Cambodian films in cinemas.” 

He said the film industry needs to have the same objecttive:  to work together.

“I alone cannot do it,” he said. “We need more filmmakers to fill the theaters with films; we all have different styles of doing things.” 
 

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