Interview with Sam Koay

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Sam Koay (Centre)

An interview with Bruneian Sam Koay who is currently working in Hollywood

Sam Koay is young, creative, and living his dream! Sam who grew up in Brunei is a graduate from the University of Miami with a double major degree in Electronic Media and Theatre Arts. He was inspired to choose filmmaking because as a child he loved to tell stories; as well as this, while attending college he got the golden opportunity to turn one of his ideas into a film and presented it to an audience. This is when he realised what a powerful tool filmmaking is – he could make viewers laugh, cry or feel other emotions; and he could also bring characters to life and make them so believable that the audience would either love or hate them. And this is what continues to fuel his interest in film. We contacted Sam and asked him to give us an insight into his career.

What do you need to do to get into this type of industry?
Going to college or university is a good way to get started in this industry, however I really do not believe it is the only way. There are so many online resources available today to the aspiring filmmaker, there might not be any need to go to school. Great cameras are being made at affordable prices so everyone now has an opportunity to shoot content. The only difference between school and being self taught is that in school you are forced to learn; whereas being on your own, you have to have that willpower and discipline to take the time out of your busy day to learn from online resources. I also believe that you can learn so much by being on a film set, more so than you could in a university classroom.

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Photo courtesy of Sam Koay

Tell us about your work.
I was previously working for a discovery show through an independent production company called Greenstem Enterprises. They were working on a docu-series called, “The Basics Of…” I was a B Camera Operator for them. The experience was great, a definite learning experience in the world of TV. Working with the company full time allowed me the space to see the entire show from preproduction to post. I had the opportunity to meet experienced people in the industry of film out here in LA, which was invaluable to me.

This issue is about creativity and innovation. You are currently working in the epicentre of creativity in the world – Hollywood. Why do you think Hollywood is so creative?
Hollywood’s creative spur started due to Thomas Edison’s motion picture patent he held on the east coast. Filmmakers moved to the west where patents couldn’t be enforced. The unique environments and weather in California also gave them another reason for the move. I’m sure there are longer descriptions of that and I claim to be no expert.

I believe once this happened, it attracted so much talent and creative artists. I see it as a domino effect. All it took was a couple of production companies, both in film, music and theatre, to really get the ball rolling here. Now it is, as you say, the epicentre of the creative world.

I also believe that the creative success of this place is that everyone here is free to do what they wish to do. There are no major laws governing what people can creatively explore. There are also outlets for distribution for the various art forms that allow the artist to live and thrive.

What are your thoughts about cultivating a more innovative environment for the economic development of Brunei?
In order to cultivate a more innovative environment, I believe people need the opportunity to explore and be creative. There is an unwritten rule in Brunei that pursuing education in the arts is a negative life choice and is frowned upon. This forces young people to sometimes shy away from pursuing the one thing they are meant to do. I find that people in Brunei are sometimes afraid of what others would think of them if they followed a creative path. I believe that fear is a large factor as to why there is a lack of innovation in Brunei. The fear of failure prevents them from becoming successful.

I think there needs to be a national awareness programme as to what the arts are, why they are important, what are the outlets for it and a show of what careers one can make out of it. This is the first step. The next would be to create programmes that allow people to explore their creativity in different mediums of art, whether that’s filmmaking, dancing, acting, writing, speaking or painting.

I believe that people need to feel free when they step into the art world. I think that control and fear that they would get in trouble hinders the creative growth of the Bruneian people.

Where can we find your work?
Here is a link to my cinematography reel: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SJ5JazKiCzw

This article was published in the Apr-Jun 2016 issue of Inspire Magazine. Download it here!