Making films his way

ASPIRING filmmaker and storyteller, Zac Chia, is currently plying his trade in Los Angeles, USA – a place synonymous with the entertainment industry as a whole.

Besides taking on writing and directing duties, Chia, 23, has also worked as a professional gimbal operator on several films and promo videos.

Chia is also producing stories inspired by his Malaysian roots.

His latest short film, Saptapadi, touches on the subject of arranged marriages, and was an official selection at the Seattle Asian American film festival.

Crafting stories has been Chia’s dream ever since he took a film studies class in university, where he had to dissect the 2011 film Moneyball.

Chia said: “I remember how obsessed I was with the techniques, reasons, directing, sound, and camera decisions from my watch-and-dissect session, and that had a huge impact upon my life.”

When and why did you decide to move to Los Angeles to pursue a career in film-making?

I took a mass communication class in the American Degree Program (ADP), and it was there that I was exposed to film.

Long story short, after listening to the stories that my lecturer shared in class about his experience pursuing film in LA, I was greatly inspired to do the same.
I applied to a couple film schools in LA, chose and attended Loyola Marymount University, graduated, and have been working here ever since.

How did you come up with the concept for Saptapadi, and why did you feel the need to tell this particular story?

I went to Chicago two years ago (2016) during Halloween weekend to visit my girlfriend, who goes to college there. Her roommates are Indian, and it just so happened that Halloween weekend was also Deepavali weekend, and so we ended up celebrating Deepavali instead.

I met two of her roommates’ friends (both Indian) who were dating, and it blew my mind when my girlfriend told me that they both had separate arranged marriages waiting for them back home, but were dating because they really loved each other a lot, and truly wanted to be together.

This instantly brought me back to when I was younger, and all the memories of attending weddings from arranged marriages flashed through my mind. And so I knew I had to tell this story.

How was the reception for that film like in the US?

I have to say that the reception [went] surprisingly very well, and for that, I’m extremely thankful. I was worried that the audience here in the US would not take interest in the subject matter, and I was also worried about whether the fact that half of the film was in Hindi would deter them, but the audience here has been incredibly supportive of the film, and again, I’m extremely grateful for that.

What are the qualities of a good film that you personally apply in your own work?

I think good films are meticulously planned out and pay a lot of attention to detail. My favourite films tend to be extremely detail-oriented and meticulously planned out, and I definitely try my very best to pay attention to every single detail, and plan everything down to a tee throughout the whole film-making process.

People naturally assume that the grass is greener on the other side. Do you agree?

I wouldn’t necessarily say that the grass is greener here. I do think that because the film industry did originate from [Los Angeles], and has a huge history behind it, the foundation is deeper and more experienced.

I hope to share what I’ve learned here with filmmakers back home one day, and vice versa. The Malaysian film industry is growing incredibly fast, and I’d definitely love to be a part of it, but I’d love to contribute by bringing my experience here back home.

What is the hardest part of the film-making process?

The hardest part [is] getting funding in my opinion. Film-making isn’t cheap, and it takes a lot of persuasion and trust for someone to give you money for you to execute your vision, no matter if it’s a personal project, or a concept that they want you to execute using your own artistic voice.

What projects are you currently working on?

As a director, I’m currently working on the scripts of a couple of horror shorts, and will be shooting them sometime this summer.

I’m also in pre-production for A Good Thing by writer-producer Terrence Grant.

As a camera and gimbal operator/technician, I just wrapped on a Chinese cryptocurrency commercial with director and DP (director of photography) Arden Tse, and some branded content for Toyota and Blizzard with DP Pete Soto.

My next project is a music video with Arden. I can’t say who it’s for because of the non-disclosure agreement that I signed, but it’s a widely known rapper whose songs play all over the world.

I’m super excited for this (and the upcoming) project(s)!