Brunei-raised Malaysian filmmaker makes debut in Hollywood

Brunei-raised Malaysian filmmaker makes debut in Hollywood
PHOTO: Brunei Times/ANN

A Malaysian raised in Brunei is taking a crack at film-making in Hollywood, having signed with independent film-maker Greenstem Enterprises in Los Angeles.

Sam Koay, 22, who recently graduated from the University of Miami with a double major degree in Electronic Media and Theatre Arts, has already notched several prestigious awards under his belt, including one in 2013 from the Society of Professional Journalists (SPG) for an in-depth television feature into undocumented immigration into the United States.

The aspiring filmmaker told The Brunei Times yesterday that he is currently working with Greenstem on principal photography for a TV show titled "Basics Of", which seeks to give viewers the low-down on what it takes to establish a career in any given profession.

The first season, comprising 21 episodes, each an hour-long, has been picked up by Discovery Channel to be aired in the summer of 2016.

"I am ecstatic to be in this position, to have the opportunity to pursue my dream of film-making and directing in what is the biggest entertainment industry in the world," said Koay.

Modelling himself after the success of directors born and raised in South-East Asia such as James Wan, widely known for directing the first Saw movie, Koay claims he has seized every avenue possible to advance his craft since moving to the US in 2011.

"Throughout my university years, I wasn't content to restrict myself to just classes. I took many internships, worked and volunteered as an assistant on several projects," he said.

"Some of these were paid, some were not. But I was driven by the chances available to learn. I understood that a combination of education, knowledge and experience was what was absolutely necessary to make it."

Koay says one of his proudest achievements was The Mark of Excellence Award from SPG, which annually recognises collegiate work published or broadcast from the US.

Teaming up with six others, the 22-year-old served as a camera operator and editor for the 30-minute feature titled "Not Even A Number".

"Living in Miami, there are a number of undocumented immigrants coming from South America and Cuba, who grow up in the US in search for a better life," he said.

The documentary follows the stories of three undocumented immigrants and their assimilation into the American society, charting their obstacles in travel, education and health. "It was an eye opening experience to be able to do a social commentary piece, and to have it recognised by one of the oldest society's representing journalists was an honour," he added.

Koay first moved to Brunei from Penang with his parents when he was only two, and spent 16 years, the majority spent studying at International School Brunei, before moving to the United States.

He is now encouraging the youth in Brunei to find what their life's work and purpose is, and to take a leap of faith to relentlessly pursue it.

"We (the younger generation) should avoid getting too comfortable and have this negative mentality where we aren't willing to take risks," he said.

"If you have a goal, a dream, you need to make a commitment to yourself that you will go to any length, bear any cost necessary to achieve it."

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