Another Sambal Kinda Girl

After a good six months break from filming and directing while I was busy wrapping up post for Starting From Scratch and the hunt for a new lead, I'm officially back at it again this week! If you checked out my "Work In Progress" tab, you'd already know the two projects I'm currently working on and yes, they both went into production this week. 

I know the currently Untitled film was a little vague and sounded a lot like I'm talking about myself but truth is, it's about another sambal-kinda-girl! Ladies and gentlemen, I'm here to reveal my other documentary so meet: SAMANTHA TAN!

Sam is an actress by day and a chef by night. She self-taught a lot of Malaysian recipes when she moved to the UK for school where she started craving for authentic Malaysian food on a budget. Samantha trained formally and holds an MFA in Acting from the Actors Studio Drama School in New York, where she was the first Malaysian in history to be accepted. She is also the first Malaysian ever to become a Lifetime Member of the Actors Studio. You can check out her acting website HERE.

I first came across Sam and her food/catering blog, "Sam Tan's Kitchen" a while back, not too long after I moved to the United States. Because it's so difficult to find Malaysian food in Los Angeles, it's really not a surprise that she caught my attention when Rendra Zawawi (who is on Musical Journeys!) introduced her to the then-little Malaysians In Orange County (MOC) Facebook group. The group is pretty self-explanatory, it's a community of Malaysians living in the OC that gets together to hang out and network with the fellow countrypeople. 

Since then, I started following Sam on social media (Facebook & Instagram) with the thought that I will one day order food from her but never got around to it.  When it was time for my next doc idea, I wanted another butt-kicking independent woman and immediately thought of Sam. Okay, I admit, it was also an excuse to do another food-related piece (as if I need an excuse. Hah!). So I reached out to her late July to do a piece about her being an actress by day and making authentic Malaysian cuisine by night and we met on the first week of August for a super casual hang out over lunch. Since then, I started following Sam not just for her food but also because:

(in no particular order!):

1. She self-taught many of these recipes and also only started to do so after she moved abroad. Now she is the pro in the kitchen that I aim to be. 

2. She's living proof that with hard work and dedication in your craft, you can do whatever makes you happy. 

3. Over lunch during our first meeting in August, she asked me what my dream job was and I said: "well, make documentaries". Then she asked what else was I doing other than school and work and I told her, "well, making documentaries," and her response was so simple and obvious but yet so profound that it blew me away. She nonchalantly said, "oh, so you're already doing your dream job." It didn't even hit me until then that......... well, damn.......... I really am. That moment is one for the books. 

4. We share the same last name and Chinese dialects! (Both Tans and both moms are Teochew and both dads are Hokkien) (As far as we know, we're not related.... we're not even from the same part of Malaysia.....)

There are many more reasons but no spoilers! It took me a while to figure out an angle for her story until last week when she texted me about this exciting thing she's doing. Immediately, I knew I had to work on clearing my schedule, getting the equipment (THANK YOU, MITCHELL CARTER) and head out to shoot her next big adventure. 

Here's a little teaser of what we're working on:






First Festival Win!


"Someone once told me that if I had to lose, lose to a dog movie"

A year ago, I skipped the CCH Film Festival because I was on set filming Rasa Sayang and now here we are at CCH Film Festival 2017 where I get to blank out during my acceptance speech for winning the entire festival. While the Gold Selection trophy was not for Rasa Sayang and was for Starting From ScratchRasa Sayang was also an official selection at the fest in the "Leading Ladies" category. I am sincerely thrilled that people resonated with both films because as a storyteller, nothing pleases me more than that. Needless to say, I am beyond proud of both work.

I want to, once again, thank everyone who worked on or/and supported the film in any way because this victory is as much yours as it is mine. I know that I've joked that "I didn't come here to make friends, I'm here to win." but really, this is nowhere near from the truth because I know that without the friends I have by my side, I wouldn't even dare dream of winning. I was very blessed indeed to have people who are talented and cared as much about the projects as I did. 

You can watch Rasa Sayang here

Starting From Scratch will not be available online anytime soon as I have other plans for it. I will, of course, keep you posted if it ever is. 

The quote above was from a fellow contender who congratulated me after the award show. Congratulations also to my fellow contenders and everyone who had their films selected for the festival! 



The Beginning

Documentaries are so underrated.

It was on Rasa Sayang, my first documentary that I discovered that my calling in the world of filmmaking was in documentaries. There's just something about capturing the real and raw moments of the characters in their own world that really captivated me. And then, of course, there are all those hours in the dimly-lit editing room where the stories are written and put together. People often overlook editors by going "oh you just put the film together, right?" and while I have to grit my teeth and nod since that is not technically wrong, editors do way, way, WAY more than that.

In non-fiction editing, they are also the writers. I like to see it as taking a great number of threads and weaving them into something beautiful. This so special because the stories often told itself. I didn't think that I would go back to the art of directing films at all after the many failures in my early days of film school which, to be completely honest, I should at least give myself some credit for. I mean, all our first films sucked, right? And for someone who has zero filmmaking experience at the time, I think I at least deserved an A for effort. 

This is really becoming a write-up of how documentary making changed my life but another form of art that this art form has introduced me to? Producing! Man, I still don't even know how to truly describe the job of a producer. All I know is that producers make things happen and it's kinda like magic because for me, at least, I just do what I feel is right and needed and then movies get made because of it! A lot of paperwork though....... and I still have a lot to learn about producing, just as I do about directing and editing. Aren't we just always learning anyway?

I didn't dare call myself a filmmaker until I started making documentaries and I think that is so profound because by then, I was already a senior in college. It took me that long to figure out what should have been a no-brainer for me and luckily, I seem to have a knack for it. 


Welcome to Chey News where I swear I will at least try to keep updated as often as possible. Here, I will chronicle my filmmaking adventures.