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: