“LIGHTS! Camera! Action!”
Three simple words. But for one 23-year-old Malaysian, the magnitude is huge. For it’s his dream to make it on the big screen through the lens of his humble video camera.
Some may say that it’s the spotlight that attracted Zac Chia to the dog-eat-dog world of Hollywood, just like a moth to a flame.
But the young lad is quick to refute such a claim, citing his fascination for the world of film to have been instilled by his professor during his college years. It’s the fascinating blend of science, technology and art, which is used to make a film that lures him into the industry. And ultimately, it’s his love for storytelling that has made him stay.
“Before film, my initial ambition was to do music. But I later realised that music was more of a hobby. I couldn’t see myself pursuing it as a career,” confides Chia, before adding with a chuckle: “The way my mass communication professor Gary Chong described the world of film during my first semester in college piqued my interest. And the rest, as they say, is history.”
So, to satiate his curiosity, he headed out west to Los Angeles, US, where all the action is. And the more he delved into the world of cinematography, the more he fell in love with this unique way of storytelling that utilises both visual and aural mediums. “Film is the best way for me to tell stories that are left untold and it’s what inspires me to do what I do every day,” he enthuses.
ON A MISSION
Born in Subang Jaya and raised in Kota Kemuning, Chia shares that his very first taste of the entertainment world came at a rather young age.
“I didn’t really know it at that time but I’m sure it was thanks to my neighbour, Aunty Hazel, who worked in the industry. Through her, I got the chance to do some voice acting for radio commercials,” he confides, continuing: “And because of that, I got the chance to have a small glimpse behind the lens. But it didn’t strike me then that I’d be pursuing a career in this field sometime down the line.”
However, once he realised his calling, he didn’t waste any time to learn his craft.
“The journey here (America) wasn’t as easy as many might think. I certainly wouldn’t say that it’s ‘dream-like’,” elaborates Chia, who goes on to confide that he often misses his family and friends.
“I miss the food back home too,” he adds, chuckling.
Putting aside all his yearnings, Chia admits that the sacrifices he has had to make are probably pretty minute compared to those who’ve had to make bigger sacrifices to get where they are. But that doesn’t make his journey any less significant. Not only is he pursuing his dream, Chia also admits that he wants to be a part of the change that will see improvements in our own film industry.
“The film industry in our country is growing incredibly fast and I’m proud to be a part of it. But I’d love to contribute more than what I’m already doing. And the only way I can think of, for now, is to bring what valuable lessons and experience I’ve had, home,” confides Chia.
However, he’s quick to add that talent is not what’s lacking in our country. He believes that it is support for the industry that could do with a little boost.
“There are many Malaysian filmmakers who are telling stories that are unique to Malaysia and if we continue doing this, it will further improve our film industry,” says Chia, his tone confident.
Given the right tools and proper network, he believes that many will be able to replicate what he’s currently doing in America quite easily and perhaps even venture further.
“If our filmmakers are given the opportunity to use the latest technologies and techniques like the ones easily found, supported and funded in America, I’m sure we’ll all be able to show what we can really do,” he says enthusiastically.
SHOOTING FOR THE STARS
It’s true what they say — that the ladder to success isn’t an easy one to climb. But with sheer determination and a truck load of passion, anyone can achieve whatever they set out to achieve. It’s no different for Chia. With his parents’ advice always ringing in his ears, “Do what you love and believe in”, Chia is convinced that success is just a matter to time.
Many of his films has so far won him significant recognitions and created enough exposure to help him secure important roles in the industry. He was previously a gimbal technician and operator on Fox and T-Mobile’s, The Four Collaboration videos as well as CWSeed’s pilot show, Cupid’s Match.
Seeing my brows furrowing in confusion at the term, he explains: “A gimbal technician is in-charge of balancing, running, maintaining and fine-tuning the gimbal (a device that balances the pan, roll and tilt axis). So by having me around, it means that the production house would not need to worry about the technicalities of working the gimbal, thus ensuring a smoother filming process.”
In addition to his achievements to-date, his movie Saptapadi (a story about the complexity of love inspired by a couple he met during a Diwali party) received a commendable nod and was recently selected at the highly acclaimed Seattle Asian American film festival.
Meanwhile, his Where Things May Grow, an apocalyptic film of sorts that zones in on the trials and tribulations of a couple who are left with only each other on earth, was officially selected for the 2018 Bates film festival.
Admitting that he was shocked by the unexpected accolades, Chia sheepishly confides: “I was just so grateful and humbled to be selected as I didn’t actually set out to achieve anything specific. All I wanted to do was just tell stories that would move the hearts of the audience, just like how the late Yasmin Ahmad used to do with her touching festive commercials. I’m just glad for the opportunity to spread my stories to more people.”
As he gears up for his next big projects — directing a short-film called A Good Thing and a highly anticipated music video with Arden Tse (fellow cinematographer who became popular for his work on Matt Damon’s film The Great Wall) — Chia has some advice to offer to those who also dream of shooting for the stars.
His expression earnest, he says: “To keep going in this industry, you’ll need a strong will to overcome the many doubts and incredulity that are thrown your way. There will also be a multitude of rejections. But ride it. Because after that, comes the wonderful opportunities.”
A pause and then he cheekily adds: “And also the late night thoughts that will definitely keep you awake every time!”
For more information, check out www.zac-chia.com