A consortium of Chinese and American investors will invest $2 million to open a film school in Phnom Penh and a production studio in Kampong Speu early next year, the Ministry of Culture announced yesterday.
ZSL Amusement and Investment Network Co Ltd, which is registered in Cambodia and bills itself as an investor in real estate and technology, says it sees potential for a film industry where local talent is at times held back by a lack of training and access to technology.
“Lots of people here play around with video in their spare time and edit it on their computers,” Chinese-American Zhang Zhi Heng, the director of ZSL, said in a phone interview yesterday. “The population of interested people is quite large.”
The school’s three- to five-month courses will encompass screenwriting, directing, cinematography, lighting, acting and other subjects, initially accommodating up to 500 students. Heng said that admission costs will be similar to “other private schools in Phnom Penh”.
ZSL had signed a memorandum of understanding with the Ministry of Culture and Fine Arts to get support for both institutions. According to Som Sokun, the ministry’s secretary of state, the government hopes to build up the Kingdom’s human resources in the field to be able to compete with other filmmaking communities in the region and globally.
Filmmaker Rithy Panh yesterday welcomed the idea of a film school, saying that skills training is currently the most important element missing in the Kingdom’s nascent film industry.
“If you don’t have the skills, you will not exist [in this industry],” he said, adding that for a Cambodian film industry to be sustainable, it needs to tap into the international market.
Chhay Bora, a film director and president of the Motion Picture Association of Cambodia, had some concerns about the studio’s far-away location from Phnom Penh as well as the quality of instruction that will be offered.
“There were some training courses on filmmaking before but the result was not that great,” he said, referring to earlier courses offered in Phnom Penh by other companies.
Heng said that his instructors will come from the Philippines and from the US. He also said that ZSL has partnered with major American film industry equipment providers.
He said that major film producers will be willing to come to Cambodia as long as the skill base is there.
“Producers will come as long as there is HR,” he said.