He van of young Cambodian journos heading to Kampot was abuzz when it was announced we would all meet Duch Lida, the star of Loy9’s second drama series. The 20-year-old’s name meant nothing to me, but our 30-something male driver explained that Lida was a star in her own right. “Can I get her autograph?” he asked. A murmur of excitement rippled through the van when her manager confirmed the young “freshie” star, and now actress, would be happy to oblige.
In the heat, the crew shade one another while filming. Photograph: Alexander Crook/7Days
The male and female leads. Photograph: Alexander Crook/7Days
The cast and crew of Loy9; the young male lead, Chee Ratana, has a break between takes, his counterpart, Duch Lida was a TV favourite before Loy9. Photograph: Alexander Crook/7Days
After a bumpy and somewhat dusty ride we arrived at the TV series’ hand-picked location, tucked away in a sleepy fishing village.
A cast and crew of about 20 were well underway with shooting, and it was obvious it was nearing lunchtime. The heat was starting to get to the young crew, who sheltered each other from the sun with brightly coloured umbrellas, and moved props, and cameras around the small set so the cast could repeat the scene until the director was satisfied.
As they filmed, children watched through the fence with gaping mouths. The first series was a country-wide hit. A total of 2.5 million people tuned in and the second will air next month.
Loy9 is a BBC Media Action mass media campaign, incorporating a Facebook page with more than 15,000 “likes”, the most popular YouTube channel in the country, a website, a mobile phone application, an interactive radio show, and a television show and drama series.
The first four-episode-long storyline of series one will follow a fish delivery boy in his dream to put together a K-Pop dance team to win a dance-off in Sihanoukville, and a young Khmer Chinese student who teaches traditional dance, but practises her real passion - K-Pop - in her spare time.
Loy9 has cast two popular, charismatic actors as the leads for part one of 2013’s drama series. Duch Lida, whose character in the series is Srey Rath, is known to the public from her involvement in the Cambodian Freshie (Fresh Start) talent and beauty competition.
Lida, who has been working with Loy9 for the past two weeks, said she was drawn in by the storyline of a dancer who values youth education and voluntourism.
The messages in the series are about volunteering, the environment, sharing your ideas, and using art to express yourself, but the K-Pop dance scenes are a big pull, she said.
Her shy character does not fit her own personality, she said. “I play around quite a lot, and I like to be loud.”
The male lead, Chee Ratana, is more a strong, silent type.
The 22-year-old appeared in the most widely remembered episode in series one for a brief appearance fixing a road.
Due to popular demand, Ratana has been brought back for series two to star as a fisherman’s son who can’t get enough of K-Pop.
Perhaps it’s a case of art imitating life: Ratana has been dancing since 1999, and has been a modern dancer for the past eight years. K-pop stickers adorn his real-life motorbike.
He said he dreamed of a career as an actor, dancer, and producer.
“I want it all.”
Later this year the young performer will travel to New York where he will embark on further dance training, with the chance to perform, in one of the world’s most exciting dance cities.
Director Chey Sambath said a crucial part of getting the educational messages across in an entertaining way was matching the cast to the story.
“I want somebody who wants to be a star, but who looks fresh to the audience.
The 26-year-old, who worked on series one in 2012, said there were pros and cons when working with a young cast and crew.
“Sometimes they enjoy it so much we need to get them back to work.”
“For me Loy9 means young people and new generations making a change.”
“They need to know they have the right to say, ‘I’m gonna use my voice now, I’m gonna stand up, I’ve got ideas and perspectives, and I will be counted.’”
To contact the reporter on this story: Laura Walters at [email protected]