Rokakiri, Cambodia - Somewhere on the other side of the planet, a small camera drone follows a woman on a motorbike followed by her dogs. She is heading to a village meeting. We are in the middle of the Cardamom mountain range in a small valley where a dozen families are surviving on subsistence farming. A few meters away, Will Miller is actively preparing the next set for an interview.
Somehow there is a sense that Hollywood is here in the village of Thnoap Sambo Khleang, in Rokakiri District. The concentrated attitude of the film team has everyone focused on the action. At any moment’s notice, the film crew will jump on an opportunity to make a new sequence, establish a new scene and have the cameras rolling.
Everyone seems to play a natural part in the shoot. After the meeting, Will confides: “Just there, it seems they forgot about the camera – they were just having their own meeting as if we did not exist. That was good – I am sure we will keep that.”
Kosal Sar, the UNCDF’s LoCAL Programme Specialist in Cambodia, helped to identify a few locations – the timing of the production was set to match with some key workshops in the provinces. Not a minute was wasted in this five-day shoot.
After a full day of filming in the heat, the team has another half day of work back in the hotel room – The best time to have dinner is when all the batteries are being charged, and all the computers are busy transferring files from camera cards to hard disks. In Sam’s room, a powerful laptop has been running incessantly for over 48 hours, processing large amounts of high-quality footage.
Taking a break, Will and Sam sit on a small balcony, debriefing for the next day. Sam disappears to get a drink but only comes back 10 minutes later: “Sorry, I saw that a problem in the transcoding and I decided to start it over again.” It is already 10 pm but the team is going to stay up another few hours.
Will: “I have done several films, probably over a hundred for different NGOs and I definitely like this formula of mobilizing resources and doing reform rather than just injecting funds. It is not input-driven, but an internal reform process. It is about getting the existing structures to work better and it seems to work really well. In many places, centralized systems undermined people’s agency over the decisions that affect them. So seeing the opposite taking place is really good.
Sam added, “It’s an easy story to tell, in the sense we have compelling beneficiaries and we can see the transformation taking place – to try to get the message out there with a press release in today's news media is a losing game. But when journalistic principles are applied to the storytelling – I think that goes a long way. “We focus our energies more on making this compelling to the right people. It is a technical concept to begin with and it will move people at policy level,” Will continued.
To add, Sam said: “Yes, the audience is specific but it can garner interest from other audiences as well. I hope to connect the dots with something very compelling happening at local level, with people that are doing things, and beautiful footage, and then connecting that to the huge global challenges we have. That is something that comes out very clearly in this film”.
The camera rolls as she explains, “The people who are far away, they don’t know about what we do, about our life, and our situation. They need to know: What are people asking for, what do they need?”
In complicity, Sam and Will look at each other and make sure they have the footage properly recorded.
A few weeks later, the film is released on the advent of the 50th UNCDF anniversary. Ry can rest assured that now, the some people from very far away have heard the LoCAL voices, at the last mile.