What will You get from Watching
Sam UNG's New Movie?

If you love a great story…
Read on.

What is my only goal in making the movie?

From Director Sam UNG



The Foundation

I grew up as an ethnic Chinese, grew up in Cambodia. Life was not easy. My family used to own a movie theater back home while I was an 8th grader. We did pretty good every time by showing good movies.

I remember my mom used to make me count that green stuff. There were stacks and stacks of money when we had a good film. As much as I wanted to have some of that money to pay me, from what seemed to be countless bills, it is the past. It is the good memory I still have from those old days.

But, while we were enjoying our movie theater business, one of my classmates quit school and joined his brother to make movies. The quality of their movies were primitive, at least in comparison to today's computer generated graphics movies.

They made several successful hits. They became successful overnight. I remember one of their movies played in one theater for over two years. They gave people what people wanted. Whether it was pure luck or they knew what they were doing, I don't know. That remains a question to me. Every movie they made, the audience just loved them.

The time where my parents enjoyed their small share of the success, I watched my friend's family grow and grow. One thing occurred to me. My family was in the wrong side of the business. From the contacts with my friend's brothers, I started to love the story telling business.



The War Began…

Then in 1970, an unfortunate event happened. The war started. My dad had a car accident while I was going to college. The war dragged until April 1975 before the country was under the Pol Pot, Khmer Rouge regime. To make the story short, another two million innocent civilians were killed included 63 members of my family.

It was a very devastating experience for me. I lost everything overnight. I lost my dad, my mom, my two younger brothers, one younger sister, grand mom, aunts, uncles, cousins, nephews, nieces and friends. On top of loosing those love ones that can never be replaced, I had lost everything else I had including material, freedom, hope. I was living minute by minute.

My life could have ended by stepping on a land mine, a wrong statement made, because they didn't like whom I looked like. There are many more reasons, too.

Life was so fragile. All I've heard was this person or that one was lost over night because "Ong Ka Ler", The Supreme Committee, wanted to talk to them. First, I thought it was a beautiful word. I later learned that was the way that people got killed. Even until this day, the feeling is still chilling to me.

If he/she were lucky, the victim would have just gotten a bullet in the head. On the other hand, an un-lucky victim would have been forced to dig his or her own grave. Once it is done, they would have just ended the victim's life by the end of a wood stick, like baseball bat. All killing was done while the victim was still digging the grave.

Everybody was in constant fear of losing their life. Sometimes I wished I could have had a magic wand to turn myself into an animal. Why? Animals' lives, especially the dogs, were better than human being.

It was a living hell to every body in that time, including myself. For this reason, the idea of escape came to mind. From day to day, the authority would have announced that so and so had been killed. The reason being he or she was trying to escape.



The Escape: From One Hell to Another

Well, when you're living in hell, nothing scares you any more. Even though you know that your life would end once they caught you, you still try. Despite the risk of being prosecuted, nothing deterred people from trying it.

The reason was hope. If you made it, you'll have freedom. You'll be out of the living hell. But if you don't, you'll accept the tough lucks. It was better to die than to live worse than animals.

Unlike thousands of the people who didn't make it, I did it. I was one of the fortunate few. I made it along with three other fellow escapees. That was the good part. The worse part was another struggling life after the Khmer Rouge Pol Pot regime abroad.

I had to live in constant memory of loosing my Dad, my Mom, My brothers, sisters, aunts, Uncles, Nephews, Nieces, friends and the other two million compatriots. It was very hard for me. Whatever I had to go through was nothing in comparison to what I went through with the Pol Pot regime.

After a couple years of struggling life, I decided to put the past behind and move on. My Parents, if they were still alive, would wish me to continue my life. They would have wished me to do what I love to do the most, which is filmmaking. I'm sure they're always with me.



I Learned about Low Budget Movie-Making:

Little chance was available to me. The door was and is still closed tight to independent filmmakers like me in the film business. No one or very few people are willing to share information in this business. For some body that does not have millions of dollars, and with few connections, it is even tougher to get into the entertainment business circle.

I remember in early 90's, I was on a trip to Los Angeles. I spoke to a friend about getting into filmmaking. The reply was discouraging. He said: "If you don't have million of dollars, forget it". Sad. I listened to him. I put my passion to rest for years.

It was not until later that I learned, from a freelance writer, who used to work in the independent film projects, that it is possible to make a movie with very little money. That changed everything.

I dove right in without second thought. Even with having some theatrical movie distribution experience, it was still very difficult. The reasons being I knew little about the production and equipment rental, which was and are still very expensive. I then started to prepare myself to challenge these two obstacles.



How I got the Equipment to Learn and Shoot

With some of the video equipment I had, I started to sell and trade them up for other film equipment. In the process, I've learned what type of products I need to make a film. Then from the sale of equipment, I bought a better, more expensive one.

I then sold them again and again. I started by posting ads in the newsgroups. Then moved up to magazines, then the Internet auction company. While a majority of the time, I made a little or broke even on deals, sometimes I lost money. In that case I had to start all over again.

For instance, one time I bought a set of S-VHS editing machine and a switcher. Put them on newsgroups. A couple of days later, I got a bid from a buyer in Canada. I packed everything. Once I got his Bank cashier's check, I shipped them out.

A week later, my bank notified me that the person had withdrawn his money and there were no money in the cashier's check I deposit. It was a bombshell to me. To make the story short, I lost every penny I made.

The guy who scammed me had also scammed another person I know in Florida and others. He went to jail.

One and a half years later, I got one of the editing machines back from a police department in Canada. It was broken and worth nothing. It was a hell of an experience.

I also bought from some company liquidations. I sold a majority of equipment to buy more for resale. In the process, I kept some of them for my own use. Well, for years and hours and hours of work, I bought and traded a majority of the equipment needed to make movies.

They represent the best equipment from my best trading. "Destiny" is made from the usage of that equipment. As a result of the hard work, I know what equipment to buy and what not to buy. Time consumed, but not wasted.

I mentioned earlier that while I know a lot about running a movie theater, I knew very little about the production side. The time that I learn from my freelance writer friend, I realized that while I had very little money, I did have lots of time.



Learning Everything I Could about the Business

The only way to make a movie with very little money is to know the ins and outs of the business. That is exactly what I did. I joint film associations, read magazines, joint discussion groups.

I volunteered for countless shoots. I did everything they wanted me to do while at the same time I observed, asked questions. My jobs ranged from driver, production assistance, boom holder, gaffer, sound recordist, AC, bags holder, cameraman etc.

It was a fun and frustrating time I experienced with my own equipment. I recorded my own sound. I shot pictures using my own camera. I screwed up and screwed up until I did it right.

There were times I had to use my own car, my own gas and had to buy my own food while helping others in the shoot. Countless hours were spent. Some shoots, I left early and got home late next day morning.

Were all of these tiring? Yes. It was very tiring and time consuming. I can tell you, with persistence and tenacity, I learned a lot of things. I was very confident the time I started to make Destiny, my first 35mm feature film.



The Goal of This Note

My reader friend, the goal of writing this note is only one fold. I want to let you know that I'm committed to making good movies. Period.

One thing you can be sure of, my present movie Destiny, a 35mm color feature film, and others soon to come, is you'll get the same best quality of work from me.

I might not have multi-million dollars Hollywood budget, I might not have the million dollar special effects or graphics, but one thing you can be sure of is you'll see quality movies from me.

You'll always see stories that can move your mind and your spirit while they'll entertain you. For instance, several viewers that have seen my Destiny movie during my test screenings told me that they had to hold off going to the restroom while they really needed to go, because they didn't want to miss the story. They want to know what is going on next. To me, that is the ultimate way to tell a good story.

For proof of what I'm talking about, I've put some clips of Destiny movie and sound track for you to listen to and to see. They represented countless hours of my works and hundred of talented people who have donated their time to make it happen.

Also, I think it is worth saying some words about those, over a hundred, talented people. They have donated their talent and time… for only one reason: they love the story. I salute them. Thanks to them from the bottom of my heart.

Also, I'd like to tell you that the lack of money, knowledge didn't prevent me from making a good film. I took time to learn the business. I saved wherever I could save, I cut corners where they could be cut, I focused on what I wanted and I got it done well. Very well.

I'd like you keep me in mind for your future movie going. I'll give you quality work. That is a promise that I'll keep.

Last but not least. I'd like to thank my wife and my children. Without their help and encouragement, this movie could never have been made. See Destiny. You will be moved.

Enjoy Destiny.

Sam UNG
Director



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