A group of Khmer and Foreign filmmakers and artists, including a Cambodian Princess, US alt-rock legend Bob Lewis of the band DEVO, an award-winning US writer-director, and Golden Age 1960’s Cambodian filmmaker Yvon Hem all have one thing in common.
They’re working to get Cambodia’s first homegrown crowd funded indie feature, FREEDOM DEAL off the ground, in a developing nation where film funding is virtually non-existent and crowdfunding - common in the West - is unheard of.
Undaunted, a new crowd funding site for the film, FREEDOM DEAL has just been launched at the popular international crowd funding portal, IndieGogo.
The goal is to raise enough money in 40 days to produce a short film adapted from the feature length screenplay, in order to gain festival circuit exposure and to attract enough co-production interest to produce the full-length feature.
Contributors receive a variety of perks including a video 'postcard' from Cambodia on Youtube thanking them for their contribution, copies of the completed DVD, associate and co-producer credits, and more.
FREEDOM DEAL tells the story of a Cambodian youth and his fellow refugees who flee the growing conflict on their border as the Vietnam war expands into Cambodia during Nixon’s 1970 ‘Cambodian incursion’. On their way they evade horrific Cambodian ghosts, while rescuing a downed US aircrew and evading brutal Khmer Rouge guerillas.
A short scene demo, shot in Cambodia, can be seen on the film's website suggesting the 'look and feel' of one Cambodian refugees journey to safety during the conflict as he evades horrifying, flesh eating ghosts.
The project’s producer and writer-director, a US filmmaker Jason Rosette, who has been living in Cambodia since 2005 while researching the project, is convinced the movie can be made despite the challenges of making a Vietnam wartime period feature on a limited budget, and encourages any level of contribution at their IndiGogo site.
“Numerous other very compelling and commercially successful wartime features have been produced relatively inexpensively, thanks to great local talent and a creative use of effects and locations.” states Rosette. ‘Come and See’, by Elem Klimov, is one incredible example, taking place during the Nazi occupation of Belarus – as I’ve heard, it’s one of Sean Penn’s favorite all time films.
Using creative sound effects, a limited numbers of vehicles and superbly cast local talent, the perception of all-out war is convincingly created on a very modest budget”
For the production of FREEDOM DEAL, taking place during the 1970 US incursion into Cambodia, (Cambodian) Princess Norodom has been conducting local and regional outreach regarding the funding effort to share this important, but relatively unknown part of US-Cambodian history.
Many US citizens remember the 1970 shootings of unarmed protesting students at Kent State as a turning point in the US involvement in the Vietnam war, leading to the eventual downfall of President Nixon himself.
But relatively few people realize that the Kent State protesters were expressing outrage at the Cambodian incursion, as depicted in FREEDOM DEAL, an event which had widely been seen as an expansion of the Vietnam War into the rest of Southeast Asia.
Writer-director Jason Rosette is quick to point out that FREEDOM DEAL is not an 'Anti-American' movie, of the likes of some kind of 'Mai Lai' massacre.
"To the contrary, states Rosette,"it expresses, as a dramatization (with supernatural & horror elements) the well-researched and well-founded points of view of many diplomatic, civilian, and military personnel - US, Vietnamese, and Cambodian - that the war in Indochina had been ill-conceived and was needlessly costing hundreds of thousands of lives by 1970, the date that FREEDOM DEAL takes place.
"Above all", he adds,"FREEDOM DEAL is an 'Anti-War' movie that demonstrates, from civilian refugee, as well as military perspectives, that armed conflict is a solution of last resort that can devastate all participants for years to come."
The production has recently concluded a local casting session in Phnom Penh to secure the local talent needed to produce several key scenes from the feature screenplay. The producers are also currently in discussions with several LA-based casting directors to attach name Western talent to play the principal roles of two US GI characters (aged 19-26).
“International co-producers are excited by the totally unique FREEDOM DEAL story and the obvious US tie-in, which will help the movie’s performance in North America especially”, states Rosette. But, since we’re planning to shoot in Cambodia and Thailand, folks tend to be risk averse until they can actually see something on screen.”
The group is now proceeding to produce their short adaptation of the feature length screenplay, which, lacking the complexity of vehicles and pyrotechnics, can be achieved on a low budget, which they are currently well on their way to raising thanks to their IndiGogo crowdfunding portal.
The short film adaptation of FREEDOM DEAL (approximately 10 minutes) will gain exposure on the international festival circuit and elsewhere, in order to elicit further interest and funding for the full-length production.
“This staged approach is something that was used for ‘Slingblade’, ‘’Bottle Rockets’, ‘Stranger than Paradise’, and numerous other unique films which carried perceived production risks.” says Rosette. “But we’re confident that, when we can show FREEDOM DEAL on screen in its adapted form, credible international coproduction partners will jump off the fence, so to speak.”
The Cambodian environment lacking in several key areas, and film production incentives (let alone rebates or grants) are not currently available, so funding must come from the private sector or international sources.
But the locations are fresh, authentic, and the cinema industry is developing quickly as international productions continue to shoot in Cambodia more and more frequently - training local crews along the way.
So the FREEDOM DEAL team, based in faraway Cambodia, are seeking the assistance of global film fans everywhere to contribute whatever they can on IndieGogo (igg.me) to help make this incredibly unique, untold story about a little known secret part of the 1970 US-Vietnam conflict...in Cambodia.