Local host presents master plan for studio focused on Khmer historical fiction

Local host presents master plan for studio focused on Khmer historical fiction

Meet Khema: He’s around 20 with big cow eyes and thick arched eyebrows with dark hair and brown skin. He wears a krama on his head and a blue-green shirt as well as a traditional fir-green kben. He carries a gem in one hand as he climbs obstacles on his way to a distant Triple Spire Temple.

His mission is to bring back to Vihear Neang Neak a sparkling stone left by the Funan Empire. He is convinced that he will finish his mission in style and without breaking a sweat … But it will not be as easy as he thinks it is.

If you haven’t guessed it already, Khema isn’t a real person. This is a 3D character from The Legend of Khema, an animated clip set during the time of the Khmer Empire that its creator wants to develop into a full-fledged film or series. Khema is an orphan who lives among the Khmer Mons deep in the Cambodian jungle.

Khema and his friends are all Buddhists who revere the spirit of Sauvali – a god who protects them and keeps them isolated from the empire’s ongoing wars.

In a short clip from the film, we see Khema running, jumping and flipping rolling logs through a lush forest to arrive at a majestic temple. It only lasts a minute, but the animation is neat and action-packed, leaving viewers curious to see the rest of Khema’s story.

Judisak is a recent graduate of the 3D Animation Program at the Australian University of Technology in Sydney. PROVIDED

“It was actually originally a homework assignment I did for school while studying at university in Australia. For our final project in our last semester, the university asked all animation students produce a one-and-a-half-minute clip in order to graduate, ”says Meng Judisak, the man who created Khema.

While studying at Sydney University of Technology as a student of 3D design and animation, Judisak says that in May the university gave him the project to produce a cartoon that will be screened at the International Festival of Annecy animated film.

“So I thought of a story I wrote a few years ago about a character named Khema living in the days of Jayavarman II and I went ahead and produced an animation. 3D about it for my final project, ”said Judisak, 22. .

The resulting Khema clip received high marks from her teacher and that along with all of her other courses and credits earned her her graduation from school.

Beyond Judisak wanting to bring a character he had written a story to life about, he says he was motivated by the desire to create an animated character who would live up to Western standards in terms of quality but who had l Cambodian air – both character ethnicity and animation style.

“Although this is based on a story I wrote, I didn’t necessarily want to follow the plot I had written before. I just wanted to test what a Khmer character could look like, because 3D animation is heavily influenced by western animation styles and I want to create something with an authentic Khmer style, ”he said.

“So to finish the whole story, I’ll need more time to research and plan,” said Judisak, who spent her last semester studying online from Cambodia due to pandemic restrictions.

The one minute and eighteen seconds clip titled The Legend of Khema – which Judisak took between four and five weeks to produce – was created to comply with university requirements and was intended to demonstrate the various animation skills he was supposed to have acquired upon graduation instead. than creating an immersive story.

“The month I spent on the project went by quite quickly because I was working alone. While I was doing it, I decided that I wanted to make an animated film about Khema to be released here in Cambodia, ”says Judisak.

The new graduate says that as a producer and writer he needs to research further and delve into the details of the historical period, although the Funan and Chenla period does not have many sources available, so he may need to fill in. some deviations with his imagination or with educated guesses.

“Through the story I wrote and with this animated film, I want to create a fantastic world based on our history and inspired by the animation of Europe, China and Japan and how they tell stories where they integrate their real story with fictional characters or events to make it appealing to viewers, ”says Judisak.

Maybe Judisak is on to something. Works of historical fiction set in the distant past have maintained constant popularity in cultures around the world. Many periods of European history are already well represented by television series such as Vikings, Rome Where The Tudors, not to mention movies like Gladiator Where Brave Heart. Why not the history of Cambodia?

“I think fiction and animation based on the story will impress people and have huge popularity. This will help build pride in our nation and teach our younger generations where they came from more effectively than non-fiction lessons or books, as many young people find it boring when presented in this way ” , he said.

The plot of Judisak’s story has Khema helping King Jayavarman II – who is an important figure in Khmer history – but less is known about him than other kings when it comes to historical records, which, according to him, gives him additional freedom to create an original story.

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Judisak admits it’s a lofty goal for him to try and produce a full 3D animated story at his age and that he will need time to work on his plans and that he will likely need to recruit some. extra help, but he says he’s up to the challenge.

“I just graduated and don’t have a team yet. I have not yet contacted any artists to join the team, I only worked alone. I don’t know many artists in our country, but I would like to meet some if there are any looking for a stimulating project, ”he says.

The Legend of Khema is the first step Judisak took to start her own animation business called Lakhon Studio.

“I want Lakhon Studio to be part of a new Cambodian Hollywood. I want to see Cambodia build its own Khmer entertainment industry and for my part we will focus on the work of VFX and 3D animation. This is my most important goal, ”says Judisak.

He says he’s always loved watching movies from all over the world, whether Japanese, Chinese, American or European. He says he learned important lessons from each of them and they all have their own stories to tell.

When he was ready for college, Judisak thought he might be interested in studies like graphic design and that’s what he had in mind when he went to Australia, but he decided to Quickly focused on 3D animation once there.

“My first year I studied architecture but the last three years I took 3D animation courses. Since I had no background in design, they took me to courses that taught design skills [like architecture] before moving on to animation, ”he said.

Judisak is unsure if he wants to tell Khema’s story as a long animated film or if it would be better as an episodic series that airs through one of the subscription services or online.

“I don’t know how to broadcast it – if it’s a movie, it’s usually shown in theaters. But if it’s a series, they should be streamed online like Netflix. I don’t know what would be best, so I’m going to have to do some research, ”he says.

Judisak says if he were to just follow Khema’s existing story as it is written on the page, it would probably take three or four seasons of episodes to cover it all.

“I want Cambodian films and media to be strong enough to compete with content produced in developed countries like anime from Japan or Marvel Studios in the US, both of which are popular around the world,” said Judisak.

For more details and to view a short clip from The Legend of Khema, visit the Lakhon Studios Facebook page: @lakhonstudio or the website: https://studiolakhon.wixsite.com/lakhon

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