Pantala Consultant and brand strategist Patricia Testoni shares her experience filming in Cambodia and the challenge of finding the core message for a project’s brand.
By Patricia Testoni, Consultant, Pantala
Hello. I’m Patricia, a Melbourne based creative producing content for social impact. I center my work on empathy to help purpose-driven organisations captivate and convert their audience with their why.
The photo above so perfectly captures the hunger for human connection that drives my work, and a moment of feeling all of my truth at the surface of my being. It was taken by Phannath, a local resident in Cambodia, at the Kamnor Thmor community, where I spent some time after filming for an Australian organisation offering entrepreneurial education for young people in Cambodia.
I still remember walking into the music room and seeing Phannath deliver a piano performance no short of what you would expect to see at the Opera House. 17 years old, self-taught, living under Sunrise Cambodia’s care since he was 5. When I walked out of that room I burst into tears – the tears that you need to cry when you touch the ground again after being briefly suspended in one of those ethereal, numinous moments that we are very rarely gifted with in life.
The man in the photo with me, and below, is a Pol Pot survivor and a resident at the Kamnor Thmor community. He managed to escape the Khmer Rouge in a very narrow window of opportunity where a soldier shot at him but had run out of bullets. His eyes carry so much pain and are the heaviest eyes I have ever seen. Whenever I was photographing at the village, he would shout at me to go away, but he did give me permission to take his portrait.
Before I left Cambodia, I printed some photos for him. He thanked me and said he’d never seen a photograph of himself. It was such a special moment to see him smile, and to feel the barrier between us collapse. He made me promise I would come back and I felt welcomed into his protected world.
I also love the young faces in that photo because children are at the core of my Cambodia experience. Having spent a week living at this village, I was finally able to internalise what is really meant by “It takes a village to raise a child.” It took me a lot of inquiry to get a sense of the genealogy of the village! It is absolutely impossible to distinguish which child belongs to who just by watching them. Everyone belongs. The experience I had living with the chief of the village is the closest to what my heart understands as family.
I had a specific and fairly concise list of shots that I needed to capture for Project Gen Z, but instead I found myself entranced by those kids’ eyes and compelled to capture their gaze constantly.
I found myself with 1500 clips, some 9827498560 hours of footage, a very agitated heart with a lot of things to say and the challenging task to find a single most powerful, impactful and effective narrative to convey the experience of being part of that project in 4 minutes.
Of all the things I wanted to communicate about the trip – the connection with the fellow entrepreneurs, the connection with the kids, our own emotional journey, the sense of adventure, learning about Cambodia’s history… in the end, it was the message of the brand, its vision and the core of why it exists that wanted to speak the loudest. It was that moment – seeing Phannath play the piano majestically – seeing what is possible for each of them that took the creative lead.
I hope you enjoy the final video below and hope to connect with you to tell your brand’s story.
Patricia Testoni, Consultant, Pantala
Contact Patricia on firstname.lastname@example.org