The Makings of a Vietnamese Film Director: A Raffles Designer’s Career path



Almost every great creative had design training at one point or another. Malaysian-born shoe designer, Jimmy Choo, went to Cordwainers Technical College, England (Now part of London College of Fashion); American film producer, George Lucas took liberal arts courses at University of Southern California; and Japanese anime creator, Yoshiyuki Tomino, studied in Nihon University’s College of Art.

Nguyen Do Khoa became a deputy director on a film project called “Love Color”. He studied Multimedia Design at Raffles International College, Ho Chi Minh. One of his most notable projects was a short film titled “The 4th”. It won first prize in the Best Horror/Thriller category at the seventh Hollywood International Student Film Festival. When asked to talk about his project, Khoa said: “Based on the methodical knowledge being taught at Raffles and encouragement from my lecturer, Mr. Paul, we came up with the idea step by step – drew up a plan, and ‘The 4th’ was born.”

Storyline of The 4th

A janitor dies in a school building on the 4th floor at 4pm. And this causes panic at an international university in Saigon. The sole witness of the death, a student named Mai, feels a ghostly presence. Thus, luring her back to school compounds at 4pm. A chain of eerie events takes place as Mai makes her way to the abandoned 4th floor.

Behind the Scenes: Making the Cut

Film makers deserve their fame for the effort they put in. The hard part is not making entertaining movies that span slightly more than an hour. A quality film is able to justify the number of hours spent making the production. Khoa and his team worked on The 4th for the whole of their final term. Sometimes, they stayed over at school until 3am in the morning to complete their filming. Their end product was an award-winning 20-minute short film.

Being a team that trusted each other, they split up the tasks. They had to:

– Collect information

– Write the script

– Cast actors

– Procure equipment

– Film, edit, and add special effects

“It was very fortunate that each of us had our own strengths,” said Khoa, “I was the director; Nhu Anh, our only girl, was the editor; music was composed by Huy Vu; Thang Khoa designed the posters and website; and Hoang Duy took care of matters like rotation angle, making the trailer, and finding the equipment and actresses.”

Seen in Hollywood

The storyline and music won compliments from their board of examiners. Encouraged, Khoa and his team decided to submit their work for the Hollywood International Student Film Festival. And they won first prize in the Best Horror/Thriller category.

“The difference of The 4th lies on the thrilling features: not blood or skulls that are usually used in Western horror films. Asians are haunted by the spirit element,” explained Khoa.

The Journey of a Thousand Miles Begin with a Single Step

An exciting life of possibilities lies in wait for those who dream about the film industry. Those who want to prepare themselves for experience in the media industry should go to school. Professional lecturers and like-minded classmates will be like a breath of fresh air. And they can guide you to becoming a savvy media professional. Good schools will give you ample opportunities to grow as a designer. And also build your portfolio and industry contacts.

It always starts with a step in the right direction to get to your destination.