From Video Trainee to Budding Filmmaker: Leang’s Story


អត្ថបទ​នេះមានជាភាសា៖ kmខ្មែរ


By Georgi Simpkin

Communications Consultant

Two years ago, Leang Seng attended a Basic Video Training course with USAID’s Development Innovations project. She didn’t know that after this course, her life was about to take a turn for the unexpected. Like many Cambodians, she loves watching movies, but she never imagined after attending the video course that she would discover her passion for producing films. Fast forward two years and she is about to start a Bachelor of Film & Television at JMC Academy in Brisbane, Australia. But how did she get here?

Leang the eldest of three children, born in Poipet near the border of Thailand and Cambodia, spent most of her childhood in the nation’s capital, Phnom Penh. “Growing up, I remember my mother always told me I could do anything I wanted with my life. I thought this doesn’t sound so easy and also, I didn’t really know what I wanted to do,” says Leang. After finishing her Medical Degree in Laboratory Science at the International University of Cambodia in 2016, she could only find work at the local airport. Still unsure of her own potential and what she could do, Leang reached to Celia Boyd, Managing Director of SHE Investments, to express her desire to work for them. With no tangible experience, but a positive appetite to learn and a strong affinity to her new employers values and mission, Leang joined SHE Investments as Communications Assistant. Without knowing it, this was her first significant step to becoming a filmmaker.

At SHE Investments, a social enterprise supporting women entrepreneurs in Cambodia, she was able to connect with many inspiring women. Leang describes, “I realized working at SHE [Investments] how important it is to promote gender equality and to support and advocate for women. Not everyone is as lucky [as me] to have a supportive mum and family and many women don’t feel they have the confidence and support to do what they want.” Through SHE Investments she was able to share and promote many stories of female empowerment via social media, events and trainings. 

Digital marketing and video editing aren’t skills that are commonly taught at universities or training courses in Cambodia, but they are hugely important in today’s Cambodia. “When we hired Leang, she had endless energy and wanted to learn, but we needed to offer her opportunities to progress and develop her skills.” says SHE Investments’s Celia Boyd. Leang was enrolled onto the first of two Development Innovations training courses – Basic Video Training in March 2017. “I had no idea about video editing before the course. I think the course is very precise for people who never have experience of editing before, you can understand the basics and you can do a good job,“ says Leang.

Her first video project was for SHE Investments platform for women entrepreneurs, Ngeay Ngeay, meaning “easy easy” in native Khmer. Originally funded in 2017 by Development Innovations, in collaboration with internet service provider Ezecom, Ngeay Ngeay is an innovative online business platform which provides free information on how to register a business for all Cambodians, targeted towards the needs of female business owners. “I found it a big challenge to create my first video for Ngeay Ngeay and I needed a lot of support in terms of time management and editing. DI supported me a lot throughout that process of producing that video – in terms of technical support and equipment.” 

Working with the DI team, Leang’s natural ability to create videos from scratch flourished. “The support that the DI team provided for SHE and for Leang was huge. They went above and beyond what we ever expected of a partner, and we definitely wouldn’t have been able to achieve some of our biggest accomplishments without their support,” says Celia Boyd.

Impressively, Leang developed more than 25 e-learning business videos from scratch for Ngeay Ngeay, which you can view here. “I don’t want to exaggerate but it is life changing. I feel like without that video training and all my experiences [at DI] I wouldn’t have figured out my passion and wouldn’t have pursued Film & Television in Australia. Without that experience, I could not be this way,” says Leang. 

In addition to Video Training, Leang also took part in Development Innovations’ Basic Social Media Training. Already familiar with running a social media page for SHE Investments she had a good idea of what content works well. “I thought I knew how to do it [Social Media] but the course opened my mind to content planning, data analysis and how to use that knowledge’, says Leang. “I’d never really thought about analyzing the behavior and how the audience is using our page but it really works, we increased our followers by 30%”.

The training and advice DI offered Leang and the SHE Investments team had direct impact, “We improved our programming, we increased our social media presence and we launched Cambodia’s first business eLearning platform [Ngeay Ngeay], all created and delivered by Khmer women, in Khmer language.” says Celia Boyd. 

It is clear to see how Leang’s confidence grew over the years she worked at SHE Investments and alongside the DI team. “So many opportunities opened up for me when I started at SHE and with the support of the DI team. Before I met the DI team, I could never have imagined being an emcee at an event.” Leang’s first appearance as emcee was at a Women in Tech event hosted by DI. She later went on to emcee at other events included a SHE Graduation at the British Embassy, to more than 50 people. “I was so nervous and scared to speak in-front of so many people. DI helped prep me and gave me the courage to do it and to enjoy it. Which I did, I felt so proud of myself.”

As Leang gets ready to start her Film & Television course in Australia she reflects on how she arrived at this point in her life. “When I worked at the airport, I didn’t know what I could be, and I didn’t even realize what I was passionate about. Development Innovations helped me find my life purpose – I am so grateful. They gave me the courage to follow my mum’s advice that women can do anything.

Leang will finish her studies in 2022 and plans to move back to Cambodia and start up her own film production company, where she will focus on telling the stories of women and working to advance gender equality across the country.