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 Daron Ker Interview (Page Three)
THE INDEPENDENT CRITIC

Let's jump over to Rice Field of Dreams. How did you get to the point of deciding to make this film?

DARON KER

It was amazing. You know, we live in a culture where you never step back to think about where you came from. I was in a studio. I'd been working on I Ride. By that time, I'd shot over 60-70 hours of material. A buddy of mine came in and was like "You should check this out. You should make a film. It's about the Cambodian National Baseball Team." I was like "What? Cambodian National Baseball Team?' It was in a Sunday paper. I went to the website and I was really inspired. Baseball is my favorite sport, so I was thinking maybe I should give this guy Joe Cook a call. I could donate my time to help him fund-raise or something. I called Joe. He wasn't around. After awhile, he gave me a call back. I offered to help out, maybe make a short film or something. Then, I found out he's from Alabama. He's a cook. I didn't really think anything would come up like making this film. I thought it was just a donation that I wanted to do.

In 2007, he called me and said "We're going to go play. We're going to go compete for the first time. Major League Baseball's on board." I told him "I'm on board, then. When are we going to do this?" He was like "In a few months, we're going to leave." I was thinking "I just spent all my money on I Ride, how am I going to get to Cambodia?"

At the time, I was good friends with the Doobie Brothers. We had been friends a while. forever. I went and did something with Pat and his wife and Pat said "Tell me more about what this Rice Field of Dreams is about." I said "Yeah, I wanted to do it but I don't have any money." He was like "Tell me more about it." I told him that the Cambodians had just started their first national baseball team and they're going to compete for the first time. It's an amazing thing for Cambodia and for the kids there. I think I want to make a movie about it. I just think it would be a great opportunity to go back home to reconnect with my roots and just make this film. Pat was like "How much money would you need?" I said "I just need seed money. I just need to get to Cambodia." He said "Well, how much would you need?" I was like "I don't know, probably about thirteen grand." The next week, I had the money in front of my door in the studio. I got my crew together and was like "We're going to Cambodia." Everyone was excited and was "Thanks to the Doobie Brothers for putting up the seed money so that we can get over there." They just stepped up really quickly... within a week. It was just so great of them to give me a chance to make Rice Field of Dreams. I'll never forget that and they know that. That film I worked on for them was for their "World Gone Crazy" CD. I did it for almost nothing, because I was just really grateful for them giving me the chance to go back home.

THE INDEPENDENT CRITIC

Was it hard to go back to Cambodia?

DARON KER

Yeah, it was hard. The reason it was hard was that I did not know that Cambodia was in that bad of condition. It was like something from a movie. Everything was a wreck. It was like one of those cyborg movies. I was just devastated. I was like "What happened here to my country?" I know from my research that millions of people got killed, but I didn't know the repercussions of it all until I went there. I didn't know what a third world country was, but when I got there I was just blown away.  I started asking myself why I didn't come home sooner, but I don't think I was in any condition to come home any sooner because I was still searching for myself. So, I was saddened but at the same time I was inspired. It was kind of like going to that refugee camp and becoming inspired. This time, I went back home and I became inspired to find out more about myself, my roots and my people and what had happened.

THE INDEPENDENT CRITIC

I read that one of your plans is to do more projects related to Cambodia or for Cambodia. Is that correct?

DARON KER

Yeah, my goal now is to do a narrative feature with some of the most talented people in Hollywood and to help launch the film industry over there to show the government that film does create economic growth. I think our people need their own voice. With my knowledge and experience and the help of people here, I think we can create a cool film school to help create filmmakers right there in Cambodia. That's my dream.

THE INDEPENDENT CRITIC

One of the things I really liked about Rice Field of Dreams is that it didn't have this sort of Hallmark greeting card type of sentiment about it. You know, in a lot of American films it's always about winning, winning, winning. For the Cambodian National baseball team, it was really about showing up and having pride and playing.

DARON KER

What really got me was the first time these kids put the uniform on and it had "Major League" on it and Cambodia on it and to be sent out to represent their country with the Cambodian flag flying was amazing.

THE INDEPENDENT CRITIC

Has your film been seen in Cambodia?

DARON KER

Not yet. I'm going back to set up a premiere over there and to show everybody that we should be proud of these 22 kids who went over there to the Southeast Asian Games. It's not about winning or losing. It's about the heart. We're not educated enough to make good films in Cambodia yet. With this film, I put a lot of heart into it and tried to make it professional and to have international appeal. I think people will see something in it that they've never seen in a film about Cambodians. It's crazy, because growing up my mom watched a lot of Thai movies and Chinese movies. They're all dubbed. I was irritated by it. They'd get like 100 VHS tapes at once and sit down and watch it. I'd be like "Mom, it's not even our country. They just dub it. Everything's just bad." I think by introducing Rice Field of Dreams it can open everyone's eyes, the prime minister and everyone, that we can really do this. That would be just a start.

THE INDEPENDENT CRITIC

Do you have any other projects that are actually kind of pending at this point?

DARON KER

Holiday in Cambodia is the next feature that I'm looking to get off the ground. I've spent over 10 years developing the script. It's me stepping up to the next level and working with actors, a bigger crew. At the end of the day, I want to donate all the equipment and stuff to help launch a new school in Cambodia. It's an important film for me. I think it's going to be an important film for Cambodia.

THE INDEPENDENT CRITIC

I've got to ask. You've got a couple films under your belt now. Do your parents still think your crazy?

DARON KER

No, actually they've been support. Now, they're crazy for supporting me. I think I drained their bank account. Seriously, though, since then my dad and I have been partners. We produced both of these films together. He's really proud of Rice Field of Dreams and I Ride. Through film, we actually became closer as business partners but also as friends. It opened doors for us to communicate better. He sees that the futures lies within a guy like me to go back home and make a difference. If we want to introduce film into Cambodia, it's going to have to start with me. Not to be, whatever, but I haven't seen anybody coming out of there who's doing anything and I feel like with what I've been doing I can make it happen.

THE INDEPENDENT CRITIC

Okay, this is a selfish question. I have to ask for me. Have you stayed in touch with Church of the Brethren at all?

DARON KER

I haven't since I don't live there. The woman who sponsored us is still heavily involved with our family. My aunt's kid still keeps in contact with her. Her name is Mary. I need to do that...swing by there or send them an e-mail just to show them how grateful I am and what a good job they did in sponsoring me.

THE INDEPENDENT CRITIC

I think they'd be excited to hear about you and your journey and your career now.

DARON KER

It's a great thing. Because of the church, I was able to have a voice and help to change some lives. Speaking of articles, going back to the film school I had an article in the L.A. Times. A guy who read it, Kevin Williams, was inspired by my desire to take film into Cambodia. He's head of Columbia School of Broadcasting. I was on the phone with him for almost an hour two days ago and he wants to give two kids from Cambodia full ride scholarships to Columbia School of Broadcasting here in America. I think that would be amazing. Whoever the kids are will be the luckiest kids in the world.

I'm not doing all of this by myself. I'm not walking in going saying "I want to start this film school." I've got people at USC and AFI who are interested. It's a group effort. They want to donate their time to support me and support the project to make sure there is a film school there. It would be neat to have some kind of exchange program so that kids from here could go over there. They'd come back and see that we've got everything here.

Just because I keep making films, doors are really starting to open up a little bit. I can't wait to go back over and see which two kids have an opportunity that I never had. I think just being a part of that will be amazing.
Daron Ker's "I Ride" and "Rice Field of Dreams" will both be distributed through FilmBuff beginning in December, 2011 along with a limited nationwide release as Ker continues to explore distribution channels. He continues working hard to bring "Holiday in Cambodia" to life!

For more information on "Rice Field of Dreams" visit the film's website and Facebook Page.

For more information on "I Ride" visit the film's website or Facebook page.


© 2011, Interview by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic
An Independent Voice for the Reel World

The Independent Critic
Email: theindependentcritic@yahoo.com

 

All Material Copyright 2007-2011
Richard Propes and Heart n' Sole Foundation