Phare Ponleu Selpak is well known for its circus and arts schools, but did you know it is hosting a professional graphic design and animation studio under the very same roof, whose latest COVID-19 animation movie amassed more than a million views? Phare Creative Studio (PCS) is a creation hub nested in our Visual & Applied Arts School building in Battambang, ensuring a virtuous circle of mutual development. All employees, who are coming from an underprivileged background, have been supported by Phare Ponleu Selpak Association and trained in our school. Just like Phare, The Cambodian Circus in Siem Reap, the studio is under the « Phare Performing Social Enterprise » and gives its profits back to our association to run the school. With the ambition to reveal the innovative « Cambodian touch » in 2D animation, graphic design, illustration, video and sound recording original works, PCS is multiplying overseas collaborations and preparing to tackle the international market. Its primary ambition is to tell Cambodian stories, approaching contemporary topics affecting Cambodian lives and delivering impacting messages through its creations.

In April, PCS created a prevention campaign to protect the elderly against COVID-19, in collaboration with the Ministry of Health of Cambodia, National Center for Health Promotion, USAID Cambodia, PSI Cambodia, and 17 Triggers. It quickly swept over the social media, reaching 1.2 millions views across the country and made its artistic director Vincent Buso proud! We interviewed him about this latest achievement.

Can you explain the artistic choices and challenges of this movie?

Vincent: The biggest challenge was the production timeline, because of many partnerships involved in the validation process, and only one week for the production, we had to speed up all the steps. As it was an open call for submission, we did not hesitate to send a first draft storyboard before any agreement was made. Finally we got the project and then started a race against the clock. From backgrounds, to characters design, voice casting and recording to animation and composing, the entire team put great efforts to achieve all the work. We wanted a colorful image, a bit different from what we see in official messages, we made also more “cartoon” style proposals, but we had to find compromises following everyone’s expectations. 17 triggers team made a great job to facilitate the process, we all had the feeling that the sooner it was finished, the more people could be actively protecting themselves from the virus. It was a huge motivation!

What is the most important message you want to tell Cambodians in that movie, do you want to address a specific generation through it?

Vincent: If the movie could help some to understand the necessity to protect the elderly, to better understand the basic ways of protection and prevention, like keeping a safe distance, avoid physical contacts, keep the hands clean then it is great! One number to remember and to dial: 115; it is addressed to all generations and with over a million views we know the message has been heard and the phone number spread.

Phare Creative Studio is doing a lot of educational movies, is that something that defines your brand and identity? 

Vincent: Certainly it is a key identity of the productions the studio has been making for more than 10 years. From the beginning of the animation activities in Phare, there has been a growing demand from organizations to use our medium as a powerful awareness-raising tool, given that whatever the age, the education level, the community or the origins of the target audience, animation is sufficiently communicative to have a great impact on people. 80% of our projects are awareness programs based on different topics ranging from the human condition to nature protection. Others are mainly projects related to art and culture. We are part of the Phare family and really proud of it!


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