|Filmmaker David Ngo On Untold APA Stories
By: Jennie L. Ilustre
In 2004, David Ngo founded Double Oh Three Productions when he “realized that my hopes of becoming a secret agent were dashed.” The name is a subtle homage, he said in mock seriousness, to his elusive dream.
David has a B.A. in Communication Studies and Business Administration from UCLA. He didn’t decide to become a filmmaker until after he graduated from college, and when he did, he was’t sure which area interested him most.
He recalled: “I then thought about the internships that I did in college, and I remembered I enjoyed reading scripts and writing coverage for a small production company. It was there that I discovered my passion for writing, storytelling, and filmmaking. I want to tell the untold stories of Asian Americans. Ultimately, I want to reach a diverse and wide range of people.”
David is on his seventh year as a programming executive for E! Entertainment Television. He is an award-winning writer/director. His films have been shown in nearly ten film festivals nationwide.
Recently, his short film “BPS” was named one of the Top 10 finalists at the 4th Annual 72 Hour Shootout of New York-based Asian Cinevision. It’s a workplace parody “about an important package that goes mysteriously missing.”
In January this year, he received the Armed with a Camera Fellowship from Visual Communications, the premier Asian Pacific media arts center in the United States. David is also an honoree of Film Independent Project: Involve, a select mentorship program for young filmmakers.
David also directed “The Queen from Virginia: The Jackie Bong Wright Story,” which received the Best Documentary Feature Jury Prize at the 2006 Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival. The documentary will be available on DVD on December 8, in English with Vietnamese subtitles, exclusively at http://www.doubleohthree.com
The production, David’s first feature documentary, captures the journey of the widow of martyred Vietnamese leader, Vietnam War refugee, author of “Autumn Cloud,” and award-winning social activist as she competes in the week-long Ms. Senior America national pageant, held in Las Vegas in 2004.
Started in 1972, the beauty pageant for women over 60 “searches for the gracious lady who best exemplifies the dignity, maturity, and inner beauty of all senior Americans.” Despite her busy schedule, Jackie also writes for Asian Fortune on human trafficking, senior citizens’ social activities, local candidate forums and national voter registration campaigns, and other advocacy issues.
“Releasing this labor of love on DVD is a very rewarding and gratifying experience,” David said in a recent email interview. “This documentary is full of heart, passion, and inspiration. We hope everyone enjoys it.”
Last year, when the 90-minute documentary was shown at the Arlington Arts Center, he was thrilled to share it with family and friends, who provided labor as well as love. “It’s an incredible feeling to sit here at the public screening of this documentary,” he said in an interview, smiling broadly as he looked across two packed screening rooms. “This documentary involved a lot of hard work and the support of family and friends.”
The budget came mostly from donations and grassroots fundraising, such as silent auctions and raffles, and included his supportive mom cooking favorite Asian dishes. “I have great parents who give me a lot of confidence, support and help with my filmmaking endeavors,” said David, who is an only child.
David described Double Oh Three Productions as “a fruit cocktail of artists from all walks of life who unite to make unique and imaginative films.” For the documentary, “the crew was basically assembled through a networking of friends, peers, and colleagues,” he said, adding he met Katy Chen, their producer, when she worked at The Style Network, a sister network of E! Entertainment.
He added: “Our Director of Photography Gavin Wynn and I first met through a filmmaking mentorship program called Project: Involve. Robert F. Trucios, our composer, had previously collaborated on two short films together. From there, we pooled our resources together and recruited editor Stacy Halbach, 2nd D.P. Steven Chow, and our sound man Young K. Kim.” The rest of the team is composed of Associate Producer Lindsey Utrata and Production Assistants Masa Takemasa, Anthony Pinga, Kendra Cordero and Rachel Trontel.
David is currently writing two feature-length comedy scripts. “Both scripts are currently untitled and I’m in the early writing stage on both of them. I have not yet begun the process of seeking funding or further developing these projects into films, but I hope to do these within the next few years.”
“Most of my challenges as a minority filmmaker are financial. As a filmmaker who wants to tell these untold stories, part of the challenge is convincing investors that your project is a viable product in the marketplace,” he explained. “But there are many untold stories out there, especially those rooted in Asian American culture and heritage, and there is an audience hungry for these stories. That’s why I founded Double Oh Three Productions, and that why I decided to be a filmmaker.”