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Saigoneer Exclusive: Interview with the Director of 'Saigon is Happy'

Saigon is Happy became an instant viral hit when it was posted on YouTube last month, racking up over 100,000 views. We sat down with director, Thành Đạt Phan, to see what inspired the video, how he recruited dancers and other nifty projects his studio is working on.

What inspired you to make this video? Did you have the idea in mind before you heard Pharrell’s song? 

I was inspired by Pharrell’s Happy music video when I got to listen to it with Anh Dy- leader of the Nolza Dance Crew. Even though I’ve been listening to the song nonstop, when two ideas collided along with a dancer like Anh Dy, we instantly thought that “Okay, let’s make a cover of this!”

How did you recruit the dancers for the video? Were they friends or did you randomly approach people on the street?

As mentioned, Dy and I are close friends so when we came up with the idea of Saigon is Happy, we asked for lots of support from the Nolza dancers and other dance communities, other than that, there were about 3 people that we found on the street and we spontaneously asked them to join us.

Can you tell us more about the dancers we see in the video?

Nolza is a dance crew in Saigon, for more information, you can contact them directly here via their Facebook page:

Many foreigners we spoke with loved the video and said it conveyed many of the characteristics that make them love Saigon. However, we noticed that there are no foreigners in your video. Was that intentional?

During production, we planned to work with an international photographer that lives in Saigon, but he could not join us in the last minute. Foreigners living and working in Saigon are also an interesting aspect of the city to reflect on and it was a pity that he could not join. We also had some problems with elders and some Vietnamese celebs as well.

In the opening of the video, you bag the female character seen in Anh Không Đòi Quà. Was this a criticism of the song itself or about the message it sends?

The idea of covering a girl in a bag at the beginning of the video was based on an internet meme that was Vietnamized: “Kill it before it lays eggs.”

We did not intend to insult or go against the spirit of the song, we actually loved it. In fact, we are not interested in songs that are covered aimlessly with little meaning or message behind them. We think that there are always outstanding concepts out there that we can interpret. And thankfully, we were strongly supported.

What has been the response to the video so far?

The video received a lot of good feedback, and we are so proud to have it featured on various online news platforms. This coverage sparked the interest of YanTV which will broadcast the official video on We10 this Friday at 9pm.

How long did it take to produce?

We spent more than a week to go around Saigon to shoot and another 3 days for post-production.

Can you tell us more about ROAR studio and other projects you’re working on?

ROAR is an average sized film studio that was created by members with one single goal: encouraging the youth to develop their inner as well as social values. We’ve always wanted to build a community that consists of a whole bunch of young people with different characteristics and they are daring enough to take risks to prove that they have passion.

In the future, we are going to produce an indie film project and will be doing a music video for the VietPride Festival theme song. We are passionate and always willing to give a shot to collaborate on other projects later on.

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