79 – Filming in Dangerous Environments with Doc Filmmakers, Chris Kelly & Venerable Luon Sovath

Filming in Dangerous Environments

The number of docos filming in dangerous or hostile environments has been steadily increasing over the past decade, with the access to both dependable portable film gear as well as the best areas in which to tell a given story.  What has not necessarily increased is a filmmaker or journalist’s safety, with 80 being killed in action and over 250 imprisoned last year, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists.

Doc filmmakers Chris Kelly and Venerable Luon Sovath spent years risking their life and limb to tell the story of land grabbing in Cambodia.  While innocent people were forcefully removed from their homes in the name of land development, Kelly and Luon were there with cameras filming the events for the world to see.  And I had the distinct pleasure of sitting down to talk with them about their experiences making the film, A Cambodian Springin hopes of shedding some light into the process of making documentaries in potentially dangerous areas of the world.

Among topics discussed:

  • how the choice to tell the film entirely from the Cambodian perspective is a complex and demanding, though very unique and rewarding experience
  • how 3-6 months living/filming in Cambodia became 6 yrs in the country
  • how a monk decides to become a journalist advocating for the rights of those being displaced from their homes by the government
  • hostile environment training in the UK prepared Chris for dangerous areas


Related Sources

Trailer for A Cambodian Spring




We are honored to have been invited by #DocLifer, Nic Justice, to give a workshop in downtown Philadelphia on the evening of Wednesday 25th July, 2018 and would love to invite you to attend. We will be presenting a mini version of our The Documentary Life workshop which includes:


  • The Filmmaker’s Identity and Fundamental Values
  • Personal and Professional Finances
  • Lifestyle Habits and Concious Living
  • Building a Support Network and the Importance of Community
  • Organization and Planning Elements of Both Doc Film and Leading a Doc Life


Presentation to be followed by a 20 minute Q&A session.  We will be sharing what we have learned from over 78 episodes of the podcast and our combined 25+ years of working in the film industry. And in addition, we look forward to getting to know our #DocLifer family a little better and connecting face-to-face.

We’d love to see you there, so book your ticket today!

To check out #DocLifer, Nic Justice’s Meetup group down in Philly, follow this link to Rough Cuts Philly!  Steph and I will be giving a workshop on Wednesday eve, July 25th from 6-9p . Tickets are only $20 and can be purchased here.



Sponsors & Thank Yous


Free Music ArchiveSpecial Thank You to recording artist, Dlay who supplied music for this week’s episode of TDL. You too can download his music or other artist’s music by going to Free Music Archive today!

Host and TDL Founder, Chris G Parkhurst

Chris is a documentary filmmaker and the founder and host of The Documentary Life, a platform which aims to inform and inspire documentary filmmakers from around the globe.

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