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Daily Inspiration: Meet Hai Nguyen

Today we’d like to introduce you to Hai Nguyen.

Alright, so thank you so much for sharing your story and insight with our readers. To kick things off, can you tell us a bit about how you got started?
When I meet with clients, I can always tell they are surprised to see a dude. With the business called Elise Films, they were expecting to meet with a lady named Elise and they get me. I always have to tell them they are not being catfished. To explain this, let’s dive into my origin story.

As long as I can remember, I’ve always been the kid who likes to save little keepsakes that link to a special moment or memory. Whether it be a toy action figure or a heart-shaped rock a friend gave me, I treasure these items because they have emotional value. When I began filming with my mother’s cameracorder at the age of five, I realize that memories can serve as a time capsule which can be shared and enjoyed forever.

I was the oldest of 6 boys and we were raised by a single “tiger” mom — she was born in the year of the tiger as well as being a strict, no-nonsense woman. She taught us we can overcome any adversity through hardwork. We were not allowed to play until we finished all our work and chores. Entering college, I was only allowed to choose between being a doctor, lawyer, or engineer. I chose engineering because I had a love for cameras, computers, and all things tech-related.

Fast-forward, my wife was pregnant with my daughter. When she asked for professional newborn photos, I talked her out of it. My justification was that for the cost of ten photos, I can buy a professional camera and do it myself. (Looking back, we should have hired a professional. haha) This one decision spiraled into a hobby and eventually into the small business I own and operate today, ELISE FILMS — named after my daughter.

After working 12 years in the military defense industry, I realized that filmmaking brings such a fulfillment to my soul that nothing else has in the past. I’ve put in the hardwork taught by my mother. Now it is time to play.

Elise Films was established in 2014 and we continue to serve clients all across southern California through weddings, commercial branding projects, and live event coverage.

Would you say it’s been a smooth road, and if not what are some of the biggest challenges you’ve faced along the way?
It has been an uphill marathon and I hope I never reach the finish line. One of the hardest things I have ever done but the most gratifying.

When my wife was pregnant, we were not married. We put all our dreams aside to make sure we become the best parents we could. My wife never had a wedding because we used all our savings to buy a home to raise Elise. I was even more surprised when she agreed to let me use the remaining funds to invest in a new camera to start my wedding business. The deal was that I cannot quit my day job.

Running a small video production business is no easy venture. I’ve been a “one-man-band” trying to juggle marketing, website development, accounting, and client relations while filming and editing.

Eight years have passed and I have filmed over 125 weddings while keeping my day job. I don’t think I have slept more than 5 hours a night since 2014.

Thanks for sharing that. So, maybe next you can tell us a bit more about your work?
What sets me apart from other studios is that every wedding is personal to me. Elise Films is named after my daughter and I can’t help but treat every wedding as a unique piece of endearment. If I produce a film that is not up to my standards, I feel like I have failed my daughter.

Films have a way of evoking emotions and is a special kind of medium that allows us to experience the feelings and share that story with future generations to come. Life is about moments, heritage, and love. Every film I create, I strive to handcraft a piece of art that allows my clients to experience the feelings and memories all over again. In short, I capture moments that become family heirlooms.

Is there any advice you’d like to share with our readers who might just be starting out?
My best advice is just to start.

Don’t worry about the gear. Don’t worry about what others think. Don’t be afraid of failure.

It is a marathon and every step you take will get you closer to your goal. Also, marathons don’t have to be done solo. Reach out to your family, friends, and community. Networking and collaboration will be the key to your success. You never know what opportunities lie ahead.

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Image Credits
Credit: Elise Films

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