The Road to Telluride & Its Purity to Film

As I currently sit at Denver International Airport, I thought it’d be wise to take advantage of this time (and free wifi) to share the beauty of what is the Telluride Film Festival.  Many throughout consider Telluride to be a true film festival, where the focus is not on the celebrities, the exposure, or the press/publicity.  It’s all about the films.  They take center stage, and no one else even dares to share that exposure.  The ability for Telluride to do is this actually quite simple, yet ingenious.  There is no such thing as a press pass, and there are no advantages or special privileges critics, movie stars, or filmmakers get, even if they are representing a selection at the film festival.  Everyone has to pay, find transportation, and find their own lodging, and what it creates is an atmosphere where people are only motivated to see these films and talk about them.

Yes, the structure of it all is less complex, but what it does is strip down all the fat of other film festivals, and keep to its core.  People come here to experience a real experience, where everyone and everything is here to see the movies, talk about the movies, and reflect on the movies.  There is no audience praise nor backlash, and the respect for the arts is what’s more important and substantial at Telluride.  Yes, it has gotten some intense exposure and notoriety as the last four of the five Best Picture winners at the Academy Awards premiered at Telluride.  All indications point to Telluride being the beginning of an awards contender, and whoever grabs the spotlight and literally, “the talk of the town”, it’s given leading status.  Is it a good thing?  We’ll never know, but regardless of the fall movie season and the heaviness of the Oscar season, most, if not all, come purely for the movies.  It’ll be an amazing experience to be surrounded by that kind of environment, and I feel incredibly grateful to be a part of it.

Telluride Film Festival Speculated Line-Up (Potentials & Hopefuls)
Inside Llewyn Davis
All Is Lost
Nebraska
Labor Day
Gravity
12 Years A Slave
Blue Is The Warmest Colour (Cannes Winner)
The Past
The Invisible Woman
The Immigrant
Palo Alto
Enough Said

How It All Started: The Choice to Follow Film

Finding the origin is always a difficult process.  The root of all things is an incredibly challenging task, and as I continue on this fresh journey, I try to think back at the exact moment where I knew film and writing was the career I wanted.  I can’t safely pinpoint where I felt the movie making business was my calling, considering there were so many moments that added to this decision.  But no matter where it exactly started, what’s more important (to me at least) is to convincingly focus on my motivations and reasoning.  There are many reasons why people go into the entertainment industry that may seem somewhat superficial.  Regardless of any of those reasons, people do what they do.  But for myself, a recent graduate of a Christian-based university from southwest Michigan with a degree in secondary education and social studies/history, it’s very important that the life-changing decision I made has solidity and a strong base to remind but also push me to keep going no matter how hard it gets.

Movies have always been a huge part of my life, even when I was a little kid.  There was nothing more invigorating or monumental when my mom would ask that simple question, “what’s playing at the movie theater?”  It was an excuse for me to spend countless hours finding movies and show times my mother and I would escape to.  I started experiencing cinemas at a very young age, and though it was a rated R film starring Keanu Reeves and Sandra Bullock stuck on a bus, it was quite magical.  There was no better time spent than being at a theater.  The strong scent of freshly cooked popcorn, the subtle sounds of fizzling soda, and the ever-so freezing temperatures that hit you like a cold brick wall when you enter your assigned screen.  The anticipation of your movie slowly arriving with the added environmental elements from theater radio or pre-show entertainment to the over-emphasized but astutely incorporated display of sound quality from Dolby digital. They were all friendly reminders that I was where I really wanted to be.

To most, film is a piece of entertainment, generating laughter or excitement from what is transpiring on-screen.  But all those crucial emotions that one may receive while watching a movie, I receive just being there.  Films are not just an escape or a reason to find thrills.  Movies are a way of life, providing pieces of understanding, perspective, and pure informative art.  When one witnesses something undeniably moving that does more than just show, but recollects past memories in your life or spiritually transports your own soul to another being, you know you’re watching more than just your average Hollywood film.  Just like a fine piece of literature, a powerful cinematic experience can empower one to see differently, think differently, and act differently.  It can change lives.

Though few may disagree with allowing such a media outlet or piece of anything affect you in such strong ways, I tend to see such powerful influences as a form of passion and love.  There are differences between infatuation and love, and it’s important for every person to know when they are infatuated or in love.  Since I was a kid, I was always thought movies were just an infatuation.  Growing up within in a Christian household, we were always supposed to have movies or anything entertaining at an arm’s length.  To some degree, you can call that hypocritical, but we were allowed to watch movies, but we weren’t allowed to love movies.  Within the church-going world, watching movies might be okay, but loving movies, no, that’s a dangerous line we may be walking.  The uncontrollable amounts of sex, drugs, and violence that were overflowing the screens were a clear sign to many Christians that movies were sinful.  And throughout my experiences as a movie-obsessed, church-instructed boy looking for some sort of explanation, it became clear to me that movies are not something serious, but more of a hobby.

This understanding became more of a beaten notion within my head as I continued to grow older, and my love for writing and filming when I was a kid disappeared, that could just be more of a reflection of life’s unfortunate hand that was played in my family.  Regardless, my attitude towards movies was “enjoy it, but don’t fall in love”.  So that’s what I did throughout my middle and high school years.  I only enjoyed movies, but I tried not to fall in love.  Even though I increased my financial investments in theaters and DVDs, I told myself I didn’t love them.  Even though a Saturday night out with a few friends eventually turned into a Wednesday night by myself, I told myself I didn’t love them.  And even though all I could keep within my head were actors, directors, writers, and their respective work instead of mathematical equations, historical facts, or scientific theories, I kept telling myself over and over again that I didn’t love them.  I even contemplated selling my entire DVD collection that I had incorporated and built through years of dedicating my money into a format that eventually would die away anyways, mainly because I told myself I didn’t love them.

But as I entered my college years, and I finally was able to stand on my own two feet about my passions, my faith, and my understandings of life, I realized, wait, I think I love movies.

Shit.

This wasn’t good.  But what was worse was when a few friends told me that I might have some talent that may garner towards success in film.

Even bigger shit.

I mean, this was the one thing that I was told throughout my life that it was evil.  That sinners and satanic people alike controlled this industry to brainwash our minds with filth, forever guiding us towards an eternity of hell and fiery demise.  How could I ever choose a career in a field where I’m going to die forever?   (*Note: You may think I’m exaggerating or being overly dramatic, but I can prove it to you by playing a few sermons online).  It was like I was married to this one ideal, but was cheating on it with some hot, gorgeous mistress that all I wanted to do was be all over it.  I wasn’t sure exactly what I wasn’t suppose to do, but after my 10 months on the island of Palau, and ironically enough serving as a missionary, I decided that there was something in film that I might be able to involve myself in.

Then came February 2012.  With even more irony, my faith-based university brought in a Hollywood producer to speak to us students about his relationship with God, and how it helped his path towards the entertainment industry.  What?  That’s possible?  I usually tend to disagree with the whole idea of going to an ultimatum worship service where if your attendance is not present, you will eventually be fined, because nothing screams out Christian spirit like missed worship dues, but I did go.  And after an hour of listening to this man speak, I realized that it was possible.  I concluded that it was realistically achievable to love God and love film.  It was a revelation.  It was majestically eye-opening.  It was the first time in my life where I felt accepted and understood.  Where I stopped listening to all the loud and brash offenses that we’re coming out of people’s mouths for years, but finally tried to listen to what truly wanted, and that it wasn’t selfish nor ungodly.  It was life changing.

After a year of fighting this thought within my head, and fearing the eventual decision of going into film, I finally decided that it was time to make this commitment and follow my dreams.  Two problems.  First, I had to tell my family.  Before I continue on with this, I must explain to you the weight of this decision not on my own life, but for the loved ones, as the community that I belong to (Korean-Adventist) doesn’t see film and the entertainment world a respectable career.  Heck, being a teacher wasn’t all that great either.  People were not going to look at my decision as an honorable or a noble choice, but more of an immature and self-centered decision that will eventually make me into a non-church going, unstable heathen that will not be saved.  But you know, people can surprise you.  I had plenty of supporters from that supposed judgmental community happily encouraging my path to following what I truly love doing.  It was confusing, but yet amazingly sufficient.  But even more than them, the love and support my family provided after they finally were convinced that this was what I really wanted to do was when it all made sense to me.  The stars slowly aligned, and once I had obtained my family’s blessing, I knew there was something happening here.

Great!  My family was on board.  But wait, I’m a 5th year senior graduating from Andrews University in Berrien Springs, MI with a certificate in Secondary Education and a bachelor’s in Social Studies.  That screams out filmmaker.  I spent my entire collegiate career studying and working for something I decided not to follow.  I have no film or art classes, nor have I spent any summer taking internships, courses, or even shooting anything worthy enough to be displayed in my portfolio.  I truly had no platform to stand on.  All I had were my abilities and my persistence.  I read a few books on screenwriting, read a couple of websites about filmmaking and the industry in general, and the knowledge that I gained on Entourage.  Though Entourage really does help, I had no clue where to begin.

I decided that the best way to get my first foot into the door was to apply for a job/internship.  Except no hires someone for a job unless they have experience, so really my only option was an internship.  So all I had were a resume, a cover letter, and Google.  I searched for over 50 production companies and studios, looking for potential summer internships that I could somehow miraculously be accepted for.  From 20th Century Fox and Universal, to working with Martin Scorsese and Ridley Scott, I applied to all I could.  Sent my information to film festivals, agencies, and internship programs.  I was concurrently writing my cover letters, applications and resumes while student teaching, so the shear stress and heaviness of all the work eventually got to me, making this seem all so pointless.  The only hope that I found in any of these programs was this beautiful student symposium program at Telluride, a top 10 film festival throughout the world that has gained its popularity and acclaim for its purity to the art form.  It sounded amazing, and it was one of the few opportunities where I didn’t need any film experience, and I could display my one decent skill that I thought I had, which was writing.  Unfortunately, I would competing against hundreds, if not thousands of applicants throughout the world, and this was the year that they were only accepting 25 from their usual 50.  Great.  But of course I applied.  And after I applied, my wavering confidence would follow its typical course in depleting itself after a few days.  And my wavering confidence was met with plenty of credentials, as I had not heard from any internship program.  When I would hear from a few, it would be denials or interviews that led to denials.

March and April had gone by and I had nothing solidly planned after graduation.  Life was becoming a complete disaster.  And though there are million of worse situations that someone could’ve been in, to my defense, there’s something extremely scary about a unknowing future after making a completely risky decision.  I began to make back-up plans, and eventually applied to teaching jobs for the upcoming school year.  I wasn’t sure yet if anything was going to happen, but I had up my mind that Los Angeles wasn’t in my future plans, and I would be smart and stay in education for the time being.

And then May 6th arrived.  After my graduation had finished where I felt stress-free for the first time in almost a year, I was at a hotel with a few close friends just relaxing and enjoy our mini vacation.  Checking my email on an addictive basis, I updated my inbox, but this time, I saw an email that made me hold my breath.  It was from Telluride, and this was the acceptance/denial letter that I had completely forgotten about.  But as I opened it, my eyes were directly caught upon one word within the large amount of text.  The word was “Congratulations”.  I was in disbelief.  Shock really.  I couldn’t believe that I got accepted to the Telluride Student Symposium program.  I felt so unworthy, so miniscule compared to the other potential applicants, but somehow, they felt confident enough that I deserved to be one of those lucky 25 members.  It was incredibly humbling, but yet so gratifying.

That same week, I got a phone call from the Robert Evans Co. at Paramount, asking me if I was willing to join their internship team for the summer.

In a matter of one week, my life had completely changed.  I went from staying in Chicago and looking for teaching jobs, to living in L.A. and working at Paramount for the summer and moving back in October to follow my dreams and work in film and write.

Some may call it a miracle.  Some may say it was hard work meeting opportunity.  What would I call it?

I don’t know.  But no matter what it is, I do know this is what I have to do now.  Who knows how this all happened.  I can easily say that God wanted this for me since I was born, and it just took some time for me to finally see that.  I can also say that this is what I want, and I’m going to achieve it as long as I work my tail off.  Regardless, I’m happy.  I’m finally at a point in my life where I’m truly happy and proud.  I’m enjoying so much in life, even at the most difficult times because I’m doing something that I love.  It is unstable, and it most definitely is a huge risk, but this is my one chance to take advantage, and I’m not going to let myself or anyone else make excuses for why I shouldn’t.

The interesting thing about this whole journey (that’s just starting) is that it was a simple question made into a complex situation.  Sometimes we as humans love to over complicate things, making assumptions and prejudging situations or people to somehow promote better reasoning.  I was told constantly that Hollywood is full of terrible people doing terrible things, and when I finally came out here, I realized how untrue that is.  Yes, there will always be people actively engaging in unhealthy activities, but you can find that in any circle.  If there’s anything that I’ve learned through all this is that you have to do what makes you happy, and the people who know you the best will see that happiness and confirm to themselves and to you that this is the right decision.  Do what you love, and love what you do.

My path into film has just begun, but I’ve never found such joy in my life.

I leave for Telluride tomorrow.

Brand New Direction (and Why It Was Needed)

No more worthmytimemovies.  No more incredibly negative and unnecessary critical responses.  No more reviews focused on the execution of film, but merely on the positive ideals of creating.  Yes, I’ve changed the direction of this film blog (and even the theme…though it’s still a free one).  There are countless reasons why I felt it was needed, but it specifically came down to three.

1.  The Creativity Community Needs Support (Not Criticism)

My general nature, at times, is to constantly hate and point out mistakes or negatives that make things come off as a somewhat disinterested tone.  In my genuine sense, however, I appreciate and adore the creative community that allows for people like me who dive into the world of making things.  Films, television shows, artists, writers, producers, directors, whoever, are all part of this incredible ride of being paid to live out their dream.  Regardless if its Oscar worthy or a disappointment, people are doing and making, while I’m…sitting behind a computer and complaining.  Doesn’t make much sense does it?  My goals in life, especially in this industry, was not to work film criticism.  Though I have strong opinions and fast enough fingers to express my words of encouragement (or primarily discouragement), I’ve always felt somewhat uncomfortable by the fact that all I was actually doing was sounding like a bitter ex-girlfriend wishing I’d be given the same opportunities.  Now considering I’m in Los Angeles, working to rise up and be given these kinds of amazing chances to create and produce art, I feel that it’s part of the progressive and mature nature of an individual to support, regardless of product.  Yes, there are movies that may seem ridiculous or completely dull, but there was a reason for it being made, and whatever reason it may be and whatever validity it may or may not have had, there still was creative nature behind it.  Support and appreciation will take you to far places in whatever industry or career you go after, and it was important for me to join in on this attitude.

2.  Selling Your Soul For Superficiality

The main reason I created worthyourtimemovies was to educate and display to my friends and family that there are films out there that are worth people’s time and energy.  It seemed as if the cinematic culture these days are big budget, high-concept entertainment that is more of an escape than a reality check.  And though there will always be an audience for that and there’s always a time for big popcorn, blockbuster films, I’ve always wanted to push people and witness the beauty and wide diversity in the art of filmmaking.  Everyone talks about The Dark Knight or Transformers, but what about the Before Trilogy or the foreign films?  Everyone knows the Steven Spielbergs and the Johnny Depps, but what about the Bennett Millers or the J.C. Chandors working with actors like Vera Farmiga or Gary Oldman?  I personally felt there was a need for subtle revealing of this artistic world, and though it’s obviously not my duty nor my responsibility, I always wanted to showcase my passion and love for these kinds of movies.  But as the blog slowly progressed and gained some sort of notoriety, a distinct pattern of big movie reviews attracted a high volume of traffic.  Noticing this, I constantly went after reviews, and mostly film reviews of movies I had no passion in discussing.  I felt this loss of identity and purpose, and didn’t feel the same motivation that I had in blogging as I did before.  It slowly turned into movies that were worth other people’s time to movies that I thought were worth my time, and came off as brash, stubborn, and pretentious.  Though this is just a blog, it will no longer be a blog about hits and popularity.

3.  Purpose & Importance In Your Writing

As I stated before, I didn’t feel much purpose.  At first, I assumed it was because I didn’t have time or the motivation to write about movies in general, but I realized it was because I didn’t want to write about the things I was writing about.  So refocusing and centralizing on a new core, I’ve decided to reshift the blog towards a much higher and bigger picture.  This blog, though it will be updated with (positive) reviews and opinions, will gather itself as more of a journeyman’s journal.  It will be about the art as a whole, the films that promote inspiration and thoughtful reflection, and how an individual(s) who came from nowhere transpired to make it into an industry full of individuals from nowhere.  Talent isn’t the bottom line here, it’s about commitment.  And as someone who’s truly committed into making this dream become a reality, I’ve created a new, online site where I can recast my thoughts, my experiences, and my overall journey through this path of film & writing.  Will things work out?  Who knows.  The odds aren’t necessarily in my favor, but I believe that this was my life’s purpose, and I believe that telling stories and creating was something that I was meant to do, and I will do everything I can to learn, grow, and mature as a PA/Intern to a writer/director.

I’m done emphasizing this blog on what makes people read this site.  It’s tiring and overly depressing.  It’s about content.  That rings true for all forms of art, and it’d be hypocritical of me to not commit to this ideal here.  The Cinematic Course is about achieving one’s dream.  It’s about the path we take in going after our passions and love, and understanding our experiences through an industry that is incredibly plural and multidimensional.  There is no single path.  There is no cliche way.  It’s about you and what you’re willing to do for your goals in life.  I’m excited, determined, and willing to continue on this process.  And I invite anyone else to come along for the ride.