One Whole Year and I’ve Made No Money!

It’s almost been one whole year since the day I left my hometown of Chicago to the vast and mysterious ways of Los Angeles, following my dreams in pursuing film and writing.  To say that it hasn’t been interesting would be a flat out lie, but to say it’s been the most exciting experience EVER would also be a dead-ass lie.  In reality, it’s been an emotional ride full of its up and downs, obvious depression, over-bearing stress, but easily the most eye-opening and revealing year I’ve ever had, outside of maybe my year abroad, but even then…

There’s no point of detailing every single event or situation that occurred throughout these last 12 months cause really, that’s just completely unnecessary.  This blog isn’t some sort of Asian Xanga in middle school where I write down what happened on that uneventful day trying to showcase to the world that I live a meaningful life watching movies, eating at fast food Chinese restaurants, and then following it with infinite amounts of “Hahas” and “Lols”.  No no no no no.  That’ll be for when I turn 50 and have nothing else to write about.

Honestly, there isn’t much to say that I’d be comfortable writing about, outside of how important this year has been.  If you look at it from a societal-cultural perspective (remember, I’m coming from a Korean-Christian community), this has been a complete waste of time.  No job, no security, no financial security, no foreseeable future of incoming promotions and self-pr0claimed successes.  Nope.  None of that.  So what did happen?  I wrote.  I read.  I watched a lot of films and television shows.  I taught.  Sometimes.  I went to Disneyland (it’s awesome).  I spent a lot of time with an incredible person who validates my venture and secures my insecurities and strengthens my weaknesses.  I saw who I was, this insignificant person trying to do something very significant and meaningful.  An undisciplined “artist” that realized that art isn’t just inspiration, but hard work, determination, and perseverance.  We sometimes imagine these same artists sitting and waiting, and then all of a sudden, striking a hit of genius and working.  No, that doesn’t really happen, we at least for me.  I have to sit, write, contemplate, rewrite, sit, read, watch, write, sit, contemplate, go to the bathroom, sit, sometimes both.  It really is a redundant and repetitive process that works if you’re willing to work.

I’ve learned that I have a fond distaste for religion and organizational spirituality, which really means I don’t find church very interesting.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m deeply involved and intrigued by the spiritual world, God, and how the universe all works, but I find the idea of people searching only for the truth to be somewhat obsolete, whereas we should focus on the journey of finding ourselves and the meaning of life and God, and let relevant truth come to us.  But that’s just my humble opinion.

I’ve learned that my writing really sucked before, and now it sucks, maybe sucks somewhat.  I don’t know really.  I’m never a good evaluator of my own work, thinking on some days I’ve striked an endless river of oil, and then on others I tell myself “I suck” on infinite repeat.  But going back to my previous work from the beginning of this journey, I definitely can say confidently that I’ve gotten better, and really, that’s worth it.  Though I may not believe it wholeheartedly or looking at my bank account will say otherwise, in my heart I know it’s worth it.  Improving on your craft is all people on this journey have, and if we stall and stay stagnant in terms of our craft, what are we essentially doing?

I’ve met some incredible people.  People who inspire me, people who provide great analysis, people who care and want to support.  People who are worth going on this journey with.  It’ll be great to look back in 10-20 years down the road, and reminisce about these “hard times” and see how far we’ve come.  But for now, all we have is our friendships and our work.  And that’s plenty.

I’ve seen some incredible films and have read some life-changing books.  If you’re pursuing a career in film, writing, art, etc. and NOT constantly watching films, reading as many books as possible, and increasing your intellect, knowledge, and growth in your own world, then I really don’t know why you’re in this.  This is something that I’ve learned SO LATE, and is probably my biggest regret in life.  I look back in my childhood, and somehow had forgotten my love for stories, literature, and film, writing stupid short novels in my heydays in school, and being given my parents’ cameras and shooting as much crap as possible, making remakes and spoofs of films and documenting my sisters’ friends in ways that was quite revealing actually.  And somehow, I forgotten this during high school and the majority of my years in college.  It feels like I’m seven or eight years behind, and regardless of if that’s true or not, it motivates me to soak is as much as possible now.  I always feel like I can give advice, and I actually love doing so, but considering my words are meaningless in the creative world, the only thing I can say with validity (kind of…) is that if you love something so much that you’re going to follow it, you better be immersing yourself in that world.  Read, watch, study, discuss, and reflect continuously.  Even when you do make it, you still religiously follow these five patterns.  If not, then oh well.

I can keep going.  I really can.  And you know, seeing that I can keep going is enough evidence to me that this past year was worth it.  And though I may not have been successful in terms of what I’ve accomplished in substance, I know, deep down, I’ve grown.  I’ve learned.  I’ve gained some sort of knowledge about this process, this craft, and this life that I want.  I wish I wrote more (I’d go crazy if I did), I wish I networked more (though being social is so exhausting…), I wish I made more money, I wish I read more, watched more, did more, but something that I’ve recently learned is that more is a distant reach that doesn’t really exist.  Even if we met our potential or have crossed it, we’ll always be slightly unsatisfied, wondering if we could’ve achieved or done more.  Ambition isn’t always a positive trait, nor is being content.  But somewhere between the two, there has to be a balance of motivation and acceptance.  Hard work and enjoyment.  Strength and grace.

I think the hardest thing about this choice is hearing all the “No’s” thrown at you.  “No, this script isn’t good”.  “No, we’re not interested.”  “No, you’re not ready.”  “No, you’re not fit for this job.”  “No, I will not refill your Venti Iced Coffee for the fifth time” ( I’ve not refilled my coffee at Starbucks five times… by then I switch to Iced Passion Tea).  At first, these No’s were brutal and soul-sucking, making me divulge into my own sea of pity.  But slowly, each and every “No” wasn’t a bullet piercing my thin skin, but it slowly became a push.  But not this push where I hate everyone and want to destroy you with my success, but a push towards working harder, trying harder, seeing things differently, and trying to get better.  Eventually, there will come a point in life where these “No’s” will have pushed me so hard and so far that finally, one day, all these “No’s” will become a “Yes”.  And that’s why we do this.  To hear those few “Yeses”.

Keep going.  Keep going.  Keep going.

Surviving the Telluride Film Festival & Its Life-Changing Moments

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This is an extremely late post, considering its been almost three weeks now since the 40th Annual Telluride Film Festival has closed shop.  There is not enough time or words to describe the entire experience, that’s something very few people will have enough patience to ever hear or understand.  I’ve been meaning to try and express it all in a blog post, but I feel that I may write a novel instead of an entry.  But simply put, Telluride easily changed my life, but in very particular ways.

First off, Telluride is a such a beautiful pure place.  Surrounded by mountains, rivers, and some of the most picturesque landscape I’ve ever seen, it amazes me that a legitimate film festival takes place every year there.  Not necessarily because of its small size or its intimate community, but mainly how polarizing it sometimes feel to be spending most of your hours watching a screen instead of soaking in the outdoors.  You compare that to the typical nature of American cinema, that clash like two trains heading in different directions.  But then the beauty of Telluride and its correlation with the festival is the emphasis in the art.  I heard so much about how TFF is all about films and nothing else.  No press, no paparazzi (except from the passholders), and no bullshit.  The focus here is about movies, and the purity of the festival goes hand-in-hand with the purity of the town.  It’s such a revelation to experience something like this, where the combination of two such important aspects is a small glimpse of heaven.  I mean, who can ask for anything better than movies and nature?  It’s a rare equation that works so beautifully, and just having that kind of atmosphere alone made the whole trip worth the money and the journey (though it wasn’t as difficult as one would presume).

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The symposium itself was quite the interesting experience, as I’ve never been engaged in such intense and diverse discussions about the artform.  I’m not going to lie, it wasn’t necessarily all positives for me, as I needed time for myself to just contemplate and divulge through my own meditative ways, but overall, the privilege of watching a wide range of films from different countries and cultures with an immensely intelligent and thought-provoking group was a huge blessing.  Being thrown into a room full of people you’ve never met before, it’s uniqueness is understated and is easily worth the application process.  The people in general were pleasant and gave me ton of perspective.  I learned so much that I thought my head was going to explode, and one day I literally thought I was going to pass out.  Though there were struggles with certain criticisms, strong-armed opinions, and a sense of film snottiness that almost overpowered the entire week, at the end of the day, it was such a rarity to be given such a gift that I felt nothing more than just overall gratitude to be a part of it all.  Everyone comes in with different backgrounds, understandings, cultures, beliefs, etc.  Then add in the particular trait of passion and love for film, you get a melting pot of ideas and opinions that always provide for some mind-bending conversations.  As an aspiring writer, there’s nothing better more important than listening to people.  It’s one of my most important activities and methods that I partake in in regards to inspiration and the creative spirit.  Perspective is such a crucial part of my writing identity, mainly because I don’t want rely on my own to be the main source of material.  I may not have gotten much progress done specifically with my own stories or work, but being part of the symposium opened my eyes in so many ways and in so many different levels.

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What I really adored however was the symposiums with the filmmakers and discussing with the symposium alumni.  With the former, it was unreal hearing Asghar Farhadi or Werner Herzog talk about films, their methods, and how the process works for them.  To be given an opportunity to just sit down in a classroom and just listen to these incredible individuals speak was indescribable.  When would I get an opportunity to ask questions to Ken Burns or Steve McQueen (this was during a public discussion for the entire film festival)?  In general, the festival is so intimate that filmmakers, actors, and directors all rub shoulders with the general public, which in itself is amazing.  Watching Jason Reitman get sent to the back of the line for Errol Morris’ The Unknown Known was hilarious and mind-blowing at the same time.  Sitting next to Alexander Payne and talking to him for about 10 minutes with a fellow student before the Polish film Ida (which was one of my favorites of the entire festival) was truly a special moment in my life.  Discussing movies with these immaculate and talented people gave me a real sense of normality to them.  Yes, they are some of the most renown faces of film and the entertainment industry, but they are also human beings.  They have their families, their own hobbies, and their own lives to take care of, and the way they get their films made in as much of a struggle as it is for us lowly folk to just break in.  Nothing comes easy in this line of work, and if you really want it, you must work your ass of constantly and you must stay committed to it.

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Though talking to celebrities and filmmakers was exciting all in itself, being able to talk to the past student symposium participants and see where their lives have taken them was also just as gratifying.  Being given advice, seeing their line of work, and just speaking honestly with more mature and wiser individuals was so important.  I learned and took away so much from them, and regardless of how far these relationships will take me, that time I got to spend with them was itself one of the more important memorable experiences that I had at Telluride.  These people have so much to say, and sometimes people don’t give them the time of day, but it just showed me the necessity I need to have in being open and be willing to connect with an array of people, regardless of age, race, gender, sexuality, etc.  But all those supposed barriers aside, and just connect with another person.  That was special, and I hope to continue to build off of what I learned from that.

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There were many instances and moments throughout those six days that I wish I could overly dissect and share, but I’m getting a headache just thinking about Telluride (in a good way).  From waiting in lines and talking to random strangers, taking a hike and witnessing Telluride’s beauty from up above, riding the gondolas at 1 a.m. after Blue Is The Warmest Colour screening (my favorite film of the festival), and running through a rain storm after the Punch Brothers concert where we were a few meters away from the Coen Brothers.  It doesn’t get much better than the Telluride Film Festival.  As an aspiring writer and filmmaker, I learned and took away so much that adds to my motivation, my necessary involvement in this line of work, and just who I am as a person and how that reflects what I want to create.  Take all the run-ins and pictures, the films, and all the people that I met away from me, I still will have gained something so precious, which is a better sense of identity.  I know myself better, not just from a writer or filmmaker’s point of view, but my own satisfactions in life and what I want to pursue and achieve.  Watching The Past and discussing such deep conversations with Farhadi revealed to me how much I want to share his emphasis in humanity and the individual’s story.  Talking briefly with Alfonso Cuaron and how much he cared about the smaller films allowed me to understand that the superficial benefits like box office returns, critical acclaim, and awards are not the priorities in filmmaking.  The foundation should always be in the story and in the art, regardless of how successful or disappointing the result may be.  And most importantly, be proud and honest to who you are.  Don’t shy away from the things you enjoy or like just because the majority may not support those arenas.  Standing on your own two feet and weathering whatever comes at you is such a vital ability, not just as an artist, but as as a person in general.  There’s always going to be negativity, disinterest, and lack of support from different groups of people, but the person you must be most connected to and support is yourself.  There’s always room to be better, but let that journey take its own pace, and constantly grow in ways that will help you.

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The untold theme of the festival was easily survival, as films like All Is Lost, Gravityand 12 Years A Slave obviously take its specific theme.  But all the other films that played through Telluride told survival stories about love, passion, identity, family, structure, etc.  It’s not just about surviving and weathering the storm, but it’s about the aftermath, and how you as a person will stand.  In all these films, the protagonists attached themselves to one specific thing that kept them going.  If it was from family, their significant other, fame, or freedom, it pushed them to not quit but strive for their goals.  Telluride has given me such an experience where I’m ready to not just survive, but so excel and succeed in writing, film, and as a person.  And success as an individual doesn’t come from fame, money, or qualifications, but through my own character.  Though I dreaded the end of September (because I have no clue what I’m doing next), fear is not an option anymore, and I’m excited for where the road leads.

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(I will blog about the films on the next post).

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.

The Pure Brilliance of BOOK OF MORMON

I know this is a film blog, and my “expertise” (I don’t consider myself an expert yet) is not stage production, but I do have a love for musicals and broadway, and I couldn’t help but share my enthusiasm and excitement for what I just witnessed over this past weekend.  There’s a reason why The Book of Mormon, created by the genius team of Matt Stone and Trey Parker (South Park, Team America) won 9 Tony Awards in 2011.  It is, hands down, the best musical I’ve ever seen.

Now I’ve only seen approximately 10-15, which is somewhat of an accomplishment for myself, but in regards to knowing musicals, it’s microscopic.  I wish I could see more, but Chicago isn’t New York in terms of broadway.  But regardless, I’ve seen some of the big ones, and my gosh, Book of Mormon blows it out of the water.  The balance of music, book, dance, and plot perfectly embodies a brilliant production.

The plot is focused on two Mormon partners, Elder Price and Elder Cunningham, who are set to Uganda to join their other fellow missionaries to spread the church of Latter-Day Saints on the impoverished people of Africa.  Unfortunately they encounter a ruthless warlord dismembering women’s parts, and they must figure out a way to save these people from persecution while dealing with their own struggles with faith and friendship.

If you didn’t know, character development in musicals is expressed through song, and sometimes, musicals fail in this department, not allowing the character to express their feelings and struggles, but seem like more of an opportunity to give the spotlight to the actors or actresses.  And as a musical, you can’t over-consume your production with song after song without providing some diversity and excitement.  The Book of Mormon is the epitome of a well-balanced, thought out musical creating an amazing equation between humor, depth, and melody.  The music is top notch, but that shouldn’t a surprise considering Parker and Stone come from a musical background doing numerous venues including being nominated for an Oscar.

But what works the best here is their religious message not just for Mormons, but for all religions in general, and the importance of faith, though ridiculous at times, and how challenging it is for any region around the world to accept your own personal beliefs and doctrines.  I really appreciated the honesty and realistic reactions people may have about God and His ways, and though it may be offensive to some, it really is truthful in terms of how some may see religion in other parts of the world.  Though offensive and brash, it never crosses the line completely (well for me at least) leaving the audience with the humility to laugh at yourself but also recognize the point it’s trying to make.

There are some things in here that are just flat out amazing and hilarious.  I refuse to say anything about the musical because it ruins the surprise and experience.  But all I know is that I can hype this musical all I want, and it won’t be half as close as what you’ll see on stage because it’s that original.  For any musical fan, this is the musical of our generation, and for anyone who’s ever struggled with religion, faith, or just likes to laugh, this is that production.

Book of Mormon has been rumored for film production soon, and obviously Parker and Stone would be behind the creative origins for this film, which is necessary.  If and when this is true, Book of Mormon will be a gem on screen.  But if you want the best experience, go get a ticket (though that’s very difficult right now).

DJANGO Spoof on SNL Entitled “DJESUS UNCROSSED”

There’s no other character to play to heighten your possibility of winning an Oscar than playing Jesus.  And with the growing popularity of Tarantino’s new genre, this makes total sense.  Christoph Waltz plays the title role, and pretty much they’re just shooting up Romans.  Fun indeed.

Justin Timberlake’s “Suit & Tie” Music Video Directed by David Fincher!

I don’t usually show music videos, but when I do, it’s directed by David Fincher.  Yes, the director that created such great films including Se7en, Fight Club and The Social Network, directed Justin Timberlake’s brand new hit, “Suit & Tie” and it’s quite spectacular.  Fincher started his resume by creating music videos for Madonna and Nine Inch Nails, so it makes sense for him to have a natural sense for it.  Enjoy!