Child’s Play – A Short Film

There’s no kind of education like shooting your own film.  And though it’s only a five minute short, it took a ton of planning, work, and collaboration to get this done.  It’s kind of a miracle, really, and it was impossible to do without some amazing people, including Shawn Lee, an animator who’s also a good friend of mine.

It’s just an insane experience seeing something you’ve written and thought of in your head and see it actually happen.  It was tough, and there were roadblocks, but it’s a feeling that’s so surreal that you just have to keep doing it.

Thank you again for all the people who helped with this project (Shawn Lee, Kevin Yi, Kristin Chung, Angie Lee, Suzie Lee, Michael Min, The Chung Family, and of course, our star, Claire Kim).

Child’s Play from Jason Park on Vimeo.

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The Rain is Absolutely Necessary

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I’m not exactly sure when I started to run, or more importantly, when I came to the conclusion that running was actually somewhat enjoyable.  If you told 315 lb. Jason from Freshmen year in college that I would actually love to run, I would’ve laughed it off while eating a large three-topping pizza (all vegetables of course…) in my dorm room on a Friday night (this actually happened once.  I’ve changed, I swear).

But outside of the physical benefits of going on medium-ranged runs/walks, it’s also one of the most important habits that I have in regards to my career path.  For some odd reason, so much of my thought process happens when I’m running.  I think about the stories I want to tell, the characters I want to show and reveal, and different realms and worlds I want to explore through my work.  It’s not like I can’t do this in other places, but for some reason, running has been my go to thing when I need to think.  That’s probably why I’m so addicted to it (or so I think).

Yesterday, I went for a run through the neighborhoods of Northbrook, the epitome of rich white suburbia, following my usual path of three miles beginning on major streets and intersections and ending through a beautiful road of humble but also well-groomed homes for well-groomed families.  And if you were in the area around 7 p.m. last night, you would know that it started to rain, and not just rain like a light drizzle, but a heavy downfall that would quickly send people to take shelter.

I don’t know if this is just an oddity of mine, but I find it incredibly interesting that our first reaction to rain is to run away from it.  Yes, I understand the concerns of getting wet and the increase likelihood of being sick, but when it’s 85 degrees outside, that’s probably not happening.  But regardless, people run away from it.  I used to be one of them, until I spent a year in Palau, where rain was just as common as sunshine, and there was nothing to fear about getting wet, but almost like a refreshing reminder that change is part of our world.

As I continued my steady pace, which eluded to my clothes getting drenched, I found it… necessary.  It was something that I needed.  I don’t know, and nor should I try to explain why in this blog because it’s becoming border-line pretentious.  But as I continued to my usual path, it felt like a reminder that rain, or whatever you want to replace rain with, is all part of an equation that results in a better and more fulfilling life.

I think rain is the perfect analogy for things that we as humans don’t like to deal with.  Replace rain with anything that is annoying, agitating, uncomfortable, unnecessary.  I think we all have different things or situations that can fit into this mold, and it’ll be different for all of us because we all have different paths and journeys, but regardless, we have the occasional downpour where we wish it’d just go away.

Unless you haven’t taken sixth grade science, we all know how important rain is, especially those experiencing a historic drought in California.  It’s not a luxury.  It’s not a privilege.  It’s a need.  It’s problematic if you don’t receive it.  Nature relies on it, almost as much as sunshine, and when it comes, you get some of the most beautiful and luscious  landscapes imaginable.  In my opinion, the most beautiful places in the world receive a liberal amount of rainfall, and there’s no coincidence in that.

And yet, when it falls, we run away.

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When I think about rain, I’m always reminded of MIDNIGHT IN PARIS, when Owen Wilson’s character wants to explore Paris as it rains, though his wife and mother-in-law easily disregard that idea quickly, running under their coat covers and straight to the car.  The world is different when it rains, but that doesn’t mean it’s not as beautiful.

Recently, I was given an incredible honor, validating my year’s work, energy, and stress.  I put my financial stability, relationships, and my potential future at risk for following something that I loved and wanted to pursue.  And though it’s nothing huge, it did show me that I’m not wasting my time.  And though a year is a small amount of time when looked at far away, it’s forever when you’re currently living it.  So much stress, so much difficulty, and for something that’s on a piece of paper (or a pdf).

A little bit rain can produce so much, and the more you appreciate it, observe it, and not run away from it but wonder and reflect on it, the more you’ll take away from it.

Through the good, comes the disappoint, and not getting a job/gig is always a disappointing experience, but if there’s anything that I would tell anyone that wants to follow something they love, the better damn get comfortable with hearing those “Nos”.  It’s another one that will just join the large pile that’s been moved to the side, and though it might look or feel dark, grey, and cloudy, it’s producing something that you’re unable to see, but trust me, it’ll come.

Like everything we do in life, it’s all comparable to the marathon analogy, and how “it’s not about how fast you go or how quickly you finish it, but about perseverance and never quitting.”  It’s so cliche, but it’s true.  Everything in life is like a marathon, especially when you want a life of creating, producing, and doing.  It’s one of the hardest things to do, and takes forever to potentially get to somewhere short of what you wanted.  Those so much risk involved, so many obstacles and hurdles, and it will impact you in all aspects, mentally, spiritually, physically, emotionally.  It’s brutal.

But just like any form of long-distance running, it’s about overcoming those small moments where you want to quit.  What I always have to tell myself is that if I quit and turn around now, it’ll take just as much effort and energy to get back to where I started.  Why not just keep going?  It’ll be worth it.

Enjoy the rain.  Enjoy the gloom.  Enjoy the unexpected occurrences in life.  It’s okay to get drenched by the heaviness and darkness of life and of the world.  It’s part of the human experience.  But always remember there’s good to come if you keep going and are patient.

Unless it thunderstorms, then you need to get the hell out of there.

IRA GLASS Has A Message

The creative life is never an easy one, and everyday, you spent countless hours doubting, struggling, and in fear of your work being completely worthless and a waste of time.  Everyday I write, and most of the time, I feel like my product is bland.  It’s normal and usual, and will sit in the piles and piles of endless whites of paper, never separating itself.  I fight this battle within everyday to just quit, to find a job, make money, and start imagining a life where what I want to do won’t be what I actually do.  For every success story, you see hundreds, if not thousands, of failures, people trying to do reach their goals but falling short.  I find reasons to stop, to step away, and to be “responsible”.  This battle is excruciating and exhausting, and really brings out the worst in yourself.

I met with a fellow screenwriter a few weeks ago, and he stated something simple but yet important.

Our biggest hurdle and our toughest battle is the one with ourselves.

It takes persistence, patience, and exceptional motivation to pursue this.  You wake up every morning with no job, no money, no security, and use that as motivation.  I think about my current situation, and almost every time, they contribute into the conversation of why I should leave this path, struggling so hard for only four months.  A year?  Two years?  Five?  One can only imagine the upward trail that seems like it’ll never end.  But that’s the beauty of life, or at least a creative life, to never see your accomplishments as the plateau or the peak, but to further push yourself into pursuing that climb and to never settle.  No job, no money, and no security.  Use it to make you better.  Use it to make you work harder.  Use it to get you where you want to be.  These are the things I have to tell myself every single day to keep fighting on.

 

BEST TEN FILMS OF 2013

Like I’ve said numerous times before, 2013 was a spectacular year for movies, especially with the slate of films that were released in the fall.  It was excruciating to compile this list, let alone conclude on ten films.  Most likely, this list will change throughout the years, but for now, here are my ten favorite films of 2013.

10.  PRISONERS

Seeing this film before even knowing what it was about, I was thrown into a dark and morally conflicting world where we dive into child abduction and kidnapping in a painful and humanistic manner.  Denis Villeneuve’s direction, Roger Deakins’ cinematography, and Aaron Guzikowski’s tightly written script works in all manners, creating an thriller wrapped within multiple themes of religion, tragedy, and what we’re willing to do for our own family, even if it’s criminal.  PRISONERS is a refreshing take on cliche genre, and is a multiple viewing considering how dense the film is.  I specifically love Hugh Jackman and Jake Gyllenhaal’s performances, and this cast works very well together.  It’s a film that deserves more recognition and is an entertaining but an investigation on the relationship between action and reaction.

9.  THE PAST

In simple words, Asghar Farhadi, the director of THE PAST, is a genius.  The way we layers his films, creating an intimate world between a facet of characters all intertwined within difficult relationships.  This film, another dense and pact cinematic experience, is the epitome of careful and detail outlining with the pace moving beautifully and slowly revealing the truth about the overlying situation and the reality of these flawed characters.  It’s an immense accomplishment, surrounding itself with multitudes of conflict, and the infatuation we as humans have with our past and its inability to propel ourselves to progress.  It’s a film many should watch, and can help us understand ourselves in ways that we may never have wanted to discover.  That’s the purity in cinema.

8.  STORIES WE TELL

The best documentary I’ve seen this year is STORIES WE TELL created by the talented Sarah Polley, and it’s obvious why I would appreciate a film like this.  The story, being centered around her family’s ill-structured dynamic, it’s another tale of misfortune, reveling in the past, and the ability to let go.  There are multitude of revealings that happen throughout the film, and once they all hit, the message works so well in tune, emphasizing how truth is as fragmented as our own stories, only connecting to what our memory serves us to remember.  It’s a great work of art, and I hope this film moves towards legendary status.

7.  GRAVITY

A roller coaster ride of an experience with an emotional punch packed within, GRAVITY, Alfonso Cuaron’s most recent picture, is something to behold.  The visuals on this film will easily be regarded as the best that’s ever been done, but the film doesn’t work just because of its special effects, but it’s hinged on Ryan Stone’s growth into surviving and living, rather than peacefully disappearing from existence.  The entire film is a metaphor to how tragedy can inflict our souls, and how we have two options to make: either to overcome or to wither.  Stone’s surmounting hurdles and obstacles are life’s way of making things never easy, but the power of motivation and the will to live can overcome, and the way it all works together creates a powerful and moving piece of work.

6.  THE WOLF OF WALL STREET

The most polarizing film of 2013, THE WOLF OF WALL STREET is a grand example of a mastermind and auteur of everything cinema.  Yes, it’s a hypnotic and gratuitous watch, infused with sex, drugs, alcohol, and all kinds of debauchery that posts a lost ability to reflect but more to just witness.  But the film is a satire and a commentary of all things evil, and the methods these scums of the States have used throughout time to steal from whoever they can manage.  But we don’t see the victims because Jordan Belfort doesn’t see the victims.  We don’t see character growth because there is no character growth.  We see only one perspective, the shallow and inconsiderate kind, which of these men, to, at the end of day, realize that this kind of life is fraudulent and unkind to all involved.

5.  HER

This is the love story of our generation, our inability to discover true and human relationships, and rely on our computer screens or iPhones to fulfill the emptiness within our souls.  HER is a reflection on our society’s infatuation with illusion, the mere existence we share with someone on the other side.  Spike Jonze creates a world where this has become the standard, not just acceptable behavior.  The film is based in the very near future, not resembling a vast different skyline of Los Angeles or greater technology.  But the near future is a reflection of how close we are to actually falling in love with our computers, and finding our strongest connection with software.  If we really think about it, the behavior we exhume is awkward and definably questionable, but those who dissociate themselves from it are almost looked at outcasts.  HER, with a simple touch of human love and how conflicted we are as people, is an incredible achievement in story telling.  Hail all parties involved as this film will last throughout time.

4.  12 YEARS A SLAVE

Eloquent, graceful, distant, and emotionally careful, 12 YEARS A SLAVE will be the most important film that has come out in the 2000s.  Steve McQueen’s direction is clearly felt, easily having a large creative hand in how the product eventually results.  You’ve got one of the great ensembles piece of the year, with each performance pulling its weight and taking us on this journey of Solomon Northup.  It takes a few viewings to truly understand the grandness of it all, to appreciate the exact execution it took to pull of a passionate, moving, and somber tale one man’s story in a culture that has haunted American history.  It deserves Best Picture, not just for how great the film is, but for important it will be to finally reward this kind of artistry tackling an issue that should’ve been tackled a long time ago.

3.  BEFORE MIDNIGHT

In my opinion, the greatest trilogy I’ve ever seen, BEFORE MIDNIGHT is the icing on the cake, the completed work of three progressive films that get better and better.  A simple and private story of two people falling in love, it’s a realistic but yet also hopeful take on relationships and how love, as twisted as it is, is the only thing we really have in this world that stays throughout time.  Richard Linklater, with the writing aid of Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy (who play the leads) have enabled us with a new range of filmmaking, ignoring the cliche rules and standards of new age American cinema, allowing us to divulge in words and their eloquent ways of expression.  It’s a study that should be constantly taught in film schools and all media classes as the epitome of risky story telling.  It works so well, and is one of the best films of 2013.

2.  SHORT TERM 12

The battle between #1 and #2 was as difficult as ever, but in the grand scheme of things, both films will be in my all time favorites so it’s really a redundant conversation, but it shows just how good SHORT TERM 12 really is.  It’s a film that nails the honesty and the truth of disturbed and pained children and teenagers, and how the victimization of innocence is what truly ruins this country.  But really, it’s a story of appreciation and finding the good in people.  Stripping away all reputation and background from an individual, and giving each and every person a chance is what’s important here.  Destin Cretton does an invaluable job of displaying these difficult stories where tortured teenagers must find ways to survive, regardless of it being healthy or legal.  The performances from each member of its cast including Brie Larson, Keith Stanfield, and John Gallagher Jr. are all essential components to this vast success of storytelling.  It’s a film that I’ll show my kids, and I hope they’ll show theirs.  It’s a recommendation I’ll always make to people because it’s a true human story, and regardless of what we have or haven’t gone through, we can all understand the difficulties of living with pain, no matter how small or big we think they are.  SHORT TERM 12 is a film you must watch.

1.  BLUE IS THE WARMEST COLOUR

It’s hard to really explain my love for this film, from its grand themes of love, identity, individualism, and the road to happiness, but each and every individual that has seen this film has its own personal affection for it and with very good reason.  It’s one of the best films I’ve ever seen.  It’s a visual display of the power in sexual chemistry, and how overpowering it can be to find love within our physical hunger and appetite.  It’s a thesis of conversations ranging from the beauty of art, the difficulties of maturity, literature, food, and all things important in our daily lives.  It’s a reflection of relationships, and how there’s always that one person that has captured our breaths in ways that no other partner ever has.  It creates this small, intimate world of Adele that infatuates our need to find and discover.  Not just in our sexual exploration or our human interactions, but within ourselves, and to find what completes us and makes us whole.  To label this film a “sex infused lesbian movie” is unjust and unfair.  The film is so much more than that, and deserves an audience willing to explore these thoughts and ideas that provide great detail of the difficulties of living.

One can only hope 2014 emulates something similar to 2013.  What a great year for cinema.

BEST FILMS OF 2013: #20-11

Best films of 2013: #20-11.

Honorable Mentions: Mud, The Spectacular Now, Nebraska, Frances Ha

20.  THE CONJURING

A classic horror film with top notch scares and a tense, frightening plot will always get the better of me, and with THE CONJURING, it is easily one of the scariest films I’ve ever seen.  Outside of it’s bone chilling techniques and torturing long sequences, the film itself is done with precision and quality.  James Wan is a master of the scary, and add in great performances from the always reliable Vera Farmiga, Patrick Wilson, and Lily Taylor, this is an exception horror film that’s irresistibly terrifying.

19.  CAPTAIN PHILLIPS

You can always appreciate Tom Hanks and the kind of work he brings to the table, but the last scene with him breaking down in the infirmary is easily his best work as an actor.  CAPTAIN PHILLIPS is more than just pirates taking over a ship.  It brings upon the ideals of American success, the dreams the world has for itself, and what it takes for people to get a sense of that ideal.  It’s a tense, fast pace adventure with excellent performances from Hanks and first timer Barkhad Abdi.  Overall, it’s an achievement to execute a film like this that provides an ample of opportunities to twist and create subjectivity, but Paul Greengrass is so much better than that.

18.  BLACKFISH

A documentary like BLACKFISH is so important because it promotes change.  The waves that this little film has created is enough motivation for documentary filmmakers to truly believe that their film can create a difference in our saddening society.  Following the story of Tilikum, an orca taken from its habitat and placed in captivity at Sea World, and the trainer that was killed by Tilikum, it reveals the blanket of secrets and dark antics the “family-fun” corporation has consistently performed to keep the money coming in.  Animal captivity is a tragic situation that deserves more discussion, and BLACKFISH has become the fuel in what should become the blazing fire.

17.  AMERICAN HUSTLE

Though I feel this film doesn’t deserve a Best Picture win, it is still, in my opinion, one of the best films of 2013, mostly because of the top notch performances that surround AMERICAN HUSTLE.  You can’t get a better cast than this, and each provide a flawed and deeply infuriating character that keeps you glued to the screen.  The plot is insanely complex, and if you miss one scene, your most likely lost, but it’s a sight to behold.  David O. Russell continues his impressive streak of modern America folklore, bringing out the ugliness in our humanity, but dazzling it with a touch of love and… Jennifer Lawrence.

16.  INSIDE LLEWYN DAVIS

There’s nothing like a Coen Brothers’ film, and with INSIDE LLEWYN DAVIS, the story about a man wrapped within self-loathing and pity, is beautiful, unflinching, and daring, especially with how the character unravels.  There’s much to be said about success, and how we define exactly where we want to be.  But it’s clear where we all don’t want to be, and with Llewyn, it seems that’s the only place he wishes to be at, hurting those that he encounters, and pushing away any possible form of progress from himself.  Anyone pursuing a career like show business know the difficulties of climbing that steep mountain, but Llewyn refuses to take that climb, and somehow expects to reach the peak without breaking a sweat.  He’s the definition of talent without passion, skills without drive, and it’s heartbreaking to watch, but also expected.  Add that with one of the best soundtracks I’ve ever heard, and well, you got a great film.

15.  LABOR DAY

Though not widely released until January 31st, catching this film at Telluride, and having a small release in 2013, it’s a classic love story executed finely by Jason Reitman.  These are one of those films that don’t deliver some insane technique or brilliant writing.  In simplistic terms, it’s a romance based on pure love and chemistry.  Nothing more, nothing less.  Most of LABOR DAY occurs in a house, so all we see are these characters, in dying need of love and care, embrace each other, though from the outside, it’s a criminal taking hostage of a family.  It’s such a moving film with tear-jerking moments, and if anything, it’ll make you crave peach pie afterwards.

14.  THIS IS THE END

We all expected this film to have great lines, brilliant improv, and a lot of fun to poke at their own supposed selves, but the greatness of THIS IS THE END is that it takes a wild turn into a religious-infused apocalyptic dread, and the way we see everything unfold gives you assurance that Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg have much more talent than we give them credit for.  The cameos help, that ridiculous cast really helps, but what works here is the utter ridiculousness that continually raises as the film progresses, knowing that what they sold the audiences on (lots of barking at each other, playing themselves) would eventually get old.  It’s a smart and well-crafted film that is laugh out loud hilarious.  One of the best ensemble comedies in recent memory, it’ll be something that we watch years down the road.

13.  FRUITVALE STATION

A heartbreaking and gut-wrenching experience, FRUITVALE STATION exclaims to its audience the unfairness in which lives are lived based solely on culture and stereotype.  But more than that, it’s a tragic story about a young man trying to remake his life, doing the right thing, and to unfortunately not see how those drastic decisions would’ve played out.  First time writer-director Ryan Coogler takes this story and doesn’t fine tune it or mess around.  He takes that one fatal day and speaks volumes with it, raising its quality and its ability to speak for many issues without taking a stance on all of them.  With it’s final scene bringing me to tears, it’s a film that can be a intricate moving piece to real African-American films in today’s society.

12.  ENOUGH SAID

Sometimes, simple works best.  Nicole Holofcener’s ENOUGH SAID is exactly that, and what’s so great about it is that it’s centered around great characters, not necessarily great story.  James Gandolfini and Julia Louis-Dreyfus work magically together, having the audience to believe that these are real relationships, brought in with our human flaws and our uncontrollable behavior.  It’s a love story, but not between male and female, but between families, friends, and that subtle feeling of loss and trying to replace it with something imperative.  It’s a hilarious script with plenty of touching moments, and it deserves more attention.

11.  THE KINGS OF SUMMER

This is a film that I’ll show my kids, and no, not because I want them to run away and build their own house deep into the woods to escape my utter dread and embarrassment (which really could happen), but because of its ability to resemble innocence in youth, and the meanings and sacrifices we make as we continue to grow older.  THE KINGS OF SUMMER is a hilarious, well written film that entails the journey of a boy who hates restriction, but more so, unhappiness, and we can find unhappiness right around the corner.  Dealing with our problems head on is the act of maturity that we all must face, and the film greatly exhibits both sides of execution.  The characters are loveable but also flawed, and what we see here is a classic coming-of-age story with some of the best improved scenes you’ll see this year.  Not forgetting Biaggio, easily one of the most memorable characters in 2013, THE KINGS OF SUMMER will definitely be one of those films that I watch every year and appreciate what it represents: defiance in youth.

*Tomorrow will be the BEST FILMS OF 2013 #10-1.

WRITER’S BLOCK: Character Over Story

I’m currently writing my second screenplay at this very moment.  I have a very personal and intimate connection to it, most of it being based on my own personal experiences or themes that I’ve encountered or discovered through my high school years.  Many writers will tell you that the best stories you can share are the ones that you know, which is true.  When an individual explains a funny situation or an awkward moment, it’s always best to let the person who actually experienced that particular instance to retell.  Whether it’s traumatic or humorous, a story is a story.  But the best stories are not about particular plot, but about character.  How does an individual react or respond to such, and how can we see a forward or retracted movement?

With this current screenplay that I’m pulling my hair out for, it’s so personal in a way that I have to write it exactly in a manner that I’d approve.  It’s a major problem in potentially sharing it with anyone who’d like to pay a ticket, rent, or illegally download.  If you’re going to do it, it better be done right.  I’d love to share and exploit every specific dramatic beat, plot, and characters on this blog, but that would be incredibly stupid, though my thoughts and ideas have no specific monetary value.  But every writer’s most valuable asset are their stories.  But without going into such detail, I can say that it focuses on baggage and the issue with individuals, mainly youth, and the limitations that we have from our past and our inner struggles.  We are held back constantly in understanding people, specifically ourselves, and this blockage of knowledge and emotional growth occurs in every human.  Wrap that around a marketable story and characters, and you can get some basis of what the screenplay is about.

I recently had a vent session with one of my closest friends and a personal reader (people I send out my ideas, scripts, etc. to and get their notes, responses, criticism) and couldn’t get past a certain issue that occurs consistently.  it’s a problem that I think we have with a lot of movies and films today, and that’s the part where story and plot takes over and we ignore the characters.  My problem is that I’m so worried about the reader or the audience being bored or lost with where the story is going, that I spend hours and hours fearing where the film is going rather than worrying about where my character is going.  As subjective as film is, the constant fear of people loving or hating your work is a presence that will follow anyone that commits to a life of creativity.  But that fear is counterproductive, as I’ve recently discovered.

In a recent interview with Martin Scorsese, he stated that he doesn’t care about plot, and focuses entirely on characters.  Not all of his films may reflect this statement, but if you’re a fan of Scorsese’s work, you know that much of his work is grounded on that ideal.  A plot’s main purpose is to bring out something in your characters, and what happens during that allotted time should display a sense of humanistic qualities that we wouldn’t have seen unless this exact situation presented itself.  Nothing more, nothing less.

Life isn’t a plot.  Life isn’t one story.  It’s an experience.  It’s a continuous learning and growing opportunity, where we react, contemplate, and explore.  No matter how good a story is, it only goes as far as how good your character is.