Please note below transcription was made using speech recognition software, and as such may contain inaccuracies, misspellings, or errors.
Aram Collier 0:28
Welcome to backstory presented by Reel Asian Film Festival. My name is Aram Collier.
Kelly Lui 0:32
And I’m Kelly Lui.
Aram Collier 0:33
For our first episode, we had the pleasure of hosting two filmmakers who just premiered their feature films, to have a conversation about their work, the processes, or some of the stories that went into making these films.
Kelly Lui 0:44
We’re calling this creative to creative. It’s a format that we hope to visit from time to time when we put two creators in conversation with each other. There’s a secret sauce to making films and there are challenges shared amongst industry professionals. We’re hoping to gain a greater insight into the Behind the Scenes stories that all go into making a great piece of cinema.
Aram Collier 1:12
So Kelly, I’m so glad that we were able to get Gloria and Albert on this podcast, especially for our first episode, you know, you know, the admiration that they have for each other is so apparent, and so genuine. It was it was so great to just sit and listen to them have a conversation about their films?
Kelly Lui 1:31
Yeah, I think I was. I’m along the same lines. I was pretty surprised. Honestly, if I can say this out loud. We didn’t even have to really ask them any questions. They kind of did all the work, which was really, really, really cool. Just to see two filmmakers, being very respectful and mindful and just like, nerds about each other’s filmography. Yeah, and I just thought, like, I felt really honored to just kind of be able to like listen to them.
Aram Collier 2:02
Yeah. And I think I think part of it is also that as a filmmaker, you have Q and A’s you do your press junket, that kind of thing, but, but maybe you actually don’t get as much of a chance to really talk about the film, and how you’re processing it afterwards. So I feel really lucky to have been able to listen to that conversation. Some things that really stood out for me was this, you know, this tension between, you know, your emotional truths and the layers that that you add on top of that, for the sake of making a film that, you know, a general audience can watch. So I found that so fascinating.
Kelly Lui 2:38
I thought that was really interesting, because both pieces come from such personal origins with both of them. And I it was interesting, really, to hear how, you know, that just bring that process where, you know, sometimes you don’t want to share that personal story, but the film is about that emotional truth and like, and I think Just also relates to how do you tell the story that can also resonate with a larger audience?
Aram Collier 3:06
Yeah, I mean, there’s so there’s so much of a kind of industry talk about telling your story and what so what does telling your story look like? Is it always about baring your soul, or being super specific and exacting to your life or your experience? And I think through their conversation is really learned. It’s so much about more than that. Right? And it’s really complicated to that. Sometimes you actually do want to distance yourself away from that, for a variety of reasons.
Kelly Lui 3:39
Yeah. And I think like they both tackles it in such different ways, which kind of comes back to that, I think, larger theme that they talked about, like emotional truth and just kind of their process of putting layers but also like trying to really be mindful of doing the work. If putting those layers like what does that work mean? behind that, what I also really just loved was them just like talking about the film process because I think on my end Elise, get it, like, so lucky to watch the films and then just assuming that this film maybe took a year to make in Gloria’s case, it took, what, like 10 years? 11 years?
Aram Collier 4:20
Yea, something like yeah, it was crazy. Yeah, really long time. So, I mean, it’s such a such a journey. And it’s so funny that they really started off with that. And it’s just like anybody who you take one thing away from listening to this, it’s about perseverance and sticking, sticking to it, you know, you know, one of the things is, that was also so great is I mean, unfortunately for our beloved producer, Seung Woo, they actually talked for a long time, so we actually have to cut our episode into two parts. But you know, I think that’s a I think that’ll be great because you definitely want to listen to like the end of Part Two, when we get down to some kind have random questions and really surprise, surprise answers that are just so funny, endearing, really personal. So I’m hoping that people get a chance to hear that second episode too.
Kelly Lui 5:14
Not that I want to pick a favorite, but I do think that part was my my favorite part of the recording. But I’m just excited for everyone to listen to this first part of this amazing conversation between Albert and Gloria.
Aram Collier 5:34
Today, we’re excited to not only start our first episode of this podcast, but to have with us a couple of amazing filmmakers who are favorites of relation. They’ll share with us some of their work, their process, and their backstories. Our first guest is Albert Shin, who was born in Ottawa, Ontario. After his debut feature in 2010. With point traverse, he went on to make a second feature in her place in 2014, which premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival in screenwriting. Film Festivals worldwide.
Trailer – Disappearance at Clifton Hill 6:01
Good afternoon, folks. We’re about 10 seconds from your first glimpse of the false is a I guess you’re a local cool up here. This is a nice town. A thing drives people crazy. Remember I used to talk about the one eyed boy, I remember you telling me a lot of things. I found a picture. long history around these parts come off along.
Aram Collier 6:33
The clip you’ve just heard is from his latest and third feature disappearance at Clifton Hill, which follows the story of Abby was homecoming to Niagara Falls resurfaces a fragmented memory from her childhood kidnapping. She believes she was witness to that relation. We’ve had the pleasure of having Albert as one of our mentors for our unsung voices youth filmmaking program, as well as a juror for our pitch competition.
Kelly Lui 6:55
Our second guest is Gloria young Kim, born in Seoul, Korea. gore is a Toronto based writer and director who has been a longtime friend of the festival. Religion we’ve been really lucky to have screen many of her short films. Most recently in 2013. She won the so you think he can pitch with her film flamenco, which went on to screen at our 2015 Festival. Gloria also recently took part in our festival last year as one of our pitch competition Jurors.
Trailer – Queen of the Morning Calm 7:25
So, in both it’s uh huh. He died coming. He’ll be here. Sure, he will. My dad is coming home from a birthday. That’s what mine said.
Kelly Lui 7:52
The clip you’ve just heard is from Gloria’s first feature film Queen of the Morning Calm, which follows the story of Deborah and her daughter Mona. As they journey towards finding self love and acceptance, the film had its world premiere at Whistler Film Festival this past year.
Aram Collier 8:08
Alright, so welcome, Albert and Gloria. Thanks for joining us.
Gloria Kim 8:10
Albert Shin 8:11
Happy to be here. Thanks for having us.
Aram Collier 8:13
I don’t think there’s a lot of Korean Canadian filmmakers out there. So, like, how long have you two known each other and where do you remember where you first met?
Albert Shin 8:22
I remember, I don’t know if you do, GLORIA
Gloria Kim 8:24
Yeah, I totally remember our first. So it was a couple years ago. I remember we met at TIFF Didn’t we meet wasn’t our first meeting.
Albert Shin 8:33
Yeah, it was at TIFF. I think the year I was there within replace, which would have been 2014. Yeah,
Gloria Kim 8:39
yeah. And I had just seen the film and I had reached out to Albert and Igor and I remember we had a meeting I was wanting to ask you advice for my my feature Queen, which was still, you know, in development, and I’m gonna embarrass you now Albert, but I remember I was so moved by the film that I sat with him and Igor at the table and I just sobbed as I told him how much I loved his movie.
That way you remember?
Albert Shin 9:17
Yes. Something like that. Which was very, yeah, I mean, I think it’s also kind of nice that that’s how we met. And now here we are, you know, I guess over five years later, and that film that you were talking about what you were so passionate about, you know, you actually got to make and premiere and and now Now you’re gonna present it to the world, which is, which is amazing, and I think is a testament to sort of the perseverance you need to do this kind of thing.
Gloria Kim 9:46
So Oh, my gosh, so much perseverance. It’s just crazy. Yeah.
Albert Shin 9:50
Yeah, I can only imagine. I mean, I have an idea because obviously, I’ve been through some of those things as well. And yeah, if if there’s one thing I can impart to sort of emergent filmmakers or young filmmakers or people that are wanting to get into this, it’s just having perseverance.
Gloria Kim 10:07
Mm hmm. That just not giving up and doing whatever side jobs you can or if you can, if you can do any directing for hire or writing for hire, you know, do that. Just have to keep going.
Aram Collier 10:21
Yeah, it’s so it’s so interesting. You know, not only perseverance but you know, I mean, specifically both Clifton Hill and queen in the morning calm. You know, they come from very personal places for for, for both of you, Albert, talking about witnessing the kidnapping, Gloria, your experience with abuse. So maybe you too can can talk a little bit, kind of expound on not that not just that personal. Not just that perseverance, but also that, you know, telling from a personal perspective or drawing upon that. Mm hmm.
Gloria Kim 10:59
I mean, for me I really, I mean, this was a story that came from deep inside of my heart and, and it’s a story about a sex worker and her her child and escaping cycles of poverty and abuse and neglect. And it wasn’t like in any way autobiographically true, but more emotionally true. And it was something that I I remember, like as I was writing it, and I am really curious to ask you about this, Albert, actually, you’re writing because like, particularly when you’re dealing with traumatic memory, and mine was around being assaulted and being like a survivor of violence, you know, or Korean. I don’t know if there was violence in your family, but there certainly was violence in mind. Like well intentioned, as well intended as violence can be but definitely was present but it In terms of writing about it, there was so much shame. And like, you know, people don’t talk about these kinds of issues ever. And, you know, particularly growing up in kind of a middle class suburban environment you don’t like this is not the kind of thing that you can share. And in terms of when I was writing, I remember I felt like I almost disembodied as I was writing. And I think that was part of the reason why it took me so long to write this story, because it was, it was like, almost 10 year journey, but it really felt like I was like, one, it was, like, one hand didn’t know what the other hand was doing, so to speak, like I was writing, but I wasn’t really looking if you know what, I mean, just kind of barfing stuff out and some of it worked. And a lot of it didn’t. And I was actually really curious in terms of your experience, because yours was I mean, I don’t want to put words into your mouth, but I’ve read that you that some of this was repressed Memory of witnessing a possible kidnapping.
Albert Shin 13:04
Yeah, I mean, yeah, for I mean, for me, it’s always I, you know, I think you’re right, you know, people that have gone through whatever sort of traumatic event that that that one might go through, you know, either the way people can deal with it or exercise it or speak about it, or just express themselves, you know, we have, you know, filmmaking as an outlet to do it. So for me, you know, obviously, that’s a very important factor of just trying to be sane and and hopefully, a productive member of society. But for me personally, I’m, I’m you know, I’m quite reserved and shy and I and because I do like to mind sort of my own personal even for inner place, which was about a secret adoption and you know, I’m not a woman. And you know, I haven’t secretly adopted anybody but it but I like to, I guess I try to disguise what i’m trying to exercise or, or examine within myself and use certain elements from it, but also disguise it as as something else for the movie. So even for Clifton Hill. Yeah, it’s definitely based on something that happened in my own life of sort of a very memorable and repressed memory of a kidnapping or what I thought was a kidnapping that I saw when I was a child. But, you know, there’s I mean, there was reasons for me making it a female protagonist and also not making it because I’ve been asked like, why if it is based on my own memory, why why did you turn it into a, you know, sort of a white protagonists or or or Caucasian protagonists, not a Korean protagonists or an Asian protagonists? And why did you make it a woman instead of a man and for me, all these things were to, to make it less autobiographical, because I don’t know if I’m, maybe it’s just as a person or as a filmmaker, I’m not really ready to, to make something so blatantly personal. I guess that it where I’m speaking of about not just elements about myself, but maybe putting myself a little bit more in the forefront. And I always use different devices, I guess, up until this point to tell my stories that I want to tell that are, you know, always coming from a personal place, of course, so,
Gloria Kim 15:16
so like layering, you’re layering,
Albert Shin 15:19
yeah, yeah, I’m layering and just putting some masks on.
Gloria Kim 15:23
Albert Shin 15:26
even now, and, you know, I still consider myself a younger filmmaker, and maybe at a certain point, I’ll build, I’ll build to, to making something that I don’t have to use as many sort of devices or masks per se. And, you know, you know, there are projects that I’m kind of developing sort of in the back of my brain that are a little bit more that that speak to a little bit something more blatantly autobiographical, let’s say and, yeah, but up until this point, it’s just I haven’t I don’t know. Maybe that’s Just my own sort of personal growth as a as a filmmaker that I have to go through to, to, to kind of work myself up to so that I guess that I don’t know if I answered your question, but that’s sort of where I where I guess that’s where I start, when I start to think of, you know, what, what do I want to do? What do I want to say?
Gloria Kim 16:19
Did you feel like and I’m curious about this in terms of your process, because, you know, artists, artists, did you feel disconnected at all, when you were writing that story? Because, you know, in some of your interviews, you were like, Oh, I don’t know if I really witnessed it. And I’m like, I read that and I go, dude, you totally witnessed it, for sure you witness that you would never have made something like that up, right?
Albert Shin 16:42
Sure. I mean, I definitely witnessed something and sort of the genesis of the idea of the film, sort of the underlying themes of that movie of disappearance of Clifton Hill, is this idea of, you know, when you take memory and you take imagination, and you take Truth and you mix it and when they when it machinations together like what that kind of creates and for me, I definitely saw something when I was a child. But as I grew older and I would kind of recount this story to friends and it turned into a sort of a party story where I tell somebody, something cool that I witnessed. And inevitably, when that happens when you’re a teenager, or when you’re 13 years old, is that the story starts to mutate and it starts to become grander and more, maybe a little bit more fantastical than what it is that I actually saw. And you keep telling people the same you keep telling the story, then you start to believe it. And then you start to and then enough time passes and you forget what it was that you actually really saw. Inevitably, like of course, I definitely saw something because I can pinpoint it to a place and we actually shot the the prologue of the film where we kind of recreate this memory in the exact same spot where I witnessed it as well. So you know, I could put I could, I could place things to a very specific place at a time. But what I saw how I saw it, you know, I’m not quite sure and to. And that was sort of the genesis of kind of exploring, you know, truth and the subjectivity of truth, I guess.
Gloria Kim 18:11
Like I definitely feel like watching your film because it’s such a different film. I remember when I said to you, oh my god, I can’t wait to see your film. And you kept saying to me, it’s a totally different film.
I’m not gonna sit and cry.
Albert Shin 18:26
Yeah, not that kind of movie. I don’t think anyway.
Gloria Kim 18:29
And and just be like, Oh my god, Albert.
But I definitely felt like it was so interesting to be watching this woman and it’s so different from in her place. And there’s almost like a weird and interesting, like, meta, like, slash, like, I want to say disconnect. Right? Like because you’re just like what happened, huh? Like, did like did they like the parents did. They looser cater, or the more they release users like like, Huh and then you see the hi Aaron pool like at the end comes in eyepatch and you’re just what the fuck? Is that the kid you know, you’re like you so you’re really like, it’s like you’re really like playing around with the truth and like and I it just made me kind of go. Like Halbert like is this a thing in your own head? Like, I feel like I can say this because we’re, you know, like filmmakers and, you know, friends like, I’m like, Is that a thing? Like you just is that your own dodge like because you can’t really say what you saw? Like, is this your own? Like, way of dealing with the fact that you’re like, I don’t know, man, I feel kind of fucked up about this.
Albert Shin 19:48
Like, yeah, definitely. I mean, it was 100% some of that but also tried to find, you know, like we talked about kind of layering things. And for me, it was you know, I will wanted to make a film that reflected or at least somewhat commented on the actual specific place, which is Niagara Falls, which is a place that, I don’t know, for anybody that’s visited Niagara Falls, it’s, you know, it’s a strange, you know, it’s a strange town and the town has sort of a split personality, sort of a Hall of Mirrors kind of feeling to the place. And so I wanted to make a film that kind of dealt with those different holes, like, you know, a film that felt like a hellhole of mirrors, and all these competing narratives. And, you know, and, you know, when I was writing the film, it was right around the time that you know, when when Donald Trump was, you know, becoming president or look like you might that might be a thing, and just this idea of, of truth and how it didn’t mean anything anymore, you know, and, and how some how the objectivity of truth has been completely how it’s just kind of vanished, you know, and everything is subjective, like even cold facts are now disputed, and everything One is just, you know, everyone has their own perspective of something. And all these competing narratives, are these competing facts or these competing agendas that are always just trying to fight for their own space. And how do I take that idea and put it in this tiny little mystery film that takes place in this in this kind of weird, quirky little town? So it was kind of all of those things together, for sure. But I think the underlying fundamental basis of everything was that, you know, for me, as a filmmaker, and just as an artist, you know, I’m always striving to make movies, but there is a certain, I think, comment just for myself about, you know, what it is I’m doing and if I’m doing it, right, or, you know, if I should be doing it at all kind of thing, like, I still have all these questions all the time. And, you know, after interplays that’s actually something that I struggled with quite a bit, which is the reason why it probably took five years to make another movie. It wasn’t For a lack of opera,
Gloria Kim 22:01
I don’t think five years is that long
Albert Shin 22:04
it isn’t it isn’t for sure. But
Gloria Kim 22:06
like, when you’re raising money and also just writing a good feature, it just it’s such a torturous process, right? You’re, you’re kind of sort of taking an idea and you’re taking it for a walk, and you’re like, Oh, well, that I just now ended up in this rabbit hole that, you know, I, you know, really didn’t want to end up in so now I have almost all out fear out all over again. What I’m doing right, like, I mean, I definitely understand that.
Albert Shin 22:34
Oh, for sure. Oh, for sure. Absolutely.
Gloria Kim 22:38
Right. With my film, right. It’s just like, and it started mine started as a shore and it was just like, this mother daughter and this one other character and, and just kind of even wrestling with this notion of like, Oh my god, do I even want to write a feature? Like, I just want to barf, you know?
Albert Shin 22:56
Right? Well, I mean, I remember you know, just from like our very first time When we met where you were telling me about, about this film, I mean, in my mind, just like the like, you know, because you know this you were trying to make your first feature, and just the passion in which you were talking about it and not even just the passion, but how important it was for you to do it. Yeah, no, I have no doubt in my mind that you are going to make this movie. And so.
Gloria Kim 23:29
I mean, it was, oh my god, it was such a struggle. It was so hard. It was like, you know, because I wrote it as a short and I was in 2008. I was at the CFC and I remember I presented it as one of the shorts and nobody got it except for one the editor in residence some Marlo Nazca, who was my mentor, and she was like, oh, Gloria, you know, you have to write this you have to make this film. It’s all about shame. And you know, it’s that mother daughter relationship and and Cuz I have a very, I would say troubled relationship with my mother. And I remember and she said, but it’s not a short it’s a feature. And I was like, Oh my god, no. Like, I can’t I can’t, you know, like you just you go through that, you know, you go through that thing where you’re just like, how am I going to write this? Like, how is this going to even happen because you’re creating something out of nothing really about it right? Like you’re just wondering what these characters are going to do and how they’re going to act and, and what you what you want to say, right? Like, like, you know, and for me, I was like, I was so confused because I was struggling, going back and forth between that relationship with a mother and the daughter and then the relationship between the main character the sex worker and the men in her life and I was like this a story about like her in these men and this one, you know, the partner who’s Like, you know, he’s abusive like he’s not physically abusive, but he’s a liar and he’s a gambler and he’s an addict and a story or his story with the girl but like i remember i don’t know if this happened for you, Albert, but like, I remember being able to write the very beginning and the very end, you know, and so I knew where I wanted to start and I knew where I wanted to end up right and the ending was always about the mother and the daughter right and and all that stuff in between was like, just like me being in total denial that this was my story, you know? I don’t know if you like when you were writing in her place and and, and Clifton Hill, if you were like, Oh, this is not really my story, haha. Or like, or you knew and you you you just put those protective layers in because you already knew it was your story. But
Albert Shin 25:52
yeah, I mean, for me, I mean for to take the example of inner place. I had the story for inner place for You know, that one almost took me it took me about 10 years, not about, like, I would say eight years, from when I would decided, like I want to make this movie to actually it actually came to be. And a lot of it was was just getting over myself of like, Am I allowed to even tell the story? You know, I struggled with that quite a bit, which is that, you know, especially, you know, I started writing this cover in my early 20s. And at that time, I, you know, I didn’t know anything about anything, you know, I was just, you know, behind the ears for sure. About everything in life. And what Who am I to be tackling a film in Korean, which is definitely my second language in a country that I’ve spent a lot of time in, but you know, it’s not my country. It’s a film that is deal. It’s a commentary on, you know, things that are happening in that country. And I was born in Ottawa, and I grew up in the suburbs of Toronto. And so it’s not really my story. However, there was something about the The although the thematic elements of it that were the things that I’ve always been interested in and things that I’ve always experienced, you know, a growing up in the Korean community, Korean Canadian community here, but also then the sort of my family back home in Korea, and how do I tell that story but without it being a boy, you know, between, you know, caught between two worlds or whatever. And so I use this framework of the secret adoption as a way to explore all these things that I want to explore about myself and sort of my own experiences and it took a while and then once I actually started to write the script, then that took another three, four or five years because I just didn’t know how to exactly tell that story. And then it was so you know, once I finally kind of unlocked the the key. It was it was sort of the the writing process of it, I would say took about six years, and I would say for five and a half years of it. I had made Before pages, and everybody would ask me, you know, Igor, some of my closer friends would ask me, you know, so where are you with that Korean script that you keep talking about? I’m like, Oh, um, you know, like, 85% there 90% there, you know, I would just lie when I was sitting with a document that was maybe three pages long. And then, and then I actually wrote the entire script within a matter of weeks. Once I figured out like, I just kept saying, I needed to crack the code, I need to crack the code. And then once, once that happened, it really snapped into place because I had all this because I kept doing research. I kept going back to Korea, trying to do more research on secret adoptions and trying to make sure that I wasn’t out of out of line in terms of like making sure I did all the research talking to the right people, talking to adoption agencies, I was really trying to do my to justify, at least to myself that like, this isn’t this you know, I’m taking I’m treating this as seriously as I possibly can for someone that hasn’t lived through something like this personally. And so I had all this stuff in me and once I’ve sort of figured out how to tell the story in a, in a film format with a story and characters and a narrative and everything else. It really once I figured it out, it snapped into place really quickly, but it took maybe six years for that to actually happen and for me to thinking thinking about it the entire time, you know, so I didn’t, I was producing movies and, and doing other things, but I was really kept my eye on the prize for just that one movie, you know, the entire time and putting in like, you know, I’m sure for you as well, just thinking, you know, why why am I doing this? You know, like like why, you know?
Gloria Kim 29:37
I remember halfway through and I had, you know, I had to like, you know, gone through the CFC and then so I applied to the CFC features and got turned down, you know, and like, I didn’t like definitely the script wasn’t ready for sure. You know, And then, but you know, also like, just getting comments like, well, we don’t really like the the mother character, she’s not nice and I’m like, Oh fuck, you know, like, I don’t know, but it’s kind of like, in a weird way I, I, you know, like hard ass Asian Mom, you know, like writing, you know? And then like and then NSI and like getting turned down by that and just being like, oh, everyone’s turning me down. Oh, you know, yeah, what am I doing? Why am I so obsessed with the story and this was like I was still kind of in so much denial about this was my personal story, you know what I mean? Like it was so much like, I think like, I’ve told you this story before. About like my discovery of why I realized I was writing the story but I was like, banging my head against the wall and, and I’m someone like who like that my spiritual question. In life has always been so important. And kind of hide a lot to my personal work to some degree, right? And I remember like going, why Why? Why am I writing this story? And I was staying with my brother who happens to be a, like a really hardcore fundamentalist Christian like we’re Korean. You know, if you’re Korean, you’re like, super Christian, right? Like, I hear you’re super Christian. And, um, you know, and I, and I was just like, Well, you know, okay, well, there’s, here’s this Bible, and this child’s room that we’re staying in because like, my ex husband, and my daughter and I were selling our condo, and we were just, you know, like, you know, how you do that when you sell a place we like, so that you can still present it otherwise, you know, because you live in such a mess. And I remember just like, my main character’s name was Deborah and I just was like, Okay, well, maybe, you know, because my philosophy brother was always like, you know, you should read the Bible. More. I was like, well, maybe I’ll just open up the Bible, maybe I’ll have some inspiration. And you know, it’s so interesting like, when you and this is like, interesting, I find spiritual principle like, like when you ask a question to you, you know, call it whatever you want gods or universe, you get an answer, you know, and, and so I was like, What am I doing this for? Come on God, you know, show up for me, man. I open the Bible and no word of a lie. I open to the passage of uh.
in the Old Testament of the character, Deborah, who I didn’t even know was a person in the Bible, actually. And she’s never talked about but she’s like this powerful like, she’s a priestess, and a prophet is and like a judge. So she’s actually a powerful woman figure in the Bible and not like a, like a wife or a daughter or a mother or a prostitute, right? as like, Oh my god, and she’s like, prophesying victory for like Israel, like they’re out there. Go to bed. Uh, when I was like, hot, that’s just crazy. You know, I started writing this whole scene where, like, and it’s funny because in the end, we took the scene out of the film. Because it you know, when you’re editing like something that’s so meaningful to you in the writing sometimes doesn’t end up on the screen, right? Like, it’s such a weird thing, right? But this was such a formative reason why I kept going. And, you know, where the Eon character who’s like, kind of like the, like, the, the man that she meets who, like, helps her back on her feet elzar the meaning of her name, you know, and like, tells her she’s this priestess from the Bible, and then she asks him his name, and I was just like, Yeah, what does the name Ian mean? I should look that up. Because if she’s gonna, the character is gonna ask I should know. And I remember finding the meaning and it meant God is forgiving. I remember just like bursting into tears at that moment. Does I was writing the story, because I, it was just like this. Like, for me, that was my like, you know, key moment like that was like that unlocked it for me. I, where I realized oh my goodness, like I’ve written this story about this woman who goes through so much trouble and so much pain and and she is like a survivor of you know violence and abuse like I only kind of mentioned it like I do mention it, like at the time I hadn’t even written it into the story. But that was always what she was supposed to be. And in a weird way, it was like I was in denial that she was me. And I, I just felt like she deserved. Like it was like, I felt like she deserved all this pain because I deserved all this pain. And it wasn’t until that moment where I was just like, oh my gosh. I like what the word forgiveness is such a weird word. Like, you know, I always have such a weird relationship with forgiveness because it’s just like, you’re always like, I don’t know, like, as a Korean person as a Korean kid, you’re always walking around feeling like you’re in trouble. You know, and you’re just like, fuck you forgiveness. Time I remember going, Oh my god, I’m, I’m loved, like I’m forgiven I’m forgiven for all the terrible things that happened to me and I had blamed myself for like, being assaulted and blamed myself for you know, having gone through a abuse and, and it was like this light bulb moment, this like, incredibly beautiful, enlightening moment where I just kind of let go of all of that, and just knew that that was the reason why I was telling the story. And that was why for me, I just felt so passionately like that I had to make this film that I had to like, because because I know that other women who go through this who go through abuse and assault and like they they really do Do blame themselves. Like, it’s such a thing, you know, like you, you really, you really take on all of this, like, and it’s, it’s cultural and it’s just how we see women and how, how women are, you know, even after the whole me to thing, I still feel like, you know, we, you know, as a gender have not healed from that, you know, and and so I wanted to tell this story to just kind of say to other women, like, you know, look, I see you, you know, your life is legitimate you you, you deserve forgiveness and love, like do you deserve to forgive yourself, you deserve to be able to, you know, walk on this planet and feel like you have a right to be here, which was such a thing that I like I grappled with so much, you know, as a human being and as an artist, right. So What was your like? Little like light bulb moment?
Albert Shin 37:05
Well, it was it, it was two things one was sort of a formalistic thing in terms of just screenwriting and the other one was kind of a eureka moment that happened in my life a little bit as well which is you know, I you know, coming from like, you know, especially for enter place which I guess kind of started my career which is you know, to kind of go even a little bit further back from that is that you know, enter places my second feature film I I actually made a full feature film before that, and I made all these short films and none of them had really done anything or were really quite you know, I can you know, just trying to be as objective or as as I can about my own work is like they weren’t very good. And I all my life All I ever wanted to do was be a filmmaker, I gave myself no backup options. And, and I was confronted with this idea that like, Well, you know, maybe I’m just not very good at this. And what what you know, so there it was a big sort of moment and you know, like my, my, my other friends and colleagues and people I went to school with, you know, they’d all started to make shorts that were playing all these big festivals are and it seemed like, oh, wow, they’re, they’re really bringing something to the table. And, you know, they they’re, they’re finding their voice or their their, their bring, you know, they’re they’re presenting themselves as as filmmakers with a with a voice and something to say. And I was trying to do the same thing, and I just wasn’t able to find myself in that and maybe, you know, and I’m a pretty pragmatic person. So for me, it was, well, maybe I’m just, you know, like this is it’s a pie in the sky sort of proposition to begin with to be a filmmaker or a Bible filmmaker that can kind of do this as a career as a vocation. And it’s like, maybe, maybe it’s just not in the cards for me. You know, it’s filmmaking is one of those things where Obviously, it’s you know, there is a 90% perspiration 10% inspiration or whatever you want to look at. But that inspiration portion is pretty important. And if you’re just not, and it is an art form, like some people can, you know, play the piano for 30 years of their lives, but they just don’t have that special thing where just when they play, it kind of connects with people or whatever, you know, and like, maybe that was me as a filmmaker, it doesn’t matter how much how badly I wanted it, or how you know, or the fact that like, I gave myself no backup options. It’s just like, maybe I’m just not a very good filmmaker, like I really was confronted with that. Because, you know, I had had so many kicks up the can and it didn’t really, it hadn’t really been working for me. And even not just and I wasn’t blaming anybody else I was, you know, I was looking at the films and being like, hmm, like, why didn’t this turn out the way I thought it was going to or, you know, I planned all this stuff ahead. I had all this stuff in my head and it just wasn’t, I wasn’t able to translate whatever I was trying to do to the screen. And so within replace it was sort of my very last salvo. Like, I don’t know how many more how many more times I can do this. It’s really it takes a lot to make these movies. And so I, so that was a really long backstory. But when I got to the point where In Her Place was the thing
I wanted to make a film in Korea and I told nobody, I think the only person that knew I was making this film was was Igor, who was my business partner. And even him, I didn’t tell him exactly what I was doing, because it was like, Oh, the scripts in Korea and you can’t read it anyway. And I was, and I think I was protecting myself because I knew like, well, if this doesn’t work out, at least nobody will really know. And I can just fade away quietly and then I’ll just produce equals movies and I’ll just, you know, be a filmmaker, but just not a writer, director. And, you know, I was in Korea, I kept going to Korea, part of it was because I met my wife, my future wife there, but you know, I was going to Korea Riya and spending a lot of time there, and I was in a restaurant eating food. And then I overheard these people, this next table over from me, which was like a big family gathering. And it got it was like a very heated sort of kind of conversation that only like people like that family members get into, you know, and I was kind of eavesdropping, and they were talking about somebody else in that family who wasn’t present at that table, but that, that they had secretly adopted somebody. And that was sort of the rumors swirling around that table. And when when they were talking about that, it it pinged for me because, you know, these kind of rumors swirling around in my family as well, you know, not in my immediate family, but with these cousins and like and then also just in the Korean community in Toronto, you’d always hear about, you know, how so and so isn’t the real child of so and so and, and like you would always hear this and all the shame and all this sort of gossiping and especially in these smaller communities, you know, the Korean community, you know, in the 80s In early 90s, I guess and in Toronto, and it kind of got me thinking about all of that. And then and then that was sort of the the story key because originally I had a location, which was this farm, that inner place takes place in and it was a free location. And, you know, I was making movies for next to no money. So I had to sort of reverse engineer films. And that was sort of like, Okay, I have this very interesting, evocative location that I think is very cinematic. And I have free access to and I can porch it if I wanted to, I can do whatever I want with it. So I’m going to set a movie here. And I just didn’t have a story to set there. And and, you know, as a, as a, you know, 22 year old guy, you know, I was thinking of like a boy on the farm of romance with some other Farm Girl, you know, it was just like, it was very not me, and it was not very inventive. I thought, and so I just kept being like, Oh, that’s not the story. That’s not the story. And then when I overheard this thing, I that was like, Oh, that’s the story. And then once I had that story, that is took another four years for me to actually write it because I didn’t know how to tell that story. So I was, you know, doing the research and everything else that I that I had said before, but it’s only when I found out the structural element of how to tell the story of these three subjective like three women and telling a story in these three subjective viewpoints was the sort of the key. So it was those two elements that kind of came together. And then when I was so confident in this idea, at least for myself, that this was the story that I had to tell. And this is the story that I was meant to tell even if it wasn’t my own personal story per se, that I went out. I went into it just throwing haymakers in the sense of if I never get to make another movie, again. I’m gonna go down with this one doing exactly everything that I believe in as a filmmaker of how I should tell this story. And so it was, you know, it was like, it was like that scene in the movie where you just put all the chips on the table. I you know, ice I we were appropriating Yeah, I was stealing. I was beg borrowing and stealing, in essence to make this movie and I scrounged up $100,000 and just went to Korea and just shot this film with a bunch of people that you know ultimately ended up becoming very I became very close friends with but they’re all strangers and I didn’t know if they’re all going to take me for a ride and I was going to be left with no film and everything gone and my life ruined in tatters but for me, it was like it was worth it because this is the only thing this is my only chance you know, and this is and I believe in this thing so much that I’m gonna go for it and you know, this is obviously there’s a happy ending because I’m still making movies and then I ended up making disappear to Clifton Hill and everything else but I don’t even know if I answered your question but I guess to say that I yeah, sorry.
Aram Collier 44:53
No, that’s great. I you know, I’m so interested, you know, something that keeps coming up for in both of you Talking is this idea of telling your story. And you know, and it’s such a like cliche for all these Seattle Film Festival promos, like tell your story. And you know, it’s just just part of the culture and how we talk about it and how we present things. And I think it’s doubly so for people of color who are filmmakers, Tripoli, so for somebody like you, Laurie All right, so who is a woman, a woman of color, right? So and a filmmaker, like there’s this real tension and it’s so interesting to hear you talk about, like, it’s almost like it’s, it’s, it’s a it’s a burden. It’s a burden, that there’s this urgency, of urgency of telling your story or but but telling it in a certain way. You know,
Gloria Kim 45:53
I mean, there’s definitely an urgency you know, and I think I mean, I think we I mean,
Aram Collier 46:00
Or almost that it’s a requisite that it’s like, hey, you’re a you’re a Korean woman. Why don’t you tell that story? You know what I mean? Or like or Albert, you know, you’re like, Why? Why isn’t this? Why Why aren’t you telling the story from this perspective? Right? And when you both kind of like talk about this kind of emotional truth as well.
Gloria Kim 46:21
I mean, I I definitely believe that emotional truth is the most important part of storytelling. I think that I mean, you know, it was important for me to tell if a queen of the Morning Calm it was really important for me for the main character to be Korean. You because, I mean, I had, I also had done all those layers, right, you know, where it was, like, a sex worker and, you know, like, she’s with a gambling addict. And, you know, I mean, at the time when I was writing, and I didn’t have a child, I do but like, you know, and she’s got a daughter, you know, but, like, I I also want Really, really needed to talk about being like an Asian woman in this culture, I think that, you know, it is definitely a thing to be an Asian woman in this culture, there’s so much. There’s so many stereotypes. There’s so many, like, there’s so much sexualization, there’s so much, um, just being made to fit into certain kinds of molds. And, you know, it’s not, it’s not necessarily the main, like, it’s partly the mainstream culture that puts that on you. And it’s also partly, you know, just being an Asian woman in an Asian family. Right. Like, I remember one time having this conversation with Jean Yoon, who plays on my on Kim’s and I, and I, we had this like conversation about how because ns. Troy who’s the Creator, and it’s a wonderful show. And he’s a guy and he writes on me as like this total sweetie pie and I was just like, yeah, you know, that’s how How I I experienced my mom. Right? And I’m not saying that there aren’t sweetie pie Korean moms for sure there are sweetie pie Korean moms, you know what I think, you know, like, Asian women are strong. Like they’re kind of ass kickers right? But it’s almost like, I don’t want to say it’s hidden, right? But it’s very, there’s like, like, I mean talk about layers of like navigating that kind of strength and how you how you like, how you present to the world versus how you you are in your family and, and then but it’s so weird because like, I feel like
culturally, you know, from my mother’s generation, or my aunt’s generation, they seem to know how to do that in a way where they don’t feel any real conflict about it, you know, whereas growing up here I felt so much conflict about it. Always being the good girl and, and presenting as the good girl but feeling like, I just wanted to punch something. And so it’s like, and then you know, I think as a as a young Asian woman, I’m like, you know Kelly pipe in at any point, I feel like you are so like freaking sexualized in a weird way that you’re just like, wow, this is definitely not who I am.
Kelly Lui 49:30
Yeah, yeah on that actually. Gloria, I had a I had a question like for you about your process of writing Deborah just because you know, there’s so many like identity markers on her character as a sex worker, Asian immigrant, young, single, but not really single, unconventional mother. They all are kind of like and more but all these markers really have kind of a essentialized boxed up ways of just like their own preconceived truths. And like you were just mentioning how people like read her like really mean, and like in really specific ways. So, yeah, I’m just kind of curious, like how do you how did you just like, balance that? and still do yeah, sorry I’m not focused on like, I guess the, the the damage, I guess like those identities can be so there’s like they come with their own trauma and this idea of damage, and I feel like you kind of you didn’t really do that I’m just kind of curious, like, how you work through that.
Gloria Kim 50:33
I mean for me I, I thought that it was really important, you know because, like, you know, it’s funny being an Asian woman because I mean, especially when I was growing up in like, you know, in high school you’re it’s almost like you’re a little bit invisible, right and like, wear the glasses and whatever. Like, you know, you’re you know, the straight A student which you know, I mean, I wasn’t streaming, but you know, I was a smart student and on a roll and all that stuff, and then you, you kind of go, you leave high school, and then you kind of go out into the world. And suddenly it’s like, all these, you get all this attention, right? And you’re just like, like, wow, this is really weird, right? Like, you’re just how do I navigate that identity? You know, and then, you know, for me, it was like, that experience of like, being outside of that identity by being perceived as an identity that made me like, kind of almost be the observer of that identity. And, um, and I in weirdly because I was a survivor of violence, and then going out into the world, you know, and then encountering more violence. I and I thought, Did this happen because I’m an Asian woman did this happen because I was a survivor of violence, you know? Like, I just thought that that was such an interesting thing, you know, and at the time, it was really devastating. But, like, I know that I knew that even at that time, you know, because it was so devastating. Emotionally for me, like that one of the things that like I held to be like, the bright light that I held on to was that, like, this was not going to get me down, that I was not going to allow this incident that happened to me in the person that did it to me to like, get me down and keep keep me down and like, stop me from being like a storyteller. And that, in fact, I was going to tell a story about this. And so it was, I, I just really needed to respect that experience. And because, you know, I’m the kind of person because I am a storyteller, and I am curious, like I, I, you know, would take the risk, and I would tell people the story and I would tell their women and I would ask them and they would always almost It always was such a weird thing where I kept encountering other women who kept denying, like, they kept saying, No, no, no, that same thing happened to me. You know, and but that’s not a fault and another woman who was like, No, no, no, like, you know, like this guy, he held me down, he punch me in the face, you know, and then we had sex, but that wasn’t assault. It was like, What? Like, you’re joking, right? Like you’re but at the same time, it was like this whole, like, you know, and that’s why I was so interested in talking about disconnect, Albert, like, like that whole, you know, when you go through trauma like that, you know, it becomes this disconnect. You know, and, like I, I, you know, it’s like, when you listen to Sarah Silverman, who’s the comedian, and she talks about, like, issues around, you know, abuse or like, and she always makes it really funny, you know, and it is, I just howl with laughter when I hear her as we’re like, yeah, Amy Schumer does that as well. And Amy Schumer’s assault You know, and, and, and anyways, but for me like this was my way of dealing with this. Kind of, like if I, you know, like I wanted to honor it, I wanted to respect it. I wanted it to be part of the story, but I didn’t want it to be exploitive. I don’t think I was exploitive. You know, like, I really also wanted to honor Tina Jong who plays Deborah. And I just wanted to make sure she felt safe as much as possible. Right, like, I mean, you can never be perfect, but like, I just always wanted to check in with her and I didn’t want her to feel exposed or feel like she was physically exposed, you know? And, like, there’s no like extreme. There’s no violence in the film, I don’t think but there’s like a sort of hint of violence, you know what I mean, in in the relationships and like, just in how she’s kind of having to navigate all of that. And I just thought, Oh, it’s so complicated, right? Like, it’s such a complicated thing. You know, like being a woman and being an Asian woman, like, I don’t I don’t think it’s simple. You know, and I don’t think it’s like, I think it’s such a complicated stereotype. And I think, you know, like, like for all women, right, like all women, but like being an Asian woman, because you have all those weird perceptions around your submissiveness and you know, and it’s such a missed, like a misdirect that I, but I just knew that I had to somehow talk about it. I had to talk about it. You know, from her perspective, right. From the perspective of a woman I just thought that that was so important, you know, because that’s so rarely done.
Seungwoo Baek 56:03
Backstory podcast is written and hosted by Aram Collier and Kelly Lui. It’s edited and produced by Seungwoo Baek and it’s presented by Toronto Reel Asian International Film Festival. Please check out our show notes for more information about the Disappearance at Clifton Hill and Queen of the Morning Calm, as well as any relevant updates about the podcast or the festival itself. If you have any questions or want to say hi, reach out to us at our email email@example.com