Directing dreams: UB filmmaker reflects on success, science fiction and finding inspiration in the U.S
Daeil Kim wrote sci-fi and fantasy stories for friends and family when he was younger. He loved creating his “own world” as a kid.
That love quickly turned into visual storytelling and filmmaking after he graduated high school, until his stories weren’t just gifts to loved ones.
This year, his film “RE-REHAB” was selected for screening at the Toronto Shorts International Film Festival and the Buffalo International Film Festival.
“I received a phone call from the festival to inform us of our acceptance,” Kim, a junior media studies major, said. “I was blown away.”
Kim, who moved from South Korea to the U.S. after studying film history at a South Korean specialized film academy, wanted to pursue production to share his stories. With his production background, Kim is able to control every element of his films and has made six short films, each of which he wrote, directed, shot and edited by himself.
“RE-REHAB” explores drug addiction through visual metaphors. It introduces the audience to a world where a corporation has invented a pharmaceutical technology that turns people invisible. The film follows a male protagonist who recently lost his wife to drugs and pursues drug-use to find her.
“I don’t want my films to be defined as the fantasy genre, but at the same time, I think writing about fantasy gives me the most freedom,” Kim said. “It gives me a blank canvas that I can fill with anything.”
Kim says his films always begin with a “small idea” –– like mysterious technology making people invisible –– and then he starts to “branch out.”
“RE-REHAB” went from a small idea to a selection at the March 2019 TSIFF. The festival, founded in 2014, presents over 100 short films from around the world throughout the week, running from March 1-4. The Buffalo International Film Festival, one of the largest film fests in New York, runs from Oct. 10-14.
“I am very happy to reach these film festivals now,” Kim said. “It doesn’t go without saying that I had experienced rejection plenty of time with my films in the past. … I believe I learned that if I keep making my stories, [they] will be watched at some point.”
Kim recently created his own production company, Xylograph Films, which allows him to pursue his small ideas without the constraint of working under studios.
Melanie Sudyn, Kim’s wife and co-founder of Xylograph Films, looks forward to watching Kim continue to grow and evolve in his work.
“I have not only seen Daeil behind the camera, I have seen the countless hours he spends on the computer editing, writing and researching,” Sudyn said. “Daeil is the most dedicated individual I have ever seen.”
As a student filmmaker, Kim finds himself constrained by the limitations of the university’s technology and local talent, but that doesn’t stop him from producing as much as he can.
He says half of his cast is professional, while the other half are his fellow students. And whether he’s studio-funded or not, he said his focus is always on his own script.
John Spaschak, Kim’s agent and occasional producer, knew that Kim’s skillset was special after seeing his early work.
“He’s able to capture emotion in such a way that it doesn’t matter if his actors aren’t professionals or even experienced,” Spaschak said. “He’s able to combine the angles and lighting and sound so effectively that the performances are secondary. That’s the makings of a great storyteller.”
Kim isn’t only inspired by renowned directors like David Lynch –– who similarly does “everything himself” –– he also credits his move to the U.S. as inspiration for his films. He says he never was exposed to things like “drug use and gun violence” so moving to the U.S. allowed him to pursue such topics.
“I think as a creator, when I’m writing things, having a different perspective is really important,” Kim said.
Kim’s next project, a feature-length film called “White Demise,” explores the culture around gun violence through the science-fiction concept of “life-saving bullets.” Kim took two years off school, from 2017 to 2019, to shoot his film, and plans to begin hosting screenings for criticism before submitting it to festivals in December.
“I have [another] year left [in school] and I’d like to continue going to school for production and just continue making films,” Kim said. “I want it to be my best work.”
Samantha Vargas is the senior features editor and can be reached at Samantha.Vargas@UBSpectrum.com and on Twitter at @SamMarieVargas.