We had the good fortune of connecting with DJ Kim and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi DJ, putting aside the decision to work for yourself, what other decisions were critical to your success?
I would say my decision in 2018 to come study film in America. That single decision changed my life.
I never knew how to speak English until I came here so that was a real challenge. And although English is still a second language to me, I’ve learned enough where a whole new world has opened up to me. It has helped me meet and connect with all sorts of people from all walks of life. It has also impacted how I watch movies. Being able to understand a whole new language has helped me really appreciate more of the details and nuances of a character and overall dialogues in movies.
I spent the past 4 years attending New York Film Academy here in Burbank, CA. I am proud to say I graduated with a BA in film just a few months ago. It was a great experience as I got to create a few short films while meeting awesome people in and out of school. One of my shorts, “Stalkers”, was screened at Screamfest in 2020. Another short I made was inspired by an article I read during the Covid-19 pandemic. It is a romantic comedy, or romcom, set during the said pandemic titled, “Coromance-19”. While shooting, I was able to meet some great people who I still remain close with to this day. I am proud to say “Coromance-19” has been officially selected in the Oscar qualified film festival Cinequest, and we are currently waiting to hear back from several other film festivals.
I know I have a long way to go to fulfill my dream but I wouldn’t have been able to accomplish the things I have without that single decision in 2018.
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
As a film director, it wasn’t easy to get where I’m right now. And I have much further to go. But isn’t it always hard to reach our goals regardless of which industry you are in haha. So with that in mind, I took all the challenges I’ve come across so far as part of a game of the whole experience.
I was born and raised in South Korea and came to America in 2018. The first big challenge was the language. Then I quickly realized that language would be the least of my worries since I was entering one of the most competitive industries in the entire world, the film industry. There were so many technical things that I had to learn and deal with it made the language barrier a secondary problem. I felt that if I can learn my craft diligently and precisely, I would be able to communicate in ways language never could.
Present day, I am working at a Korean Broadcasting company here in Los Angeles, or more specifically Koreatown. I am currently the master control operator or a switcher, simply put. I am beyond grateful and consider myself very lucky to have found this job. I hope it can be a bridge of some sort to the next step in my career.
If I had to pinpoint my brand, or what sets me apart from others, I would have to say it is my tendency to see my challenges as just another part of life. In other words, I relish in the obstacles that life has to throw at me. Sometimes I don’t even realize I accomplished a goal or overcame a challenge until well after the fact. The trick is to keep myself so busy and occupied that the challenges just become second nature to overcome. It is definitely easier said than done, but hey, I’ve gotten this far haven’t I?
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
I would love to recommend my hometown Il-san, and it’s not only because I grew up there.
Il-san is special because it’s not over crowded and the people are friendly, making it a great place to ride a bike or take a walk virtually anywhere without having to worry about becoming roadkill like here in the States haha.
And I’m no architect or civil engineer but I truly feel that because the city was built in a very life-friendly way. For instance, the road for cars and road for people are completely separated. And I’m not talking about sidewalks being separated from the road, I mean completely separate walk-zones where the pedestrians don’t need to worry about cars or traffic at all.
I loved my walks to and from downtown at dawn. It was my favorite time to walk; being alone with the brisk morning air and only being able to hear my thoughts and footsteps was very tranquil for me.
Because I love walking and biking so much, I want others to be able to share and experience what I have in Il-san.
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
I would say my father.
I grew up watching his work ethic which directly affected my life. He was diligent and disciplined, waking up every morning at 5:30AM and coming home late in the evening. Because of that I didn’t get to spend much time with my father; something I complained about a lot when I was a kid. But once I grew up and got to a certain age, I sincerely came to respect and honor his diligent work ethic. It is what kept the proverbial food on our table and roof over our heads. Because of his efforts and support, I was able to come to America and study filmmaking in one of the meccas of the film industry, Hollywood, California. I am truly grateful for the things my father sacrificed to make my life and the lives of my mother and sister better. His way of life will be something I will always admire and aspire to imitate. If it wasn’t for him, the minor detours in my life as a mischievous child would have been far worse than just minor detours, I am sure. Eventually, I found my calling thanks to his guidance and protection, and I am confident I will be able to reach my goals just as long as I stay diligent and disciplined like my father.
It will be a long and difficult journey, but I’m very excited for the great experiences and acquaintances that will come along with it.
Yoon Soo Lee / Almas Ismurzin