Today, we are continuing our profiles of the animators of the Sundance Film Festival 2021 with a conversation with Kang-min KIM. He is the animator behind the short KKUM, which uses stop motion and paint to create a beautiful ethereal effect. Also, he made the short for $80!
Have you always wanted to be an animator?
I didn’t have a plan to be a filmmaker and animator. I studied experimental animation in school, and I had to finish a thesis film to graduate. And the thesis film changed my life. I could travel to many film festivals and could convey my feelings and emotions to many new people who have different languages, cultures through my film. Then I wanted to be a filmmaker and wanted to make more films.
How did you get started in your career and in creating this short?
I made one music video with [a] stop motion technique when I was a graphic design student in South Korea. I realized this is real communication that I want to have between creator and audiences. And I came to LA to study animation.
I have made short films ( 38-39°C, Deer Flower, and Jeom ) based on real experiences of my family. New film, KKUM is also based on my mother’s dreams. I can’t count how many important dreams she had for me. And I thought that it would be an interesting idea to use her dreams for a short film.
Congrats on being accepted at Sundance. What was that application process like?
Thank you so much! It is always an honor to be part of Sundance.
The application process was the same with other festivals. And my distributor, Kaniseed, did all the application process for me.
Is it stop motion or just made to look like stop motion?
It is a 100% hand-made film. I like to tell you the main materials because the materials are related to technique and the visual style.
I used foam, styrofoam, and foam core. These are [the] main materials.
I wanted to find materials that could create a unique, prominent character while also having a very rich texture to it.
This is why I used foam.
Why did you go with the black and white aesthetic?
There are 2 reasons. First reason is that I heard that many people dream in black and white.
And the second reason is material and budget. Foam was changing its color during production, so I couldn’t use its original color. And I used less than $100 to make this film, and I had only 2 months to finish it. So I had to use black and white to decrease production time.
You talk about dreams in the short. Are dreams important to you?
I am the only child in my family and am living in LA. My mother always worries too much about me. My mother’s dreams have always been strong premonitions for important moments in my life. Her dreams are so accurate. So I rely on her dreams more than any religion.
You say ‘I am made of my Mom’s dreams and prayers’. What do you mean by that?
I think that my mother expresses her emotion and love through dreams and prayers.
Has your Mom seen the short and where you say thank you?
Yes, I saw it, but she couldn’t react to it at first. I used to make very bright and colorful animations before, but KKUM is black and white, so she couldn’t find any beauty from it.
At the end your Mother has a bad dream and tells you to stay inside. What did you mean by that?
Like I mentioned before, I rely on her dreams more than any religion. I think that I am addicted to her dreams and try to follow her caution if she has a bad dream. I know how much she loves me, but also her dreams give me a lot of limitations and shackles.
What do you hope people take away from the short?
KKUM is the most personal and strangest film I have made. But I hope audiences enjoy my film from the opening to the ending. I want audiences to take a different feeling, texture, and emotion from this short film. It would be great if this film makes them think about their mothers.
We would like to thank Kanj-min KIM for talking with us. More information can be found about him and his art at his website here.
Edited by: Kelly Conley