UW alumni Danny Kim ’08 received the Emerging Filmmaker Award at the Los Angeles Asia Pacific Film Festival in May. Danny received the award for his first feature documentary film, Zero Waste, which raises awareness of the plastic pollution crisis.
In 2021 Danny founded Docu+, an independent film production company, which focuses on socially impactful issues and telling stories from South Korea to the rest of the world. Born in Seoul, Danny spent his childhood years in Illinois, Seoul, and New York. At UW-Madison, he majored in Communication Arts: Radio-Television-Film, realizing during his sophomore year that his passion was with filmmaking rather than pursuing med school.
Docu+ has previously hosted UW interns and is interested in virtual and in-person students for a Documentary Research internship. Korean fluency is a requirement for the role.
The Intern Abroad team had the opportunity to hear from Danny about his work and recent award.
What was the impetus behind the Zero Waste project?
In 2021, the second year into the pandemic, I was getting used to the ‘new normal’ lifestyle where ordering food from one of the delivery apps became more frequent compared to pre-pandemic times. I started pondering all of the plastic I consume as an individual. With South Korea’s population of about 50 million, where does all this excess garbage end up? South Korean landfills were already over capacity since China stopped accepting our trash. So I wanted to address this timely issue and see if there are any individuals battling this problem in a creative way that can be easily followed.
What does winning Los Angeles’s Asia Pacific Film Festival (LAAPFF) Emerging Filmmaker Award mean to you?
I am very honored to receive such a prestigious award. I think it’s any new filmmaker’s dream to win such an award, especially at one of the biggest festivals in the U.S.
It also gives me new motivation to continue making good art that can inspire others to create change. So I want to accept this award by LAAPFF to think that they want me to keep making impactful films that can resonate with a global audience.
What advice would you give to college students considering a career in film, making documentaries?
To be honest, I am very jealous of college students these days. Compared to my days (and trust me I’m not that old), the readily accessible technology such as the latest iPhone and GoPro makes it very easy to become a content creator. My advice is to start small, if you have a story that you want to tell, you don’t need an expensive $50,000 camera to make beautiful films, let alone documentaries. The key is to find a compelling character and a subject matter that you are passionate about and willing to work on it for next 2-3 years.
My advice is to start small, if you have a story that you want to tell, you don’t need an expensive $50,000 camera to make beautiful films, let alone documentaries.
Another thing is, be kind to others, as the filmmaking community is a pretty tight-knit community so words spread fast. Production on set can be quite stressful. If you have a positive attitude and mindset, it makes the entire production process a lot smoother and more enjoyable for everybody. And if you make a good impression as a genuine team player, it will help you land in multiple gigs down the road.
Maybe your friend in Intro to Media Production class one day can become your director or producer. Who knows? Learning how to collaborate is an important skill to have in a film career.
My short-term goal is to hit more film festivals around the world with Zero Waste and get my theatrical and streaming distribution deal by 2024.
Since my first feature film was an environmental doc, I would like to continue working in the same genre and dive into other pressing issues such as climate change, and renewable energy such as electric vehicles and solar panels.