As G-Hey Kim sat at a Centennial College computer desk editing her short horror film for her directing class, she didn’t think it would make it into the Hamilton Film Festival. She definitely didn’t think a production company would see it and option it for a full-length feature film.
Kim got the call from her directing professor, George Mihalka, at the end of January saying that Vortex Words + Pictures saw bigger things for her short film and wanted her to help write and direct a feature-length version. She was ecstatic.
“It’s unbelievable. I feel like I’m just in my dream,” the film graduate remembered saying. “Don’t wake me up, I just want to stay right here.”
Kim’s film, Don’t Click, shows a man who receives a mysterious email containing a snuff film – a film that shows a victim of real, obscene violence. As the man watches the film, he sees a woman being tortured and is presented with an option halfway through to watch the full video. All he has to do is click his mouse.
The inspiration for the film, Kim said, was the disconnect that people have with things they view on the internet that they otherwise wouldn’t be able to look at in real life. It all clicked during a visit to the school library where she saw a room full of students glued to their phones.
Having come to Canada from South Korea four years ago, Kim noted the similarities between the way the two cultures use the internet. That’s why, she said, she didn’t want her film to be tethered to a specific culture but to be relatable to anyone who consumes online content.
The idea seemed to hit the mark. The film appeared in festivals such as Oregon Scream Week and the Blood in the Snow Canadian Film Festival, which are both geared towards the horror genre. It also won the award for best horror film at the Asians On Film Festival in Los Angeles.
Mihalka, who directed, among others, the cult horror classic My Bloody Valentine (the 1981 version), credited the film’s success to all the resources at Centennial College’s advanced filmmaking program that Kim took advantage of during her one-year program. She went to every workshop they had to offer, Mihalka said, and even helped fellow students with their short films.
“The result was a good (film) idea, dedication, passion, and a certain amount of perfectionism where she wasn’t satisfied with just delivering a movie,” Mihalka said. “She wanted to deliver a movie that was up to professional standards.”
But Kim didn’t stop there. Even after sending the film to festivals, she made sure to go to each one that chose to screen it and, business cards in hand, talk to anyone and everyone. This was especially true for the Hamilton Film Festival in November 2017.
Little did Kim know that Susan Curran, vice-president of corporate development at Vortex Pictures, would be at the screening at Mihalka’s invitation. She was so impressed with the film that she took it to the production company’s head of development, Courtney McAllister, to take the short to the next level with its low-budget film program.
“It’s a very now subject,” McAllister said about what drew her to the film. “Given that finally women are being heard in a completely different way with the ‘Me Too’ movement … I think that this is such an important time for a film like this.”
Despite Mihalka’s praise of her hard work, Kim said a lot of her success with the film was due to all of the help she received, particularly in submitting it to festivals.
“I never could have done this without (my team),” Kim said. “It was me who made the film, but it was them who brought the film into the world.”
Kim admitted it wasn’t easy being a film student in Canada. Despite her permanent residence, she said she felt constant pressure from classmates who told her she would never make it in Canada since she isn’t a fluent English-speaker.
“You might be a director in Korea because you can speak Korean fluently, but not here,” Kim remembered her classmates saying.
“I know it will be hard, it’s really difficult, but let me try” she responded. “This is my dream and I believe I can make it.”
Kim will work intensively with McAllister and her team on writing and developing her feature film for at least a year, with Mihalka mentoring her throughout the process. McAllister plans for it to be a $150,000 production.
Meanwhile, Kim will still be in school. She’s now studying film at Sheridan College because of the extra courses it offers.
Eventually, she wants to have a career making short and feature films and be known for evolving the way films are made. She believes making Don’t Click into a feature is the first step.