It all started with an image. Last year, I was getting off the MARC train from Baltimore to DC for the annual cherry blossom festival. Union Station was very crowded with people going to see the cherry blossoms in full bloom. In the crowd, I saw a woman walking into the station from the platform, by herself, with a crutch at her side. I don’t know why but the whole image left a big impression on me. Throughout my stroll around the Washington Monument and the beautiful cherry blossoms, I kept on thinking about her. I was wondering why she was in DC, or if she lived in DC or if she was just here for a day to look at the scenery.
(a picture taken that day)
After my trip, I boarded the train and looked out the window. I saw the entrance to the station and remembered where she was standing. We were taking the last train of the night, so the place was pretty much empty. The feeling of an empty station and my mental image of a woman walking into the station by herself went together quite well. I thought about isolation, how it could be physically rendered on film. During my train ride back, I envisioned an old Korean woman in her 70s traveling from Baltimore to DC to see the Cherry Blossom Festival alone. The more I thought about it, more vivid it became.
(Antibes Train Station)
I jotted it down in a notebook, but left it at that, thinking that I lacked the experience and skill to create a short film by myself. So I kept it aside and didn’t really think about it until I had a conversation with my friend, Sue Chin, waiting for a train to Cannes from Antibes during our summer abroad program. We waited an hour for a train because we were confused about platforms and got distracted talking to kill time. I remembered the idea from months ago and explained it to Sue. After telling her what it was about and how I came up with it, she told me that there was something that she liked about the story and the character. During our 20-minute ride to Cannes we decided that we were going to shoot it somehow before we both graduated.
(Train ride from Antibes to Cannes)
That night, when we got back to our apartment, we started fleshing out the film: the characters, their backgrounds, very minute details. We spent the whole night creating the world that our main character, the Grandma, inhabited, the kind of life she had lived before she came to America. We discussed what her son did to make a living, why she ended up in the states, what kind of house that she lived in and so on. By the time we were too tired and had to go to sleep, our “Grandma” became a more concrete figure with a face. Her and the world we created of her felt more real to me.
(Our apartment at Antibes)
Over the rest of the summer, we stayed in contact to share new ideas and details about the story. Then, just before school started up again, Sue wrote a script based on everything we had talked about since the Cannes trip. Over the course of the semester, we edited, emailing back and forth since Sue was studying abroad in London.
(Our very first draft, also 할머니 is Korean for Grandma)
Even as we edited the script, I had doubts about whether I would ever be qualified to shoot this film that had become quite dear to me. I’ve never created a short film on my own, outside of my projects for class. I was nervous about everything: how would find the perfect Korean grandma who would willingly act on the film, how would I find someone to do the lighting and sound, how would I shoot it? How would I going to assemble crew for this project? Most of these questions ended with me throwing myself on my bed screaming. I still do not have answers to all of these questions but I’ve decided to commit to making this film because the project feels special to me. The prospect of making a film is still very frightening but there is really no room for me to back out now, since I’m getting credit for this film as my senior project and also because I have started writing a production diary about it!
I just had a 3-hour conversation with Sue about how this film might end up horrible because neither of us is experienced, but we came to the conclusion that this film will never get made if we don’t do it this semester. We will just have to make our way past the difficulties and survive since what’s already done is done. I am now at the beginning of the preproduction process and am anxious for the couple of months ahead of me. I have to cast the perfect actors, lock down all the locations and finish assembling crew for this short as of yet untitled film.
Sue and I do not have high hopes for this project. We don’t dare dream we’ll make something that everyone will see and love immediately. We just hope that we make something worthwhile, something that we can look at and be proud of and say we are glad to have pulled through with the film.