Interview with Mingu, Executive Director of Toronto Smartphone Film Festival
by Stephanie Cheung
We hear from many people that organizing film festival for films shot on smartphones is such a cool idea. Well, many of us may have had that thought just recently, or long time ago, but Mingu Kim was the one to put that idea into something more tangible four years ago. As our first episode of ‘Meet the Team’, our wonderful staff, Stephanie Cheung, has asked Mingu some questions to listen to the story behind how he came about with starting the film festival.
Meet Mingu Kim, the steering wheel of Toronto Smartphone Film Festival!
Stephanie: Tell us about yourself?
Mingu: I was born and raised in South Korea until my family immigrated to Canada in 1999. Currently, I am the president of Acoustic Soul Productions Inc. and the founder of Toronto Smartphone Film Festival (formerly Arirang Korea Smartphone Film Festival).
I produce Arirang Korea, a Korean language programming on OMNI TV. As a filmmaker, my 1st short film, A Drummer's Passion, has been in inclusion for 5 international film festivals across North America. my most recent documentary, Corner Store premiered on OMNI TV.
Stephanie: What was the inspiration behind starting TSFF?
Mingu: I took over Arirang Korea, a Korean language programming on OMNI TV, in 2011. Initially, I wanted to create an event to promote the programming to our viewers. Smartphone filmmaking was fairly new in the market at the time and fortunately, there was no smartphone film festival in Toronto back then. So I decided to start the inaugural smartphone film festival in Canada.
Stephanie: What were some challenges of starting your own film festival?
In the beginning, it was so hard to spread the word about the film festival. Also, I had to do everything from scratch from marketing, fundraising, recruiting members, booking a venue, programming, editing and the list goes on. As the festival grows bigger, it's hard to cater to the needs of all sponsors and some sponsors become really picky. Also, it's hard to manage time commitment because the festival relies on volunteers.
Stephanie: How has the festival evolved since you first started the festival?
Mingu: It feels amazing to see how the festival has evolved since I first started. In the beginning, we had about 200 audiences at Innis Town Hall. We hosted the 2nd festival at Yonge & Dundas Cineplex Odeon. We renamed the festival to Toronto Smartphone Film Festival and took it to Scotiabank Theatre Toronto the following year. In its first year, the majority of the audience was Korean but it became the opposite last year. This year, we are extending our festival to 2 days for the 1st time.
Stephanie: What are some favorite moments or great memories that you can share with us from the festival?
Mingu:Despite challenges and hardships of preparing the festival, it is a very rewarding experience to witness the success of the film festival. I'm so grateful to the audiences as well as filmmakers for their participation and support. Watching the official screeners on a big screen feels tremendous. I think this is the main reason why I keep coming back to organize the event year after year.
Stephanie: If you were to describe TSFF using only 3 words, what would they be?
Mingu: Innovation, passion, and creativity!
Stephanie: Where do you see the festival in the next 5 years?
Mingu: I hope the festival to become one of the most significant film festivals in Toronto along with TIFF, Hot Docs, Reel Asian, just to name a few. I want TSFF to become an international platform for young and aspiring filmmakers. The festival may evolve to a week-long festival if we continue to succeed.
Stephanie: What are some of your goals/aspirations regarding the festival?
Mingu: One of my goals is to make TSFF one of the most recognized film festivals in Toronto. The popularity of smartphone has already reached beyond our expectation. I don't see any limit to this platform as long as we use smartphones to communicate with each other and create contents on the go. We will create workshops, networking and fundraising events to contribute to the community and travel overseas to partner with other renowned film festivals and organizations.
Stephanie: What advice would you give to people who want to be filmmakers or beginner filmmakers?
Mingu: Don't wait until you become a professional filmmaker. Don't be afraid of making mistakes because you learn a lot from trials and errors.
Stephanie: If you could have any superpower for one day what would it be and how would you spend your day using that superpower?
Mingu:I want to clone myself to create an alter ego. That way, I can spend some quality time with my family while the other self can go to work.
Stephanie: What is your favorite food that you cannot live without?
Mingu:I hate to admit I am addicted to noodles.
Stephanie: What is your favorite film and why?
Mingu:'Do The Right Thing' by Spike Lee. I admire Spike Lee because of his creativity and he sometimes breaks the rules in innovative ways which makes it look great in the picture.
Nowadays, he doesn't make controversial films anymore but he always tried and introduced something new in each of his early films. I like 'Do The Right Thing' the most among his films.
Stephanie: Let’s say you won the lottery ($20 million), how would you spend the money?
Mingu:I would purchase a resort in Caribbean and a condominium in South Korea. I would also invest in mutual funds, RRSP and so on. Donation is good too.
Stephanie: If you could be any fictional character, who would you be and why?
Mingu:This is so difficult to answer. How about Guan Yu or Zhao Zilong although they are not fictional characters? I love the storyline of The Three Kingdoms. :)
Stephanie: If you had a chance to collaborate with anyone in the world for a film, who would it be and why? What would the film be about?
Mingu:I want to collaborate with Wu-Tang Clan to make a documentary about the legendary hip hop group. When I was in high school, I listened to their music and admired them so much. I also wrote lyrics and made beats for fun. I want to go on a tour with them to film their performance on stage.