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Meet the 2012 Sundance Filmmakers #3: So Yong Kim, 'For Ellen'

Indiewire By Indiewire Staff | Indiewire January 4, 2012 at 12:30PM

So Yong Kim returns to Sundance this year after winning the 2006 Special Jury Prize for her debut "In Between Days." "For Ellen" (U.S. Dramatic Competition) marks her third feature following her sophomore effort "Treeless Mountain," released in 2009 by Oscilloscope Laboratories. Kim calls "For Ellen" her 'most personal film' to date. It also finds her working with her highest profile cast yet (Paul Dano, Jon Heder and Jena Malone round out the ensemble). What's it about? A young rockstar, Joby Taylor, travels to a small town to divorce his estranged wife, only to discover that in the process he must also face the possibility of losing custody of his daughter Ellen. Forced to choose between freedom and fatherhood, his decision will precipitate entire life changes for him and those he loves. Says director Kim: "When I wrote the film, I was filled with doubts about my ability as a filmmaker, a loving partner and a decent mother to our daughter. I took all these emotions and tried to investigate what they meant to me. Making this film was something of a therapy, yet also a torture because it was inspired by a distant memory of my estranged father visiting me and my siblings for one day. Our parents divorced when we were young and I never really knew him. I wanted to investigate this further. Although the young rocker who came to exist through the process is very unlike myself physically, I feel very connected to the character's emotions and his being. To this extent, this is the most personal film I've ever made. "I watched a lot of '70s American films for inspiration to build the shots and the look of the film, particularly 'Five Easy Pieces.' There's an homage shot at the end of the film. It just seemed to fit the story of my character." Indiewire invited Sundance Film Festival directors to tell us about their films, including what inspired them, the challenges they faced and what they're doing next. We'll be publishing their responses leading up to the 2012 festival.
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"For Ellen" director/writer So Yong Kim

So Yong Kim returns to Sundance this year after winning the 2006 Special Jury Prize for her debut "In Between Days." "For Ellen" (U.S. Dramatic Competition) marks her third feature following her sophomore effort "Treeless Mountain," released in 2009 by Oscilloscope Laboratories. Kim calls "For Ellen" her 'most personal film' to date. It also finds her working with her highest profile cast yet (Paul Dano, Jon Heder and Jena Malone round out the ensemble).

What's it about? A young rockstar, Joby Taylor, travels to a small town to divorce his estranged wife, only to discover that in the process he must also face the possibility of losing custody of his daughter Ellen. Forced to choose between freedom and fatherhood, his decision will precipitate entire life changes for him and those he loves.

Says director Kim: "When I wrote the film, I was filled with doubts about my ability as a filmmaker, a loving partner and a decent mother to our daughter. I took all these emotions and tried to investigate what they meant to me. Making this film was something of a therapy, yet also a torture because it was inspired by a distant memory of my estranged father visiting me and my siblings for one day. Our parents divorced when we were young and I never really knew him. I wanted to investigate this further. Although the young rocker who came to exist through the process is very unlike myself physically, I feel very connected to the character's emotions and his being. To this extent, this is the most personal film I've ever made.

"I watched a lot of '70s American films for inspiration to build the shots and the look of the film, particularly 'Five Easy Pieces.' There's an homage shot at the end of the film. It just seemed to fit the story of my character."

Indiewire invited Sundance Film Festival directors to tell us about their films, including what inspired them, the challenges they faced and what they're doing next. We'll be publishing their responses leading up to the 2012 festival.

Keep checking here every day up to the launch for the latest profiles.

This article is related to: Meet the 2012 Sundance Filmmakers, Sundance Film Festival, For Ellen