The above still is from the documentary, Finding Seoul. The film is from today’s guest blogger, John Sanvidge. Finding Seoul follows Sanvidge as he attempts to find his birth parents.
Sanvidge was raised in upstate New York and brought up in an Irish and Italian household with his two siblings, who are also adopted. Before his journey to find his birth parents, he visits with his adoptive family to help them understand why he’s made the decision to look for them now. Soon he’s off to Seoul, South Korea all in an attempt to reconnect with a world he doesn’t understand.
Sanvidge is an emerging filmmaker and joins us today to share his favorite Miramax films and how they influenced not only his storytelling but his life.
I have found myself enjoying films that contain strong characters that find themselves in a middle of a life-changing journey without even knowing it. That may sound like most dramatic films out there, but I don’t think they are all the same nor have the similar motives.
My journey would start when I saw the Good Will Hunting. I’m not a boy genius from Southie, but the thought of being abandoned resonated with me, even though a very loving family adopted me. The story of being scared to move outside your comfort zone and move away from people that have your back without question was a major plot point in my own life and development as a filmmaker.
To go back to the idea of someone telling you, “it’s not your fault,” is something that deep down I had been searching for in my own life. The shy boy always smiling to put up a wall and bury that question deep down inside had become my modus operandi for a long time. At the time when I saw the film, I was still not admitting to myself that I am searching for something or someone in my life. Even though I was quiet about the topic, after seeing the film it provided me with a bit of fire to actually strongly consider this journey and was probably the tipping point to actually go out and try to find my birth family.
Another film that had a big influence on me is Garden State because it had the most parallels to my life looking back on it. The film came out in 2004 and I was halfway through film school at School of Visual Arts and probably neck deep in international films in order to complete the course. At that time I was focused on editing, since that is what I was learning to become, so I was more focused on that side of filmmaking. The way scenes are structured and the time allowed to let things breathe would alter the way I saw how they should be structured and not fear the quiet.
I also realized the similar situation that I was in during college with being in film school, and having high school friends think that was the coolest thing ever, but in reality was a lot of work and at times mundane. Also, the main character Andrew using prescription drugs and feeling numb was something I went through during college, when I was prescribed anti-anxiety and anti-depressants and decided this was not a way to live a life and took myself off.
The story in Garden State unfolds in a way that has quietness and quirkiness that I found compelling. The journey of going home is something that I was starting to deal with when I knew I was going to be doing a documentary about going back home. I didn’t have to travel from LA to New Jersey, but I’d be going from New York to South Korea in search of my birth family.
I took some cues from the film and wanted to show the humorous reality inside situations that can be very sad because at the end of the day, “if you can’t laugh at yourself, life’s gonna seem a whole lot longer than you like.” I know I’m just starting to crack the surface with transitioning from editor to a filmmaker, but I’m positive I’ll need a sense of humor.
Watch the trailer for Finding Seoul.
Graduate of School of Visual Arts, Sanvidge has edited shows for Bravo, A&E, National Geographic, Biography Channel, Animal Planet, WE Channel, among others. Click here for more information on Finding Seoul and follow the film on Facebook.
photo by Matthew D Cetta