From a distance, a career in film looks romantic to some and futile to others. It’s an industry where awards, celebrities, fame and fortune surround the end product yet overlook the process of developing the script and producing the material. Just getting a film made can take years and it’s those intrepid warriors called producers that make it happen. Today, our Guest Blogger is one of those producers. Kimberly Parker talks about finding her way to film and what films influenced her journey there. It’s not an easy career but with passionate idealism to produce work that resonates with audiences, a new, bold producer will emerge through the pack and make a difference.
Producer – Kimberly Parker
As the daughter of a forklift driver and a babysitter in Baltimore, I absolutely did not grow up wanting to be a film producer. My childhood was spent walking knees-to-chin in books. I wanted to be a serious novelist.
During my freshman year at Hopkins, I watched City of God. The very first shots made me buzzed— knives, drums, blood, the chicken’s hammering pulse visible in its throat, its comrades’ feathers being ripped out. As the camera chased a chicken in Rio de Janeiro, I sat in McCoy and felt, cheesy as it sounds, awakened. I thought, “I didn’t know movies could be like this.” I enrolled in my first film production class, made a terrible short on 16mm, and added film as a second major. To my parents, who had hoped for a doctor or, at the very least, a lawyer, to emerge from the chrysalis of Johns Hopkins, I point a finger to a complete stranger—Fernando Meirelles.
During my senior year, I decided to apply to NYU Grad Film—the only MFA program I wanted to attend. My application was written during an Adderall-infused all-nighter, attached to a 16mm film I had made about a closeted lesbian. In short, I was not only expecting failure, but setting myself up for it. After my interview, shaking, I wandered into Apple Bar, which I didn’t know was the bar of NYU grad film. I still take this as a sign that I was meant to go.
During orientation, a classmate declared, “I named my vibrator Wong Kar Wai!” Growing up in Essex, I had zero exposure to Asian film. I carefully noted the director’s name—a smile hiding my ignorance—and that night, it happened. I watched Chungking Express.
To watch that movie is to fall in love. If City of God was my baptism, Chungking Express was my confirmation. Valerie Chow, clad in a high-waisted stewardess skirt and a black bra, spills beer onto her breasts. In halting English, she says to Tony Leung, “Do you want a drink?” The juxtaposition of Christopher Doyle’s fluid cinematography, the perfect music, the dreamy editing… The combination makes you feel euphoric, as if you are actually infatuated with someone. You watch the screen, the staccato energy of obsessive new love somehow bleeding into you, and you’re changed. Or at least, I was.
For everyone who has never seen these two movies, please watch them tonight. I promise those hours will not be wasted.
- The streets of the world’s most notorious slum, Rio de Janeiro’s City of God, are a place where combat photographers fear to tread, police rarely go and residents are lucky if they live to the age of 20. In the midst of the oppressive crime and violence, a frail and scared young boy will grow up to discover that he can view the harsh realities of his surroundings with an artistic eye. In the face of impossible odds, his brave ambition to become a professional photographer becomes a window into his world and ultimately his way out. Starring, in alphabetical order: Alexandre Rodrigues, Alice Braga, Leandro Firmino da Hora, Phellipe Haagensen, Seu Jorge
- Fleeing from the police, Shaggy seeks shelter, while Clipper finds himself at a crossroads. In the scene: Shaggy (Jonathan Haagensen), Bernice (Roberta Rodrigues), Clipper (Jefechander Suplino), Goose (Renato de Souza)
- Looking back, Rocket describes how he came to the City of God. In the scene: Young Rocket (Buscape Crianca)
In the past three years, I’ve worked on approximately twelve feature films and twenty-one short films. I’ve seen the chaos, the triumphs, and the sleepless nights. Even after witnessing a 2nd AD getting hit by a car in Detroit, getting physically shoved by Spike Lee in Red Hook, and realizing the crew housing had bedbugs in Hicksville, filmmaking is still the only thing I want to do with my life. I am going to spend the rest of my career chasing City of God and Chungking Express. There are still good stories in the world. All I want to do is help tell them.
I am attached to produce my first feature films this year: Those People, the theatrical debut of the sickeningly talented Joey Kuhn, and The Adderall Diaries, written and directed by Sundance Lab darling, Pamela Romanowsky. Based on the memoir by Stephen Elliott, The Adderall Diaries is helmed by my fellow producers, James Franco and Vince Jolivette. And to think, all this started with a dorm room movie and a vulgar joke. To whatever unimaginable forces run the universe, I have three things to say: thank you, thank you, thank you.
Born in Seoul, but adopted and raised in Baltimore, Kimberly Parker is a New York-based producer who has been freelancing in film for the past three years. She line produced the feature film Tar, starring James Franco, Mila Kunis, and Jessica Chastain, and she is attached to produce a feature adaptation of The Adderall Diaries, which just completed the 2013 Sundance Screenwriters and Sundance Directors Labs. She recently attended IFP’s Emerging Narrative Lab as a producer on the sci-fi feature Empty Vector. Kimberly secretly loves to drive 15 pass vans, and identifies the otter as her spirit animal. She is a M.F.A. candidate at NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts.