Photographer and MICA graduate, Joyce Kim was set to be the Art Director on Matt Porterfield’s Metal God’s until the project was scrapped due to lack of funding.
Here are her thoughts on the switch to producer of Putty Hill, life on set and the film’s festival run.
1) Are you from Baltimore? If not, where are you from?
I grew up in Scarsdale, a suburb of New York City. I came to Baltimore nearly seven years ago to attend MICA and have been living here ever since.
2) How did you get involved with Putty Hill/working with Matt?
Last year I heard that Matt was shooting a new film in Baltimore over the summer, so I reached out to see if I could get involved in some way. We had never met in person, but I knew his name because of Hamilton, which I had wanted to watch ever since missing its screening at the 2006 Maryland Film Festival, and also because we were contacts on Flickr.
We sat down to talk in February 2009 and I went into the conversation not knowing what to expect; I just remember thinking that, at best, Matt would let me get coffee for the crew or something like that. Instead, within the first 15-20 minutes of meeting each other he asked if I was interested in being Art Director on Metal Gods. I said, “Yes! …but what does an Art Director do?” It blew my mind that he was offering me, this stranger with no experience, such a significant responsibility so quickly. To be fair, I think we connected immediately and quickly shared the sense of being able to collaborate and trust one another. However, it also brings up what I think is one of Matt’s best qualities, which is that he is willing to try new things and take risks.
So I started helping out where I could; I photographed actors at auditions, went on location scouts, read and re-read the script, researched heavy metal and art direction. When we shifted gears from Metal Gods to Putty Hill, there wasn’t a budget for art direction, but I was still very much involved. So it was a natural transition for me to become a Producer, since I was one of the few people immediately in Baltimore to help Matt out before the rest of the team came into town.
3) What was it like producing the film? What does that entail?
Being a Producer on Putty Hill was exciting, stressful, exhausting, rewarding. It involved being organized, learning as I went along, and having a hand in a bit of everything — I created many a to-do list, made sure cast/crew had a ride to set and got there on time, coordinated donated meals and tried to save money in every way possible, among other things. Now that the film is done, my responsibilities have expanded to include fundraising, designing our promotional materials, getting in touch with festivals and doing everything I can to get the film seen.
4) Have you had any difficulties?
It’s been difficult at times because I can’t always give the film my full attention. I wish I could, but I have to work at my regular job and fit producing into my spare time since I don’t make any money from the film. The same goes for Matt and the other producers, we all have jobs and need to pay the bills. It’s definitely frustrating because I just think about how much more I could be doing if I had more time and if we only had the budget. Nevertheless, we’re doing the best we can and are still getting a lot done because it’s a huge labor of love.
5) What was it like on set?
Being on set was great. There was so much positive energy every day because everyone working on the film really wanted to be there. The crew was made up of people who all know Matt personally — his students, friends, and collaborators who also worked on Hamilton — so it felt like working with a family since we all got along so well. I also think working without a script made production feel much less stressful than it could have been. There wasn’t the pressure of trying to get lines or cues just right; instead, it allowed us to be constantly amazed and pleasantly surprised by everything that was happening naturally and in the moment. It was all really magical, even down to the weather. We had such a tight shooting schedule that one rain date would have thrown us off significantly, yet on the days when it was meant to downpour mother nature held off until we were done shooting.
7) What has your experience been showing at festivals? How do you think the film is being received?
Going to festivals has been nothing short of exciting, and the film has been doing so well. We got to the Berlinale completely starry-eyed by the grandeur of the festival and not knowing where Putty Hill would stand among all the other great films, but when we arrived there was already a buzz about it being something to watch. People running the festival were strong advocates for the film and told us it was one of their favorites, so it was a great way to start our festival run. After the press screening in Berlin we were invited to many more festivals and so far we’ve gotten so much incredible press. SxSW was great too, a really nice venue for our North American premiere. The response after screenings is very positive and there’s always at least one person in the audience who speaks passionately about it, so it’s a great thing to see. It’s exciting that it’s just the beginning, as we still have so many more festivals to look forward to. In April alone the film is playing in Buenos Aires, Copenhagen, Lisbon, Paris, Atlanta and Boston.