Chair of the Dept of Visual Arts, Design, and Communication
AS, Loma Linda University
BA, BS, Pacific Union College
MFA, American University
Paul Kim, the new Chair of Andrews’s Department of Visual Arts, Design, and Communication, lends a unique perspective to his filmmaking. Coming from a Korean American background, where arts and humanities are not valued as much as careers in medicine or law, he studied both physical therapy and theology before realizing visual arts was his passion. His leadership in Visual Arts and Communication signifies a change for Andrews University’s approach to the visual arts—one that seeks to integrate interdisciplinary studies for students to better equip them for their future careers.
Did your experience in previous fields better equip your work when you switched to filmmaking?
The first big project that I tackled was about Dr. James Appel, who worked in Chad at a run-down medical clinic that hadn’t had a doctor in years. I was compelled to tell his story. My medical background, my studies in religion, and my skills in visual arts and film all came together. As a storyteller you need to pull from years of philosophy, literature, art, and religion—all these ideas from different sources that help you put something into your work. We don’t need filmmakers in the world who just have critical talent—we need people with rich life experience. So I have no regrets in my life, and that’s important to me.
Should more people should approach careers in the arts and humanities with interdisciplinary studies?
Absolutely. I know it’s hard to double major, but even a minor is good. Most employers are looking for students who can transfer their skills into different arenas. Expect that at some point in your life you will change. What makes you happy in life is understanding your skills, strengths, and weaknesses and finding any role that utilizes those strengths. When you know you’re doing, what you’re good at, that’s what brings you satisfaction.
What improvements do you want to bring to your department?
We’ve been in the process of merging for over two years now, between Visual Arts and Design and Communications. Merging two departments is always a painful process because academia moves slowly. However, the industry expects students to have a wide variety of skills. We need our students developing a broader skill set across visual arts, design, and communications. Evision magazine was a direct result of collaboration between those departments. We want to do more project-based work in our curriculum, so when students graduate they have a portfolio of projects that bring attention to what they’re capable of.
What kinds of projects interest you?
John Huey talks about how the public is defined and created. The notion of the public is created through recognition and common understanding of a problem. There’s a very important social justice to what documentarians do. We believe that our role as storytellers is helping individuals understand the Other. This bridges communities and is a form of peace-building.
Could you summarize the facets you consider when filmmaking and teaching film?
Making a documentary is incredibly hard because of what it demands of the characters. You need to be in their private world a great deal, and most people don’t enjoy that. The best filmmakers are likeable and trustworthy--people who care enough so that immediately, [the subject] allows themself to be vulnerable and trust those individuals with their life story. That is an incredible privilege. I can’t really teach that, but it’s a trait I want my students to appreciate. In the end, the directorial process is really the relationship you build with your subjects.