Warning: This story describes the making of a film about power-based interpersonal violence.
Visual and Media Arts students Lillian Kollross ’23 and Ben Kim ’22 have been a couple for a year and a half, and they’ve worked on film projects for class before. But Sheepskin marks the first time they co-wrote and co-directed a film together.
This month, it becomes their first joint film to premiere at a festival: the Boston Asian American Film Festival.
In interviews, they tout each other’s skills, which complement each other. Kollross helmed the film’s art department, special effects, and costume design, while working more with the actors. Kim worked with the director of photography, managed the shot list, and the majority of the technical aspects of the film.
The story is entirely fictional, they say.
“It’s kind of a thriller. It’s also kind of a drama,” said Kim. “It’s about a relationship between Amy and Adrian. It’s all told from a letter Amy is writing to her mother in [South] Korea.”
The movie is in Korean, has a Korean title, 양의 탈, and is subtitled in English. Kim reads and writes Korean, but sought help from his father, a native speaker, to make sure the Korean was written well, and to be certain that things such as idioms were used correctly.
The two VMA majors also wanted to make a film without crew calls and fundraising. They had a five-person crew that included their roommates at the time, actors Doran McCormack ’23 and Maya Chang ‘23. Director of Photography Yongze Wang ’23 was a suitemate of Kim’s. The film features an original score by Zhengyang Tian ’23.
“It was fun on set because we were all friends,” said Kollross.
The logline for the film is a Bible passage: “Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves.” (Matthew 7:15).
“Part of the Korean culture is Christianity. [The Bible is] always referenced in Korean shows,” said Kim. “In that sense, it was relevant to another Korean-American watching it and understand the undertones.”
Kollross’ and Kim’s first joint film being accepted to a festival follows Kim’s success in getting his last film, Bethel Drive, shown at festivals, including the Sidewalk Film Festival in Alabama.
One thing that the pair definitely learned from Sheepskin is that they work well together on set, as well as in their offscreen relationship. They are currently working together on Kim’s thesis film, Chimera, slated to be completed this spring. This time the themes will be different, too.
“We are looking at themes of grief, loss, and mental health for this upcoming film,” said Kim.
The Boston Asian American Film Festival, co-sponsored by ArtsEmerson, is an on demand virtual event this year from October 21-31, 2021. Visit artsemerson.org to purchase to learn more about the festival and to purchase tickets.