About this project
The critics have spoken:
"… stunning ... brilliant ..." – Kenneth Turan, L.A. Times film critic, referring to his freshly-washed car
"... a hilarious mash-up of fact and fiction …" – Roger Ebert's brother, Carl Ebert
"... please stop asking me for a quote ..." – Roger Ebert
Yes, the verdict is in – none of these people have seen our movie yet. But with your support, they will!
THE FILMS OF AVI KRUM is a short film that I wrote and directed as my MFA thesis for the University of Southern California's School of Cinematic Arts, generously assisted by a large crew of friends, professionals, and fellow students. We shot the film last year with an all-star cast – including Adam Herschman (Accepted, Harold & Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay) as Avi Krum, Tom Yi (Bridesmaids) as Kim Jong-il, and Dan Rather as himself.
I'm dying to finish the film up and release it to the world, but I need a little bit of help to pay for post-production and festival submissions.
June, 2000: an American Airlines passenger jet is hijacked and forced down inside North Korea: a country dominated by a repressive Stalinist regime. All 124 passengers are taken prisoner and sent to retraining camps – including a young American named Avi Krum.
Having majored in American Studies, Avi has no appreciable talents – and so to avoid execution, he lies to his captors: he tells them that he is a famous American filmmaker.
They believe him. And then they force him to direct propaganda films under the personal supervision of the Dear Leader himself, Kim Jong-il.
The meteoric rise and fall of Avi's career as North Korea's leading filmmaker–and America's most notorious traitor–is the subject of THE FILMS OF AVI KRUM, a comedy shot in the style of a documentary.
While American celebrities, experts, and politicians spin the Avi Krum phenomenon to suit their own agendas – calling Avi everything from a despicable traitor to a visionary artist – the audience sees clips from Avi’s propaganda films that tell a very different story: Avi is just a scared kid waiting for his mother to rescue him.
THE FILMS OF AVI KRUM is a black comedy about movies, politics, and the American media circus.
Rare clips from Avi Krum's propaganda films – like the monster movie PYONG-BO...
... plus never-before-seen footage from North Korean television...
... classified military videos leaked to the press ...
... as well as interviews with scholars and film critics on Krum's lasting legacy in the world of cinema!
WHY I'M MAKING THIS MOVIE
A few years ago, I became obsessed with the real case of the South Korean filmmaker Shin Sang-ok, who had been kidnapped by the North Koreans and forced to make propaganda films commissioned by Kim Jong-il. At the time I was feeling very pessimistic about working in the American film industry, and I began to indulge in wild fantasies about being whisked away by North Korean agents and given the chance to direct sweeping historical epics featuring casts of thousands. After all, I asked naively, how bad could Kim Jong-il be compared to Harvey Weinstein?
I started to write Avi Krum to answer that question, but in the process I began to explore some of my lingering concerns from the last decade: the xenophobia, sensationalism, and endless parade of dubious “expertise” that has come to define the American media landscape. By working for the enemy, Avi Krum -- like John Walker Lindh and Bradley Manning -- would become fodder for professional pundits at home who warp his story to fit their own agenda.
By supporting THE FILMS OF AVI KRUM, you won't just be creating a funny movie; you'll be allowing people at festivals around the world to engage with these important questions of truth in the media. As the audience laughs at Avi’s plight, I hope they begin to reexamine the experts, journalists, and politicians who present their narratives as fact.
WHERE YOUR MONEY WILL GO
1) Visual Effects
The crew and I did our best to capture all of our special effects in the North Korean style – that is, on the set and without the use of fancy computers. But there are a few places where we'll need a little extra help.
Here's one example: as Avi Krum gets better at making movies, his propaganda films reference increasingly sophisticated genre films from the history of cinema. In PYONG-BO (Avi's movie about a radioactive North Korean monster) we wanted to achieve the look of a Godzilla sequel from the 80's. So when Pyong-Bo fires lasers out of her eyes, we want the blast to look like it's been optically printed onto each frame, like this:
Here's a low quality mockup clip from Avi's PYONG-BO movie to give you the general idea:
It's surprisingly expensive to really nail the look of low-fi optical effects! We need to hire an artist to paint the optical laser blasts from Pyong-Bo's eyes, either by hand or with the help of a computer, to resemble the cold fire of the blast in the Godzilla image.
Alas – because we don't live in the worker's paradise of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea – that costs money.
We also have to:
- make thousands of North Korean children appear to be holding up small cards that form a mosaic of Avi Krum's face
- add motion graphics and the set of the Evening News circa 2001 behind Dan Rather, who was shot in front of a green screen
- add a thick texture of realistic dust and scratches to Avi's early propaganda films
2) Additional Interviews
One of the real pleasures of making this film is that we've been able to talk real film critics, scholars, and TV personalities into getting in on the joke -- that is, talk passionately on camera about Avi's propaganda films as if they actually existed.
We need to do a few more of these interviews in order to tell Avi's story in the best way possible, and we'll use your money to feed and transport our tiny camera crew.
3) Color Grading & Finishing
To capture the feeling of a story assembled from existing footage, we shot AVI KRUM on nearly every camera format imaginable: expired 35mm film, HD & SD video, camera phones, surveillance cameras, etc. Our cinematographer, Stephen Ringer, did a fantastic job shooting on every one of these formats, and now we have to combine these pieces into a single unified whole through color grading, which can cost upwards of hundreds of dollars per hour.
After the color grading, we will ﬁnish the ﬁlm by outputting to various tape and digital formats for . . .
4) Festival Submission
After the movie is complete, to make sure as many people as possible to see it on the big screen -- which means we need a ﬁghting chance at ﬁlm festivals. Submissions to festivals average about $50 apiece.
I really appreciate your help in getting this ﬁlm out into the world!
Okay, you cold-hearted capitalist -- so the warm, fuzzy feeling you get from supporting the arts isn't enough for you. You need your quid pro quo? You want rewards?
We've got rewards. Here's just a small sample of what you'll get for your money:
- North Korea's most popular video game, PYONG-BO! SMASH ALL IMPERIALISTS! Based on Avi Krum's hit film, it's an educational game about self-reliance, the decadence of the West, and the friendship between a young boy and a radioactive monster. (Translated from the original Korean and updated to run on your Mac or PC)
- Asingle 35mm frame cut from the print of Avi Krum's monster movie, PYONG-BO.
- The poster for one of Avi's propaganda films (available in either 11" x 14" or 24" x 36" sizes).
A FINAL NOTE
My mother called me after Kim Jong-il died. "You know," she said, "his son Kim Jong-un is running his own country now and he's only 27 -- just like you." She tsk'ed. "Something to think about."
To be fair, I understand her anxiety. From the first draft of the script to the latest cut of the film, I've spent nearly two years working on the enormously complex project that is AVI KRUM. I've occasionally had to give up other jobs and opportunities to stay focused on the work left to be done.
The crew and I have accomplished so much already, and I'm so close to being able to finally show you our labor of love -- but the fact is that I can no longer afford to finance the film through post-production. Without your help, this movie may never see the light of day.
The great Steve Coogan once wondered, "Should we really be spending years of our lives making a comedy?" And the answer was, "Yes -- but only if it's really funny."
Help us make sure that this movie will be really funny. And – please – help me get my parents off my back.
THANK YOU FOR YOUR SUPPORT!
THE FILMS OF AVI KRUM
Writer/director: Nicholas Musurca
Producers: Josh Eiserike, Stephen Gibler, and Drew McClellan
Executive Producers: Erin Moriarty and James Musurca
Director of Photography: Stephen Ringer
Production Design: Tricia Robertson
Costume Design: Catherine Elhoffer
Sound Design/Mixing: Tyler Gunderson
Casting Director: Cara Chute
Associate Producers: Anissa Douglas and Tarik Jackson
1st Assistant Director: Ariella Blejer
2nd Assistant Director: James Mahoney
Gaffer: Zack Savitz
Key Grip: Ranjeet Rajan
BTS: Jeanne Jo
USC Faculty Mentor: John Watson
Music featured in the trailer:
Yes. It'll work in any DVD player, in any country around the world. Except for Luxembourg. Why? I have my reasons-- er, what? We can't do that? Okay, it'll play in Luxembourg too. But I'm not happy about it.
Adding shipping costs to your pledge is completely voluntary -- but it really would help us a lot. For reward levels at $100 or less, shipping will cost $20, and for $200+ rewards, shipping will be $30-35. (However, shipping costs do vary from country to country, so if you want an exact quote, please message me directly.)
I live in South Korea, and I don't think customs will allow me to order a DVD that looks like North Korean propaganda. Can you offer me a digital download?
Unfortunately, I can't distribute a digital copy of the film for various reasons relating to the business of short films. (In short: it would hurt our chances at festivals, and make it difficult to secure distribution afterwards.) However, if you live in South Korea, Japan, or China, I can offer you something better: THE FILMS OF AVI KRUM -- A LOVE STORY Edition DVD. The content of the film is the same, but the DVD is encased in stealth packaging that resembles an inoffensive romantic comedy designed to penetrate the heart of your local customs official. Available upon request at no extra charge.
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