Our film screener in Los Angeles... / by Natalie Kim

Keeping my mouth shut is not easy.

Keeping my mouth shut is not easy.

JR Carter as Police Officer Rico Thomas

JR Carter as Police Officer Rico Thomas

I was very excited that our short film was accepted to the Playhouse West Film Festival in Los Angeles!

I was unable to attend but here are some photos from the event:

My partner in crime, JR Carter as P.O. Rico Thomas on the red carpet.

My partner in crime, JR Carter as P.O. Rico Thomas on the red carpet.

I am so grateful to JR for representing SEE ME SEE YOU in the Los Angeles talkback.

I am so grateful to JR for representing SEE ME SEE YOU in the Los Angeles talkback.

On a funny note, someone asked if *I* was a real cop and JR (the 20 year veteran & NYPD detective) had to let them know that I was just an actor.

Some fun facts about production:

1. HOW JR & I MET: I first learned of JR through my acting teacher, Jim Parrack, who talked about a veteran and NYPD detective who was very devoted to the Meisner practice. I hunted him down and cornered him on a street in Brooklyn, peppering him with questions about his work, his life and most importantly, if I could play a cop. He told me that, without a doubt I could play a cop if I wanted to. His former partner was a tiny Asian woman who he said was the toughest and trustworthy person he knew.

2. TWO COPS WERE SHOT AND KILLED  IN BROOKLYN A FEW MONTHS EARLIER: In a very sad turn of events, Weijian Lui and Rafael Ramos were murdered point blank in the middle of the day while sitting in their squad car.

The tensions were understandably high (fever pitch at the time of shooting) and I was not eager to saunter around Brooklyn in a cop uniform. 

3. IT'S THE FIRST TIME I DID A SHOOT THE LEGIT WAY: I was reluctant to spend the money on getting a permit and for other shoots (SuperTwins.TV, Josey&Nat etc.) Some even suggested that I forgo a permit all together and just GO FOR IT! But I knew I needed a permit and the blessing of the NYPD to make the kind of movie I wanted. How could we all act while dodging the police? Actors wearing cop uniforms on network television shows in police uniforms must follow stringent rules.

4. WE DID NOT SIT IN A COP CAR: It appears that we sit in a cop car in the opening scene but it was actually due to the genius of Jason Whitaker, my amazing DP. It also appears that our car is white but it was actually JR's dark car recolored by Jason's magic in post production.

This was the car from THE NYPD Film & Television Division

This was the car from THE NYPD Film & Television Division

5. WE SHOT THE FILM IN TWO DAYS, 1-2 TAKES EACH: Because I had the luxury of knowing my actors from Playhouse West, we rehearsed quite a bit beforehand. Working with them was like speaking in shorthand and we "got" each other. I also planned like crazy with stick figure storyboards of how each scene would play out, the blocking, what I wanted included etc. This planning made our shoot run very smoothly.

6. PRIOR TO THIS FILM I THOUGHT I WOULD WANT TO BE A COP: But then reality set in. When I learned what I had to do and what really goes into becoming a cop, I knew I was not cut out for this line of work. 

JR taught me a lot about being a cop and specifically looking at people and noticing where people's hands were placed. If people had their hands in their pockets, I would watch them a second longer to see what they would do something suspicious.

After the shoot I caught myself sizing people up in the subway and wondering what bad stuff they were up to. This was not mandated by JR, it was something that slowly. I forced myself to shake this mentality off.

7. THIS CHARACTER, KATHLEEN STAMOS, WAS BASED ON A CHARACTER CREATED BY ABC'S AMERICAN CRIMER WRITER AND PLAYWRIGHT DIANA SON: A few years ago I read Stop Kiss by the playwright Diana Son and I loved it. It was touching, real and smart and also starred one of my heroes, Sandra Oh.

A few weeks later I was in the same room with Diana, auditioning for Blue Bloods. I booked a small role as a wise-cracking, tough-talking, Asian-American cop. Unfortunately that scene was cut and I never set foot on set. That character stuck in my mind and I always knew I was destined to play that character. Diana was kind enough to congratulate me on building on the character. 

Dario Anthony as Angelo Giordano

Dario Anthony as Angelo Giordano

8. A PRODUCER DISCOURAGED ME FROM PLAYING A COP: A "concerned acquaintance" told me I was "too tiny"to play a cop and she worried people might laugh at me. 

9. MY ACTING TEACHER JIM PARRACK HELPED OUT BIG TIME: Not only is he one of the finest acting instructors (with his partner Andrea Dantas), he took the time and sat down in a cramped deli with me and my cast, broke down my script and pointed out the significance of each moment. During the time he sat with us I was terrified because of my respect for him. It would like John Steinbeck sitting down and giving positive and supportive notes on a script. Or perhaps taking a nuclear weapon to a fist fight. Not once did he belittle the project or make me feel like this short was nothing short of terrific work. He also encouraged me to direct it which I'm forever grateful for.

10.THIS MOVIE HAS MADE ME MORE ENGAGED WITH CURRENT EVENTS: With my character being a cop I've been very sensitive to what is happening in America right now.

I've kept my mouth shut on the whole #blacklivesmatter and police situation. On FB and Twitter it's very easy to be an armchair political expert but when it comes to people's real lives (not just on the screen), the consequences are very real. It's too simple to see a 30 second post on Facebook and send out more anger.

How would I feel if someone who looked like me was being killed on a daily basis? How would I feel if I was risking my life to serve and protect people but was spit on when I was walking down the street?  As an artist and human being I grapple with these questions and try to do so without judgement.

I've had positive experiences with cops and I've had people close to me who have been locked up. I see the good and bad. 

The way I look at it is: 

1. Both sides are hurting tremendously.
2. I'm not going to jump to knee-jerk conclusions.
3. Healing needs to be done.

I spoke to someone I consider my Dharma teacher, she is a meditation teacher and she had this to say:

"It is very emotional for many people and since we have avoided it for so long, we have not cultivated the skills needed to discuss and think about it honestly and constructively.  As anything we start doing with very little experience, it will be messy and frustrating for many in the beginning.  I think if we can recognize that, we will be more willing to let this messy phase take its course so that we can get to the next phase when more people are convinced of the need to have genuine conversations about this very important issue. 

Social progress tends to take long windy roads.

The first step is for people to see their views clearly, and recognize how they are unhelpful.  Then we may begin to re-examine our views and in turn adjust our actions.  Change is not easy.  That's why people have avoided confronting the issue for so long.  If we practice cultivating awareness of our mind and actions, we have a better chance of seeing how our views may be problematic.  No easy fixes."

I also recently met with mediator Brad Heckman, CEO of the non-profit organization The New York Peace Institute where he talked about how he worked with cops and taught them mediation. The hope is to become more involved with the communities they serve and be seen as an ally instead of the enemy.

I'm not entirely sure how I will become involved but I know it's a very important issue to me that I hope to contribute to. 

I am hopeful through activism, education, self-reflection and growth that things will change for the better.

xo,

Natalie


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Hey, I'm Natalie Kim and I'm a comedic actress and artist. I produced and starred in the short film SEE ME SEE YOU which tells the story about an NYPD cop, Kathleen Stamos. You may have seen me on The Blacklist, Law & Order and many comedy webseries. For more info, please check out: www.NatalieKim.com

 

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