Feature-Film Director, Partner at Skywalker Systems, Korea: A special effects wire-cam company, and a VR/3D SpecialistWhy did you choose SVAD UCF?
My choice was obvious. I love the beach, theme parks and the Blair Witch Project. At the time, schools in New York and LA didn't have much to offer me. I lived half a year in each city to get a feel for it, only to find myself classified as an Asian-American filmmaker. South Korea started their film program at the college level in 1995. That's when I left the states. At the time, I was pondering how I could earn my degree as a back up for later business and also improve my knowledge in film.
I went to Full Sail briefly because I was more into practical production and technology. I also attended Valencia to acquire my AA degree. Before then, I was so caught up in the film industry that I was limiting my worldview. It was actually fun to survey more options in life through different electives. It took several experiences to lead me to the option that was right for me, UCF. At the time, UCF had a good affiliate program and local festival scene filled with many UCF filmmakers.
My friends from different schools, and those in field, gave me side gigs to make some coin. They were all concentrated in the Orlando and Miami regions. I was fortunate enough to work on MTV shoots and so on. I was able to take insights from these professional filmmaking projects and apply them to my projects at UCF.
It's actually UCF who chose me. It was a limited access program at the time. Originally I received a "back-up on-hold" status. I still feel lucky to have been admitted into the program.What did you like most about it?
It definitely was the determined people who pushed themselves to be the best and also influenced one another. We had various unique personas in our program. I wasn't the token Asian there. We were so diverse in nationality, personality, and lifestyle.
Even with state-of-the-art equipment, offered at institutions such as Full Sail, you can never satisfy the film students' thirst for answers. At UCF, the professors pushed the students into the larger off-campus community to look for these answers. That was the best lesson I have received. I was given a mission to connect with the community, finding good partners, mentors and friends along the way.
I still remember when a professor told me to go out and make a better film, after I tried to bypass some of the curriculum by showing off my previous works. I was one of those cocky "I started with 8 mm at nine-years-old" students, and the professor's approach completely killed my ego.Most colleges have a specific personality that goes beyond its academic offerings. How would you describe UCF's personality at that time?
At that time UCF was very T.V.-centric, starting to shift to the digital media world. The overall impression in the film program was that filmmakers need to have a well-rounded knowledgable of the field in order to make the creative convergence needed to tackle future projects. A focus on a grasping a range of technologies was part of this knowledge.
UCF has very experienced professors from different industry specializations. You could call them the Avengers of the education world. They push students to learn the most important lessons for a film student in areas such as storytelling and funding.
An elective that stands out for me was Interactive Entertainment. The class was a collaboration with the Digital Media program and brought together great minds from other disciplines who were also working on storytelling skills, as I was doing, but with different applications like games, websites and interactive installations. The class fostered collaboration in what we call a "new media" project that drew from the varied disciplines. It was in this class that I met one of my mentors who I still go to for advice.
UCF opened my eyes to a greater world of adapting storytelling beyond film. After graduation, I worked as a show writer for a 2006 theme park project in Korea. Now, I am a consulting supervisor for a Samsung virtual reality project. Before UCF I would not have even conceived of working on these different media projects. I feel that I now better understand the Sundance "New Frontier" section where filmmakers experiment with new media formats.What surprises did you experience?
I touched on it before, but on my first day in the program, my professor successfully killed my ego and pushed me to make better work. After that talk, I was determined to make killer pieces while using the theory I was learning from every class.
On my last career decision I was able to ask Professor Lisa Mills for her advice. I was happy to be connected and receive guidance.
I was also asked by Professor Kate Shults to mentor one of the graduate students in 3D feature filmmaking. Just like my involvement as an alumni, I was getting help from my predecessors as a student, and that changed my life. I really appreciate the faculty and network of mentors at UCF who had worked hard to make that little miracle happen.How did your time at UCF shape your decisions and choices in your life and your career?
As a student I was distracted by the many opportunities, but the diversion was necessary. It led me to become open-minded when approaching a career.
Many people mocked me for pursuing fields other than the feature film business. But, you see, now the market has shifted. The game market has caught up with the film market. As the linear format has reached its boundary, people are wanting more interactive and immersive storytelling. I don't know if the professors foresaw that, but it worked for me.
Storytelling is eternal. Film will always be there, but new media will not allow film to monopolize the entire entertainment market.What do you like about your current job/life?
I have recently changed careers from being a VFX producer into directing. I'm still unsettled in terms of personal life due to the change, but I am very happy that I get to do the things that I wanted to do since childhood. Everything is still in progress and it always will be. I am just happy today that I'm making the progress happen.
I am now a feature-film director, a partner of a special effects wire-cam company, a VR/3D specialist for a short-form project and I am building a VFX post-production house for upcoming projects.
My career is busy and not completely established, but every second is worth the investment towards my future career path. Along the way I am strengthening my ties by helping my colleagues and friends down the same path.
I was happy to meet one of my very talented old schoolmates from Orlando while working on-set in China. It was really something, and I would like to share this message with aspiring filmmakers at UCF: I hope to see more talented filmmakers reach out beyond LA-LA Land, whether in business or artistic value. Today, the Chinese capital has expanded its influence and earned a larger share of industry professionals that would have saturated Hollywood. Times are changing. Don't waste your time waiting for your script to be sold. Get yourself out of the rat race if you find yourself stuck in one. Take back your theater and uninterrupted cultural value by perfecting your craft while at UCF, and keep looking to the greater audiences and opportunities in the world. I'm one of the potential collaborators looking forward to meet talented filmmakers from UCF. Open your eyes to the community and you may find even bigger opportunities.
For more information about Chuck Chae and his endeavors, visit the links below.
Misfits, (China, 2016) a 3-D Science Fiction Feature Film, Directed by Chuck Chae, That Will Be Released Nation-Wide in China in May 2016 by Shanghai Kai Yi Television Communication Co. Ltd. and Shanghai Seven Film Media Co., Ltd.
Full list of Alumni Spotlights