Korean-American director takes on Hollywood

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Korean-American director takes on Hollywood

The Korean-born film director Joseph Kahn, or Ahn Joon-hee, will mark his feature debut with the big-budget Warner Brothers film “Torque,” which is hitting American screens tomorrow. Starring rapper Ice Cube, this fast-paced biker flick is the first of three movies Kahn will make for Warner.
A Korean actor also appears in “Torque.” Will Yun-lee is a friend of Kahn’s who was Colonel Moon in the James Bond flick “Die Another Day.”
Today, Mr. Kahn is one of the top five music video directors, having even landed an MTV Music Award for directing the rapper Eminem’s video “Without Me.” Other high-profile bands he’s worked with are U2, Destiny’s Child, Sysco and the Backstreet Boys.
Mr. Kahn, who emigrated to the United States at age 2, has a different name than at birth because his father found early on that Americans couldn’t pronounce “Ahn” correctly, and that having a name first in alphabetical order put his son at the top of every list. He simply added a “K.”
The 30-year-old began crafting music videos while in high school in Houston, Texas.
“I got into N.Y.U. but quit because it was too expensive, and instead produced my own music videos with that money,” Mr. Kahn said.
Nine years ago, he moved to Los Angeles. In an industry where connections are imperative, he scrambled to the top purely on talent and patience.
“While making about 300 music videos in the past 13 years, the one thing I learned was that the key to success in this rarefied world was making good music videos. The color of your skin doesn’t matter,” he said.
Switching from directing music videos to feature films is a natural career route in Hollywood, but entry into films wasn’t guaranteed. “When I shot music videos, everyone respected me, but this was my first time in the film industry so no one trusted me,” he said.
Shooting action scenes created some of the most difficult moments, recalls Mr. Kahn. “Motorcycle action scenes may look simple, but they’re actually quite tough to shoot. Scenes like jumping from a motorcycle to a train, or jumping from train to train, can be particularly troublesome.
“Shooting in the searing hot desert, where temperatures rose to 40 degrees centigrade (104 F), will also be a great lasting memory,” Mr. Kahn said.

by Ahn Yu-hoe
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