Director brings new film to UT, tells students about his way to success

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Director Joseph Kahn speaks to students in a Q&A after screening his latest film, Detention, Tuesday evening.

Photo Credit: Maria Arrellaga | Daily Texan Staff

Joseph Kahn said he put every dollar he ever made into his movie “Detention,” which he believed was going to bomb, and he was totally happy with that.

Kahn, director of “Detention” and producer of music videos like Britney Spears’ “Toxic” and Lady Gaga’s “Love Game,” spoke to students Tuesday night after showing his new film in the Student Activity Center.

Kahn’s newest movie, “Detention,” took five-years, according to the 39-year-old music, advertising and film director. He said he spent the first year processing the plot, the second writing it, the third rewriting it, the fourth putting it together and the last year selling it. The movie, which is part-horror, part-comedy and part-science fiction, is about a group of high school students who experience a range of fantastical events, ranging from time traveling to aliens, all while trying to survive the rampage of a serial killer. Kahn said he made “Detention” for the new generation.

“If movies are made the same exact pace for teenagers as they were 20 or 30 years ago, then the studios don’t understand that you guys are a completely different generation,” Kahn said.

Kahn said he decided to be a filmmaker when he was in high school because he wanted to be happy.

“I decided back when I was 16 years old that it was better for me to fail, as long as I put 100 percent of my effort into it, as long as I took every chance and everything that I could ever possibly do,” Kahn said. “It was the journey that would be more important.”

Kahn also told students that now is a great time to go into filming and making music videos.

“Now, the equipment is so cheap that anybody can make a video,” Kahn said. “It’s like having a skateboard. At some point, it was like only the rich people can skateboard. But now, it’s no longer about skateboards, but the skateboarder.”

In order to get good at story telling, Kahn said he would advise students to take more philosophy courses and more humanity courses.

“Here is the thing, as a video director you may learn all of the things about technique, but technique is very simple,” Kahn said. “Technique is just a matter of money. Technique is just a matter of access. Technique is just a matter of technology. Technique is the easiest thing in filmmaking. The hardest thing in filmmaking is storytelling.”

Radio-television-film freshman Cody Cartagena said he came to see Kahn because he was a fan of his music videos.

“I think he has done a lot of great things that everyone has seen,” Cartagena said. “And I was really interested to see how his vision actually applies to a feature film.”

Student Events adviser DeAunderia Bowens said bringing Kahn to speak to students was good for students since he is a different kind of artist who produces music videos and films instead of singing or acting in them.

“My hope is film students and students who are interested in videography might have taken away maybe some angles or things that he thinks about,” Bowens said. “I believe it gives them the opportunity to ask questions of someone who is really cutting edge in their field.”

Published on Wednesday, April 18, 2012 as: Director brings film, advice to UT students