The 2013 Academy Awards delivered the glitzy gowns, hunky Hollywood stars and the much anticipated “Wait, what are they wearing?” moments on the red carpet. In the midst of those guarantees, however, there was a first: six student filmmakers took to the stage to hand out the Oscar awards, including Emerson College sophomore Hearin Ko.
Ko beat out more than 1,000 students who applied to the Oscar Experience contest with her 30-second take on magic realism. And now that she is back on the East Coast, we were able to snag some time with her to hear more about how she got her start in film, which celebrities she was most anxious to see and what happened behind the scenes at the Academy Awards.
How did it feel to be chosen as one of the six participating students?
At first, I couldn’t believe that I was chosen. I felt so lucky and happy at the same time. I thought I was being recognized for the first time.
What first sparked your interest in film?
When I was nine, my family moved to Shanghai from Korea. There, I had to attend an American school, where everything was taught in English. I was very stressed as a kid, because I had to learn to speak both Chinese and English at the same time. I hated school; my worst nightmare was English class.
Then, in middle school, my English teacher assigned us a book report. Luckily, we had the freedom to choose the medium — either write an essay or make a video. I thought video would be easy, because I wouldn’t need to write anything in English. I made my first silent film and earned an “A” on that English class project. That is when I realized that visual medium can jump beyond the boundaries of language. I was captivated by how easily a message can be translated through film.
How did it feel to be behind the scenes at the Academy Awards?
I felt very special. We got to see the insight of how professionals in this industry prepare for the biggest night in Hollywood. We felt like the lucky five — six, in this case — who were invited to go to Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory.
What might people not know about what goes on behind the scenes?
There are so many rehearsals before the Oscars. The perfect live show of the Oscars does not just happen. There is so much preparation and rehearsals behind the scenes. It was crazy!
What celebrities were you most excited to meet?
Daniel Radcliffe: To see my childhood hero from Harry Potter was amazing!
Ang Lee: I love his movies, and he is one of my favorite directors.
Were there any celebrities you were pleasantly surprised by?
Ben Affleck! He was so kind to us and gave us a warm welcome to the Oscars. He also told us his personal story that when he first came to Hollywood he was all by himself. But, he didn’t give up on his dreams and that led him to be where he is now.
I was also surprised by Mark Wahlberg. When I was on stage to deliver the trophy, I had a casual conversation with him. He asked me what I wanted to do, and I told him that I want to be a director. He wished me good luck and said that he is looking forward to working with me in the future.
What was your favorite part of the experience?
My favorite part was when Hawk Koch, the president of the Academy, introduced us on stage. It was a great moment, as no one has ever stood on the stage at the Oscars as an aspiring film student. Not only that, I was being introduced to billions of people who were watching the Oscars. It was such an honor.
What has this experience taught you?
First, it taught me how grateful I am to be part of this film community. My passion for film has grown more than ever though this experience. Secondly, it has also taught me that my dream to be at the Oscars is not that far away. If I can make it there now, I’m sure I can make it there in the near future.
Now that you have the Oscars under your belt, what’s next?
I’ve been working on a preproduction for a short film, “Train of Thought.” It is another magic realism film that I’m shooting in May. I’m hoping to finish this film and submit it to different festivals and gain more recognition as a film director.