“At the very beginning of my journey,” says film production designer Albina Kim, “I tried different fields of art and design. I dreamed about becoming a fashion designer then I studied graphic design which eventually led me to filmmaking.”
And her true calling became clear. Happily, her occupation allows no regrets, “combining all the elements of my past interests helped me shape a better understanding of production design.” Her sense of order and detail came in handy, “A production designer is responsible for the overall look of the movie. Attention to detail is one of the major parts. The organization is another yet very essential detail of it,” she continued.
Since childhood, Albina was surrounded by art. Drawing classes became a life-changing moment for her. Her sketches became full stories and even full lives in her imagination. She initially chose London to pursue her dream, earning a Bachelor’s degree in Graphic Communication Design with a focus on the Moving Image pathway at the University of the Arts London – Central Saint Martins. This became her new playground, practicing different types of art and design, such as painting, ceramics, programming, filmmaking, and many more. “The essence of graphic design is communication through finding problems and creating solutions. This approach often helps me on set when things do not go as planned.” From there, she moved to Los Angeles to study filmmaking at the New York Film Academy. It was there that she solidified her dreams into the position of production designer. NYFA was a perfect playground yet again as she honed her talents on her friends films and projects, learning more and more with every endeavor.
It’s the fantasy element of film that did it: “What I enjoy about production design is the ability to create new worlds/universes without any basic limitations. The production designer’s work is to translate words into visuals. I like working with directors who don’t know how to compromise and this is what makes them good directors and myself a good production designer. Believing in your vision and demanding others to help visualize it keeps the standards up.”
Albina’s imagination proved to be boundless – and that opened many doors. Music videos (especially K-pop) proved to entice her and enhance her creativity: “I adore how they make striking and creatively fulfilling visuals that serve a story-line. It’s not just catchy music and beautiful images, they know how to exhibit a meaningful and deep concept without losing its vibrant and unique charms.”
She cites Akira Kurosawa as having the biggest impact on her as his films create that “music video” feel to her. “I get a lot of inspiration from his movies, which have a very unique and vibrant style like a painting in motion. I feel very connected to him because my journey has started from my passion for painting.”
For all her fascinating brushstrokes on film, Albina, herself, is quite humble, even shy. She often lets her imagery speak for itself and wants no “glory” per se, “creating a new world while staying invisible is important for a production designer. The work should be irresistible yet invisible so the audience won’t be taken away from the story. It’s all about the details that contribute emotions to the story. The production design is an extension of characters, telling parts of the story sometimes instead of actors, and the phrase “show more than tell” applies perfectly well here.”
Still at the beginning of her journey, Albina is fascinated with film genres and partakes of as many as possible. She is even pushing her own shyness with them. “Recently, I got a chance to work on several projects of the horror genre which is very far from what I tend to watch. A good production designer is like a chameleon adapting to different directors’ visions yet showcasing the input.”
Albina’s combination of vision and humility has served her well and continues to do so. But one should not be fooled. As we concluded the interview she uttered
“I am still holding to the idea of directing”
Films featuring Albina Kim’s design: