BUSAN, SOUTH KOREA — Chris Ciosk made his first film in grade 7. It was for history class. The night before it was due, Ciosk was eager to work in any medium not involving double-spaced lined paper, so he grabbed a camera, enlisted his father and sister, and filmed a reenactment of the Battle of the Plains of Abrahamâa bloody territorial fight between the French and British in Quebec circa 1759âwith Beanie Babies.
He claims he got 100 percent.
Ciosk (pronounced Chusk) has always loved movies. His parents say that, as a baby, he’d sit and watch the Disney classic 101 Dalmatians twice a day for close to a year. So it made sense that, when he first moved to Korea last February, one of the first things the Ryerson University graduate did was seek out the Busan Cinema Center, Centum City’s steel mammoth unveiled two Septembers ago for the Busan International Film Festival.
I think I was just deskwarming for ages and somehow stumbled across it, Ciosk says, and I went to the website and it was just goddamn incomprehensible to me. The BCC website, to clarify, is one of those Flash-heavy Korean sites perhaps best viewed in Internet Explorer (except no one really knows because nobody uses Internet Explorer), whose English version is just a few static overview pages. The calendar, as well as any useful information, is exclusively in Korean.
I’d never end up going to movies, because the effort of going onto the website, to see if anything was playing that night, was just too exhausting, he recalls.
But he was facing an even greater dilemma: of the 50 weekly hours he’d spend teaching English at a technical high school in Jeonpo-dong, at least half, by his estimate, involved sitting alone in front of his computer and doing nothing, a purgatorial phenomenon ESL teachers know as deskwarming.
It occurred to Ciosk that if there’s any way to spend time deskwarming, he may as well do something useful. After a bit of research and Korean language learning, he learned that the BCC screens not just English movies, but full-blown festivals each monthâin the past year, there’s been one of the Oscar winners from the 1970s and â80s, a string Chinese kung fu B-movies and a compilation Woody Allen’s works from the past 20 years.
On April 16, 2012, he founded a Facebook group, Busan Cinema Centre, and began posting the BCC’s schedule on a monthly basis. I just do it âcause I do it anyway, he says. I like there to be a schedule I can easily understand. He’d spend around one hour every few weeks, often thanklessly, creating online events for each individual screening.
Through word of mouth alone, within 10 months, the group’s membership grew to 170.
I have so much time to deskwarm, and I try to be productiveâI try to learn French; I try to, y’know, do useful thingsâbut there’s just times when you need something mind-numbing to do, he says. And being on Facebook is just depressing, so you may as well do something mind-numbing that’s sort of productive for other people.
When Ciosk leaves the country for good in mid-February, he leaves an empty hole in the online film community. Make no mistake: the hole can very easily be filled. One just has to look at the BCC’s calendar every once in a while and spend an hour creating events. It’s just that nobody has stepped up to the job, which leaves moviegoers on their own.
From Filmgoer to Filmmaker
Before Ciosk goes, he leaves behind one final project: The Satori Experience, a five-minute short film being screened near Kyungsung University campus on February 8.
Ciosk came up with the concept while working as a diving instructor in Koh Tao, one of Thailand’s trifecta of paradisal islands off the eastern coast. Depressed by hordes of vain backpackers boasting about ostensibly spiritual epiphanies in temples and caves, Ciosk considered how funny it would be for a company to offer just such an authentic experience for a fee. Customers would pay for a package deal of meditation classes, moral platitudes and a week in a caveâonly the cave is fitted with satellite TV and wireless Internet.
Ciosk shelved the idea for a lack of opportunity to actually make it. But when he moved to Korea last February, he began hearing about English teachers’ Buddhist temple stays, and the idea resurfaced. Again, those hours of deskwarming inspired him to take action by dusting it off and rewriting it.
For casting, he called in a few connections from his role in last year’s Shakespeare in Busan. They filmed on odd weekends, sometimes for hours at a time, sometimes traveling as far as Haedong Yonggun Temple for only a five-second shot.
The result will be screened at Kino Eye alongside work by local filmmakers Indy Randhawa and Andrew Anderson. The evening headliner is Ciosk’s film, which also marks his final night in Busan.
He’s happy to be leaving, though, and is honest about it. He feels more comfortable behind a camera lens than a computer screen. It’s no exaggeration to say that movies are his salvation.
God, the Cinema Center is great, he says. You just walk out of this dull, dull, dull, dull day in Korea. Just dull as hell. I teach the same class for like three weeks in a row, so it’s just dull. And they have a beautiful screen, you see a wonderful movie, and you completely forget that you’re in Korea.
The Satori Experience will screen at Kino Eye near KSU on Friday, February 8 at 10 p.m. For anyone interested in taking over the ‘Busan Cinema Centre’ Facebook group, you can contact Ciosk via Facebook or in person at the event.
Photos courtesy of Chris Ciosk.