If it weren’t for Arielle Brachfeld, a talented actress I interviewed last month, starring in a film that’s currently in production entitled Day For Night, Kimmie Yan might have slipped under my radar. Kimmie is one of the producers of Day For Night (which is not a remake of the 1973 film of the same title), and to say she’s excited about the project is an understatement.
Even though Kimmie tells me Day For Night is the first feature film in which she’s been one of the primary producers, she’s far from a novice when it comes to producing and the behind-the-scenes workings of films and show biz. A graduate of Boston University, Kimmie has an impressive resume that includes music supervisor on 2014’s Dawn Patrol, associate producer on 2012’s The Devil’s Carnival, and less recently, a stint as operations manager at West Hollywood’s (in)famous Viper Room.
I recently had the pleasure of talking with Kimmy about her recent projects, as well as the many unglamorous behind-the-scenes jobs and tasks she’s had, the possibility of someday producing her own cooking show (she’s a self-confessed foodie) and her mild obsession with Star Trek: The Next Generation. The above photo from a very recent shoot with J. Michaels, is courtesy of Kimmie.
CHRIS CHARLES: It’s good to have you here, Kimmie. As you know, I very recently did an interview with Arielle Brachfeld, who’s one of the stars of your latest project Day For Night. You both speak very highly of each other. Did you know each other other before you began work on this film?
KIMMIE YAN: Yes, actually we did. We were introduced through a mutual friend ….a couple mutual friends, actually, and we hit it off instantly and she was the first person I thought of when I read the script for Day For Night.
CHRIS: I’ve read the synopsis of the film: Arielle plays an aspiring actress who overhears a conversation between customers at the diner where she works at her day job. The conversation eludes to a large sum of hidden money, and she enlists the help of a regular customer, who’s sort of smitten with her, to help her get to that money before anyone else does. All correct?
KIMMIE: Uh, yeah. (Sounding a little surprised that I did my homework)
CHRIS: Can you add anything else to that, at this point?
KIMMIE: Um ….gosh, you know I honestly don’t think that I’m at liberty to reveal any more details about the story
CHRIS: Yeah, that’s what I thought but I also thought I’d try to get a little more out of you.
KIMMIE: (Laughs) But what I can tell you is that there are numerous twists and turns. In fact, if you’re familiar at all with the genre of film noir, you know there’s always a twist at the end. There’s always a double-cross somewhere, and I’m really excited because this film has a way of drawing the characters together while still showing that there is a double-cross, we see a double-cross in the beginning and then there’s something that happens at the end that is completely unexpected, and I think that’s what makes this so interesting, and also, usually a film noir is told from the perspective of the guy, ya know; Sam Spade and all that, but in this film, we’re telling it from the perspective of our femme fatale, and that’s done so rarely, In fact, I don’t remember ever seeing a film noir told specifically from the female lead, per se. We’re sticking to a classic format and working within a genre. We are also turning it on its head and breaking new ground.
CHRIS: So currently, how far along are you with the project?
KIMMIE: I wouldn’t say that we’re anywhere near done, because we’ve only shot for four days (as we spoke on February 25th), but, we are part of the way done. I’d say 20-30% of the way through, and I’m actually very happy to say that I woke up this morning, checked our Kickstarter page and we are 55% of the way there with the funding.
CHRIS: Oh, congratulations. So, is the title of the film just the term for shooting night scenes in the daytime or is there more to the title than that?
KIMMIE: The term “day-for-night” actually means ….yeah, that we are shooting a night scene during the daytime, but the reason that we chose that title, and I asked our director Michael, because I wasn’t really sure if he was using that title as an homage to the film in the 70s, sort of like insider filmmaker reference that I didn’t understand, for some reason, and it turns out that, when he was conceptualizing this story and working on it with our writer Guy J. Jackson, they decided that it would be really cool to find a film term that showed just how upside-down this industry when you’re starting out. You know, they wanted to show the confusion, and show that way things are not what they appear to be, because that’s how it is in the film; nothing is exactly the way it seems to be, and that’s the central theme.
CHRIS: Ahh okay. Now, an inside source on Day For Night tells me you’re sometimes susceptible to “giggle fits” on the set. It that true?
KIMMIE: That is absolutely true. We have had very many moments where we just can’t contain ourselves. Arielle and I sometimes forget that there are other people in the room when we’re talking to each other (laughs) and that’s been happening since we met and that became evident at the table read. We have a way of communicating with each other that other people don’t necessarily understand because we talk really fast, we gesture wildly, and we understand each other’s ….looks, I guess, and so that works really well. It’s great that I have such good communication with the cast because, as a filmmaker, if your cast doesn’t know what you’re trying to tell them, they can’t effectively do what needs to be done. So, that was really important to me (on the set of Day For Night) and also, all of the crew members are really funny, really smart, really talented people and they’re incredibly entertaining. So, how could I not dissolve into giggles when they do something amazing?
CHRIS: Right, I gotcha. Okay, moving on, you’re currently the producer and director of operations at Execution Style Entertainment. Tell me a little about that company.
KIMMIE: Execution Style is a company that was founded by Sean E. DeMott. He was running that on his own for years. He’s been in the entertainment industry for decades. He started as a musician, quickly transitioned into developing, managing, signing, brokering deals for bands. He later transitioned into other things, including technology, and now he’s making movies. When he and I met, he was working on a movie called The Devil’s Carnival, and he needed some help with social media. I helped out, I ended up working on the business side of that film and going on tour. As the tour manager, I ended up booking the tour and handling a whole bunch of other stuff that happens when you’re done making a movie and it’s not out yet. So, all that weird, nerdy producer business stuff that nobody ever wants to talk about because it’s not glamorous; that’s what I was doing. And in turn with that, I was also handling a lot of the general business operations. So it’s an all-encompassing entertainment industry thing. He (Sean E.) works in casino gaming, we make movies together, music videos ….we’re working on a whole bunch of different things, all within entertainment. We also work as music supervisors together, and that all rolls into Execution Style.
CHRIS: I see you were also the operations manager at West Hollywood’s famous, or infamous, Viper Room for nearly a year. I’m sure you have plenty of stories to tell about your stint there.
KIMMIE: Well, you know, honestly ….I came into the Viper Room at a really odd time. The owners prior the the people who own it now, that was Johnny Depp ….and some things weren’t happening on the business side, that led to the company being put into receivership through the courts.
CHRIS: Did Johnny Depp have much to do with the daily operations or was he sort of just an investor and “silent partner”?
KIMMIE: Um ….he didn’t have a hand in the operations because he was living in France for a really long time, so he couldn’t have, but obviously, when there were things happening that were really big, you know, big shows, or celebrity appearances or whatever, he was in town and I’m sure he was there to meet and greet and hang-out with his friends. I wasn’t around at that time, so I can’t really tell you much more, but I can tell you that when the company went into receivership, they needed a team to sort of turn the business around ….and a very good friend of mine; Mike Wilson, called me one day and offered me the job because he know that I had experience in managing nightclubs and doing F&B (Food and Beverage) development and stuff for lounges in Boston. And so, I showed up the next day, he tossed me the keys and it was a really really good working relationship for about a year.
CHRIS: (Fishing for something juicer) Any particular Viper Room stories or incidents that come to mind?
KIMMIE: (Laughs) Um ….well, there was one night when John Mayer was up on stage playing really amazing, gut-wrenching, soul-stirring, heartbreaking, blues guitar and I will never forget that night because we all know him from his pop songs and his soft, singer-songwriter acoustic stuff but to see him really get down and dirty and make a guitar wail with emotion was very beautiful. We also had Phantom Planet and the Pussycat Dolls and those were really great shows, too. We had packed houses for those, of course, because how could you not? I mean, who doesn’t want to see the Pussycat Dolls, especially back then, when they were just beginning and they didn’t have a TV show yet. They were very well-known and they had huge guest stars but at the same time, they were still playing small clubs like ours. so that turned it into quite a fantasy land. I actually went for their Valentine’s Day show and it was really, really fun.
CHRIS: Do you still go there as a patron on a regular basis? KIMMIE: Not on a regular basis. I probably go there once every few months or so. It depends on who’s playing and what I’m doing. I’ve been so busy in the past year and a half, shooting things, and developing things, and working around the clock on all the producer-business side of filmmaking. I haven’t really had a lot of time to get out and socialize that much but I try to make time, when possible.
CHRIS: You’re the third female filmmaker I’ve interviewed in the last few months. So here’s a question I’ve asked the other two ladies: Do you feel, as a female filmmaker, you’re in a “man’s world.”
KIMMIE: Um ….well, I think that traditionally the film industry has definitely geared toward men on the business side of things. Obviously female actresses have a lot of power but, as we saw with the recent Sony hacks, they’re still making less, in general, than their male counterparts. So, in that sense, I do feel that the film industry is somewhat of a man’s world, but I have to say that never once have I been treated any differently than my male counterparts when I’m working on a project.
CHRIS: Ah, so you’ve never experienced any gender discrimination?
KIMMIE: No, no. I’ve always been really fortunate though to work with people who really truly only want to work with people who are talented and they don’t care about anything else. As long as you’re talented and you’re cool to work with, then you could be any gender or color or orientation or anything and they don’t care.
CHRIS: That’s great you’ve been so fortunate. Quite different from the answers I got from the other female filmmakers I’ve interviewed.
KIMMIE: Well, I mean, I have to say though, I’ve been working in some pretty niche films, I mean, The Devil’s Carnival is, um ….technically I suppose it’s a horror-musical, but really, there’s singing, how scary can that be? So, I don’t really consider it horror as much as horror-based, and so, that market, in and of itself, identifies very strongly with acceptance and so, since our audience doesn’t care who anybody is, as long as they’re good people and talented, then why would the filmmakers? I mean, we’re all part of the same community.
CHRIS: I won’t ask for any names, but have you ever worked with anyone, on either side of the camera, whom you would never work with again?
KIMMIE: (Laughs) I think that, as a member of the crew who tends to interact with every single part of the machine, I have definitely run across some people with whom I did not have the most ….amicable relationship, in terms of personal interaction, but professionally speaking, I haven’t run across anybody who’s anything less than a professional, who’s willing to do whatever’s necessary for the good of the project. I mean, just like any industry and in any form of social interaction, you’re going to meet people whom you might not want to work with again ….but if they’re right for the project, then they’re right for the project, and who am I to stand in the way of art?
CHRIS: I assume you’ve also been in front of the camera and done some acting in high school or college, perhaps?
KIMMIE: Not intentionally, no. When I first moved to Los Angeles, I didn’t have a job and I wasn’t really sure what I wanted to do in the filmmaking world. I just knew that I wanted to make movies somehow. When I first moved out here I thought “Okay, I’m going to be a screenwriter,” but it’s really hard to become established as a screenwriter within your first year in LA, unless you’re amazing and magical, which I’m clearly not. So, I ended up doing some extra work and being background is definitely an experience that I will never ever forget and I never ever want to repeat.
CHRIS: So, it’s not as if you switched from acting to working behind the camera. You always wanted to be behind the camera?
KIMMIE: Absolutely. I’ve never wanted to seek the spotlight, mostly because I’m super self-conscious. I feel like my face makes awkward, strange shapes whenever a camera’s pointed at it. Like, in person I look like a totally normal human being but put a camera in front of me and it’s all crazy pants (laughs). So, I’m really self-conscious about that.
CHRIS: I see. Oh, by the way, you mentioned to me you had an audition last weekend. What was that for?
KIMMIE: I did, yes! I am helping a friend produce a short and it’s a very family-friendly short. It’s about believing in yourself and working hard to achieve your dreams and we illustrate that when we talk about the Kirk Gibson 1988 World Series game-winning home run, when he was playing for the Dodgers. It’s one of those things where it’s like, “hey kids, if you try really hard, you can achieve your dreams!” So, I’m really excited about that and we auditioned some people this past weekend and it was really fun. The search continues though, we are looking for that one magical kid.
CHRIS: Is there anyone, once again, on either side of the camera, whom you haven’t worked with yet, but really want to?
KIMMIE: Oh god (laughs) ….so many people! The list is enormous.
CHRIS: Well, hopefully they’ll read this. If you could just choose anyone to act in certain project, is there a certain person you’d have in mind?
KIMMIE: Um, I’m working on another short and I was talking to the director, and we were trying to figure out who we were going to cast for the female lead ….and it’s such a layered, textured character with so many odd quirks about her, but she’s so very relatable and very much someone we can all see ourselves in, in one way or another. So, we were talking about who would be ideal for the role. Obviously not who were are going to cast but who we would love to have, and he and I both agreed that Chloe Grace Moretz would be amazing for this role. And she would be amazing in so many things that I’m working on right now. She seems like she has a good head on her shoulders and is probably a really thorough professional and I respect that a lot and her work is just so good.
CHRIS: Have you ever met her?
KIMMIE: No, I haven’t.
CHRIS: Well hopefully, she’ll read this and reach out to you.
KIMMIE: (Laughing) We can’t afford her.
CHRIS: You never know. Moving on; you’re also a foodie and used to have a website called FoodieSecrets.com?
KIMMIE: I did, yes!
CHRIS: What became of that?
KIMMIE: I broke my website.
CHRIS: You broke your website?
KIMMIE: I did, I did something crazy in the code, and then it crashed, the I tried to log in and it wouldn’t let me and a few months later, I went to try again and it wouldn’t even load the page to let me log in. So, that one’s dead (laughs) but I maintain that identity online with my Instagram which is actually Foodie_Secrets because I don’t know who took FoodieSecrets (with no space) but they’re not doing anything with it. And then I also have my Facebook page which is FoodieSecretsLA and so that’s just how I maintain that web identity. I love food. I grew up eating in amazing restaurants with my parents. we’ve been traveling a lot as a family since I was like nine months old. So, I’ve always been exposed to different cultures and I’ve learned about different cultures through their food.
CHRIS: You’re Chinese, I’m assuming.
KIMMIE: I’m actually a broad range of things and no one on my family seems to exactly know what our specific mix is, but typically, we identify with Filipino with maybe a little bit of Chinese and probably some other stuff (laughs). I mean, I don’t really look specifically like one type of Asian or another. According to my grandmother, there are some European ancestors. I was born in California, I have no idea.
CHRIS: Okay, getting back to food; any aspirations to producing your own cooking show someday?
KIMMIE: You know (laughs) I have been thinking about that for decades.
CHRIS: Well, you couldn’t have been thinking about it for too many decades because you’re not that old.
KIMMIE: (Laughs) I’ve been thinking about that since college because, actually my freshman year of college, I was over at a friend’s apartment once and we were looking through her kitchen, opening all the cupboards and looking in her refrigerator, trying to figure out what we were going to have for dinner and she pulled out like ….half a package of bacon and ….a package of ramen noodles, and some kind of old bok choy ….and she looked at me and she’s like; “I don’t know if any of this is edible or if it’ll work together.” So, I said; “Okay, why don’t we just try it?”
CHRIS: Then you whipped up something amazing using only what you had?
KIMMIE: I ….yeah, yeah ….it was really good! (laughs) The key is to stir fry the bok choy in the bacon fat.
CHRIS: Oh, okay. Well, maybe we can look forward to that recipe from you someday. Shifting gears again here, you’ve mentioned to me you also have an obsession with Star Trek: The Next Generation.
KIMMIE: (Pause) I do. (Sounding like an addict finally admitting her addiction after years of denial and agreeing to go into rehab.) CHRIS: How serious an obsession? I mean, do you go to conventions, do you dress up as the characters ..?
KIMMIE: Um ….I don’t. I don’t really have the time or money to go to conventions ….
CHRIS: So you wouldn’t consider yourself a “Trekkie”?
KIMMIE: Um ….I am in the sense that I have merchandise, and any time I see it while I’m scrolling through the channels, I will stop and watch. I kind of like the entire canon. Now, obviously the original was funny and silly and campy and kitschy but at the same time, they addressed some really interesting social issues and I really respect that about that show. So, I’ve been a fan since then because I grew up watching reruns with my dad. And TNG obviously because I was a kid watching that and it’s always been really interesting to me. The idea of a society that isn’t built around consumerism and they don’t have to worry too much about the creature comforts of things, they just have to worry about getting the mission accomplished and doing the best they can and learning everyday. I think that’s really important because we don’t have that in real life and I kind of wish we had more of that happening.
CHRIS: I see you’re also a fan of sports teams from San Francisco and Boston. Don’t you think that can be a conflict of interest at times? I mean, who would you cheer for if the Giants and the Red Sox were in the World Series?
KIMMIE: Ooh ….well my high school friends are probably going to disown me after this but ….it’s likely that I’d be cheering for the Red Sox. Yeah, I spent eight years in Boston and it’s such a huge sports town. Boston is where I learned the intricacies and nuances of sports ….because before, I was a casual fan. You know, I’d watch the games, it would be really cool and exciting but I didn’t really pay any attention to the strategy and the gameplay of it. Then I moved to Boston and it was just ….an immersive experience, because I couldn’t go anywhere without hearing about sports. Not just hearing about the score and player gossip and whatever other silly stuff, but like, the statistics and the science behind certain pitches or strategies with plays and the defense of the Patriots ….it was so fascinating! And I think that’s why I carry over that loyalty to New England teams now, because that’s where the sports fan in me grew up, essentially.
CHRIS: Well, with that, it’s been a pleasure and a lot of fun talking with you this evening, Kimmie. In closing, any shout-outs to anyone?
KIMMIE: Oh gosh ….like, everyone I’ve ever worked with (laughs). I do have to say, first and foremost, that I am so incredibly grateful to my director Michael Chrisoulakis and the writer Guy J. Jackson, for letting me be part of Day For Night. This is the very first feature film that I’ve produced as one of the primary producers and of course, I do work with Kate Rees Davies as the other producer and she’s been instrumental in a lot of the casting and a lot of the networking that’s necessary. So, I’m really grateful to that core team because they’ve allowed me to grow as a producer. The Devil’s Carnival, that entire family. The creators, Darren Lynn Bousman and Terrance Zdunich are ….brilliant, insane masterminds of this universe that is so all-encompassing for all of the fans and therefore all of us who make these films possible. They are geniuses and I learned so much from watching them work. So much about the creative process. Being on set and being part of the production while shooting our sequel, The Devil’s Carnival: Alleluia! (coming soon!), it’s one of the greatest gifts I’ve received in Los Angeles. I’ve learned a lot from my sometimes-partner Sean E. DeMott. He and I work so closely together on tons of different things. So between Sean E. and Darren and Terrance, I’ve learned so much about the industry it’s kind of ridiculous. It’s like I went to film school and these guys taught me almost everything they knew and we learned about stuff together, which is kind of the point of life, right? I learned a ton from, and totally look up to, Rick Dugdale, who produced Dawn Patrol starring Scott Eastwood and Rita Wilson, because he totally let us, Sean E and me, run with the project in terms of music supervision. That kind of trust is invaluable. Travis Cultreri, who was my first assistant director on Day For Night and is my producing partner on some other stuff. That kid is going places, for sure! He’s crazy driven, which I LOVE in a partner. There are some fans of The Devil’s Carnival who have become immeasurably valuable resources for us, and I cannot thank them enough. Thanks, sinners! And I love all of my actors! From the entire cast of The Devil’s Carnival and The Devil’s Carnival: Alleluia! to my darlings from Day for Night. I mean, as an example; Arielle’s just so amazing, sparkly, hilarious, and talented. I kind of want to be like her when I grow up because she gets to stab kids for a living (laughs).
CHRIS: Yeah, I actually thought I heard her incorrectly when she said that and thought she must have said “sat” kids as in “babysat.” There was something else she said that sounded so wrong …..oh, it was; “this community is so incestuous” and I thought; “No, she must have meant infectious,” so I changed that, but when I sent her the draft of our interview she told me it was “stab” kids and “I did say ‘incestuous.’ We’re like a big family!”
KIMMIE: (Laughing) It’s true! We all work together on different things so ….we’re like Lego blocks. Sometimes we work together on one thing, sometimes a couple of us go and build another thing but we always want to work with each other, people from within that circle, because we trust each other and we know how we work and how we work together and I think it’s vital that you have a core crew that has a good working relationship and a really good rapport with each other.
CHRIS: Oh, just one last question: A few weeks ago, you were selling some clown shoes that you said were never worn. I’m curious if you sold them, if so, to whom, and why they were never worn? KIMMIE: (laughs) Well, you know it’s funny, is that I wasn’t actually selling them. I happened to be at this place called the Collective Mart on Lincoln in Venice, and I was wandering around, and I love antique stuff ….any chance I get, I’m going to a thrift store, I’m going to .. CHRIS: Right, right, let’s get to the clown shoes. KIMMIE: (Laughs) Well see, that’s the thing. I was wandering around, and because The Devil’s Carnival is still a big part of my life, everything that’s carnivalesque appeals to me now. (Long story short: Turned out the shoes weren’t being sold by Kimmie, she just took a photo of them and posted it to her Facebook. However, if you are you’re interested in a pair of clown shoes that have never been worn, check Collective Mart in Venice to see if they’re still there.)
Originally from the San Francisco Bay Area, Chris flirted with the music business there and in Nashville before joining the U.S. Army and serving in South Korea. He remained in Asia for several years afterwards, teaching English and covering the regional entertainment scenes. Currently in a mindset between Seoul and San Francisco, besides Idol Features, you can also catch his writings in the print edition of the quarterly magazine, Effective.