USA | 13 minutes | 2020
Music documentary short film by Dave Yim
Featuring Charlene Kaye (KAYE)
KAYE: Next Life Around
KAYE: Next Life Around is a short documentary that explores the creative journey taken by artist Charlene Kaye, known mononymously as KAYE.
In late 2020, Kaye released Conscious Control, her most ambitious solo album to date. Having left her band, San Fermin, which she fronted for 5 years, and broken off a long-term relationship, Kaye has set out to rediscover herself and her music as a grown woman and a solo artist, while overcoming this emotionally fraught period in her life.
The film is a compilation of intimate performances, behind-the-scenes moments, and live concert scenes, recorded in 2019 and early 2020.
CineAsian Films (CAF): How did your collaboration with Kaye come about, and what inspired you to document this specific journey?
Dave Yim: It started in late 2018. I was a producer at CNN’s Great Big Story, where I was producing “micro docs,” 3-5 minute documentary style videos. I really enjoyed working there, and I had the chance to work on hundreds of videos with some fascinating people all over the world. And because I have a background in music, I was particularly moved by some of the musicians I got to work with. But at the end of the day, I was still producing for a media company, so I really wanted to challenge myself and try to do something where I had full creative control. And because I really loved working on these pieces about artists, I decided to do something with a musician.
So, in thinking about a subject to work with, I knew I wanted to have access and familiarity, and I wanted to follow someone who was currently working on something new of their own. And I’d known Charlene for over 10 years—we used to share a rehearsal space in Chinatown in Manhattan, we’ve performed together on stage, and played on bills together. She’d become a very close friend over the years, and I knew that she was planning to leave her band San Fermin and release her new solo album. I figured this would be a perfect moment for me to swoop in and document her creative journey around the release of the album. And because we had this trust built up from being friends for so long, she was so generous in trusting me with telling her story.
CAF: What was the production process like? Did you face any challenges while you were filming?
Yim: Most of the filming was just me, with the exception of the live performance sessions that we did with multiple cameras and a sound engineer. This was a personal project that I was paying out-of-pocket for, so I didn’t have the resources to pay a larger crew. But also, having worked in a news and documentary environment for most of my career, I was comfortable just being a one-person crew, and I knew that some of the most authentic moments could be captured that way.
In terms of challenges, I feel really lucky because most of the scenes that I ended up using in the final edit, including the concert, we shot in February 2020, which was only a month before the Covid crisis hit New York City and everything started to shut down. As with a lot of documentaries, I didn’t use a lot of scenes that I filmed, simply because they didn’t visually support the story I ultimately decided to focus on. For example, I filmed Charlene’s final concert with San Fermin, but because the story didn’t focus on her leaving the band, it didn’t make sense to include that.
CAF: What do you hope people can take away and learn from Kaye’s journey?
Yim: I really saw this documentary as a way to amplify the story that Charlene was telling with her album. A major theme she explores is the idea of overcoming self-doubt and self-hatred, and accepting oneself for the messy and flawed person that you are, which is such a universal theme that a lot of people can connect with.
On top of that, there still aren’t that many rock and pop stars that look like Charlene. So her being an Asian female musician who is doing her own thing, it’s so important to amplify stories that help break down stereotypes. If a young artist can see themselves in Charlene’s journey and it gives them an extra bit of confidence and self-acceptance, that’s huge for me.
CAF: Are you working on any new projects?
Yim: So my company Great Big Story actually closed down in late 2020, which was devastating not only because it was my job, but it was a place where I made incredible friendships with like minded creative filmmakers and really got to challenge myself to be a better overall storyteller. I’ve been freelance producing and editing on a few podcasts and branded videos, while also doing some research and development on a few longer documentary projects that I hope to get into production later this year once the Covid situation is finally under control. I just want to keep putting out stuff that resonates with people!
KAYE: Next Life Around is one of the many great projects shared with CineAsian Films through our submissions process. If you’d like to join them, submit your film.
Director/Producer/Editor/Cinematographer: Dave Yim
Producer: Charlene Kaye (KAYE)
Music: Charlene Kaye (KAYE)