Jerk of the Week: Daniel Khan
Everyone approaches their freshmen year differently: some dive in head first with every club offered, some engulf themselves in their studies, some wake up with too many hangovers, and some make videos that capture it all. In his first semester at SU Daniel Khan dropped his first “hype video,” which racked up almost 4,000 views on YouTube and 300 likes on Facebook.
Khan was born and raised in the country of Oman, where the film industry is still on its first legs. Entirely self-taught, Khan has already made a name for himself at ‘Cuse. He sat down with Jerk to provide a little insight to what makes a quality film, and where he hopes to go from here.
Jerk: What made you choose Syracuse?
DK: One of the reasons was I just needed to collaborate with people with the same mindset as myself. At Syracuse, I felt like had such a strong community and networking base. It’s a big campus, but you feel like you still have a community of your own. When I walk to class I always see someone I know and that's really cool to me. I was disappointed when I didn’t get in to NYU, but then coming here, I am glad I didn’t get in because this is a campus where you are constantly meeting people.
Jerk: How did you get into filming?
DK: I started off drawing. I loved drawing when I was a kid, I still do, but I used to draw comics a lot in my class and kids started asking to read them. From there, it transitioned to film. I borrowed my dad’s VHS camera when I was nine or ten and just started recording things around the house and making what you would now call vlogs.
Jerk: What's the film industry like in Oman?
DK: It’s different. It’s in its infant stage, but is definitely growing. We have a film festival and such but it is very hard to be recognized there. When I told my family I wanted to go into film they were incredibly supportive, and I think they knew I wanted to since I was 10 or 11, then when I was a teenager they really took me seriously. They told me, like anyone, that there are risks getting into a career like this but since the day I told them until the day I die they will be supportive.
Jerk: So this is clearly not a hobby; where do you see yourself going in the professional world with these skill sets?
DK: Well, with most filmmakers, their main goal is to be in Hollywood and to be a famous director and, of course, that would be mine too, but right now getting in that market is very tough. If you go for LA, you are not the only person with that ambition; there are thousands and thousands of producers and filmmakers, too many of them. Right now I’m just aiming to make the most out of my resources here.
Jerk: Being a freshman, how did you approach capturing the essence of Syracuse?
DK: Well I guess you could say the film was marketed towards a freshmen audience to show people the average freshman experience so far. In the film, it appears to capture everyday life, and we know that obviously isn’t true, but that is the hype level people are looking for. I covered a game, a tailgate, Juice Jam, and every couple of weeks you have an event like that, but it is more a compilation of the best experiences thus far.
Jerk: Going into a new project, to what degree do you plan your videos compared to how it evolves through filming and editing?
DK: I first decide the song. Then I visually imagine what kinds of shots would look cool with each part of the song; a sort of storyboard in my head. Some days, I’ll just go out and film stuff. I try to keep my camera on me at all times because you never know when a moment is going to happen and when it does you just have to capture it and its beauty. Right now, I’m actually working on another video of Syracuse that is more artistic. You will still see a lot of game day; there's the Clemson game, of course. I went down to the field and got some shots of the football players celebrating and the storming the field so that was really cool. Right now, I have about 40 percent of it done, but I’m hoping to have it finished in the next few weeks.
Jerk: Overall, what do you want people to get out of your films?
DK: It depends on the videos. With the videos I’m making right now, they are very simple and I just want people to feel excited about the school. The films I eventually want to make, the cinematic films, are thriller and suspenseful films that grip the audience. I want people to leave my film and have to just be quiet for a good minute to process what just happened.
Jerk: If you could cover any event what would you choose?
DK: Probably Tomorrowland, the music festival. When I see that, it just looks so beautiful. They have big sets, music, celebrities, fireworks and everyone is celebrating. You could get so many emotions out of that.
Jerk: Do you have an inspiration that you model your work after?
DK: People often say Steven Spielberg but personally, he never inspired me. Nicolas Winding Refn, he made this film called “Drive” staring Ryan Gosling. The reason I am inspired by him is because that is the only film that I have watched that has made me want to go back and watch it again. I just said, “This is what I want to make.” I want to replicate this. The way the director shoots his shots. I try to make my videos have a lot of color and contrast because in that film, the director’s shots are very contrasted because he is colorblind. So for him, he has to really boost his shots so he can see them and it comes out beautifully.
Jerk: As a young filmmaker going into the industry what sort of changes would you like to see in the world?
I want more and more people to create — that’s it. I make films but I’m also learning guitar, dance, and drawing. I love creating things and I think everyone, every single one of us, has a bit of artistic talent to them. Whatever it is I just hope everyone creates something out of nothing. All of this did not exist until you made it. Creating something out of nothing and just sharing it with people, that’s what I want to see more of.