Scotty Curlee did not take the typical path to becoming a movie director and producer. In fact, up until four years ago he had no knowledge of film or the industry.
In 2007, he decided to step away from his lucrative career in the pharmaceutical industry and followed a path into the faith-based film industry.
Scotty’s Red Cloud Productions is named after Camp Red Cloud in Uijeongbu (의정부), the military base that he grew up next to during his childhood.
The first feature length film from Red Cloud Productions is The Potential Inside and was released on DVD this past April.
We are pleased to present this interview with Scotty where we discuss his production company, his film The Potential Inside and his background.
Please note that HalfKorean.com comments/questions are in BOLD.
Background: The Basics on Scotty
Where and when were you born?
I was born in Pyeongtaek (평택), Korea in December of 1972.
Where were you raised?
Raised in Uijeongbu (의정부), Korea.
How did your parents meet?
In Korea, my father was a US military service member and my mother a Korean national.
Do you have any brothers and/or sisters?
I have one sister.
Are you fluent in Korean?
What is your favorite Korean food?
Kimchi chiggae (김치찌개).
Did you grow up around other half/mixed Koreans or people of mixed heritage?
Yes, went to school at NICS (Network of International Christian Schools) where there were other kids like me.
Did you ever experience any identity issues while growing up?
Can you elaborate, what kind of issues have you dealt with in the past and nowadays?
I grew up in South Korea in a city called Uijeongbu (의정부), which is about an hour from Seoul. I spent a majority of my time at Camp Red Cloud.
I now live in central Virginia. I love it here, but it takes about four hours to get decent Korean food in DC. The closest Korean restaurant is about an hour and fifteen minutes away. As for my transition to the States, I came to south-central Virginia when I was 18 and I still had an identity crisis… I was more Korean than I was American. It was hard for me to accept things about myself… it still plays a part in my psyche.
What’s interesting is, when I first got married, my wife didn’t understand how important Korean food was as a part of my life. When I would eat Korean food, she would complain about the smell and would light candles and stuff. I used to get really offended by it because I felt that she wasn’t just insulting my food but I took it as her insulting my heritage, culture and people. Eventually, I learned that she didn’t mean anything by it and now that I’m in in my 30’s, I’ve learned not to take things so seriously.
When was the last time you have been to Korea?
I went a year ago to visit my mother, who still lives there.
So you still have family out in Korea then?
Just my mother, she was separated from her family during the Korean War. So literally the only family I have on my mother’s side is just my mother.
What do people who meet/see you think your ethnicity is?
Italian or Mexican American… anything but Korean
Christian Entertainment / Red Cloud Productions / The Potential Inside
Was making films something you had planned to do?
Not at all. The bottom line is I got in to the pharmaceuticals because my dad and granddad both died of heart attacks. As a result of that, I thought about what I could do to make a difference. I didn’t want to become a doctor and spend that much time to get a degree. The opportunity presented itself once again by accident. AstraZeneca, the company that I went to work for was coming out with a great new heart medication, rosuvastatin, called Crestor and with my family history, it was a way for me to make a difference. So I got in and thought I would change the world and had a lot of passion. I did well and we were able to buy a nice house and have a comfortable living. But then I began to see the other side of the industry. If you were a patient and the doctor says that he wants you on this great medication it is not the doctor that decides, it is the insurance company. The doctor can try to prescribe you the medication but the insurance will try to give a generic that will cost them 1/5th of the price. The doctor argues back and will tell them they want you on the medication, but the insurance company will come back and say that the patient can have the medication but would have to pay for it themselves. After seven years, it really broke me. I went from a primary care rep in the respiratory and cardiovascular areas to a customer solutions manager and then to an executive pharmaceutical hospital rep. It was a great role but I just lost that passion when I began to see that it wasn’t in the best interest of the people we were trying to serve.
Right around that time, there was a veteran casting director of 40 years from Hollywood named Jerold Franks who was moving from Los Angeles to New York and had stopped in Roanoke, Virginia. He was doing a seminar and I met him and we just hit it off and clicked since he had a psychiatry background and I was a pharmaceutical rep. He told me that he had just helped cast a show and had a colleague who was looking for a Korean-American and asked me if I’d be interested in auditioning for the show. I told him yeah and it turned out it was for Lost. I flew to Los Angeles to audition for Lost and I didn’t get the role but it opened my eyes about the possibility of what film can do.
Here is what I mean by that, you know the story about the North Korea dictator Kim Jong-Il and how he hates America. What most people don’t know is that he has a collection of American movies. So, here is this communist dictator who is watching American movies. Believe it or not, what that means is he is being influenced by American cinema and culture. If we do films that can have a positive impact on our communities and make a difference, there is a chance that someone like him will come in contact with our films. And, hopefully, it will make people think where there life is going.
That, in a nutshell, is how I got into Christian films… its not what I intended to do. God opened the right doors and put me into contact with the right people at the right time. It has been a difficult and, at the same time, a humbling journey.
What did your family think of your career change? Were they supportive?
Think about whatever you do for a living and then all of a sudden telling your wife or girlfriend that you can’t do that anymore and that you want something you know little to nothing about… film. It took my wife a little while to realize that I was serious about this. I give her a lot of props for that because if she would have come to me and asked me the same thing I would have thought she was crazy. I do have her support and I couldn’t do it without it.
On the other hand, my mom is a Korean mom. What I mean by that is that a Korean mother stands behind her kids no matter what. When I told my mom what I was doing, she told that me that I would be successful and to go do it.
I think what is important for her (my wife) is that we are beginning to get testimonials from people. We had a lady at the Charlotte Film Festival that walked up to us with two kids who was in tears. So I thought she obviously was moved by the film. She mentioned a scene from the film was something she had just gone through the week before (loss of loved one). Some people are identifying with the movie at different levels and speaking to them on a deeper level than just entertainment. It encourages us because the journey is not easy as a movie maker.
How difficult is it to get a film out there being in this market (Christian films)?
You got to have marketing hooks. For this film, the marketing hook is the sport of cycling. To niche it even further is mountain biking, road biking and triathlons. Another hook would be the faith community, if you look at it from a business marketing standpoint. Obviously, I’m in it for a different reason. It is great as a marketing tool but I want to do positive films that deliver a faith based message. It is actually because of some faith-based movies that have come out and have done really well, it has opened up a lot of doors for us. Movies like The Blind Side, which is a faith-based movie. There is one out right now called Soul Surfer that is doing really well. As a result of these films, people are beginning to see that there is something to these faith-based movies.
For example, do you remember Mel Gibson’s Passion of the Christ? Do you know how much money that movie brought in from the box office? It made almost $1 billion dollars worldwide. The great thing about faith-based movies is when you look at the ratio of how much is invested versus how much is actually returned, the ratio is much higher than almost every other genre other than horror. The point of the matter is, to answer your question, it is not super difficult. It provides us an avenue to get out there because there is an established market as a result of the success of other films.
When was Red Cloud Productions created?
It was sometime around May 2007.
Is Red Cloud completely self-funded or are there investors/partners involved?
It is a sole proprietorship so basically it is owned by me. But, having said that, what I did was come into this not looking back. Everything I had earned from my previous pharmaceutical career was channeled and transitioned into film. For future projects though, I am looking to partnering with the right investor(s).
Is Red Cloud specifically focusing on films or any other additional entertainment (TV, music, etc.)?
For us, it is strictly film. We have four more films on the docket. We are going to try to crank out a film every year and half or two years which is pretty ambitions for an independent company. We have no desire to get into music, but who knows. As of right now, during this first stage of the business, we are focusing on these films. Eventually I would love to get into animation and 3D and things like that but that is during stage two and three of the company’s mission.
If the opportunity arose, would you ever consider working on “mainstream” (non-Christian themed) entertainment?
Yeah, as far as working on a mainstream project, I would but it would have to be the right project.
The Potential Inside is first project released for Red Cloud. What was the genesis of The Potential Inside? How was the story created, when did the idea begin, etc.?
You want to work on what you know. The three things I know are cycling, martial arts, and medicines/pharmaceuticals. So those are the three areas of my strength. So, the first project we looked at was a narrative feature on the sport of mounting bike racing. There are bunch of documentaries but there are no narrative features on the sport. I thought how cool it would be to do a faith-based project that already has a niche and then do a mountain bike racing movie with the story line. I wrote the original script in May 2007 and then I had a colleague, Martin Montgomery, tweak the script. Basically it was me wanting to do something that I could passionate about and tell a story that is compelling and helps people think about what are the important things in life. That is how that story came about…. It’s the first narrative feature on the sport of mountain bike racing in the history of film.
Had you ever had any classes or training?
The first time I had ever been on a set was the film War of the Worlds starring Tom Cruise. So, they were shooting here in Lexington, Virginia and were looking for background actors and I could do military and am familiar with weapons. I show up and they sardine us and pack us in a bunch of tour buses. We are leaving at 4am to get to location. We get there and hear this helicopter fly in and out comes Steven Spielberg and Tom Cruise. That was my first experience of film and didn’t really know anything about it and I had never really taken a class in film. Once I committed to this I flew to Los Angeles and took a class at Larry Moss Studio with Michelle Danner. I did a week long class at TVI Studios at the recommendation of Jerold Franks. Basically, once I decided that this is what I wanted to do I rolled up my sleeves and dove in. It was all or nothing and no looking back. I knew nothing about film, producing or directing. It was trial by fire.
When did you start production on the film?
I actually started the film before the company so I had to start the company out of necessity.
Did you think about pitching the film to other production companies before deciding to create your own company?
The challenge of that is everyone has a specific vision about what it is they want to do. If you want to stay true to your vision you have to be able to take ownership and be the person who makes the final call. Its either that or you have to be willing to give all that up and accept another person’s vision for your project. For me, this was such a personal project. The loss of the loved one in the movie, the only thing I could relate to that was the loss of my father when I was 17. For a 17 year old kid that is a lot to absorb and I tapped into that emotion for that scene. There were a lot of personal things in that movie that I wanted to do in a certain way.
But, I actually did consider what you mentioned and had talked to some people about it but I’m not sure the people got the vision of what this was going to be. What people have to understand is that leadership is top down and when you have too many people in leadership roles pull in different directions of what they think the vision should be, it turns out to be nobody’s vision. In the end, you kind of have a lukewarm project that really doesn’t go in any one direction and I didn’t want that.
Where were the filming locations and when was it completed?
100 percent of the film was shot here in central Virginia. I was in Burbank, California this past March and did the color correction there. All the editing, music and everything else was done already. The only thing we needed to do in Burbank was color correction.
As far as the bike racing aspect of the film, did it help to tell the story due to the fact that you have knowledge of the racing scene?
I think my knowledge helped, but we also had the real two-time United States National champion, Jeremiah Bishop as a part of the cast. He’s also a Pan-American Games gold medalist. What is also great is that there is another guy in the movie, Hunter Allen, and is one of the five top cycling coaches in the world. He was the technical consultant. There is a scene with a red Ferrari that is Hunter’s car. Hunter is a good friend of mine and I have known since 1995 or so.
What was it like to see the finished product (rewarding, etc.)?
It’s rewarding because we are starting to hear feedback and because the message about the film is not about bike racing but about life and life choices. I tell people that long after I am dead and gone that people will still be able to see this movie and be affected by the message from the movie. The work/life balance, relationship challenges and ambition are all things people will always struggle with. Those are all things that will transcend me being around. In that sense, I am very pleased and humbled that the film is out there. As the months and years roll by, and the more exposure it gets, the more feedback we’ll get. The downside of doing an independent film is the fact that you don’t have millions and millions to spend on marketing. The average Hollywood film spends $34.8 million on marketing, that is not production and only marketing. No independent movie has that. It just takes awhile for it to get out there. Eventually the movie will go to broadcast television and millions can see it.
Were there any parallels in your life in comparison to the character you portray in The Potential Inside?
I had raced at the Olympic trials in 1992 and had transitioned from road bicycling to mountain biking in 1996. I kept pursuing that and in 2004 the goal was to get to that level to try out for the Olympics but didn’t make it. I finally went to my wife and asked her if she could give me one more four year block and do this until 2008 and she told me should couldn’t. So basically the marital situations and arguments, training are all things that I’ve been through. Imagine being so passionate about something that it how you define yourself. On a multitude of levels I was very familiar with the character. We actually did a casting call and just couldn’t find the right fit. I kind of played that role as a default and not really knowing whether I could pull it off. The original intention was to find an established actor to fill the role.
How difficult was it for you to handle so many roles within the film (director, producer, actor, etc.)?
I don’t think that one role was any more difficult that another but when you do all of them at the same time it is extremely difficult. A lot of it was by default (taking on all of the roles). There is a reason why good people are put in each of those roles. For future projects, I would like to act/direct or produce/direct, but not all three.
What kind of feedback have you received regarding the film people that have seen it?
The most humbling feedback that we’ve received and most personally gratifying was a festival attendee in Milan, Italy who saw our film. His comment was, “This is the first Christian film that I have ever seen that has not pushed me away from God but has brought me one step closer to him.” There are a lot of Christian films out there that make people feel that they are being preached at. I’m not knocking those films, but that is not our goal. Our goal is to present the message of the film through a story so that audience members can experience through what the characters are going through. We want to tell a story that is entertaining but we don’t want to preach to people… we want to share with them the message of hope and redemption through what the characters are going through.
Any possibility of any Korean-themed films/projects down the line?
You got it, absolutely. I want to do a Korean-American spy movie. I want to shoot part of it in Korea and part of it here in America. I think that would be a really cool project to do. By that point, I want to have a decent enough budget so we can have some name talent. Plus, when you go to another country to shoot things it starts to add up. But, absolutely, it is something that is on my radar.
What does the future hold for Red Cloud? What is the next project/s and when do you anticipate it to be completed?
We have two projects that are in development. One is a mixed martial arts project; I want to do an MMA film. There is an MMA film that was just done that is coming out called The Warrior. Ours would be specific; a faith-based movie around mixed martial arts kind of like what The Potential Inside is with cycling. The other one is a true life story about a legend in a particular sport. Unfortunately, I don’t have the authorization to expand on that right now so I can’t share too much about it. But both the two immediate ones are sports films.
What are your goals for yourself and the company? Where do you see Red Cloud in 5-10 years?
Our mission statement is “Changing the World through Cinema.” With each of our films I want to make sure that we put out positive movies that make people think. Because I come from a Christian background, it is going to have Christian values in it. When I say Christian what I am talking about is born-again belief in Christ. Based on that, our stories will be about redemption, hope, and overcoming adversity. With each film, I want to up the level in all different parameters including production, distribution and every way, shape and form possible. The short term goal, I would say just getting our next film off the ground and in production, post-production and distribution. Long term, I want us to have a repertoire of films from our company that we can get out there on a worldwide level whether it is broadcast television or theatrical. I want us to affect Kim Jong-Il. I want us to affect people in a positive way and put good, positive messages out there.
What is your current relationship status?
I’ve been married 13 years and I’ve been blessed that my wife is just a really great human being. She is that salt of the earth kind of person. She puts up with me, so I guess she would have to be.
Do you have any hobbies or interests that you do to relax?
There is nothing like riding through the Blue Ridge Parkway on a motorcycle. There is a 13 mile climb near me called Thunder Ridge and it’s twisty for the entire 13 miles up the mountain. It requires total focus on the motorcycle and there is nothing like it! I know that probably doesn’t sound relaxing, but for me, it provides the perfect mental break I need to relax.
Anybody you respect/look up to?
My mother… she has amazing work ethic and supports us with love and dedication as only a Korean mother can.
Do you get on the Internet often and, if so, what are some of your favorite websites?
Facebook mostly… it’s a one stop shop to keep up with friends and family… come to think of it, I need to get mom set up on Facebook next time I’m in Korea.
How did you find out about HalfKorean.com and what did you think about HalfKorean.com when you first saw it?
Very cool. Growing up in Korea near CRC (Camp Red Cloud), I thought I had a “normal” life. It was only later in America that I figured out that spending 17 years of my life on a military compound with soldiers guarding it with M16’s wasn’t normal. I’m not sure what normal is anymore, but when I’m able to connect with other half Koreans and share a meal and a story, it gives me a sense of peace…. It’s a little piece of home. In that way, I love what HalfKorean.com does… it brings us together.
Any words that you would like to pass on to the community?
I think one of the most important things about life is the importance of relationships and the most important relationship that we can have is the one with God. I don’t mean that in a generic sense… what I mean is a relationship with Christ who died for us on the cross. I’m a big movie guy and I remember Passion of the Christ that Mel Gibson directed and Jim Caviezel starred in some years back. It tells the story of how Christ came down to earth and died for our sins so that we could have eternal life. Life is hard, but things get a lot clearer when you know what you’re living for. That’s what a relationship with Christ does, it cuts through the fluff and it clarifies/provides a purpose. That’s the message I want to share with my movie audience and with my friends here at HalfKorean.com… I think that is the most important message of all… one of hope and redemption through the challenges of life!
Thank you to Scotty for taking the time to talk with us about himself, his company and his new film. We wish him nothing but continued success! You can check out more at the Red Cloud Productions and The Potential Inside websites.
Interview by: David Lee Sanders