Brain Candy

Filmmaker puts his personal tragedy on the big screen.

Imagine this: You're a high-end, work-driven Bay Area management consultant with degrees from Cornell and Princeton. The world is your oyster, though you swallow it in eighty-hour-a-week increments, stopping at home once in a while to -- what? -- brush your teeth, maybe, or dust the empty refrigerator shelves. Then one day, you walk across the street, get hit by a car and suffer a head injury. You're unconscious for eight hours, and after you awake, your brain's so addled that you can't walk for days. And then there are the headaches. The only thing you can do for those is sleep. You lose your girlfriend and your job and end up living back in Toronto with your folks.

It happened to Daniel Yoon. But a mind -- even a wasting one, Yoon realized -- is a terrible thing to waste. So, though he was untrained as a filmmaker, film tech or actor, he nevertheless hoisted a camera and, handling the lighting and microphones, played the lead himself -- you could say it was the role he was born to play -- and turned his experience with a head injury into a low-budget feature film. Post Concussion, the poignant and funny semi-autobiographical fruit of those labors, is now turning heads, most notably at the Taos Talking Pictures Festival, where it bagged the five-acre Taos Land Grant Award. It makes its Colorado premiere Friday, when it opens the Boulder Asian Pacific Alliance Film Festival; far from being what Yoon calls a "disease-of-the-week" vehicle, it's likely to leave a lasting impression on all who see it.

Yoon credits his actor/playwright sister with spurring him on. With time on his hands, he toyed around with some autobiographical video sketches, but it was she who suggested he try turning them into a script. "Then one night I said, 'The hell with it -- I'm going to do this,'" Yoon recalls. "After the accident, it just crystallized. It was totally a gut feeling, not a cognitive decision at all -- suddenly, it just seemed like the right thing to do. I know that sounds completely flaky, but that's how it was. After all, how many things do we think we could do but never have the chance to try?"

The Boulder Asian Pacific Alliance Film Festival presents Post Concussion, with an appearance by Daniel Yoon, 7:30 p.m. May 5, Boulder Public Library Auditorium, 1000 Canyon Boulevard, Boulder, free, 303-441-3197

Yoon's foray into acting came of necessity. "I auditioned other actors for the lead, and several would have been great, but the timing was difficult," he explains. "My health didn't allow for a regular shooting schedule." Rather than subject an actor to an on-again, off-again timetable, he undertook the role of Matthew Kang, a character modeled on himself, for the duration of the filming. It wasn't easy. "I had to edit out some scenes because my acting sucked," Yoon admits. But he gives much credit to the other actors for persevering and offering help: "For them, it was kind of sketchy, anyway -- one guy with a camera. They didn't know if there was even film in the camera. They didn't know if it was being filmed in focus or if the film was being properly exposed. Sometimes there was nobody behind camera. I'd just turn it on and get into the frame with the other actors. But when they saw the dailies, they were, uh, comforted."

People often ask Yoon if it's difficult to watch his own trauma replayed on the screen and hear people laughing. On the contrary, he assures them, "It doesn't bother me at all. I feel removed from it.

"I'm very lucky, as far as head injuries go," Yoon continues. "When some people emerge from a coma, they're completely different. They've lost cognitive skills, memories and macro personality traits such as humor and ambition. For me, it's not so bad."

 
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