I recently had the opportunity of seeing “Wonderer”, a film written and produced by Yusuf Khan. The film is at once haunting and mesmerizing. It is a short film but it has a lot to say. The cinematography is especially noteworthy. “Wonderer” is currently making its way through the film festival circuit, picking up awards as it moves forward. Keep an eye on it as it comes your way.
Yusuf Khan is a filmmaker with projects that cross multiple genres. His passion is to deliver quality, thought-provoking stories that can be enjoyed by many audiences.
Yusuf received his BFA in film from Chicago’s Columbia College. It was there he honed his craft in screenwriting. His film Will of Jill received accolades from various film festivals. While working on his thesis film, he collaborated with alumni on a variety of projects. The hilarious short film Holy Toast, which he wrote, was an instant hit. He also contributed creative content to the inner-city drama Everyday I Kiss the Sun.
Yusuf Khan generously agreed to answer questions about his latest film and more. Please,
I was interested to note that you grew up in Chicago. Before going to Chicago’s Columbia College were there interests you had/have besides movies?
Storytelling was always a great interest of mine. I use to write stories for sequels of video games I use to play. I played sports here and there, but it never hooked me to pursue it professionally. Love music, love the bass guitar, but nothing in me wanted to learn a musical instrument. The writing was a constant throughout my high school years.
Was there something about growing up in Chicago that led you toward making films?
I would say it was more my family than the city that made me interested in movies. Movie nights were the highlight of the weekends in my younger days. My parents would pack me and my three siblings in the car, and we would see a movie. The movie-going experience was just as euphoric as seeing the actual movie. Soon after, the watching of these movies eventually sparked my curiosity about how these movies are actually made. Of course, some of my favorite movies were filmed in Chicago. The Fugitive, The Untouchables, Cooley High, Backdraft, High Fidelity, Running Scared, Blues Brothers.
While at Columbia College, did you see moving to LA as a goal?
Definitely. I did not know anyone in LA. I just knew I had to get out there and try to plant my flag in Hollywood. All of the movie studios that made all of my favorite movies are in LA. I was so excited to take the knowledge I received from Columbia College Chicago to LA and see what I could do there.
What was it about this movie that inspired you to create it?
Wonderer was an idea that came out of frustration. The frustration of what was, and still is, happening in the world. I decided to focus and conceptualize my frustrating feelings into a “what if?”. Meaning, “what if a person gets the most insightful and prophetic meanings of life from random strangers?”. Once that “what if?” got me excited, I started to write. It was one of the most therapeutic writing sessions I ever had. After I finished the first draft, I had to make it.
When and why did you move to LA. What advantages does LA offer you as a filmmaker?
I moved to LA in 2005. The year my White Sox won the World Series (I had to throw that in there). LA has definitely forced me to not get stagnant or lazy in this industry. Staying creative is half the battle. If I am not filming, I am writing, If I am not writing, I am editing. If I am not editing, I am watching movies for some inspiration. This is the creative discipline I developed during my time in LA, and it has been working great for me so far.
Can you describe one or two especially challenging moments during the creation of this current film or any of your previous films?
I can recall the first short film I shot in LA. It was a super low-budget production. The story took place outside at night. I had a handful of people to help and I was extremely grateful for their contribution to the project. The challenge of this particular project came from one of the lead actors. She was a bit of a diva and did not give me the dramatic takes I was trying to get her to do as a director. We all had a person in a situation that promised one thing, then delivered another thing. It was baffling because in the audition she was great, I was more than confident this actor was going to bring my vision of this character to life. I was wrong and disappointed. The movie suffered from the actor’s subpar performance. Every project is a learning lesson they say.
Do you have a favorite among your films?
My latest film Wonderer is by far the best filmmaking experience I’ve had so far. The project brought in so many positive and talented people. The cast and crew were supportive, but above all, professional. They made the shooting of Wonderer easy and drama free. I am very proud of Wonderer, and I am excited to share my art with the world.
Trailer for Wonderer
Photos are courtesy of Yusuf Khan