Recent U of M graduates create short film “King Park” and peer into the tension of police brutality
The 17 minutes of “King Park” were crafted over the span of a year by Jake Nokovic (director), Aidan Hutt (producer) and Cody Sandberg (cinematographer). The story follows three kids reacting to a police officer being accused of murder and their attempt to seek justice. After graduating from the University of Minnesota last spring, the filmmakers set out to create a film that was relevant to the conversations surrounding them. The Wake sat down with Jake Nokovic and Aidan Hutt a few days before the film’s premiere; they reflected on the satisfaction of maintaining high standards and spending the early hours of the morning trying to make things happen.
The Wake: How did you guys meet one another and decide to collaborate?
Jake Nokovic: We had all been working at the same place on campus called LATIS, it’s in Rarig Center, it’s an equipment check-out room.
Aidan Hutt: Yeah, we were all the exact same age doing the exact same thing.
JN: A big part of it was that we were all graduating, it was fall of senior year, and we were like, we gotta do something. So that fall, going into the winter, I started writing something and then we got together and sort of molded it to what it is now.
The Wake: What was the inspiration for the storyline?
JN: We started thinking about it fall of 2015, that’s kind of right around the time that a lot of the huge events were happening here with the Fourth Precinct and Jamar Clark. I just started thinking about that stuff and how a potential drama could come to a situation like that and I have a lot of friends who are, I don’t want to say anti-police, but…
AH: I would say anti-police.
JN: Yeah, anti-police for sure. Actually at the time I lived pretty close to the Fourth Precinct, within a few minute drive, at night there’d be helicopters and shit and I would just hear way more activity from police cars and everything. So that was all sort of stewing. I just remember laying in my room and hearing police cars going by with their sirens on and that stimulated some ideas.
AH: I remember when we met up relatively early, we wanted to semi raise the bar at least, out of the stuff that students were making at the time. So we wanted to make it as best as we could technically, but we also wanted to make it relatively meaningful and not just something entertaining to watch. At the time, I felt almost obligated to do something that at least involved race to some capacity just because I couldn’t go a week or even a couple days without talking to someone about that topic.
The Wake: Can we expect you guys to take a position on police brutality in “King Park?”
JN: No, we kind of set out to just make a fiction story that’s based in the real world, but it’s definitely not like the film has a strong position or a strong message. If anything we try to present both parties just to get the audience thinking and talking. The main goal, as far as the end result, is to be neutral.
AH: We’re not trying to be like, here’s the situation and here’s what you should think about it. It’s like, here’s the situation that we know we’re experiencing peripherally and we want to use that energy and try and peer into that tension and paint a picture.
JN: Yeah, we have our own opinions and everything, it’s not like we all have a neutral opinion on the topic, it’s just the film that we wanted to keep that way.
The Wake: Why did you guys choose to tell this story in a short film length rather than as a longer piece?
JN: I always think when I watch movies, especially student films, “this could’ve been half the length,” it seems so slow sometimes. I really just want to make it scene by scene, fast pace.
The Wake: What do you guys have planned for “King Park” in the future?
JN: Definitely submitting to film festivals. But, I don’t know, I’m ready to get on with the next project. And since we had such a small crew, it was basically three guys that made 95% of the film. It was like we spent so much time making it and so much of our energy and constant focus, that, ya know when you spend so long on something it’s like you never even wanna hear it again. I’ve watched the movie like 500 times, I’m ready to move on, while at the same time appreciating it.
The Wake: So the film premieres on September 22nd at the Parkway Theater, how are you guys feeling about that?
AH: I’m gonna fucking cry.
JN: At what point?
AH: I don’t know, dude, I’ve just been thinking about it. It’s a culmination of a lot of hard work and like, failing. It’s gonna be nice to see everyone there and see it in a theatre. I’m also moving to New York like four days later so it’ll be the last time I’ll see a lot of people so it’s kind of a big moment.
JN: Yeah, it’s a big turning the page, next chapter kind of thing.
AH: This was for sure the best thing I’ve ever been a part of. And that was our intention across the board, now we can use this as a calling card moving forward. But also, just having this experience, I feel a lot better going forward. Cause we kicked ass; it took some time and it was hard as hell but we did it.
JN: Yeah it was hard, all for seventeen minutes which is the funniest thing. Like, I watched it from start to finish with no brakes last week for the first time in a few months ‘cause I’ve been editing it, and it goes really quick. I was like, oh my god we spent like hundreds of hours on this and up till 5a.m. But it’s good, it’s worth it, I think it’ll show up.
The Wake: What were the most difficult moments in the filming process?
AH: Just late nights, like one day we shot at 8 a.m. out (in Van Cleve Park) then we filmed from 2 p.m. till like 3 or 4 a.m. in West St. Paul. We were on our feet the whole time trying to make things actually happen.
JN: It just took so long to finally get the script that we were happy with.
AH: That was a lot me just being like “I like it but… I think this is what it means and I don’t know if that’s what we wanna be saying.” So it was tedious and I was probably like a pain in the ass but I don’t know, it worked out.
JN: No, I think it’s good that we did that.
AH: Yeah I’m happy we did it, ‘cause I’ve had collaborations where there’s disagreements and everything goes to shit. Whereas this was like we were disagreeing on something specific but we both want the same thing and we trust each other.
JN: I think we realized it was high stakes a little bit ‘cause it was our last year and we had access to all this equipment and we didn’t want to put out a half-baked thing. We wanted it solid.
AH: I’ve had a lot of projects where I’m like “I mean I did it, but I wish I would’ve changed this, this, and this… or I’m not proud of this…”. At this point there’s nothing I can say that I wish we’d change, I’m pretty happy with how it turned out.