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Call of the Wild
Patty Kim and Chris Sheridan bring the spirit of safari to moviemaking

DC Style Magazine
June, 2006

A hundred Wednesday nights ago, Patty Kim and Chris Sheridan would've been dining out in D.C. or at a local theater feeding their cinema habit. But on this misty midweek evening, Kim and Sheridan are instead holed up in their apartment near Logan Circle, readying press kits about their own film.

And they haven't even thought about dinner. "Uh," says Sheridan, scratching his head as the clock strikes 7:30 p.m., "Hamburger Helper?"

Kim and Sheridan, both 36, don't have time for proper meals or visits to multiplexes anymore. They've just wrapped their first independent flick, an 85-minute documentary called Abduction: The Megumi Yokota Story.

"We have made the film we wanted to make," Sheridan says. "For better or worse," Kim adds with a thin smile. And they made it, basically, by themselves. Media veterans who've produced and hosted shows at NBC, CBS, PBS and Canada's CBC, the husband and wife went D.I.Y. in 2004 and haven't looked back.

Abduction explores the 1977 disappearance of Yokota, a 13-year-old Japanese girl. In 2002, North Korean leader Kim Jong Il admitted that his country's spies had abducted Yokota and 12 others. To this day, Yokota's parents believe their daughter is still alive, although North Korea insists otherwise.

This ripped-from-the-headlines drama makes for a "climactic" film, says Sarah Diamond, director of programming for Utah's Slamdance Film Festival — one of numerous festivals screening the documentary this year. The documentary floored Slamdance audiences, who gave the film their Viewer's Choice Award. "It really is haunting," Diamond says.

The film was also screened at the prestigious Hot Docs festival in Toronto in April. The directors are hoping the list lengthens to include the American Film Institute/Discovery Channel Silverdocs festival, June 13 to 18 at the AFI Theatre in Silver Spring.

The film is all the more haunting, perhaps, for its elements of shadowy global intrigue. The international theme seems natural coming from two Canada natives who've worked on four continents and honeymooned in the Arctic. Even the name of their company, Safari Media, was born of a get-out-there spirit: "Safari as a way of life" was the motto of Dan Eldon, a 22-year-old photographer killed in Somalia in 1993. The couple made an award-winning documentary about Eldon for the National Geographic Channel. "The whole reason we're [going independent] is largely because of Dan's life and what he represented," says Sheridan.

That meant scraping together $450,000 to tell Yokota's story. It meant paying their own way to Japan and Kim trading her anchorwoman's wardrobe for cowhide-print slippers. And it meant the occasional scuffle ("I don't think we had an argument before we started making this film," Kim says), all on top of actually shooting in Japan.

Kim and Sheridan won't say what's next on the list, aside from hoping for a national release. But the idea is to stay on safari as long as possible.

"Life is too short to do things that other people want you to do," Sheridan says as Kim nods in agreement.

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