Coffee and Milk

No doubt you found this post because you’re interested in finding out more about the films I have posted on my website. Or because your Google search went wrong. If you’re interested in screening Coffee and Milk, please get in touch through email:

stevensirski [at] gmail [dot] com

Here are the tech specs if you’re interested. What follows is a description of how the movie came to be made.

Written and Directed by Steven Sirski and Murat Copcu.

Running time: 11:12
Genre: Fiction
Format: HD
Completed: February 2010

Tag Line
A teacher without his morning coffee is like a child without his milk.

Medium Synopsis
An English teacher and one of his Korean students collide just before class, spilling their morning addictions, coffee and milk.

Long Synopsis
With Coffee and Milk, writer/director combo Steven Sirski and Murat Copcu tell their first tale about the aftermath of a collision between Steventeacher, played by Sirski, and one of his students, played by Seung Jae. The collision sends Steven’s morning coffee to the ground to mix with Seung Jae’s carton of milk. Now the question becomes, will Steven and Seung Jae be able to survive without their morning addictions for the whole class? Originally shot as a student project with Steven’s Grade 6 English class, this comedic look at a morning gone wrong will have you laughing at the fine line between a man and a child.

Production Notes
“An international production”
Coffee and Milk was a special international collaboration between Canada, Turkey, and Korea. Steven Sirski (Writer/Director/Lead Actor) hails from Winnipeg, Canada; Murat Copcu (Writer/Director/ Camera) was born and raised in Istanbul, Turkey; while the students and the crew live in Busan, South Korea. The project was conceived by Steven and Murat over a cup of Turkish coffee when Steven mentioned his need of coffee, and what happens when he doesn’t get it. Fresh from production of Murat’s previous student project, The Water Dispenser, the writer/director duo were eager to work again before Steven’s teaching contract in Korea ran out. Coffee and Milk developed very quickly from a simple concept to a complete English lesson and movie production within a few months.

“Truly a student project”
Coffee and Milk was a student project for all involved in the production. Murat is currently working on his PhD at Kyungsung University, a university from which was drawn the entire crew. The crew was made up of Kyungsung University students from the Digital Design program. Finally, Steven was the English teacher of the Grade 6 students featured in the production. Only nine of the thirteen students from the English class volunteered for the project, but all of the children were required to draw the storyboards shown during the end credits. In the end, Murat received an A for the project and the kids had a lot of fun making the movie. Unfortunately, none of the kids have any desire to make any more movies!

Production Stills

Seung Jae, Steven, and Murat
Seung Jae, Steven, and Murat
Setting up the shot
Setting up the shot
Directing Seung Jae
Directing Seung Jae
Murat at work
Murat at work
Camera Operator
Camera Operator
Steventeacher
Steventeacher

That’ll about do it for the standard EPK. If you want to screen the film, please contact me through email:

stevensirski [at] gmail [dot] com

And now, a little bit more about the production…
Coffee and Milk was a fun little movie to make. Murat and I teamed up to make the film after we finished shooting his previous short film, Water Dispenser. We both come from a Film Studies background, though his was much more technical than mine. After tossing around a few ideas about the script, we settled on a version of events that we could reasonably make happen with our limited budget. After the script was finished I had to go through the proper channels of permission in order to get the film done. My co-teacher, Mrs. Jeong, took care of most of that work for which I am eternally grateful. She had to write up and get parents to sign waiver forms so that their kids could appear on screen with all the technicalities involved in that.

Once the green light was given things moved along at a snail’s pace. The only day we could shoot was at the end of November and on the kids’ day off from school (they only get every second day off in the South Korean school system.) In that time, however, I managed to stretch the script into a three-class learning exercise. First, a conversational class about movies and what movies the kids liked. Second, a “read a sentence, draw a picture” story boarding class (which worked surprisingly well). And third, one last class to answer any questions the students might have.

I’m not sure how much of a clue the kids had about what was going on behind the scenes, but Steventeacher (me) was sure panicking. Having participated in film shoots before I knew how long set ups could take. I had to entertain while remembering my lines (I don’t think I got a signal line correct in the whole film.) Not only that, I had to work with Murat to ensure we got the set ups we needed. Murat is much more technical than I am and he took great care to shoot too much instead of not enough. For that, I’m grateful.

Murat’s technical abilities went well with his story telling abilities. He had an uncanny ability to keep my interest in the shots he choose. Although he preferred to keep the camera on the sticks for Coffee and Milk, I urged him to move along quickly and forget the sticks if necessary. There were two reasons behind this. First, I had just finished reading Robert Rodriguez’s book on how he made his first feature film. Second, because we were working with kids who weren’t getting paid and had come in to school on their only day off. So, as you could imagine, the film shoot had to be as fun and entertaining to keep their spirits up and alive. It came down to me quickly going over the shot with Murat and then us agreeing that he would notify me as soon as he was ready to shoot. While he set up, I asked the kids questions and otherwise entertained them so it didn’t feel like they were waiting around very long.

Everyone enjoyed the production, I certainly did. We managed to finish the short film just before I left South Korea which enabled me to screen the film for the students at school. I distributed DVD copies to all of the kids and had them sign my copy. Even if the kids don’t keep their copy, I’ll keep mine as it is probably the best souvenir I have from my time teaching ESL in South Korea.

The film was subsequently featured on a few websites, among them Art of Backpacking, Teach Away, Inc.’s Teacher’s Telegram, and then was screened at the MADE IN BUSAN film festival where Murat was interviewed. It was also featured on another blog as a part of their summer film festival.

If you haven’t yet seen the film, you can do so my movie gallery page.