Nonprofit Organization:
Pacific Arts Movement

Building Tenant Since:

Located at the Center for Civic Engagement because:
“Every day, we get the opportunity to collaborate with at least five other organizations at this building. Would we have this opportunity otherwise? No.”
– Lee Ann Kim, Founder and Former CEO, Pacific Arts Movement

Lee Ann Kim never studied film. Never ran a 501(c)(3). And never organized a festival.

So how did the self-proclaimed “former TV journalist turned accidental executive director” become the force behind the nation’s largest exhibition of Asian film on the west coast?

“I wanted to create a fundraiser that brought the San Diego community together,” Kim said. “I got the idea to create a film festival – even though I had no idea what that really meant.”

From its humble beginnings in 2000 (when Kim admits she was scrambling to find a projector the week before the event) to now, the San Diego Asian Film Festival (SDAFF) has transformed into one of the biggest platforms for Asian American media anywhere.

Following the second festival just two weeks after the 9/11 attacks, Kim decided to leave her roles as TV anchor of KGTV Channel 10 and president of the Asian American Journalist Association to found Pacific Arts Movement (Pac Arts).

“9/11 showed me that we now have the obligation to educate and create opportunities for the community to learn about one another,” the founder noted. “The film festival wasn’t just an event anymore. It became more of a movement of compassion.”

Pac Arts Programs and Accomplishments

During Kim’s 16 years at the helm, SDAFF has grown from a three-day event with 3,500 attendees to a 10-day extravaganza with 15,000 attendees that showcases more than 100 films each year.

In fact, the annual event has become so popular that Pac Arts added a second, mini film festival six years ago called the Spring Showcase. Spring Showcase 2016 runs from April 28 – May 5.

Get Your Tickets Here

Of Pac Arts’ many accomplishments, one of Kim’s favorites is the organization’s experimental mobile cinema program “Drive-By Cinema,” when Pac Arts converted a truck into a moving theater and ‘movie bombed’ neighborhoods that don’t have theaters anymore.

“Movie-going used to be a beautiful community experience where you sat next to a stranger to experience something fun, meaningful and entertaining,” she reminisced. “We wanted to keep that alive by bringing the program to the streets to remind people what is so special about movie-watching.”

Another accomplishment Kim is most proud of is Pac Arts’ Reel Voices internship program, which launched in 2005.

“We started this program at a time when schools were cutting back arts’ funding,” she said. “We knew there was a true desire and interest for students to create movies.”

Reel Voices empowers local high school students to learn the art of documentary filmmaking. The internship provides students with mentors and helps them become socially-conscious storytellers while they experience all stages of production, editing and post-production. Current San Diego County high school students can apply for the Summer 2016 session of Reel Voices; deadline is 11:59pm Sunday, April 24, 2016.

Check Out Reel Voices Students and Projects

Looking Ahead

As Kim describes, everything she dreamed for Pac Arts, from financial stability to a strong reputation and dedicated staff, has come true. And she knows a new executive director can take Pac Arts that much further.

This is why she recently decided to step down as executive director.

When explaining her decision, she uses the metaphor, “I’ve setup the college fund for my ‘kid,’ and I’m sending it off to college. Now I have a higher calling to take care of and nurture my own children.”

A search committee consisting of Pac Arts’ board members will determine who will step in to fill the position. Kim expects the committee to make a decision later in the year.

“The transition is scary, but exciting,” she said as she smiled. “I’m excited about this new chapter for Pac Arts that will come from a fresh perspective. I’ll always be a lifelong cheerleader of this organization.”

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