Sam Shinn is an award winning photography director and producer for documentaries and independent projects, and founder of Iron Eye Productions. His work has been broadcast globally on stations such as ABC, CBS, CNN, and PBS, and he is also the recipient of an Emmy Award. He brought his extensive skills over to Kimchi Chronicles, where he was the director of photography. From hard-hitting documentary pieces to food programs, he has truly done it all, and his body of work is intimidatingly impressive.
You’re an award winning photography director for documentaries and independent projects. Other than Kimchi Chronicles, what else have you worked on?
I’ve been lucky to have worked on a wide range of projects as both a producer and director of photography, from political and social documentaries, to feature films and music videos. Some of my most recent films, Dorothy Day: Don’t Call Me A Saint, and Paper Covers Rock have premiered at Tribeca Film Festival and South by Southwest Film Festival. In terms of food shows, aside from Kimchi Chronicles, I’ve worked on the Cooking Channel’s Unique Sweets, and PBS series Spain…On the Road Again and How to Cook Everything.
Why did you decide to start working on food programs?
Food and cooking shows are a happy coincidence of combining the work I do with my favorite hobby. It wasn’t a conscious decision, but I’m really happy to have gotten on the foodie wave. This doesn’t mean I know how to cook, though. I’m still a novice on that front.
You were born in South Korea, moving to the US at the age of six. What does it feel like when you return to visit?
I left Korea a long time ago, and I’m shocked at how much the country has changed. It was a smaller, less industrialized country when I left. The modern, sleek and crowded Korea that has evolved since I left is a little unrecognizable. But what hasn’t changed are the people and our culture. Warm, emotional, funny and beautiful, Korean people still make me proud to be Korean. And there is no better food in the world. If I could only eat Korean food for the rest of my life, I’d be happy.
What was the absolute best meal that you ate while in Korea?
Asking me to pick out a favorite meal is like asking a father to pick his favorite child. They were all good. From the rest stops on the highway to the fanciest multi-course meal. I love Korean food and no matter the dish, Korean food just tastes better in Korea. The best Korean meal in NYC just doesn’t taste the same.
What advice do you have for aspiring cameramen and directors of photography?
I’ve been very fortunate and can’t quite point to the turning point that got me started. But it’s definitely a lot of luck and meeting the right people. Keep working hard, because no matter what your job title or description is, everyone recognizes a hard worker and will remember your name. That’s half the battle.