During his time at TAS, Darryl Loke '17 led his grade to multiple victories in the Spirit Week class video competitions. They were just a starting point of his ongoing Emmy-winning career in filmmaking. He is currently at Temple University, studying psychology to delve into the human condition of films and ultimately reach a wider audience.
Darryl’s passion for filmmaking began during his freshman year at TAS, when his interest in cameras led him to Mr. Tobie Openshaw, TAS video production specialist. “Mr. Openshaw gave me a lot of opportunities and gave me access to the film equipment at TAS, which was very helpful,” Darryl said. He took advantage of them to produce class videos and short films that Mr. Openshaw allowed him to showcase in student assemblies.
His first film that garnered a lot of attention was the freshman class spirit week video, which he directed and filmed along with one of his friends in 2014. The video won first place, much to the shock of the upperclassmen, but more importantly helped Darryl create a stronger connection with his peers. “I feel like after that people just understood who I was and how I saw the class, and I just wanted to showcase that and share it with everyone,” Darryl said. “It was sort of my calling.”
The class video did more than just kickstart Darryl’s filmmaking journey though; his passion helped inspire Mr. Brett Barrus and Mr. Openshaw to start the high school film program, which started as an introduction course. “At first, they would teach us the common concepts of films like using cameras and setting up a shot and how to tell stories,” Darryl said. “Later, they started bringing out things like field trips.”
The film trips to various places ranging from the outskirts of Taipei to Berlin served as a huge part of Darryl’s high school experience, and the team was able to win numerous competitions with their creations. “All those trips gave me a very worldly view, and it is amazing to see how rapidly the film program innovated,” Darryl said.
Filmmaking became Darryl’s priority and greatest interest, and he lost track of time while working on his projects more times than he could count. “In 2017, I actually held the record at school for the most tardies,” Darryl said. “I had detention almost every lunchtime because I’d always show up late to class from the film studio, but I think it was worth it.”
Darryl’s filmmaking projects allowed him to learn a lot about teamwork while also inspiring others to join the program, which in turn helped him grow as a person. “I just kept putting my work out there and it helped me gain new connections with people while learning how different people see different things,” Darryl said. “Filmmaking is not a solo piece of art, you have to make it with your team.”
After TAS, Darryl enrolled at Temple University, where he felt he adapted to the American culture more readily compared to the “Tiger Babies” around him, because he had spent his childhood in a different country every four years. When he realized that he had limited his scope of interests and knowledge to film since eighth grade, he chose to major in psychology. “I feel like [psychology] benefits me and my films,” Darryl said. “Almost every film consists of humans...psychology allows me to delve into people’s roots because I understand how to approach them better.”
Since his freshman year at college, Darryl has prioritized getting to know diverse people after filmmaking helped him realize the value of relationships and networks. His film producer roommate, who invited him to the Emmy-winning film team as a cinematographer, is one of the people he met as a result of this endeavor.
From this invitation, Darryl’s casual offer to help write the script quickly turned into a six-hour task everyday, and he was eventually offered the role of director and writer. He attributes this to his ability to creatively connect with people. “When I came into the project, I was able to instantly connect with the original writer of the film,” he said. “Making a film is all about finding the right people who vibe with you emotionally and creatively.”
“Strays” is a short film about Shane Shephard, a young adult who inherits a family owned thrift shop after the death of his mother. The film explores his “failed attempts to help people as he turns to unconventional methods in order to prevent others from feeling his pain” through encountering unusual customers that stop by the shop one day.
Darryl’s team submitted this film to the festival circuit and received a Mid-Atlantic Emmy award in the college division. “I definitely had a very ambitious goal in mind, I wanted [the film] to be seen by a big name,” Darryl said. “So hearing that we had won this award was great.”
Time and money were the biggest challenges his team faced. The film had an extraordinarily low budget of USD$2000 to USD$3000, and it was funded independently by many people. Darryl’s extensive exposure to books and films played a key role in recruiting actors, as he used them as conversation starters to connect with others. “Seventy percent of making a good scene has to do with just getting to know people, which is why I think it’s very important to be very inspired,” he said. “It’s an easy way to work with people in any career.”
He found the most value in working with local Philadelphians and actors from various states from the entire process of filming “Strays”. “Acting is a very emotional process,” he reiterated, “So I was forced to really get to know their backgrounds and where their emotions are”.
Now in his senior year at Temple, Darryl ultimately hopes to make a career in filmmaking and expand his audience. “I feel like [winning the Emmy] solidified that I will always be in film because I saw that my work does impact a lot of people,” he said. “I’m not striving to win more awards. My main goal is to reach more people [and get them to] understand who I am, and hopefully [my films] will make them happy.”
For students who want to become filmmakers, Darryl urges them to try to become “Renaissance men” and women. “The most important thing,” he believes, “is making sure you are very inspired and you consume a lot of different things. Read books, play video games, play sports, read philosophy, just know a lot of things about a lot of different topics”.