Alumnus charting a new course in China
(Photo by Russell Bailey)
By Pete Rosenbery
Less than a decade after graduating from the College of Mass Communication and Media Arts with a degree in cinema and photography, Southern Illinois native Evan Kimball Plochmann is charting a new course on the other side of the world.
Kimball Plochmann is working to create a bridge between Chinese and Western cultures at the Advanced Innovation Center for Future Visual Entertainment (AICFVE), which is part of Beijing Film Academy in China. He manages communication between the center and professional artists, technicians and businesses invited to work and lecture at the academy.
The Center began in August 2016. Expectations are for the lab to be finished around June with a select group of graduate students enrolled later this year, Kimball Plochmann said. While employed through the Beijing Film Academy, staff funding comes from the Chinese and Beijing government, “as part of a broader initiative to create Innovation Centers throughout top universities in China focused on different aspects of science and art,” he said.
The Beijing Film Academy is considered one of the top film schools in the world and focuses on film production and distribution education, he said.
“Our lab is very ambitious and intends to act as a center for future visual entertainment technologies by bringing together top experts in their fields to act as advisers for both colleges and media studios, and to work together to further develop and define new technologies such as VR (visual reality), HDR image acquisition, light field cameras, and visual effects. It's best summed up by our tagline, ‘We are not trying to see the future, but develop how the future will see’,” he said.
Kimball Plochmann grew up in Jonesboro and earned an associate degree from Shawnee Community College. The choice to attend SIU Carbondale was easy -- he wanted to care for his grandparents. His grandfather, George Kimball Plochmann -- who passed away in 2014 -- was a philosophy professor, author and editor of several books, including the “The Ordeal of Southern Illinois University.” His grandmother, Carolyn Gassan Plochmann, a prolific local artist, first came to the university in 1949 to lead the art program at the Allyn Training School and met her future husband.
As a child, Kimball Plochmann loved Steven Spielberg’s 1993 Academy Award winning film, “Jurassic Park.”
“Seeing dinosaurs come alive amazed me so I decided very young that I wanted to work in film. I stuck to it blindly and never once thought of doing anything else.”
Kimball Plochmann’s interest in China grew with a Chinese film history class taught by Hong Zhou, an associate professor in cinema and photography, who is from China.
“Growing up in the rural part of Southern Illinois, I really knew nothing about China,” he said. “Hong’s class was a great mix of history, culture, and lots of films. Thanks to him, I know Chinese films better than most Chinese.”
Zhou said Kimball Plochmann brought “exceptional intellectual depth and curiosity” to class.
“I was often impressed by his ability to critique and analyze film works from unique perspectives, drawing cultural and historical references,” Zhou said. “He seemed to have genuine interest in exploring the arts of different cultures. I also saw him grow fast in areas of production, developing a range of technical skills. I am so glad his time at SIU may have helped prepare him for things that he does today.”
Kimball Plochmann also credits Cade Bursell, professor in cinema and photography, for her “fantastic” experimental cinema class.
“It’s a fantastic class that gives filmmakers the freedom to make whatever with anything they can,” he said. “Currently, in my lab, we are bringing in all these new kinds of visual technologies, such as VR and AR (augmented reality), and we are testing what kinds of films work through these mediums. I feel this job is a continuation of the spirit she instilled in me, and fellow students, during her class.”
Living in China allows Kimball Plochmann to draw “parallels about humanity” through comparing the two cultures. He credits the experience in writing his latest script, “Where Emperors Go To Die.” The piece won the grand prize in the international screenplay category at the 2016 Flickers’ Rhode Island International Film Festival.
His education at SIU Carbondale became valuable when he began teaching at the Beijing Institute of Graphic Communication and he was asked to create courses in mass communication and media arts, advanced audio visual communication, film history and production courses – all of which he was familiar with from his own experience. That later resulted in his current job.
“I would describe SIU Carbondale as giving a holistic education in film --- from production to theory -- and this has been invaluable to me because here at AICFVE, we are dealing with a broad range of filmmaking topics, all of which were rooted in my brain by MCMA,” he said.
Kimball Plochmann believes it is important for current students to remember that they never stop learning. He believes his education didn’t stop at SIU Carbondale, but continues.
“If you aren’t learning something new all the time then your career is over,” he said.