Re: Stock Replies to Stock Media: Chosen Family

June 11, 2021

Re: Stock Replies to Stock Media: Chosen Family

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An interview series with LGBTQIA+ filmmakers & Re: Stock contributors

Re: Stock contributor and Philly cinematographer Aiden Korotkin discusses his Storyblocks collection Chosen Family and the challenges that the LGBTQIA+ community faces with representation in media.

What inspired you to get into filmmaking?

I kind of fell into filmmaking by accident. There was this program in my high school called Senior Speeches, where any senior could get up in front of the school and speak about whatever they wanted. I wanted to do one, but I hated public speaking. 

I learned how to edit on Final Cut Express in my freshman year of high school for a biology project. So, I thought, I might as well try and make a film and it was terrible, just a bunch of inside jokes with my school, but everybody loved it. Afterward, one of my teachers came up to me and told me, “Never stop making film.”  So I didn’t. And I’ve been making film ever since.

What does representation mean to you? And why does representation matter in storytelling and media?

Representation is just being able to see yourself in all forms of media and not in a negative way. You can see yourself in relationships, in love, joy, and everything depicted by the media whether it’s film or TV or in writing. It just means that you’re able to see yourself in any form of medium.

Representation matters because we live in such a diverse world and if we don’t see the stories that populate our world how can we expand our horizons, how can we expand our knowledge base of experiences without creating stereotypes? The problem that we’ve had up until recently is that the representations of people who are not white, cisgender, or heterosexual are stereotypes and tropes. 

Where do you believe the stock media industry currently lies in regards to representation?

Stock, in general, is just way behind the times. We all know that it’s not caught up. It has not caught up with the industry. It has not caught up with society in terms of what we’re seeing. It’s very fake, it’s very staged. It’s predominantly white, heterosexual, cisgendered focused and that’s just not what society is.

So, there’s a long way to go for stock to catch up but I think that’s part of what made me excited to be a part of this campaign. I wanted to help kind of turn the mirror to see what’s actually in society and to reflect that back on us.

What excited you about this partnership with Storyblocks and why did you want to participate?

What excited me about this partnership with Storyblocks was that I get to have a personal hand in turning that mirror to reflect what actually exists in society – and that’s a huge, huge undertaking. There’s a whole different spectrum of people from trans non-binary to cisgender and heterosexual. There are a whole plethora of people in between and to be able to show that in a media that has been historically behind the times, that’s a great honor and I appreciate the undertaking.

What is the theme behind your collection and what inspired the story behind it?

The theme behind my collection is chosen family. What inspired it is that a lot of times people in the LGBT community are distanced, forced to distance, disassociated or kicked out, to put it frankly, of biological families. So, we as a community are forced to find others that will make up our families and that’s what we call chosen family. These families are that. 

They become the support network that we would normally look for in biological families, the loving relationships that we look for in biological families and they support us through everything. They take care of us when we’re sick, they help us financially if we need it, they provide a roof over our heads. In some cases, they are just the vast networks of support and love and caring that we need as human beings to survive. So, I wanted to explore that idea because it’s not just initially finding the group of friends that become your family. It’s also then going to create your own family when you settle down and create your nuclear family.

What does authenticity mean to you? And What steps do you take to make sure that you are avoiding stereotypes or tokenism when you are shooting?

There’s a fine line between encouraging authenticity and forcing it to happen. I think that’s the difference between what actually creates authentic moments and what just feels fake. That’s been something that’s pretty much highlighted in stock footage previously but for me, I want things to feel truly authentic. So the way that I approach things, I’ll talk with the person that I’m filming with to ask them what feels authentic to them and then we kind of create this moment together. I’m not sure if that answers the question but I feel like that’s all I have at the moment. 

So, the steps that I normally take to avoid tokenism and stereotypes when I shoot is really just to incorporate other opinions. To me that means that if I’m filming doc style and focusing on a subject I ask their input on what feels authentic to them and not just put my assumptions on their lives. I want them to have a say in how they’re represented so that it feels authentic to them as well.

What does an intersectional representation of the LGBTQIA+ community look like to you and how do you incorporate it into your work?

Intersectionality, in general, is just showing the depth and breadth of every queer individual in society. That’s a huge spectrum and I don’t think there’s one person that embodies all of it. There can’t be. So, I think incorporating that into work just means that you’re not just checking boxes with the people that you are pulling to film or to capture. You’re really trying to show people rather than types of tropes or stereotypes or you just incorporate a black, queer person just because you need diversity. There’s so much more nuance than that.

I think intersectionality is a constantly evolving thing to consider and it just has to be on a per shoot basis, I think. I feel like the point of intersectionality too is acknowledging so many different layers, complexities that people come in with and are dealing with so that we are aware of our own biases as well.

What would you say to younger video creators that are part of the LGBTQIA+ community?

I would tell them not to be afraid to take up space. We’ve been taught to minimize ourselves and our experiences but that’s just not how it should be. Your experiences inform your ability to create – so don’t be afraid to take up that space.

You can check out Aiden’s Re: Stock collection, Chosen Family at the link below.

Check Out The Chosen Family Collection

Aiden Korotkin

Director of Photography & Re: Stock Contributor

Aiden is a Philly-based Director of Photography who is largely self-taught. Having accidentally stumbled into filmmaking, he fell in love with visual storytelling by way of documentary and, later, scripted narratives. Aiden continues to hone his craft by freelancing across the country as well as internationally and has most recently finished filming the Woolly Mammoth Theater Company’s film adaptation of Heather Christian’s 'Animal Wisdom'.