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Performing Arts

Daniel Kim ’21: Professional Acting Training

Project Date:
Project Date: Summer 2021

I enrolled in Upright Citizens Brigade's Improv 101 and Lesly Kahn & Co.'s monthly courses to receive professional training in improvisation and screen acting across a variety of genres.

About the Project

As a new graduate pursuing a career in acting and writing, I applied my Benenson award to fund training in improvisation and acting technique at the Upright Citizens Brigade (UCB) and Lesly Kahn & Company respectively. These programs served as invaluable extensions to the education I received at Duke and to my previous Benenson award for my screenplay, The Hollywood Asian. By building upon my foundations in screenwriting and theatre, my hope is that I can follow in the footsteps of my role models — Riz Ahmed, Issa Rae, Donald Glover, Ramy Youseff, Michaela Coel — and take ownership of my writing by acting in my work.

During UCB’s 101 course, I learned the basics of improvisation which provided me the skills to think on my feet during performances, actively listen, and quickly create comedic characters to complement a scene. At Lesly Kahn & Co., I am continuing to absorb techniques to break down scripts, analyze the thoughts and relationships of the characters, and rehearse scenes with live feedback from working actors. After similar experiences at Duke, I realize that consistent practice is a necessity for every actor, and the daily three hour rehearsals at Lesly Kahn & Co. are allowing me to deliver honest, fully present performances no matter the circumstances. Having heard anecdotes from actors receiving audition materials minutes before callbacks, constant sharpening and quickening of technique will make all the difference in time-sensitive situations throughout my career. Through both of these interactive, collaborative programs, I was able to form long-lasting friendships with other talented professionals, broadening my network and growing along with my peers.

Ultimately, these programs will help me on my journey to become a multi-hyphenate artist, an increasing necessity in Hollywood. Being able to act in my work will give me options as a content creator and guarantee that my stories remain authentic and undiluted, especially as a person of color. Through Benenson’s support, I have been able to enlarge my artist’s toolbox, allowing me to stride confidently toward my goals to uplift Asian American narratives and pursue my own projects to make my mark in Hollywood. The Benenson community has also served as a great resource to tap into, and I am always open to speaking with other Duke students breaking into the industry.  As for my future, I am happy to say that I have officially settled in Los Angeles, signed with Brave Artists Management, and am putting these skills to use in my first booking this October!

Reflecting on Arts Amidst COVID-19

The support and flexibility of the Benenson Award has allowed me to focus on developing my craft and has provided a source of stability during the pandemic as I moved to Hollywood following graduation.