Upon his graduation from Ithaca College in 2006, Jon Korn has worked in advertising production with clients such as Budweiser, Coca-Cola and Harley-Davidson. Korn co-founded Juice Groove Films, a production company that focuses on branded commercial production and documentary, in 2008 with friend Ashwin Chaudhary. In 2011, the duo released a documentary film titled “Laduma,” which follows the journey of American soccer fans and the nation of South Africa up to and through the 2010 FIFA World Cup.
Korn screened “Laduma,” the duo’s first feature film, in the Roy H. Park School of Communications on Wednesday evening.
Staff writer Danielle D’Avanzo sat down with Korn to discuss his production company and the ideas behind the film.
D’Avanzo: What inspired you and your friend Ashwin Chaudhary to start Juice Groove Films?
Korn: The opportunity kind of presented itself. When we started bringing in our own clients, it was kind of an “all or nothing” thing. So, we left our full-time jobs and jumped full into starting our own company. It was really the best way to empower ourselves with commercial clients and to be able to take on the projects that we’re really passionate about. We both are just huge documentary fans and buffs, and that kind of story telling is what we are most passionate about. We started our own company and worked day and night to establish our own clients, and once we founded our foundation, we were able to take on projects like this where we could invest in our passion.
DD: How did you go about making this documentary?
JK: Chaudhary was working with the [Major League Soccer], and he kind of pulled this idea together. He proactively just took a camera and went down to the U.S./Mexico game at the Azteca and came back with the craziest footage ever, so that’s where it really started. We pulled together all the equipment that we could and hit the road and hit all the qualifying games in the U.S. and Central America. We pulled all our footage, threw it together in a couple of weeks, and we released “One Goal: Road to South Africa,” which was the supporters’ experience during the qualifiers. We weren’t able to gain the rights to a lot of footage we shot, so we released it underground through our YouTube page. We were still able to gain a pretty good following of people through Facebook, and through the network we created, we were able to raise the money to go to South Africa and tell the story of what it’s like to be at a World Cup. After that, it was letting our cameras roll and just trying to soak in the experience. We were actually editing little pieces on the fly while we were there, and we were just flying by the seam of our pants.
DD: What’s the story behind the title of your documentary?
JK: In South Africa, in their premier league, that’s what you’ll hear the announcer screaming after the goal. In Mexico, it’s screaming “GOAL!” but in South Africa, it’s screaming, “Laduma!” You heard that everywhere. It means a lot more than just a soccer goal. It’s success of life, and it’s been taken in by the soccer commentators and become the vernacular. In isiZulu, it means more of an overall goal — a success. Once we understood the meaning of “Laduma,” and once we were able to articulate the story we wanted to tell it, it just made a lot of sense to make it the title. That’s what the World Cup was — a success for everyone who experienced it.
DD: While you were filming in South Africa, were you ever thinking, “What’s going on in the U.S.? How are they viewing this?”
JK: Oh absolutely. It is very interesting not know how things are getting covered back home or what the conception is back home of what it’s like to be in South Africa. It was actually very challenging and an adventure to find Internet over there. So to even see what the coverage is like at home was tough, but it was kind of a good thing because you could just be focused on how it is in South Africa. That’s one of the ways we’re trying to market this — it’s the World Cup you didn’t see on TV but need to see.
DD: What would you say was the main focus for “Laduma”?
JK: What we wanted this film to be was the experience. We feel like, especially in sports documentaries, that these days it’s only about the athletes or the leagues or organizations, but for us, that’s just a small part of sports. When you think about it, it’s all about the fans’ experience. So we wanted to put the lens on the fans. When we were over there, we actually weren’t envisioning South Africa being that much in the storyline, but after the experience and how everything played out, it was one of the cornerstones of our experience there. It really brought out the patriotism in us, and we felt like it was an underrepresented part of American sports because all these other sports leagues are so ingrained in our country. It brings out a lot of patriotic fervor, and the more people we met along the way, the more inspired we were to really tell the story of the American supporter.