Rarely do you meet a teacher that literally practices what he preaches, but that is exactly the case with Michael Korolenko. He has been a film and communications teacher at Bellevue College since 1992, but he has been making movies since 1971 when he was a high school senior. “We didn’t know what the heck we were doing…the only person that had a projector, I think, was the guy who owned the camera…And we had a cassette player, we didn’t know anything about syncing up…so we [did it] afterwards, which is pretty amazing,” Korolenko recalled, “and I still have a copy of that on VHS somewhere!”
Since then, Korolenko has written and directed a number of films, one of which is called “Since ‘45” a documentary about American history, media and technology since the end of WWII. Though the documentary was initially Korolenko’s thesis for graduate school, it not only ended up winning a Student Oscar in 1979, it was also screened at FILMEX and the New York Film Festival and was aired on national television on various major channels. Currently, he is “working on updating that film, because there has been just such an exponential leap and…that film…was just finishing when computers were just coming in, so I [only] mention them.” Interviews for the new version are being done with the help of BC students.
In addition to “Since ‘45” Korolenko has done various films including “Tamlin,” “Somewhere in Time,” “Of Yesterday and Tomorrow” and a kid series shown on PBS called “Walking with Grandfather.” They were well received and won several awards as well. He has also “done a series of films about this guy named Rocket Man who’s kind of this…Grade C superhero wannabe, and the first [film] was 11 years ago here on campus….[we] won a number of… international festival awards and it was just this thing that…literally didn’t cost any money.” Since then, a couple more films have been done about Rocket Man, including a music video. The newest addition to the “Rocket Man” series is called “Rocket Man and the Aerial Fortress” which was filmed about two years ago. The original film was primarily done by BC students from shooting to acting, but the latest installment utilizes professional actors. The film is currently in the hands of “two-time Emmy award winning composer and conductor Hummie Mann [who] is teaching a masters program in film scoring. And his students, under his tutelage, are scoring.” “Rocket Man and the Aerial Fortress” is set to screen early next summer.
Korolenko has written and co-authored numerous textbooks, some specific to BC classes. He is currently working on co-writing a steampunk type novel that is based off something he wrote in the 1980’s. Korolenko admits that while his combination of documentary and fantasy genres is “kind of weird,” he enjoys “doing the documentaries as much as…the fantasies, but the fantasies I do are the films that I would…run to see… But it’s a nice mix.”
Despite his success in the film industry, Korolenko has been teaching since he was a teaching assistantin graduate school. And in addition to his teaching duties on campus today, he is also the adviser for the BC film club. The BC film club, he says, has “some incredible students who…are going to do incredible things.” It’s obvious that Michael Korolenko’s “two loves are teaching and film making” and his success in both fields is an ideal example to all students to pursue their passions.