Fade in...

Hi, I'm David Kong.

Depending on when you ask me, I'm a storyteller, photographer, coder, serial autodidact.

This is my story.


One day, a traveling magician visited the inconsequential town of Moscow, Idaho (should you ask why a town in Idaho was named Moscow, I will simply say that it's previous name was Hog Heaven, and I can only surmise that the locals decided to take what they could get). Our hero was in attendance, and was captivated. There being no magic shop in Moscow, Idaho (and no magicians), he turned to his Klutz book of magic and learned every trick before graduating to "real" magic books and videos. Soon he was spending hours every day practicing sleight of hand and poring over top-secret forums for magicians only.

As time went on, he began to create his own tricks and moves, and a magic company offered him a producing deal. He took it. A few months later, his first DVD was released, going on to sell over 20,000 copies. The proceeds funded a new video camera and then summer film school at UCLA's School of Theatre, Film, and Television. For his second DVD, David decided to take things into his own hands and self-produced and published another success.

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So with some video skills and a fancy video camera, David started making movies. And more movies. And more movies. Pretty soon he was spending more time on his films than he was on his magic, and thus, in an ironic turn, the DVDs that brought him fame and (relative) fortune in the magic world began to draw him out of it.

As the years went on, David continued (and continues to this day) to write, direct, and produce videos of all sorts. If you ask him for a favorite, he will often to point you to a fine art piece, Portrait of Macerata.

Portrait of Macerata from David Kong on Vimeo.

On the documentary side, he has filmed interviews with Grammy and Oscar-winning singer John Legend, film director M. Night Shyamalan, Ariana Huffington of the Huffington Post, Sal Khan of Khan Academy, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, and very friendly Labrador named Poodle.

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As he explored the world of cinema, David soon discovered that many of the skills of the photographer overlap with those of the filmmaker. In doing so he also discovered the virtue of rapid prototyping, since the amount of time it takes to capture a photograph is roughly one gazillionth the amount of time it takes to create a film. Most of David's favorite photographs are portraits.

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Having learned the crafts of the magician, the filmmaker, and the photographer almost entirely through the internet (and, for the most part, for free), David used his spare time while studying at Princeton to give back. He produced a series of video tutorials on how to make professional films with the ever-cheaper tools of digital cinematography and post them for free online. At the time of going to press, his tutorials have been viewed more than three hundred thousand times.

How Codecs Work from David Kong on Vimeo.

His love of online learning eventually led him to his present day-job at Khan Academy, a non-profit with the mission to provide a free world-class education for anyone, anywhere.

One of his recent projects has been a complete guide to college admissions (free like all Khan Academy content) which supports and encourages students who come from low-income backgrounds as they apply to college. This tutorial series contains 100+ videos and dozens of articles which cover every aspect of the college admissions and financial aid process.

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In college David discovered a love for computer science, which took him on adventures through Java, Javascript, C, Python, PHP, and more. He's built a number of websites for Khan Academy, Princeton University, and himself (this one), an email campaign management tool, and lots of other little experiments.

Current projects include an experimental tool for teaching history online and a speed-reading app.

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