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By Vic Kings and Lucas Marques

1. You have graduated from Cheongju University with a degree in Film. In your opinion, what is the biggest impact that the university brings to a filmmaker's formation and experiences?

Graduating from university with a degree in film is very helpful. One can learn professional filmmaking processes and meet many people who dream of becoming a filmmaker. But you don't have to go to university as a film major. Universities only give a little extra opportunity. I don't think college is important to someone who dreams about becoming a filmmaker. Many of my friends who dream of becoming filmmakers gave up their dreams before graduating from university. I think passion for films is more important than the university itself.

2. "IN" was one of your films produced during university, which earned you several awards. How was the production of this short film?

At the university I attended, I went through many processes to produce short films. In the workshop class, all directors submit scripts, and then they are divided into a) films set to be produced after meetings with other students; and b) films that won't be produced. I was really lucky to have a film selected to be filmed. I'm a very blessed person. I met some very passionate filmmakers while studying. They were film majors like me, but their attitude toward films was more passionate than anyone else. I worked with great filmmakers, and as a result, we made the short film "IN". Although I didn't receive any support, I faced a lot of difficult situations because of the low production cost. There were many crises, such as rain during filming or a sudden change of filming location. But as I said before, there were great filmmakers around me. They were very helpful to me, and I could get through the difficulties.

3. How do you evaluate the importance of film festivals for students and young filmmakers?

Film festivals are very important for students and young filmmakers. They are talented people who will lead the future of the film industry, and film festivals give opportunities to such talent. It is not easy for students and young filmmakers to make films that are released in many theaters. As a result, they make feature films on a small budget or short films with brilliant ideas. Naturally, students and young filmmakers do not have many opportunities to meet the audience. I think it's the film festivals that give them a chance to do so. I have been producing short films Film festivals are very important for students and young filmmakers. They are talented people who will lead the future of the film industry, and film festivals give opportunities to such talent. It is not easy for students and young filmmakers to make films that are released in many theaters. As a result, they make feature films on a small budget or short films with brilliant ideas. Naturally, students and young filmmakers do not have many opportunities to meet the audience. I think it's the film festivals that give them a chance to do so. I have been producing short films since high school. I've produced a lot of short films for quite a long time, but I never got a chance to meet the audience, it may have been my lack of ability, but many filmmakers don't get the opportunity and give up on films. I doubted my ability and wondered if I should stop making films. However, after my films were screened at several film festivals, I gained confidence. Film festivals are places to discover new filmmakers, but they are also places to empower filmmakers.

4. South Korean cinema has been gaining enormous prominence in the last decade, especially with the historic victory of Bong Joon Ho's "PARASITE" at the 2020 Academy Awards. How do you evaluate this popularization and diffusion of South Korean cinema in Western countries?

Many directors seem to have received a lot of questions similar to this one. I remember all the directors who received this question answered the same thing. There have been many good films in Korea since before. It just took a long time for many filmmakers and audiences worldwide to know that. There are many great directors and works in Korea, and I'm glad many people know about it now.

5. Besides Bong Joon Ho, names like Park Chan-Wook, Hong Sang-Soo, and Kim Ki-duk are other renowned and essential filmmakers in the film course curriculum. Can you tell us more about your influences and inspirations from South Korean cinema?

What I felt while studying films here it's that Korean films have very unique stories. I think this is due to the environment in which the films were produced at a low production cost compared to other countries. Besides that, Korea is a country that has experienced a lot of things in its history. The country has a history of many wars, divisions, and colonies, and it has achieved tremendous economic growth in a short time. I think this whole situation has inspired many filmmakers. I think Korea is a very interesting country. Koreans have no qualms about keeping the tradition and learning new ways to improve them. They are also good at accepting new cultures and developing and transforming them. I think this culture had a great influence on the Korean film production environment. For more than 100 years, many filmmakers have been inspired by various films abroad. It has developed steadily, and it has greatly influenced the production of many great domestic films.

6. Besides South Korean cinema, which other filmmakers are part of your references as a director?

It's a hard question because there are many great directors and films worldwide. But to answer this: I like movies by Koreeda Hirokazu, a Japanese director, and Richard Linklater from the United States. The films of these two directors were a great inspiration for the short film "FAVOR" that I recently directed. Other than that, there are a lot of directors I like, such as Martin McDonagh and Wes Anderson, to name only a few.

7. Your newest film "FAVOR" has been very well received in film festivals, getting selected in countries like the USA, India, Italy, Japan, and Brazil. How was the script development for this project?

The process of developing the script for this short film was very difficult. I didn't have the same experience depicted in the short film, but I have had a similar one. Then, I developed a script based on the memory of that day. As a result, I was very distressed because I remembered the events and feelings of that time. While developing the script, the memories and emotions exhausted me. At that time, I stopped developing scripts. I needed a period to distance myself emotionally from it. Because if I got too emotional, I don't think I'd be able to convey the story I wanted to tell at first. After months away from the script, I could start its development again. The framework has changed a lot from the previous story, and its subject aspect got further strengthened.

8. The cast of "FAVOR" has excellent chemistry! How were the casting process and the characters' development with actors Yang Hee Lee and Young Nam Woo?

I was very happy to produce a short film with two great actors. First, it wasn't that hard to cast actor Young-nam Woo. There is a very famous site in Korea where people can see many actors' profiles on it. I found actor Young-nam Woo on that site. I decided to cast him right after seeing his photos and history. I didn't even watch him performing, I just believed in his passion. There is a big story behind casting actor Lee Yang-hee. The actor I first chose for the role was another one. I didn't know actor Lee Yang-hee at the time. While preparing for the shoot, though, there were many problems. As a result, the shooting date changed, and it was impossible to film it with the cast actors. While looking for another actor in a hurry, one of the staff introduced Yang-hee Lee to me. I checked his acting career and passion and decided to cast him. Both actors were excited from preparation to the filming. I exchanged various ideas and created a character different from what I thought beforehand. At first, the personalities of the two characters were the opposite. The Son was playful, and the Father was a very depressed man. However, after having many conversations with the actors, I changed the characters. It was a lot of fun. I want to do it again soon.

9. What is your opinion about the representation of minorities in South Korean cinema? How do you seek to work this theme in your films?

There are many different ways of expressing minorities in Korean films. However, they are courteous in common. Korean filmmakers never judge promptly to make films. They study and think a lot in a way that respects minorities. I think this is not only for Korean filmmakers but also for many directors worldwide. I studied a lot and tried to think a lot about it. I tried my best because I thought I should talk about minorities, not just use them. Although I think some people feel that my film is not enough. My father belongs to a minority group. I started developing the script for "FAVOR" to get closer to him. I hope my intentions were well conveyed.

10. As a director, do you have a preference for a specific genre of cinema? If yes, what is it? Why?

I don't prefer specific genres when I watch films. I enjoy watching various types of movies, and I think it is very helpful to me. However, when I make a film, I usually make the drama genre. I think it's because I develop scripts based on my experiences and thoughts. I've written scripts for action and romance genres, and the next short film genre I'm preparing is comedy. I'm constantly studying now, and researching ways that combine my experiences and thoughts with other genres.

11. How do you keep yourself updated and inspired regarding the latest tendencies and news in the world of cinema?

There is a magazine called Cine21 in Korea. This magazine covers only film-related content and introduces the latest film trends. With the publication, you learn about the latest tendencies and news in the film industry. Besides that, I focus on the news of various film festivals, and on the main subjects covered by them. The film festivals select several films with the theme of the year's main topics. In addition, they screen the latest productions of famous domestic and foreign directors and conduct discussion programs based on major issues. In my case, film festivals and magazines help me to know the latest directions in the film industry.

12. What is your creative process for developing a new film project?

I have a long time to think about what story I want to make into a film. In the process, it takes a very long time to complete the script, and I have a lot of thoughts about it. I look for ideas from my experience and my perceptions. I adapt recent experiences or envision scripts with thoughts that come up from recent events. Because of that, I usually think about it for a long time. I don't set a specific time, but I keep thinking about it whenever I have time. One day, when I have a great idea or story, I start to sketch out a script.

13. What is it like working with a production crew on a professional film set different than a film school set? In your experience, do the director's responsibilities differ in those two environments?

I haven't had various experiences yet. I'd like to answer this question profoundly, but I think it's going to be hard because I don't have enough experience. But to tell you what I felt, I don't think the pressure the director feels on most of the set is much different. The staff only waits for the director's sign while sitting in front of the monitor. It is like that because what the film crew has to do depend on what kind of sign the director gives. The difference between a professional environment and a student film environment seems to be the number of people waiting for the director's guidelines. I think there will be a big difference in the events that are connected there.

14. How do you see the future of filmmaking in an increasingly digitalized and technologically evolving world?

I think the new technology will improve the production environment of the films. Humanity has always been convenient through improved technology. We'll be able to visualize the imagination that was hard to implement. Of course, that's what's happening now. Technological advances will provide a variety of options in the filmmaking environment. However, movie theaters may be intimidated by the screening system. The OTT system is receiving a lot of support around the world. Many films are not released in theaters but are heading straight to OTT platforms. As such, audiences spend more time watching streaming at home than at theaters. The theater is a crucial factor for movies. Advances in technology are now posing a big question to the film industry, and I'm not sure how I can answer that.

15. What advice would you give to students and young filmmakers starting in the field?

I don't think I'm good enough to give them advice. They must be working hard enough in their respective places. And there are so many people better than me. I just support them rather than give advice. I support their vision, passion, and future. I support your passion and future. Thank you.


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