Interview with Director Kim Sung Su
Director Kim Sung Su started his career in the film industry as writer, prop master, and assistant director in the early 90s by working together in films like The Blue In You and The Berlin Report. In 1993, he made his debut through making a noir film, Scream City, which gained great comments and received the Critics’ Award at the 20th Independent Film Festival. did co-productions in China and Japan such as Genome Hazard (2013) and Musa the Warrior (2001). After 10 years of absence he is back with his huge viral disaster hit film, The Flu, was recently shown at the London Korean Film Festival 2013. During that event, I sit down with Director Kim to talk about his recent film, The Flu, his involvement in co-productions, and if he is interested in working together with Hollywood.
Disaster films are known to be difficult to attract the audiences especially when there are a lot of cliches within the films. Why did you decide to take on directing The Flu, a disaster film?
Kim Sung Su: When I first received the script for the film, The Flu, the script wasn’t mine, was somebody else. To make a disaster film around The Flu itself, I thought was really realistic and worth trying to make into a film. In Korea, when there was the novel flu breakout which happened recently, although the impact and the results were quite minimal, there was actually a widespread societal panic. I felt that is appropriate with the script.
How is the filmmaking process through camera and technology such as computer generated imagery (CGI)?
Kim Sung Su: I received a lot of help from technology. The close shots on the extras, which you seen in the film, are all real people. There were at least 100 extras throughout the filming. We were using hand-held cameras in following and shooting. As if we were shooting the documentary, we have to use real people. When there were faraway shots, for example, we had to use CGI. Throughout the filmmaking process, we have a lot of people on set.
Among the casts, I was intrigued in the youngest cast, Park Min Ha. How did you come across her and why did you select her for The Flu?
Kim Sung Su: From the original script, the role of young child that appears in the film wasn’t very major. While in the process in making script, the child turned out to be critical role in that film later on. First of all, in terms of casting, we held an audition for many candidates for that role. In terms of Park Min Ha, she is different from the other child actors. Her appearance and style of acting is very realistic. So, that is why I decided to cast her instead of others.
You have previously done co-productions in films like Genome Hazard and Musa The Warrior. What were the experiences like in working with other Asian countries?
Kim Sung Su: I worked with people from Japan, China, and Hong Kong. At times, it feels like the cultural differences and traditions are bigger than I expected. There are other times that we feel similar on parallel paradox in co-productions when working with foreign people. Sometimes, when the process works well, it feels even more entertaining and things happen much more than when I worked in Korea. Other times, if there is conflict, because I worked in a different country or people from different country, it feels like the conflict is perceiving even bigger than it really is. For me, my way of justifying or even trying to hypnotize myself during this process is that when it works well I just say it’s not really just about me. It’s about both about myself and the other person. I am making huge effort to make sure it goes well. When things aren’t going so well, I will say to myself that of course there is going to be conflict which is inevitable. It is not really a big problem. I tried very hard to think along those lines. I spent 8 – 9 years where I put in a huge amount of time and financial investment in China to do joint productions which was an utter failure. I tried to work as a producer. I made a film in China which people don’t really know about. Now, I am trying to focus on becoming a director. In terms of joint collaboration, I would like to work with people in Asia in the near future because there are so many things that we feel that we are similar. It is a rewarding process.
Have you considered on doing co-productions in Hollywood like Park Chan Wook, Kim Jee Woon, and Bong Joon Ho?
Kim Sung Su: I am not as famous as director Park Chan Wook, for example. Although previously I did receive offers from Hollywood, I don’t think I will have opportunities or any desire to make films in Hollywood in the future. This is because the producers or those who have the finances are huge and important. Often, you have to follow the desire of those who have influence of power. For me, when I can’t even make films really well in Korea, going somewhere unfamiliar in Hollywood and working within the system is not something I thought about and not interested in.
Thank you to Director Kim for having the time to participate this interview during the London Korean Film Festival 2013. If you had missed your chance to watch The Flu at the London Korean Film Festival 2013, not to worry. The Flu will be shown at the selected Cineworld cinemas throughout the UK. Here are the following locations which you can head over there to watch The Flu:
London: Shaftesbury Avenue, Wandsworth, and Enfield
Regions: Cardiff, Glasgow Renfrew Street, Aberdeen Union Square, Nottingham, Birmingham Broad Street, Dublin, and Sheffield
The review about The Flu can be viewed through here.
So, don’t miss out watching The Flu.