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Interview

MOTHERS Director LEE Dong-eun

Apr 10, 2018
  • Writerby KIM Su-bin
  • View830
“I wanted to talk about generations”



While it’s very rare for a director to release two films in such a short period of time, after his debut last February with In Between Seasons, Director LEE Dong-eun is releasing on April 19th a new film entitled Mothers. Director LEE was shooting In Between Seasons as a part of the Lab, when MYUNG FILMS LAB’s CEO LEE Eun took a special interest in Mothers and suggested to make it into a film, putting a go on his second project’s production. Both films are female-focused and they both carry painful storylines as In Between Seasons relates the confusing state of mind of a woman finding out her son’s secret. Mothers won the KNN Award at the Busan International Film Festival, while In Between Seasons won the NETPAC Award at the Vesoul International Film Festival of Asian Cinema.

-How did you come up with the story for In Between Seasons?
After quitting my job, I started writing scripts and submitting my writings to various contests, unsuccessfully. I wanted to be acknowledged by others so I wrote several scripts and made a short film but unfortunately, not a lot of people could relate to my work. I had a really difficult time back then but realized the only way I could get through it was to keep writing. Not too long after, I decided to finally write something for myself: the script for In Between Seasons came out of this decision. I didn’t think it would be made into a film right away so I asked writer JUNG Il-young to make it into a graphic novel first. Luckily, I was able to get into MYUNG FILMS LAB and it was made into a film.

-What about Mothers? How did you come up with this story?
After finishing the script for In Between Seasons, I took my time to write Mothers. The story begins at a funeral and as it is mentioned in the film, I find that people have a tendency to evaluate someone else’s sadness. If one mourns, people assume they’re very sad. On the other hand, if one doesn’t cry, people ask “Why aren’t you sad?” or assume they’re being very strong. Even when a national tragedy happens, people are fast to criticize how much grief the family of the deceased is or is not showing. I wanted to talk about this phenomenon of people assessing one’s sadness.

-There’s something quite similar about In Between Seasons’ Mi-kyung (BAE Jong-ok) and Mothers’ Hyo-jin (played by LIM Soo-jung). They’re not affectionate people but they’re both brave women with strong hearts. How did you come up with these characters?
I was influenced by the women around me. Mi-kyung says she tries not to express her sadness, while Hyo-jin is actually good at sharing her feelings with the people around her. However, it is true they are both in denial about their depressions but instead of suffering and enduring the pain, they both try their best to go over their sadness.

-How do you usually build your characters?
My characters aren’t typical of any kind of genre and they’re not placed in any special situations. In fact, I try to make them as natural as possible, like if they were my neighbors. While creating them, I imagine that someone very similar to them might actually exist somewhere. If I get stuck with something, I think about these alternative personas and ask them to tell me stories about themselves before I fall asleep. I would say my process is close to writing from actual conversations.

-Both films were produced by MYUNG FILMS LAB. How was it like to work with your colleagues?
MYUNG FILMS LAB has evolved into something a little different now, but when I was a student there, my cinematographer, art director, editor, sound director, and actors were all enrolled together with me. We planned the pre-production together and talked about our work for a whole year. I liked that and it was very helpful to me.

-Both works were released as graphic novels first. Is there a specific reason why you chose to do this?
I didn’t think making a film out of In Between Seasons would be easy and I also had this idea of making a new kind of comic books, so we made it into a graphic novel. With Mothers, I wrote the script for a graphic novel first. I was told writer JUNG Il-young actually doesn’t like such scripts so we made the graphic novel based on the film scenario. Usually, comic books have a lot of narration, but a graphic novel’s format is similar to a movie’s, so it’s really interesting to read.

-Did it help with when you made the movie as well?
I think the DOP and the art director enjoyed the graphic novel. I make drama films in which the characteristics of the genre isn’t very clear and in which people have a tendency to imagine very different scenarios according to what they believe is true. However, the graphic novel let you see what kind of tone the author wants. When we started shooting, I asked the staff to forget about the graphic novel because I didn’t want it to be a limit to everyone’s imagination. I asked the actors not to read it either, just in case it would influence their understanding of the characters. Drawings do have their limits.

-How did you first decide to become a filmmaker?
The decision wasn’t made based on a single moment but I naturally started dreaming about it as time went by. I thought you had to be charismatic and be able to control everyone in order to become a director so I was worried I could not it. But truth is, whatever your theme, style or story is, one must find its own color, even though this process can take a long time, as it did for me.

-Is family the most important topic for you?
The family isn’t the main theme but my next project entitled You or Me (translated title) will be in the family sphere too. I wanted to talk about generations and overcoming the pain as time goes by. As you can see with my latest project, I think I always end up talking about this because I don’t know how to write about strangers and I can’t possibly make a film that does not reflect who I am.

-How do you feel about your second film’s release?
People say it’s better to get the bad news first. I think it’s good not to wait too long for two films. Those who enjoyed In Between Seasons show some curiosity about Mothers too and I think it’s a good thing they won’t have to wait too long.
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