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Ko - production in Busan
  • Film poster design studio, ‘Propaganda’ designer, CHOI Jee-woong
  • by Ha Sung-tae /  Oct 13, 2015
  • “I want to provoke the audience through film posters
    Established in 2008, film poster designing company ‘Propaganda’ attracted attention when a weekly publication selected their film poster for KIM Ki-duk’s Dream as the poster of the year. Since then, the company has made leaps and bounds as a design studio specializing in the entertainment field from film and performance arts to calligraphy.
    Pushing Propaganda forward with his partner, designer PARK Dong-woo, CHOI Jee-woong is a ‘film kid’ and passionate designer. A veteran in the film industry who is also an avid collector of film related items, he never hesitates to offer his services to a film he likes. As a true midfielder that shifts between the independent and commercial scene, Propaganda’s unique strengths to juggle between poster designing and calligraphy without losing character stems from such passion in film. We finally managed to reach this busy film professional who just returned to Seoul from the Busan International Film Festival (BIFF).
    We hear you made a tight trip to BIFF
    It was a nice trip. Our poster works were there, and I tried to watch as many new Korean releases as possible. If I like a film, I often contact the film production first to propose to design their film poster.
    Which films did you like?
    I liked PARK Suk-young’s Steel Flower showcased in the Korean Cinema Today-Vision section, and PARK Geun-buem’s Girl on the Edge. Especially, actress KONG Ye-ji’s performance was impressive. Among foreign works, Son of Saul comes to mind. Ah, I really liked Girl on the Edge, and I ended up telling the director, I wanted to work on the film.
    We heard you were quite busy during the month of September
    September is always a busy period for poster designing companies due to BIFF submissions. We also worked on a number of BIFF line-ups including Steel Flower mentioned before and KIM Jin-do’s Blossom. In the case of foreign films, Paolo Sorrentino’s Youth, Jacques Audiard’s Dheepan, and Jafar Panahi’s Taxi are also among our works. Films we worked on that are scheduled for theatrical release are two Korean films The Liar and The Magician, and a foreign title, Chronic.
    It then must have been a relief for you to visit Busan during the festival as you’re so busy (laugh). Propaganda is well known for being open to both independent/arthouse and commercial films
    Our primary base is independent/arthouse films. If we’re offered a commercial film job, then of course we’ll do it (laughs). However, it’s true we prefer independent/arthouse films. We often work on Korean Film Archive projects as well as musicals and TV drama works.
    In most cases, you’ve continued relationships with the marketing or production companies if they responded well to your work
    That’s why we don’t particularly focus on sales or promoting our company (laughs). We consistently worked with distributors whom we already have a relationship with, and we’re open to opportunities offered by new companies as well. If we like a Korean independent film, we take the initiative to contact them first. Such was the case with O Muel’s Jiseul.
    The majority of the film industry considers that commercial film poster designs have become blasé during the past few years
    Ten years ago the film industry was not as big as it is now. It’s true there’s more red tape to go through to confirm a poster design. There’re just too many cooks in the kitchen. In the case of commercial films, the rising budget is taking its toll on risk-taking attempts. That’s why there’re more mediocre poster designs with just the star cast’s face(s). However in the past, there used to be room for the design company and the marketing company to work as a team in the true sense. Designers had the opportunity to make fresh and exciting attempts through their professional point-of-views.

    I guess then, the type of independent/arthouse films favored by Propaganda have a different sensibility to them
    Because independent or arthouse films have to survive, there’s more room for these types of films to make unique, experimental and interesting attempts. That might explain why the poster designs of diversity or independent films are gradually improving. Since independent/arthouse films are stuck with a small number of theaters to screen, they’re inclined to attract people’s attention with just the film poster while using interesting stories as marketing issues. From a designing point-of-view, commercial films are good because they have a widespread impact, and independent/arthouse films are good because we can bring out and work on the film’s individuality.
    Which most recent work made a deep impression on you?
    A Crybaby Boxing Club scheduled for release this October comes to mind. At first, we struggled because the film being a documentary, there wasn’t enough film stills and areas to work on. But through the number of meetings we had with the film’s distribution/marketing company, INDIESTORY Inc.,we reached a decision to create caricatures of the characters in the film. In addition, our attempt to step away from clichés led us to collaborate with a calligraphy artist. We even self-stitched the name tags on the sweatsuits that appear in the poster.
    If you were to name a non-independent/arthouse film work of yours?
    That would be The Magician. Only actor YOO Seung-ho’s individual photo cut’s been revealed for now, but we also made a poster with dynamic images. I recall how we all had satisfied grins on our faces when we worked with the young actor (laughs). Another film would be the 9 different art posters we made for the latest HONG Sang-soo special screening. As a big fan of HONG’s, I was so happy working on this project.
    We heard most poster designers like working on HONG Sang-soo’s films
    HONG Sang-soo is a filmmaker who every designer wants to work with. I actually worked on Oki’s Movie, and I loved the fact that I was able to work with unreleased photos for the special screening poster project. Many are eager to work on HONG Sang-soo’s films for their very specific style compared to mainstream films, and because they show a side of the actors/actresses that the audience have never seen before. There clearly is a unique aura to HONG Sang-soo.
    How do you see the current trend in poster designing compared to the past?
    Film posters are quite in tune with current trends, reflecting the film industry’s tendency to climb on the bandwagon of whatever succeeds with the public. If a star photographer stands out, then everyone hires that person, and even one designing company ends up monopolizing the workload. Minus the company logo, then every poster design would often look the same. And with the large number of films being made, this tendency to ride on current trends only deepened.
    Then give us some points on what makes Propaganda stand out from others and what you particularly focus on?
    Ever since I’ve been in elementary school, I’ve been watching many films, and collecting posters and PR material. For me, posters have never changed to be the face of a film which will remain forever as part of that film’s history. Box office success is important, but I find it a bit sad that posters are just used as marketing vehicles. I want to capture a film’s spirit in its poster which gets remembered no matter how long time has passed.
    Is this thought related to your company’s name, Propaganda?
    I always feel bad when I come across short-term promotions or a one-time promotional material-like poster. Of course we’ve had experience in ‘seasonal’ posters and creating posters that had nothing to do with the film. But those types of posters are quickly forgotten. No matter how well a poster is made and succeeds in attracting the audience, the essence is the film itself. Propaganda means politically provoking the public. Likewise, we want to provoke the audience through posters that capture a film’s aura and can last for a long time.
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