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Ko - production in Busan
  • CHUNG Chung-hoon, Cinematographer of It
  • by SONG Soon-jin /  Sep 19, 2017
  • “It is a coming of age film, rather than a horror movie.”

    It has returned after 27 years and the updated showdown between Pennywise and the children is being passionately received both in the US and Korea. It has earned 150 Million USD in the US box office as of September 15, and has attracted 0.7 million viewers in Korea.  

    It is all the more special in Korea because of cinematographer CHUNG Chung-hoon. CHUNG made a name for himself as PARK Chan-wook’s cinematographer, working on classics such as Old Boy (2003) and the The Handmaiden (2016), and began a career in Hollywood when he moved there to shoot Stoker (2013). He has also shot Boulevard by Dito Montiel, Me and Earl and the Dying Girl (2015) by Alfonso Gomez-Rejon, and finally here he is, with Andres Muschiettid’s latest film, It. He is ever so busy going back and forth between London and LA, and Kobiz had an email interview with him.  

    It is your 4th Hollywood film since PARK Chan-wook’s Stoker and it is doing great in the box office. How are you feeling?

    I am surprised. It is attracting so many more viewers that I expected. I am glad to have a great box office hit in my filmography.  
    You have made a lot of thrillers, some of them containing some horror elements in them, but It is your first real horror film. 

    I did not approach It as a horror film, so making it different from other horror films was not my concern. I don’t look up reference films before shooting. I didn’t look up any horror films at all. I am afraid I may copy them without even knowing. I just tried to focus on the drama and characters of It. What I tried to bear in mind was that this was a coming of age film set in the 1980s. So I wanted to make shooting as natural as possible, with the right amount of lighting and no more. What’s important is to make the audience believe that it actually took place. To make natural frames I used a camera called the ARRI XT PLUS as well as the G series lens, an anamorphic lens, and the PRIMO lens by Panavision. 

    I guess visualizing Pennywise was quite hard, as it was such a key part of the film.

    I did a lot of test shooting, trying all kinds of lighting, angles, makeup and costumes to come up with what everybody may agree on, and the result was this Pennywise that we have in the film. What I was most concerned about was his eyes. I tried very hard to find the right lighting to light up his eyes. I had to go through a lot of different lightings to find the right one.  

    Andres Muschiettid, the director, is from Argentina, you are from Korea, and some of the main characters are of different races and religions. Diversity must have been a big part in the film making. 

    Actually, until you asked this question, I never thought that way. I just thought we had a variety of characters, and never took it as racial diversity. I never thought myself as an outsider, either. What is interesting is this very American movie was shot in Toronto. We went to Canada to benefit from their tax incentive policy, and we all tried very hard to make it look like America in the 1980s. Nonetheless, however American the film may be, the subject matter of the film is also something universal. 

    Which scene did you find the scariest? 

    There is the kitchen scene in the isolated house where the kids meet Pennywise. I freaked out while shooting because I felt as though Pennywise could really hurt them. Mostly because their acting was so great, both Bill Skarsgard and the kids.  

    New Line Cinema is reported to have started discussing the production of a sequel to It. Do you think you may be in it, too? 

    I think I would if I had a chance, except I am not sure exactly when it will begin.  

    You have worked in 6 Hollywood films including The Current War which is in post-production and Hotel Artemis. 

    I had no idea what was to come next when I first came to Hollywood 5 years ago. I did a lot of job interviews like a beginner and did any work that I came across, including short films and low budget movies. Now that I have several films done, I will soon be able to choose only what I like.  

    You have been working with Alfonso Gomez-Rejon, Andres Muschiettid and PARK Chan-wook. What do you think you did in their work?

    They are distinctively different directors, but they each have something in common with me. To them, I am not just a cinematographer but also someone to discuss the story and characters with. Especially the time I spent with PARK has been tremendously helpful for me. What I did for their works was, I guess, to take out what they had in their head so the whole world may see it.
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