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Ko - production in Busan
  • MOON So-ri with her film debut THE RUNNING ACTRESS
  • by KIM Su-bin /  Sep 12, 2017
  • “All actors are like swans. They are all running under the water.”

    MOON So-ri, the heroine of Oasis (2002) and A Peppermint Candy (2000) is back as a director. The Running Actress consists of her three works made in the film department of Chung-ang University’s Graduate School of Advanced Imaging Science. The films were all directed and scripted by MOON, featuring her as the main character and raising the question: What is it like to live as a woman in Korea? 

    What brought you to graduate school? 

    I gave birth in 2011. Raising a kid was a lot of work. I was full of confidence for no reason when I was young, and similarly, I lost all my confidence for no reason as I aged. I looked into myself and decided to study film to fill in my deficiency. I wanted to enhance my love for cinema rather than the knowledge of it. I talked with Director YIM Soon-rye and she advised me to study directing, saying that it would be much more fun. That is how it all began. 

    You dealt with the sufferings of an actress and I guess you felt freedom and bitterness at the same time. 

    Its Korean title is “Today the actress is still…” and there are all kinds of verbs that fit in. Some verbs are not even compatible. I tried to put the irony here. I wanted to show the innermost part of the actress, her life as a woman. In Korea there are words like ‘woman-doctor’ ‘woman-journalist’ ‘woman-writer.’ Why specify the gender when you are merely referring to a job? The word woman-actor (or actress) is in the same frame. One half of the film consists of a woman’s life in Korea today, and the other half consists of the kind of sufferings that she goes through because she is an actress. I felt like saying, “you call me an actress, right? Come and take a close look at the actress as a person.” The film represents how I feel about the word ‘actress.’ That is why I felt freedom and bitterness at the same time. Everybody’s life consists of ups and downs, and all kinds of emotions, good and bad. You feel as if your own pain is the worst, but if you take a close look at others, they also have as much pain, if not more. Art is what comforts you and me at those painful moments, through which you comfort each other. I wanted to share it with the audience as well. 

    Wasn’t it hard for you to make a film out of your own story? 

    To be honest with you, MOON So-ri’s friends in the film were not my friends. They were actresses, who later became my friends. It is the same with the mother and daughter. They are all made up and directed as such. None of them actually happened in my life. To be sure, I had similar moments in life, which I turned into cinematic interpretation. That is why it was so hard for me. I had to look at myself, and turn my life into a film, but always keeping a certain distance, and looking at it from different perspectives. There was so much to learn.

    In the film, you run and run when you are under tremendous stress. 

    I actually do run often. What you need the most when you are in a difficult situation is good health. You gotta be physically strong to endure the work. I find it hard to take a rest. I feel like I am left behind when I rest. I always had this kind of pressure. But as I age, I learn that life is not a short term race. You may take a rest, tie your shoes and then run again. That is how I came up with the running scene in the film. I guess what I wanted to emphasize more was taking a rest and tying the shoes, rather than running itself. Just like a swan on the pond, I am always running under the water. So do all the actresses. 

    What was it like to do acting and directing at the same time? 

    I missed conversation with the director. As an actress, I sort out my thoughts during shooting by talking with the director. That director was missing this time. I felt quite lonely because I felt like talking to myself. I grew to respect the directors even more. It is a very painful job to endure all the pressure and fear and make decisions all by oneself. I sympathize with the directors even more now. Rather than monitoring my own acting, I focused on watching the whole scene. There is hardly any ad-lib in my or anybody’s acting. Everything was done according to the script. There was no room for ad-lib, but I guess I learned to see the big picture.  

    What was it like to direct the actors’ acting? 

    I didn’t do any directing on their acting. I tried very hard to alleviate their nervousness and pressure. They are acting with me in a film that I am directing, and it must be a difficult situation. So I tried to be very nice and kind to them. I also tried to share how I felt when I was writing the scenario. I often asked them what they thought and tried to communicate a lot. I worked hard to adjust amateur actors’ nervousness and professional actors’ eagerness. I guess I tried my best, knowing that you can achieve anything when you share the dream, and you can’t do anything at all if you are in conflict. 

    What was it like for you to meet the audience as a director? 

    One viewer that I met at a film festival said to me “I thought it was a story of an actress, but it turns out, it is any woman’s story.” It was great to know that she actually felt her suffering and understood how she was feeling in the movie. I was tremendously reassured as a director, rather than as an actress. Another viewer wrote to me “everybody is lonely but there are also beautiful moments in that loneliness. Your film was like that kind of moment.” I was deeply grateful to hear such compliments from the audience. 
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