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Ko - production in Busan
  • LEE Yu-bin, Director of SHUTTLECOCK
  • by LEE Yong-cheol /  May 07, 2014
  • “I prefer a story where you can look to deep into the characters' feelings.”

    For those who learned film at school, actual filming sites pose a whole new set of problems. You have to build relationships with a variety of people and this is not always easy.  For independent filmmakers things are even harder because they are often their own film producers as well. Things were not very different for LEE Yu-bin until a few years ago. However, she solved these problems by taking part in a commercial movie, while producing and directing her film debut Shuttlecock. Fortunately, she discovered it can be fun to work together with others. Shuttlecock was warmly received at the Busan International Film Festival last year and has now just been released, ready to meet audiences.
    - Tell us how you became a filmmaker.
    I don't have any of those fabulous stories like directors who were once movie maniacs. I grew up in the countryside where there were no movie theaters, and my family got its first video player when I was in high school. Since then I fell in love with watching movies and majored in film studies at college and then at graduate school. It was only when I graduated that I seriously considered having a film career. I would say that my path to filmmaking was not very special. When I look back on the past, I tell myself, wow, you really had some guts to go for it!
    - Shuttlecock’s story is simple but also confusing at the same time as it goes back and forth between the pain of growing up, forbidden love, generation gap, and so on, with none really standing out as the main theme.
    When I graduated, I felt kind of empty because I thought I belonged nowhere. I had to do something by myself to soothe this feeling of emptiness and that is how I came to write the scenario for Shuttlecock. It is inspired by the Sufjan Stevens' song The Upper Peninsula, and I had a road movie in mind that would involve a limited number of people, for financial considerations. However, when I was done with the scenario, I couldn't find a way to make it, and I spent a few years in film festivals and commercial filmmaking. This made me comfortable, and I was able to freely try directing again. It would be a lie to tell you that I had a clear design on a particular theme in this film. If I have to pick one, it would be "hope", which I desperately wanted during those hard times. 
    - You are a female director in your 30s but you are telling a story of a family through a teenage boy.
    When I was writing it, I thought much more deeply about my siblings than about my parents. I am the eldest child and I have two younger siblings, so I kind of mistreated them when I was younger. I acted as though they were at my beck and call, but through a big conflict with my youngest brother, I came to think differently. His age is the same as Minjae's in the film. It might look like a trivial conflict to others, but for me, it was one of the turning points in my life. My point of view and judgment on my brother, and the lesson learned, are all reflected in the story and characters in one way or another.
    - Were there any very cinematic moments while making this film?
    In the past when I was working on a short film, I worked with amateur actors because I liked the raw texture in their acting. This time I worked with professional actors for the first time and experienced the kind of pleasure that only professional actors can give. When shooting the scene of Minjae driving drunk, the director of cinematography was sitting right next to LEE Ju-seung and I was in the rear seat watching the monitor. At one point, the interaction and exchange of feelings between the two were delivered through the monitor, and I felt goosebumps. I knew right away that this scene would survive.

    - Minjae may look somewhat off-putting and mean to a grown-up. Why did you choose not make him more appealing and attractive?
    Walking through the town where I live, I see a lot of teenagers acting tough. The smaller and weaker they are, the rougher they act. You may find their slurs disturbing, but I feel all the more sympathetic because it seems like that style of speech is their only defense. They act like grown-ups but I see what is really inside, and feel sympathetic. That's what I wanted to say through Minjae.
    - His half-brother Eunho is a smart aleck but at the same time has deep wounds.
    The one that Minjae may finally rely on is Eunho, rather that Eunju. So I wanted to create a counterpart that had a lot of charm, a fantasy-like figure, so to speak.  I thought a lot about what kind of person would I want to rely on, and that's how Eunho came about. 

    - As a road movie, you would expect to see many landscapes. However, there are as many people passing by as landscapes in the film.
    When you travel, people may look different depending on how you are feeling at that particular moment. I wanted to depict Minjae's mind and psychology through the people he sees through his eyes. The trip begins in Seoul and makes short stops at Dangjin, Jeonju and Namhae, and Minjae's mind keeps changing the whole time. I wanted those changes to be shown through the impressions he gives when he meets people that are passing by.

    - What teen movie do you like the best?
    What first comes to mind is Gus Van Sant's Paranoid Park (2007). What is trivial from a grown-up's point of view may still look cruel to a teenager. I wanted to look at it not from a grown-up's perspective but from that of a teenager. It kind of resonates with my film in the sense that both involve meeting kids at their level.
    - What kind of films would you like to make in the future?
    I am not sure if it is a good thing or not for a director, but I have so many things to say that, paradoxically, I feel like I have nothing to say. I am not looking to include many different socio-political themes. I guess I am still in a phase of purely enjoying writing and making films. If I have a story that interests me and is worth making, and if it is something that I can do well, then I want to jump in and go for it. In other words, I am open to every possibility. However, rather than a story featuring many techniques, I prefer a story where you can look deep into the characters' feelings.
    By LEE Yong-cheol(Film Critic)
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