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MOVING, the show that rescued Disney+

Oct 27, 2023
  • Source by Cine21
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A Conversation with Director Park In-je and Screenwriter Kang Pool




The finale episode of Moving premiered at CGV Yongsan I'Park Mall on September 20, 2023. (Photo: Choi Sung-youl for Cine21)



The release of Moving coincided with Disney+'s dramatic decline in membership, which prevented a catastrophe from occurring. After losing over 18 million members in the fourth quarter of last year and the first three of this year, the entertainment behemoth decided to raise subscription fees in order to boost its bottom line rather than reduce its massive expenditures in original programming.


Moving which was greenlit around the launch of Disney+ in Korea, went into production at a time when Disney+ was actively investing in content. When principal photography began two years ago, with a budget of roughly 60 billion KRW, this superhero narrative with a Korean twist was generating just as much anticipation as concern about its chances of success on the new streaming service.



 (Image: Disney) 



All concerns about the looming shutdown of Disney+'s Korean content team vanished as soon as the first episodes were released in August and received a positive response. The numbers were in line with this, with Disney+ reporting a 48% rise in daily active users (DAU) in August and a 130% increase in weekly use time during the show's premiere week in August. Thanks to Moving, Disney was able to validate its idea that content can contribute to a platform's growth.


This week, we chat with screenwriter and manhwa author Kang Pool, who created the original webtoon on which this series is based, and Director Park In-je about the making of Moving



Kang Full and Park In-je (Photo: Baek Jong-heon for Cine21)


After a long gestation period, Moving is finally coming out. Kang Fullm, many of your webcomics have been turned into films, but this is the first time you are personally participating in the project, in this instance as a screenwriter. You had to take an almost four-year break from your webtoon career to focus on the script.



Kang Full This moment, my perspective was unlike anything I'd ever had before. Until now, despite the fact that seven of my webtoons have been made into films, I would only see them as any other viewer would. I assumed that once I agreed to a film adaptation, my duties as the original creator would be over. To be really honest, I wouldn't be very concerned with its success or caliber once it left my hands. I would view it as an distinct product. I might even say I felt free of any responsibilities. However, this time was different. 


It was a fresh task from start to end, and I couldn't just break under the weight because I felt I had to take responsibility for the ultimate outcome. Furthermore, whilst developing a webtoon is a lonely job, this single series required the efforts and time of dozens of individuals. I couldn't sleep or focus for a week before the release. I was thrilled, anxious, eager, and worried all at the same time. I'm feeling a little on edge. I'm not sure how directors could put up with this. It's incredible.


Park In-je The world we live in has grown so unpredictable since COVID-19 that I am unable to speculate on what might happen. That's because, despite the team's generally good reactions, reviews, public reception, and commercial success don't always go hand in hand. I try to keep my expectations as low as possible. You may reduce disappointment by not having expectations. It's my own stress-resistance technique, which I learnt while working between movies and shows. (Laughs)


Kang For the time being, I'm most interested in the reactions of those around me and the spectators. Personally, I feel confused precisely because I have reviewed it so many times. I used to be confident in my work, but I'm not so sure this time. It's scheduled to be released at 4 p.m. tomorrow (August 9th), but it'll most likely be a long day. 




The Beginnings of a Korean-style Superhero Story 



 (Image: Disney) 



What inspired the creation of this series?


Kang Initially, the script was written by someone else. During the feedback process, someone wondered why I wouldn't do it myself, given how many stories I've written. I began watching a lot of TV shows and studying scriptbooks and technique books because I had never written for one before. Even though, at the end of the day, I recognized there was no getting around it, I had to write it the way I do best. (Laughs). The original concept was for 12 episodes, with a maximum of 16 episodes. However, I planned to go with 21 episodes, 7 per act. It was eventually reduced to 20 episodes.



Park Before reading the webtoon, I read the script. The Great Gatsby was the most recent webtoon I had read. (Laughs) I was rotating between movies and series thanks to Kingdom, and this time, I was prepping for a movie. The preparation for this large project took a long time, and at that time, Jang Kyung-ik, the head of Studio & New, offered me the script for Moving. I just read up to the seventh episode, but I was immediately sucked in by elements of the screenplay that are genuinely emotional. When I felt it, I concluded Moving was about being a father, mother, and family, and that there were things I could accomplish within this narrative of relationships between parents and children.


Kang I wanted to tell the tales of people who are extraordinary but ordinary. Moving is described as a "superhero" narrative in the presentation material available on the Disney+ website, although this is not a superhero story; it is simply about heroes.



What is the distinction then between a superhero and a hero story? 


Kang When you say "super," you get the overpowering feeling that they are going to save the world. The characters in Moving have strong skills, but they also have obvious limitations. It's appropriate to say that it's more about them having some personality to them than making everything possible. These people do not save the planet, but rather the people around them, their loved ones. Increasing the scope is not something I'm interested in. Even while drawing action scenes, it is critical for me to keep emotions in check. In that way, it's more akin to a melodrama.


Park The first thing that sprang to mind after hearing Kang's explanation was M. Night Shyamalan's Unbreakable. It's a fantastic example of a superhero narrative that shows powers with a lot of potential without making them appear overpowering. At the same time, some sort of signature was needed. If you watch Black Widow, Yelena (Florence Pugh) taunts Natasha (Scarlett Johansson) about why she strikes these positions. However, such goofy gestures add to the pleasure. In "Moving," we attempted to strike a balance between energetic action and realistic movement.


Kang The characters employ their talents to safeguard something. Monsters and heroes are distinguished not by their abilities, but by how they employ them. For example, Jang Joo-won (Ryu Seung-ryong), a character with superhuman endurance and regeneration skills, utilizes his immense power to preserve what he cherishes. When I think about it, my father was my childhood hero. I heard the term "Korean-style hero story" thrown about a lot, and I think it fits in the sense that it's a little story based on a family. In the end, it's a narrative about individuals who defend their own little universe, or their family.



The "incident, crisis, past, and present crisis resolution" structure


The first seven episodes were released initially, out of a total of twenty. The main protagonists are Jungwon High School students Kim Bong-seok (played by Lee Jung-ha), Jang Hee-soo (played by Ko Yoon-jung), and Lee Kang-hoon (played by Kim Do-hoon). Because the primary protagonists are young, there is a hint of teenager romance.


Park We were concerned that early episodes may be perceived as uninteresting because we had to introduce the characters in some way. If viewers can get through the first act without difficulty, they will be able to appreciate the explosive action that begins in the middle act.



Kang The response we observed internally was varied. Some find the early episodes more enjoyable, while others think the later ones are more powerful. Because it's a long series that stands at 20 episodes, I wanted to vary the pleasures by somehow having a different structure for each act. I'm guessing that since I tried to deliver a different genre and type of fun with each episode, everyone responded differently based on the style they prefer and familiar with. 



The overall structure is quite unique. Up to episode 7, it focuses on the present part with the generation of the children, then it delves into the past to deal with the stories of the parents, and then returns to the present to face a major event. In fact, the development of "present event-crisis-past- and resolution of present event" is something that frequently appears in Kang Full's webtoons. 


Kang I've never consciously thought about it, but now that you mention it, it seems like it's my preferred way of doing it. I always plan the entire story, including the ending, before I even start working. After completing a story in that manner, I always feel a sense of regret and feel like something is missing. In the webtoon, due to the structure and volume, there were many things I couldn't cover, and I felt like I had no choice but to leave some characters not fully developed. The motivation for turning Moving into a series also came from my desire to present the stories of characters I couldn't fully explore the first time.  


Park Up to episode 7, it can almost be considered as a standalone movie. Personally, I don't see a lot of difference between directing a movie and a series. What's essential is how engaging each scene is and how much viewers anticipate the next one. From episode 8 onwards, we pair up two episodes at a time to showcase the stories of Kim Doo-shik (played by Jo In-sung) and Lee Mi-hyun (played by Han Hyo-joo), Jang Ju-won, and Lee Jae-man (played by Kim Sung-kyun). Depending on the character who is the focus, it brings a slightly different color in terms of genre. The early episodes have a high school romance feel, and in the middle, we have an heartfelt melodrama. In the episodes where Jang Ju-won takes center stage, the action becomes hardcore, fitting his abilities. That we could showcase within a single series all these different genres and characteristics tailored to the characters was enjoyable from a working perspective. Of course, this also made it all the more challenging (laughs). I think that with Moving alone I earned a lot of experience in directing. It was the first time I worked with such young actors, and there was a lot of visual effects scenes I had never attempted before. 



Pairing up two episodes according to the characters make them feel like two parts of a single movie. This structure that leads to a grand showdown at the end may remind some of the approach used by the Marvel Cinematic Universe with the Avengers. 


Park We didn't specifically design it with that in mind, but it may appear that way in the end. In fact, it's a pattern that's quite common on streaming platforms these days. A new narrative style is emerging that stands between movies and TV series. 


Kang From the beginning to the end, what mattered most were the characters. The amount of narrative content could well rival that of three seasons of a traditional series. I actually wanted to try a season-based approach, but this method is not bad either. Above all, I appreciate that there was room to sufficiently empathize with the characters' stories. The message I wanted to convey is simple, but there are a massive number of characters and stories. The reason such a large-scale project with so many characters was even possible ultimately comes down to the strength and energy of many people. I heard it is rare to enjoy such a positive and happy atmosphere on set. At the end, under the initiative of Park In-je, we had an overnight gathering, and it is an unforgettable memory. This was a special moment during which we got to see in the same place Yang Dong-geun's stage performance, Cha Tae-hyun's "Two-Lane Road Bridge," and Jo In-sung's "Bumble Bee." (Laughs) 



Originally, Kang Full, the drawing in your webtoons is reputed for portraying the action with as much details as a storyboard. For example, in scenes where a character is leaping, you often depict it with at least three different views - a front shot, a reverse shot, and a full shot - to represent the action in three dimensions. With your role as screenwriter, having to translate this back into words must have been a unique experience. 


Kang I studied a lot by belatedly reading drama scripts lately. However, I ultimately felt that following that mould wouldn't have been of much help, so I approached it in a way I would be capable to put into words. Maybe I should say I was drawing with words, describing precisely each and every action as if describing a drawing. This produced a script with a unique form, the stage directions being much longer than dialogues. Some episodes extended beyond 60 pages, but in the end I think these were all elements about how to better convey the emotions with every gesture. 


Park At first, I was bewildered. (Laughs) A typical script is some sort of instruction manual, but this felt more like a blueprint. Kang frequently contacted me, and we had many discussions. The actors also found some parts of the script unfamiliar, but by staying in tune with each others, we were able to find common ground where everyone agreed. 


Kang In comics, readers fill in the gaps between the frames. For instance, dialogue is confined to a single speech bubble, with time frozen. The readers are the ones who make time move forward. In contrast, in films and dramas, every scene is filmed with time constantly moving forward. Understanding the difference in the sensations was not easy. It was also the first time I realized how literary my style was when I was writing dialogue. (Laughs) The script served as a map or GPS. Looking at a route on a map and actually walking it are entirely different sensations. It's fascinating to see how some earnest emotions can be found in uneventful scenes that seemed to be no big deal, and on the other hand, how candidly they pulled off emotionally charged moments. 




"I am the person who most wishes for the story to continue." 



 (Image: Disney) 



As the story progresses, the action becomes quite intense. 


Park It was a natural progression. I didn't want to show off superpowers, but I wanted to depict the urgency and fierceness of the characters. Since it's a story about people with superhuman abilities, there were moments where we had no other choice but to design scenes with a fairly high level of action. In fact, the most challenging scene was when Bong-seok soars into the sky. It can be considered the signature action that runs through the whole series, and although Korean VFX artists have a lot of expertise in realistic and spectacular action scenes, they have almost no experience in action taking place in the sky. Moreover, the way Bong-seok flies changes with he grows. In the beginning, he slowly rises like a balloon, but as it enters the later parts, he must fly quickly. To control these abilities that are difficult to handle, the movie Chronicle (2012) was a good reference. We learned a lot from its wire action scenese and VFX. 


Kang From the standpoint of a scriptwriter, I would prefer to have no limitations at all, but there are things that are difficult to include on your own will. However, there were also elements that Park came up with first and eventually made into the story. It wasn't our goal to go for large-scale set pieces, but ultimately, there are many more spectacular scenes in the later part compared to the webtoon. 


Park It was an idea that I blurted out without much thought, but I dug my own grave. (Laughs) 



Cha Tae-hyeon and Ryoo Seung-beom’s characters didn't exist in the webtoon. 


Kang The generation gap between the child generation and the parent generation is over 20 years. To connect this story that was mixing the present and the past, we needed a bridge generation that would connect the two. Jeon Gye-do is a character who graduated from Jungwon High School and became a bus driver. He has a lightning superpower, and the inspiration came from the character Lightning Man on EBS. The character is established as the real person behind Lightning Man. Frank is a character I introduced for dramatic tension. There were comments that the first part in the webtoon was somewhat lacking in tension, since it focused on school life, so I wanted something under the peaceful surface to push the protagonists into tight situations. He's not a hastily created character but one of the characters that will appear in the webtoon Hidden. I needed a strange character to provide tension so I accelerated his introduction. I think I've gathered both well-known and unknown connections for this work. Through Director Ryoo Seung-wan, I contacted actor Ryoo Seung-beom directly and asked him to appear. I would like to express my gratitude to the actors who decided to appear here. 



The universe of the webtoon was first introduced in Timing, which is about time ability users, then there was Moving, which is about physical ability users, and then Bridge in that order. Your next work, Hidden, will depict those who united in their fight for a better world learning to work as a team. When can we expect to read it? 



Kang I apologize to the readers who have been waiting, but I couldn't help but concentrate on the Moving script for four years. I am the person who most wishes for the story to continue. Just like Timing and Moving, I used "ing" in the title to signify that it is currently ongoing. Where the story is heading after the events in Bridge is still not set in stone. It may came out as a webtoon, or, as is the trend these days, it could be adapted into an audiovisual content first. Everything will depend on how Moving will fare 


Park I will decide for you. If Moving does well, we will have to do it even if we don't want to. It's up to all of you. (Laughs) 



What is your take away from Moving


Park There is a scene in episode 17 where Bong-seok comes to a realization. Moving contains the stories of various characters, but I think the focal point is Bong-seok's growth. It's a story of a hero being born and a child flying out of the nest. Like Bong-seok, I also feel like I've grown through this project. I've met good people and learned a lot. 


Kang At the beginning, I just vaguely wanted to tell a story where good people win in the end. Even if the way to get there is difficult, I want to see the story end with the world as a better place. The title of the last episode is Graduation, and that's what stays on my mind the most now. It feels like closing a book once you have finished reading. I don't have any plans yet. Now that I've graduated, I think I will have to wait for my report card before I can think of what's next. 

Interview conducted and edited by Song Kyoung-won, introduction text by Im Soo-yeon 
Republication, copying or redistribution by any means is prohibited without the prior permission of KOFIC and the original news source.
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