HIT THE NIGHT Director JEONG Ga-young
Dec 03, 2018
- Writerby SONG Soon-jin
“I want to make fresh new films”
JEONG Ga-young has been creating her unique cinematic world while constantly assuming two roles, those of directing and acting, with works such as the short Love Jo. Right Now. (2017) and the long feature Bitch on the Beach (2016). She is now back with her sophomore feature film, Hit the Night. The film, which earned her a Director’s Award in the Vision section of the Busan International Film Festival in 2017 and was invited to screen at this year’s London Korean Film Festival (Women’s Voice section) and the International Film Festival Rotterdam (Bright Future section), follows unknown film director Ga-young (played by JEONG Ga-young) inviting for a drink a man she first met to find inspiration for her next movie, Jin-hyeok, and passionately wooing him. Meticulously capturing the serenade of young women in their twenties through this character of Ga-young who shares her name and her resemblance, JEONG Ga-young’s camera is as sharp and honest as ever.
The short movies you have shown until now, as well as your debut feature Bitch on the Beach, have all been produced by yourself. This film, however, has been produced by LEZHIN ENTERTAINMENT. How did you get to meet them?
After Bitch on the Beach, I wanted to film a second independent feature and so I wrote a scenario. And as I would often talk about the story with a producer I know, YEON Dong-eun, she told me she could probably help me. I was introduced to a manager at LEZHIN ENTERTAINMENT (LEZHIN ENTERTAINMENT operates webtoon portal “Lezhin Comics” and is now entering the audiovisual media industry with adaptations of their IPs), and it just so happened that it was right when LEZHIN ENTERTAINMENT was very interested in producing films, so they decided to make it their first film produced in-house. I received a budget of KRW 35 million (around USD 31,000) to produce the film and I shot it in 5 days, more or less. I felt reassured knowing that I had a production company behind me. All this time, when I was producing, directing and acting all by myself, it was the production side that felt the most burdensome. Thanks to the strong support from the production company, I could concentrate all of my efforts into directing and acting.
Where does the story of Hit the Night come from?
After Bitch on the Beach, I felt like telling stories that would be a bit more tragic. The narrative of a woman showing her best and wooing like mad a guy she likes only to be met with failure naturally occurred to me. I’m so glad to hear audiences say that they felt sad and lonely seeing Ga-young. (laughs)
I’m curious to know, how did you go about casting PARK Jong-hwan, a star in independent Korean cinema? You previously said that you had already him in mind when you started writing the scenario, is that right?
Exactly. I originally wrote it thinking about PARK Jong-hwan. Fortunately, he found the script interesting and said he would like to do it, so I didn’t have much difficulty for the casting. As for the actor who plays Yeong-chan, HYUNG Seul-woo – he is also the director of the short Selfie (2017) – I cast him after we met at a drinking party. Everyone said that it sounded interesting and that they wanted to join the project, so things worked out pretty well.
There is exactly three characters in the film.
Jin-hyeok had to appear as an attractive character anyone would want to hit on and know more about. Yeong-chan, on the contrary, is not the desirable type but he has his cute side, so I wished to give him an appearance that would make Ga-young hesitate. There is this thing, you know. When the other is really attractive, you don’t think twice. But with some people, it takes quite a bit to make up your mind. Come to think of it, I think I met five people in a row who made me doubt like that. I thought I should also be careful not to become someone who causes such indecision.
This is your second film after Bitch on the Beach. As such, it feels like you were concerned about making better use of filming devices such as lighting, camera angle, location, music, etc. than in Bitch on the Beach.
That wasn’t much of a concern, but I thought I had to make it a little less dull. I hoped the film would be interesting visually, that is to say interesting for the audience to see the expressions of the actors, their minute details or their reactions.
You have been nicknamed the “female Hong Sangsoo”. What do you think of that?
It pleases me. I literally watched his films dozens of times in my school years. Hong Sangsoo makes his films with a limited cast in a limited space, and I think this method influenced me a lot. And among his characters, I really like Kim Jung-rae, played by KIM Seung-woo, in Woman On The Beach (2006). His personality is almost exactly like mine. (laughs) And also, I found KIM Seung-woo’s acting to be on a different level. It was a performance that fitted him like a second skin, more so than any of the usual actors commonly seen as Hong Sangsoo’s personas.
You have played Ga-young, a character named after yourself, in all the titles you have directed and starred in until now.
I became interested in acting while playing in several short movies I made when I was studying filmmaking, and it has never left me since. There is a distinctive pleasure that can be provided by acting. As my films are based on my real experiences, I spice them up with fantasy. What if things turned out like this back then, and what would I have done as a result? Among all these ideas I think about, I choose the ones that have cinematographic value and turn them into screenplays. So we may say all the Ga-young who appear in my films are the same character. She has an interesting personality with a self-possessed and audacious charm and she likes fooling around. In some way, she is also pure. Because being forthright about our own desires is also something pure.
Now is a time when audiences look for more diverse female characters. Were you concerned about “widening” the range of your female characters?
Rather than trying to widen the range of roles, these female characters came out naturally as I let the story and the structure lead the way, with my mind set on writing fresh new stories. There was a lot of response from female viewers saying it was interesting, that they felt free, but it wasn’t until then that I realized I enjoyed doing that.
I’ve heard you’ve recently finished filming on your third feature, Heart. How did you secure the budget of the film this time?
I received a production grant from the Korean Film Council, around KRW 50 million (USD 44,600), and since it was 5 days of shooting, I produced it myself, without the help from a production company. While making this third feature, I’ve developed a desire to flesh out the story. I’m now considering shooting again. I want to make movies that are interesting to watch, so I made a storyboard. This should bring a little bit of change.
* JEONG Ga-young’s short films are available for free on her YouTube channel: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCGqPnH9L-2sJKOV8h9oEujw