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Ko - production in Busan
  • JEONG Yeon-shik, Director of THE FIVES
  • by TAE Sang-joon /  Nov 25, 2013
  • Web Cartoonist Debuts Behind the Camera 
    Photo ⓒCine21 
    The talented JEONG Yeon-shik, has added another feather to his already brimming hat. He is a painter, commercials director, illustrator, web-cartoon artist, and now, he has also become a film director. He earned the main prize in the 1993 Modern Art Concours, and worked as a commercials director and illustrator before he became famous for his web-cartoons Moonlight Shoes and The Fives. His feature film debut The Fives, based on his original web-cartoon, was recently released. It is a thriller featuring a woman, Euna (played by Kim Sun-A), and four people in need of organs, who come together as a team to apprehend a serial killer. KOFIC met JEONG at the Cinema Service building in Seoul, the movie production company run by KANG Woo-suk, the producer-director of Public Enemy(2002) and Silmido(2003).
    - The Fives has received more than 260,000 viewers during its first weekend. Would you say that you’re satisfied?

    It’s not a question of satisfaction or dissatisfaction as there are many different feelings floating in my head, but at the moment, I have completely emptied my mind. If I say I am satisfied, then you’ll say I am not a modest rookie, and if I say I’m not, I may still hear the same thing! (laughs) I have one thing to ask of the viewers though. I hope that they will not associate the film with the original web cartoon. What worries me is when they say the original work is such and such but that the film is such and such. I hope the web cartoon and film will be evaluated and appreciated in their own rights. In that respect, I have a more advantageous standing than other web cartoonists because I do not have as many devoted fans as KANG Full (The Neighbors, 26-years) or YOON Tae-ho (Moss, Incomplete Life) do. (laughs)
    - This film has a peculiar setting.

    The Fives is not a story about a crazy murderer, but rather of the ordinary people who are after him. Suppose I was pointing at the moon with my finger. If the way I point at it was wrong, people would just look at the tip of my finger and not at the moon. Fortunately, those who have seen the film are looking at somewhere between the fingertip and the moon. (laughs) The element of revenge and thriller genre are just the outside frame of the film, and what I really wanted to deliver on the inside was the irrationality of Korean society and the helplessness of law enforcement authority. There’s a line like this in the film: “Don’t you even dare, you’re only a woman, you’re a freak, and you’re all by yourself!” I wanted to tell the story of a woman who is completely left on her own, and how she overcomes her barriers along with help from the lowest of the low.
    - Some have mentioned that the group’s plan in the film is too loose.

    It would not make sense if their plan was well thought out. This is not The Thieves or Ocean’s Eleven(2001). If it were very specific, then you would have a group of professionals implementing fantastic plans. However, it is natural that these five would have mistakes and flaws in their plan. They have been forced to “become” professionals and that is a crucial difference.
    - What is your personal opinion on the private punishment doled out in the film?

    Just like Euna, my family is all I have. For those that are penniless and powerless, the source of hope and happiness comes exclusively from the family. However, if someone viciously killed my family members, I think I would do the same as Euna. Of course, that is only when the public law enforcement system is not functioning the way it should.
    - KIM Sun-A’s passionate performance as Euna was very impressive. Was she your first choice?

    I had her in mind right from the beginning as I was in the pre-production stage. She actively analyzed the character and offered many ideas for her scenes and kept trying very hard. I would say she is one of the most passionate actresses in Korea. She was full of emotions just like the persona she was playing, and she could not stop shedding tears even after shooting. I was deeply touched by and grateful for her wonderful work.
    - How does it feel to become the first feature film director among web cartoon artists? (laughs)

    I am not comfortable with it really. I feel as though all the web cartoon artists, seniors and juniors, are giving me a suspicious look. (laughs) All I’ve been thinking was that I must set a good example. If not, then the next in line will suffer from the bad result that I have caused. Honestly, whatever the result is, you’ll still have enemies, but I know I did my best making this film. At least I am not ashamed to my fellow web cartoonists because of this work.
    - What would you say was the most difficult thing for a rookie director?

    It was very hard to convince staff, investors and movie companies, to trust me and my work. I don’t like top-down communication so I tried to adjust my eye-level with everyone, which turned out to be a bad thing during filming. I have learned that, when you’re a director, even if you don’t have the resources, you must act as though you do, otherwise, you can’t control the team. (laughs) Of course, it is not easy to invest a big sum of money on a rookie director. My web cartoon and scenario fortunately have a favorable reputation, so I had meetings with some 14 production companies, but I didn’t hesitate to pick KANG Woo-suk’s Cinema Service. I always thought he was one of the best directors, and I believed he would understand a rookie director like me, not as a producer but as a senior director. The Fives would not have been possible without him.
    - Tell us about your next project.

    It is important to meet the right person. Just like how I met KANG Woo-suk for The Fives, for my next film I will need to meet the right person so that things can work out. It’s still very vague, but I think I want to make a family movie that even my pre-teen daughter could watch. I like a variety of cartoons, including comic ones. I have a lot of stories I want to tell! (laughs) 
                                                                          Photo ⓒCine21 

    By TAE Sang-joon
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